Thursday, September 06, 2007

Company Blog Checkup: Stacks and Stacks

Stacks and Stacks is a retailer that focuses primarily on products that help customers get organized and deal with storage issues. So naturally, their newly-launched blog is called the Clutter Control Freak Blog.

First, let's quickly cover the authors. Normally I like to give a company blog at least 2 months before I cover it here in the Company Blog Checkup Series. But I will make an exception for the Clutter Control Freak Blog (which has been live for about 5 weeks), because the blog boasts several prominent bloggers among its writers, including BL Ochman and Monica Ricci. Having several seasoned bloggers writing for the blog is a huge plus, and has resulted in the Clutter Control Freak Blog hitting the ground running.

Now let's move to the blog's content. Since we are dealing with the blog for a company that sells storage and organization products, there's obviously two different paths the writers can take with the content. The writers can focus on the products themselves, or the benefits that customers can get from becoming more organized. Thankfully, the blog's writers lean toward discussing the benefits to the customers. While some posts are direct promotions for products, such as a recent post that talks about a shelving unit from Stacks and Stacks, many posts offer advice on getting organized and reducing clutter, without ever mentioning or suggesting a product. Which is really unnecessary, because if the reader is getting value from the content on a company blog, they are going to want to 'reward' that company by investigating their products. Stacks and Stacks seems to realize this, and I again think this goes back to having several bloggers as writers that understand how to position the blog's content so it appeals to readers.

One of the most common problems that a company blog has is an inconsistent and lax posting schedule. This is definitely not a problem for the Clutter Control Freak Blog, as the blog's writers seem to be not only posting every weekday, but often 2 and even 3 times a day! There also seems to be a good mix with most of the writers contributing. The blog also reaches out to readers for their contributions, encouraging them to submit photos, stories, product reviews, or to even post on the blog! They have even created a widget that you can add to your blog/site/profile page that:
Every day, it’ll feature the Clutter Hack of the Day: ideas, advice, and news about how to organize your home, office, garden and life.

Great stuff, and this is no doubt another byproduct of having several knowledgable bloggers serving as writers. Also a quick note that all the posts have pictures. This tends to get overlooked sometimes, but readers respond to visual cues, and it's always best to try to have a photo for every post. The writers for the Clutter Control Freak Blog are all over this.

Now let's move to comments. One byproduct of posting more than once a day is that the number of comments per post can be lower. This obviously happens because most readers will only focus on the newest posts, and if the writers are posting constantly, the top posts are being quickly pushed down the blog by newer posts. And again, the blog is only 5 weeks old, and no matter how many expert bloggers you have serving as writers, it still takes time to establish a community of readers. The writers do seem to do a good job of responding to comments and adding their own. I would suspect that the number of comments will only increase over time.

Finally, let's tackle the sidebar. At the top are the dropdown menus you see to the right. The About section is right there at the top and features an explanation of the blog, and a picture and bio for each writer. I normally like to have at least the pictures of the writers on the sidebar, but with 15+ writers, that would take up too much room in this case. Many of the 'greatest hits' are here moving down the sidebar, such as search, most popular posts, and links to subscribe to the blog's feed and newsletter. I would like to see more RSS buttons and an explanation of what RSS is, but that's minor.

Moving down, we have recent posts, and a link to each writer's posts. There is also a nice section of links, all focused on storage and organizing tips, many of which are blogs from the writers. But no link to Lifehacker? After the links we have categories, but we do not have a section for the archives! I had to spend about 10 mins trying to figure out how long the blog had been live when I first arrived.

Overall, the Clutter Control Freak Blog is a very solid effort that should only improve as time goes by. The one area that seemed a bit weak was the number of comments per post, but given that the blog is only 5 weeks old, and that the writers average 2-3 new posts a day, I'm not worried about that. Over time as the blog's readership grows (which will be aided by leaving 2-3 posts a day), the number of comments will as well. Their are also several elements that are obviously influenced by having several seasoned bloggers as writers, such as the Clutter Hack of the Day widget, plenty of pictures, even YouTube videos being embedded in posts. This just goes back to bringing in people that are already familiar with social media and blogging, and Stacks and Stacks deserves a pat on the back for doing this, as it's resulted in a blog that's likely much better than it would have been if the company had tackled the project alone.

And now for the scoring:

Content: 27 (Out of a possible 35) - Love the focus on 'decluttering' instead of 'how Stacks and Stacks products can help you declutter'. But hate that posts are truncated. Why make reader hit another button to read the entire post?

Comments: 26 (Out of a possible 35) - Not every post gets comments, but the writers do a very good job of responding to commenters.

