For this next post, we’ll identify some of the best practices for blogging, and present examples of ESCOs (Energy Service Companies) using these practices when appropriate. At the end we’ll provide a list of references for these best practices.
If we reference our original table of ESCOs within New York we find a rather limited number of ESCOs making use of a blog. So let’s expand our list to include any ESCO operating in the United States. By doing this we find several utilizing blogs.
|Citizens Choice Energy, LLC||http://nyenergyblog.com/|
|Constellation Energy Gas Choice Inc.||http://www.constellation.com/pages/blogs.aspx|
|Energy Cooperative of New York, Inc.||http://www.ecamerica.org/about/eca_blog.html|
|Just Energy New York Corp. d/b/a Just Energy||http://blog.justenergy.com/|
So why would an ESCO want a blog?
If you recall ESCOs are in the business of supplying electricity and gas to consumers, businesses, and other entities. One of the prime objectives is the retention of current customers and the acquisition of new customers. To support this mission, having a blog would allow an ESCO to provide content:
- that is relevant and valuable to current or potential customers. For example, how to read your bill, what plan is right for you, current promotions, to how save on energy, etc…
- for their presence on various social media properties such as Facebook and Twitter
- for search engines to index
- for public relation purposes that may influence regulatory stakeholders and the public at large
Now that we’ve looked at reasons why an ESCO would want a blog, let us consider some of the best practices of blogging.
Create Valuable and Relevant Content
Creating valuable and relevant content will help retain current customers and attract new customers. For example, an ESCO could blog on topics such as how to reduce your energy bill, how to conduct an energy survey, what insulating procedures produce the greatest payoff, top ten insulating steps, etc… The content should look to solve a problem, answer a question, and/or move a person or decision maker past a sticking point for signing onto service, etc… More ideas can be discovered by thinking of common issues customers face and providing a solution to it. Just make sure the content is relevant to the blog. For example, presenting helpful information as to where to get one’s dog neutered is probably not relevant material for an ESCOs blog.
Create and Foster Relationships with other Blogs
Reach out to other relevant blogs to foster mutual relationships. For example, blogs covering home insulation, energy management, where the energy marketed comes from, etc… The idea here is to connect to blogs where your target market would most likely be. Linking to these blogs and/or asking the blogger to be a guest contributor on your blog can help build these relationships.
Have a framework for when and how to respond to comments
If comments are allowed, have a framework in place for when and how they are responded to. The idea here is to build relationships with those commenting. Have in place a blog policy which states how the blog will be used and how comments will be handled. For example, Constellation Energy has a clear policy concerning its blog.
Connect Your Blog to Your Website
While an ESCO can set up their blog as a separate domain, for example Citizens Choice Energys blog is on a separate domain at nyenergyblog.com. A better practice is to have your blog connected to your website as either a sub-domain or as a page such as Bounce Energys blog at bounceenergy.com/blog/. The reason is that the blog may be the first impression a potential customer receives concerning the ESCO. If they like what they see on the blog, they should be able to navigate easily to the main part of the ESCO’s website. In addition, having a blog on a separate domain may result in brand confusion for the visitors, wondering why the blog is separate from the main website.
Make Sure Your Blog is Sharable
Assuming the ESCO’s blog has content that is valuable and relevant to its customers and/or potential customers, it needs to make the content as easy to share as possible. Examples of how to achieve this include adding share functions at the top and bottom of each post and along the side bar.
In addition, when appropriate, ask readers to share the content or to learn more about something. For example, “Find this post helpful? Then please share it with a friend.” or “Want to learn more? Visit our savings calculator.”
Write to your Audience
Consider the audience in question when writing. How you write will be an important determinant as to whether your audience sticks around to the end of your post. An ESCO can differentiate posts such as writing one post targeted to residential customers, another to commercial customers, and yet another targeted to large public consumers of energy such educational institutions. Each of these target audience will have its own preferred style of writing. For example, a post targeted to residential customers most likely shouldn’t be filled with technical jargon, while on the other hand a post oriented toward large commercial entities will be perfectly comfortable with it.
Structural and Behind the Scenes Consideration
When we speak of structural considerations, we’re talking about the design layout, infrastructure, and the mechanics behind the scenes of the blog. For example, does the audience find the blog easy to navigate (theme layout); is the blog quick to load (hosting and/or consider using a content delivery service); is it mobile friendly (usability), etc… The list here is quite extensive, see the reference section below for many other ideas.
Use Analytics to Track, Measure, and Improve Your Blog
We’ve already covered some reasons why an ESCO would want a blog, for example to provide valuable and relevant content to its target audience. You’ll want to track what happens with that content such as: is it shared, measure whether it generated any new customers, and you’ll want to identify those parts of the blog that are trouble spots. By doing so you’ll be able to improve the blog, determine what is working and what is not working.
How to keep your blog from blowing up
Initially you might not think about securing your blog and backing it up as a best practice. But if we are making the blog a valuable piece of our online presence, it only makes sense to insure it with some relatively easy steps. First, secure the blog, after all there are those who make a sport out of hacking sites. Second, establish a backup routine which will aid in restoring your site if it is hacked, or in the case of such things as a theme update that’s gone awry.
In summary, utilizing a blog presents opportunities in retaining customers and acquiring new ones. Employing proper blogging techniques will help achieve these objectives.
References for Blogging Best Practices
Valuable and Relevant Content
Sharing your blog
Writing to your audience
Structural and behind the scenes
What to track and Analytics
Security and Backup