A big part of the Xero success story can be attributed to their blog. Philip Fierlinger provides insights into the Xero strategy on writing and managing a business blog as a team.
Xero had a blogging headstart due to the fact that Rod Drury, one of the co-founders, had been blogging for many years (since retired) – they already new blogging and, being a web 2.0 company, blogging was a critical element of spreading the word. They initially fell into the trap of the “technology stack”, creating a homebrew blogging platform.
Fierlinger asks whether it can really be called a blog if people are unable to comment, in the initial stages many within Xero felt their blog was really just a corporate PR outlet. There were also the real concerns, pre IPO around disclosure of confidential information – post IPO this is much less of an issue. Once they move to a “real” blog, Xero decided the natural choice was to use WordPress.
Once the technology is in place it’s all about providing an insight in order to build an audience – to learn from sharing. They’ve worked hard to establish a voice, something beyond a “brand” – they want to be conversational, personable and transparent. Given they have multiple authors, they’ve worked hard to balance diversity of tone with getting a consistent voice. They definitely don’t want to be the usual corporate beast – rather they want to learn and share with, and from, their customers.
Xero has created subject matter experts to try and encourage the team to contribute, but they’ve found it hard to get others to contribute – often the main writers will in fact attribute posts to others in order to filter feedback to the most appropriate person within the company.
Key has been setting the pace; finding a particular angle to approach an issue. Xero focuses on punchy headlines, short & sharp copy and audience engagement. Balancing quantity versus quality – both need to be in check. They aim for daily updates to keep audience attention and time their important updates.
It’s hard to balance editorial goes and an “everything goes” mentality in order to maintain high-quality while staying “on brand” with a bunch of different writers. There is also a tension between the official line and a casual tone – Xero occupies an interesting space as a young start-up whilst being a listed company at the same time.
With multiple channels – blog, newsletters, Twitter - Xero has found that the blog has been the dominant channel for communications. As a global product they also need to balance their different geographical markets – the need to internationalis(z)e their language and their tone.
How does Xero measure success? Xero’s blog is incredibly important to them – stimulating feedback and showing comments on the sidebar. It also has value for inbound and internal traffic and search engine optimisation. In 2008 Xero decided to create a “top business tips for 2009” list. The blog post announcing this got a single comment however when they emailed their database with the request, the post generated many more comments – raises some interesting questions in terms of engagement.
Where to from here? Xero uses WordPress as a content management system, and will increase doing so. They'll also build it as a community platform with comments, ratings and the like.