Posting Schedule: 12 (Out of a possible 15) - Blog averages a post every 2 days or so, which is very good.

Sidebars: 12 (Out of a possible 15) - Love the blogroll and the writers posts being made available. And there's a VERY nice page for the writers' bios and pics, but I'd like to at least see that have its own link on the sidebar, or add pics of the writers with links to their bios/posts from there.

Total Score: 77 (Out of a possible 100)

If anyone from Stacks and Stacks wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, or both. If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blogging and social media consulting services. And if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me!

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Anonymous said...

I'm so excited about the recognition we are already receiving for our baby blog site! Kudos to BL Ochman for orchestrating this entire thing for us. I appreciate you featuring our site and your critique. I am looking into the improvements you suggest. This is a whole new world for us and I'm having a blast with it!
~Eva Wallace
CCF Blog

Unknown said...

Hi Mack: thank you very much for this nice review of the Stacks blog, which launched on August 1st.

Helping companies incorporate social media into their marketing mix is what I have been doing for the past several years.

I did the concept for Clutter Control Freak, created the design and under-the-hood Wordpress workings with my creative team, and enlisted the many writers who have joined CCF so far.

Our team of contributors who already have their own successful blogs is nothing short of extraordinary, and I'm happy to say that folks at stacks and stacks have taken to blogging like a fish to water.

The widget, which my team also conceived and created, is now available not only through the blog but also as a Google widget download. We'll announce that next week publicly.

We have quickly gained both audience and RSS subscribers, and are seeing a steady increase in both traffic and buzz about the stacks blog.

As I have done with other blogs I have created for a range of clients over the years, I will soon turn the blog over to stacks to run with me as a consultant.

Eva Wallace will be the editor of the blog, and I will be the blog mommy, loving my creation and proudly watching it grow.
B.L. Ochman
What's Next Blog

Mack Collier said...

You're welcome Eva, as I said in the post, you're off to a great start, and including bloggers in the process was a great move.

BL: Congrats on the growth of the blog, I could tell in spending some time with it that there were several social media elements that were no doubt influenced by yourself and other bloggers. In general, I don't like to mention 'who did what' when it comes to the creation of a blog, mainly because it's far too easy to leave someone out, or not know about everyone that contributed. For example, Brains on Fire has done an absolutely amazing job with The Fiskateers Blog, but I didn't mention their involvement in my review of the blog, because I didn't want to 'leave anyone out' that might have contributed, and I didn't want to give anyone the impression that I had covered the blog just because Brains on Fire was behind it.

I would prefer to let any agency or consultants that were involved in the process to explain their role here in the comments as you did, and perhaps go into greater detail into the process. You were kind enough to do this, and I think my readers will find it very interesting.

Eva and BL, congrats to both of you on a fine effort!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mack,
As the the President of Stacks and Stacks, I'm indeed flattered by the your recogniton of our first efforts at a Blog. I've considered adding a Blog for a few years but timing and other initiatives always seem to have taken precedence. Now with B.L.'s leadership and Eva catching on so quickly, we're fully committed. Stacks and Stacks is a 24 year old retail, internet, catalog company selling over 18,000 items for the home, office, and garden online. We wanted the Blog to augment our outreach to our thousands of customers enabling them to share tips, insights, and products in fun, easy to relate to, atmosphere.
Mel Ronick, CEO

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the writers and creator, but also a huge acknowledgement to Stacks and Stacks. What great vision on the part of the management to embrace blogging so completely as a way to connect with their customers.

Nice review, Mack.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mack,

I found your review of the new Stacks and Stacks blog on the internet.

The power of blogging in the world is incredible. Many of the bloggers that have been hired for the Clutter Control Freak Blog I know personally, and we have had many discussions over the past two years about the validity of what we're doing, and how we're helping the organizing process.

For me, blogging is a business-builder, pr opportunity, friend maker and just plain fun. In June of 2005, I worked with Denise Wakeman from the Blog Squad to develop my voice, and create relevent content that I thought people would be interested in. But it took Denise almost six months to talk me into signing up and writing. Since I live in Los Angeles, I also wanted to add a dash of Hollywood to differentiate myself from everyone else.

These larger blogs enhance the entire experience, I would never be worried about losing my foothold. Bravo to them!

- John

Unknown said...

John - thanks so much for the kind words about Clutter Control Freak.

Stacks' blog took off like a shot and has already developed more than 1,000 uniques a day after only six weeks.

It's a win-win situation all around.
B.L. Ochman
What's Next Blog

Anonymous said...

Mack, thanks for the props and recognition. I am enjoying writing for the Stacks and Stacks blog and hope to help it create a loyal following.