Often when a business starts blogging, they go it alone. Many are small businesses, and might not be able to afford thousands to let a professional set up their blog for them. Thankfully, getting up and running with a blog can be done very quickly and for free, with a platform such as Blogger. This appears to be what the Corner Violin Shop has done with their blog, and let's see how their efforts have fared.
As always, let's start with the content. The Corner Violin Shop sells musical instruments (primarily A. Cavallo violins, it appears) and accessories both at their retail location, and online via e-tailers such as Amazon and eBay. The store promotes some of its items for sale, especially online, but also does a nice job of updating readers on local concerts, as well as the musical instrument markets. The store also posts interesting YouTube videos it comes across, and in the most recent post, updates its readers on the marriage of one of its employees. This is a good move, because it helps to make readers feel more connected to the actual people behind the store.
The posting pattern for the blog is sporadic, but on average there's about 2 new posts a week. This is a decent amount, but again it is vital that a blog 'trains' its readers to know when to expect new content. We can't assume that our readers are subscribing to our feed, so creating and maintaining a regular posting pattern is vital.
Let's move to comments, but also talk about how comments can relate to content. I went back about six weeks into the Corner Violin Shop's archives, and only found one post that had a 'real' comment (another appeared to be spam). But the post that had the only comment was left by a reader to a post featuring several pictures of the store itself, explaining how the store tries to re-arrange its displays in order to increase foot-traffic around the Holidays. This might seem pretty inconsequential to a business, but readers in general respond to any post like this that makes the business seem 'more real'. I would bet that similar posts showing pictures of the employees of the Corner Violin Shop performing their tasks would be an even bigger hit.
But let's return to comments. There's almost none, and this isn't an uncommon situation for a blogging small business. I'll say it again, but most of the growth that a blog enjoys, occurs as a result of time spent OFF the blog. A small business might not be able to devote as much time on other blogs and social sites attempting to engage readers. But what a small business can at least do is make sure its blog address is on all its materials that its customers receive, and can also encourage its customers to visit the blog for updates on the business itself, as well as other information that readers can find value in.
Finally, let's look at the sidebar and header. The blog features an extremely handsome header, dominated by a portion of a violin, and clearly displaying the store's name, address, and telephone number. Excellent. We start out at the top of the sidebar, and I'm looking for pics/bios of the blog's writers. Only thing I get is a link to the Blogger profile for a sales manager identified as 'chg'. I need more than that, specifically, a picture and an actual bio. This can easily be done with blogger by writing a post that will serve as your bio, and then linking to it there after you publish.
Going down, we have archives, and somehow the blog has 'Blogging Topics', which are actually categories. Anyone that can find a way to put categories on a Blogger/Blogspot blog deserves major props as it's a PITA. Moving down, the blog adds several links for blogs/sites related to violins, and even a few focusing on their local area, which is Omaha, Nebraska. More goodness, as this is a very easy way to provide value to readers.
Moving toward the end of the sidebar, we see a widget that displays items the shop is selling on Amazon. After that, we have a widget designed to display relevant posts from around the blogosphere. Great stuff. Finally, the blog includes almost every possible option for subscribing to the blog's feed. This kicks ass, but I would move this to the top of the sidebar, and possibly add a 'What is RSS/Feeds?' link under the subscriber buttons, which would explain the advantage of subscribing. Overall, the sidebar is a very solid effort, and taken with the header, is probably the strength of the blog.
As a whole, the Corner Violin Shop's blog is a decent blog and probably very similar to many small businesses that decide to start a blog themselves. My key suggestions going forward would be to give us more pictures/information on the writers and workers themselves, and to also do everything possible to get the word out about the blog to existing customers. If possible, also spend some time online on forums and social sites contributing to the community. Doing so is a wonderful and vital tool in promoting your blog.
And here's the scoring:
Content: 29 (Out of a possible 35) - Very much enjoy how the blog goes into the 'craftmanship' of making violins, while also giving us information about the employees themselves, and the local music scene.
Comments: 5 (Out of a possible 35) - I may be a bit generous with this score, as I went back several months and found no comments to any of the posts. But the blog produces solid content (when new posts are up), so this suggests to me that the business would benefit from spending time OFF the blog, in order to grow its readership by increasing awareness.
Posting Schedule: 3 (Out of a possible 15) - Very sporadic posting lately, it seems that one of the writers recently left the business, and posting has been very lax since then, it appears.
Sidebars: 13 (Out of a possible 15) - Very nice mixture of musical sites and blogs, and like that there's now a pic of the bloggers, and links to their Blogger profiles. Do wish the old 'violin' header was back that had the store's location and contact information.
Total Score: 50 (Out of a possible 100)
If anyone from the Corner Violin Shop wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me. 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!
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Company Blog Checkup, Corner Violin Shop
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