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BLOGGING AS A BUSINESS TOOL
The blogging business is booming. What once was the realm of conspiracy theorists and teenage girls has evolved into a viable business tool that can be used to provide everything from personal customer contact to on-site event coverage. Since the first Agri Marketing article on blogging in March, the medium and its related technologies have continued to develop at a robust pace.

WORLD DAIRY DIARY -- A CASE STUDY BLOG

John Rozum, sales manager at World Dairy Expo, was unable to attend this year's National Agri-Marketing Association convention in Phoenix this past April, but was a subscriber to AgWired, a blog that covered the conference. By watching the blog, he was able to sit at his computer in his office and "virtually" follow the whole meeting. As he did, Rozum immediately saw the potential for using the medium for World Dairy Expo.

A phone call to ZimmComm, then several brainstorming sessions later and World Dairy Diary (www.wdexpo.org) was born. In this case, the blog is fully owned and operated by ZimmComm, in cooperation with World Dairy Expo. ZimmComm is responsible for the development of the blog, all sales and marketing and all postings. The Expo is providing content information, publicity and sponsor promotion, as well as other assistance as needed.

GOALS

The primary goal of World Dairy Diary is, of course, to promote the World Dairy Expo, scheduled for Oct. 4-8 in Madison, Wisc. The target audience includes dairy farmers, processors, industry representatives, allied businesses and the media. Reporters are encouraged to view World Dairy Diary as an online media kit and are free to use the articles, releases, audio and images that are posted on the site. The blog will also provide regular information for those attending the event to help them keep up with all that is happening, much like an electronic convention newsletter.

DEVELOPMENT

World Dairy Diary was developed to complement the World Dairy Expo's "traditional" Web site by enhancing the Expo's visibility and providing visitors with what some call a "river of information."

The first task was to create a unique Web domain, host, name and look for the blog. The basic blog was actually created in about two hours, using a simple temporary template to start, while a Web artist worked on a custom "skin" for the site.

The name World Dairy Diary was chosen because it ties into the show name while leaving the door open to additional types of information on topics related to the dairy industry. The blog contains daily information during the show, plus fresh content throughout the year to keep visitors coming back.

Next, the blog was integrated into the World Dairy Expo Web site structure by using interconnecting links to both sites.

PROMOTION

World Dairy Diary was first made public with a news release that was distributed internationally to journalists using PR Web, Talking News Releases and Expo's own media list. Simultaneously, World Dairy Diary was also registered with more than 30 Internet search engines. This simple registration process greatly increases the exposure of the site because blogs are "crawled" on a regular basis by search engines.

Visitors to World Dairy Expo will also be encouraged to visit the blog in the daily Expo newspaper and through audio billboard announcements throughout the event. Regular updates and posts throughout the entire event will be designed to both inform and entertain.

MEASUREMENT

At the time this article is being written, the Expo is still over a month away, but the blog has been in existence for almost two months. As the number of posts increases, the amount of traffic to the site increases because it creates more information on the Web that can be picked up by search engines. Traffic to the blog will be analyzed using a number of Web statistics programs and compared with the World Dairy Expo Web site statistics. Success will be somewhat subjective -- after all, this is the first time a blog has been used to promote a farm show. Ideally, it is intended to create new awareness of the expo internationally, provide media with a new source of material to cover the event and give dairy industry representatives an on-site, personal view of the expo.

This may be the first farm show blog, but it most likely will not be the last. AM

Chuck Zimmerman is president of ZimmComm, Holts Summit, Mo., which offers interactive marketing services to the agribusiness industry. He's an avowed agriblogging evangelist.


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