This week we've addressed why economic developers should blog and where strategy should come into the blogging process. Today I want to introduce you to some of the tools and widgets available for your blog's sidebar. There are many, many more, but these are a few that I think translate well into the economic development industry's blogs and are often expected by blog readers.
Most Recent Posts
This sidebar area (which you can see used in our own sidebar to your right) allows the user to see a list of the five or ten most recent blog posts. The user can click on these to see the full post and any comments attached to it. I recommend this for all blogs.
Shown in our sidebar as "Topics," this list allows your users to see posts by category, instead of just by date posted. For economic development blogs, categories might run from "local news" to "recent relocations" to "job openings" depending on your goals and your audience. You should pre-determine these categories before you start blogging.
An archive allows your users to view older entries by choosing the month and year that they were posted.
Having a small about us area in the sidebar of your page (and using it to link to your website) is a great idea and lets your users know, right on the main page, who you are and what you're doing.
Social Media Links
Using text links or icons, linking to your social media tools (your Twitter account, YouTube account, LinkedIn group, etc.) creates a connectivity between all of your online marketing efforts.
Adding a search field in your sidebar (or your header) allows the user to search all of your blog entries for the phrase or word of their choice. We recommend this for all blogs.
Frequently you will see this tool at the bottom of each entry on a blog (look at the bottom of this entry). Share It allows your prospects to email, save or share your entries on their social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, their personal blog, etc.). This is a great way to offer your users the opportunity to take away their favorite entries to share with other prospects, decision makers, etc.
Downloads and/or Links
A list of downloads and links in your sidebar gives your prospects something to take away with them and other ways to find out specific information about your community.
Check with your creative firm and find out if your blog platform provides these tools and identify which ones you want.