The business of being social: The power of blogging

From attention grabbing headlines to vlogging, we look at key ways you can create a blog that engages with customers and boosts your start-up's brand

Blogging is probably one of the simplest and most common methods organisations regularly use to communicate a more ‘human’ side of their business. A blog is a perfect mouthpiece for sharing a variety of content.

Whether it’s a video, an article, a case study or a story, a blog enables multimedia to be communicated in a regular and consistent way. So, given that a blog is the most common form of content creation for organisations, let’s take a good look at blogging.

Why your business should blog

Blogging enables you to say more. It’s a freer communication tool – and far more conversational – than many of the traditional media. Very often businesses find it difficult to share their brand message continuously or personally through visual advertising and traditional media, so blogging provides more insight into what that person, business or brand stands for, effectively sharing a more human voice of the business.

You can share authentic content on social platforms. You are what you share so it’s important that, as a business or brand, you have a good pot of authentic content to share with others. What better way to advocate what you do than to blog about it and share with others to grow awareness and opinion from those who potentially matter?

A blog embedded in your website generates traffic. A study by hubspot showed that companies who blogged achieved 55% more website traffic than those that didn’t. This makes sense because you are sharing something that drives people back to your site to read it. A blog embedded in your website gives your audience something to engage with. After all, many websites aren’t designed as two-way communication portals; they are usually quite passive. So a blog (and indeed other social networks) enable a two-way conversation.

Blogs can also help grow brand and personal authority. A blog enables you to share expertise about what you do, growing advocacy, awareness and authority for your brand or business as a thought leader in a particular area. They entertain and grow ‘fans’. If people enjoy what you write, they will in time grow fond of your musings. Keep them entertained and they will share with others and ultimately you will develop a following. The more ‘fans’ you create, the more opportunity you have for advocacy and broadening your reach as your readers effectively become your marketers.

Top tips for blogging entrepreneurs

1. Keep your blogs brief (ideally 400–700 words). But you can mix it up. Have a look at Seth Godin’s blog. Some of his posts are literally two sentences. Others are two pages. But remember, you have to keep the audience engaged, and concise is usually best. And if you have got a lot to say then create a ‘series’ – we often break our blogs down into Part 1 and Part 2 – so that a) the blog isn’t too long and b) there’s a reason for the reader to stay tuned for more.

2. Vary the topic. This is important in order to keep it interesting. Some examples are factual, which could focus around a recent change in legislation and implications, or a highly topical theme. Also useful and practical such as ten tips, five steps to understanding ABC. People tend to enjoy ‘quick tip’-style blog posts but don’t write every post in that style. Try writing some entertaining articles, which are light and humorous so that the user understands that while you know your stuff, you’re not taking life too seriously (if that fits with your overall tone of voice, of course). Finally try to write some opinion-driven – asking for viewpoints from your audience.

3. Watch yor splling and grammer. Errors can really hinder credibility. Be sure to take advantage of spell-checking tools and brush up on your grammar (The Elements of Style by William Strunk and grammarly.com are good resources).

4. Use images in a post to break up the text and add some relevant interest. Check out Flickr, iStockphoto or Fotolia for some low-cost yet good-quality shots. If you use images from Flickr, be sure to follow the guidelines and cite the reference in your posts.

5. Consider video blogs (vlogs). You could consider turning your content into a 30 to 90 second video (short and to the point). Check out apps such as Animoto, which is really useful for taking images and turning them into great video.

6. Create attention, use grabbing headings. You should write the headline imagining that the user won’t even see the article. So the headline has to grab attention and tell the story.

7. Headline tips: Ask a question, command, quantify or play on people’s curiosity. Here’s some examples of headlines that do so ‘Would you let a marketer extract your teeth?’, ‘LinkedIn smarter than Facebook’, ‘If you read one thing today – read this’ and ‘Eight essential blogging tips you can’t live without’.

8. Use keywords where you can – both in headers and throughout the content of the article. For example, ‘Tax planning tips to blow your mind’.

9. Schedule. Stick to a tight publishing schedule. Blogging pays off over time – it’s a marathon rather than a sprint and it takes time to build up relevant and optimised content. Ideally, blog at least three times a week.

10. Insert a ‘call to action’. Such as subscribe to the blog or to a newsletter, download our free guide, or get in touch – are really useful that you want the user to read your blog – and ideally find out more about what it is that you do. Therefore, be sure to add relevant links throughout your blog content that signposts the reader back to resources, products or services on your website.

11. Promote your blog. Promote links to your blog on your website and in email footers, business cards and other relevant offline and online marketing materials.

12. Share on social media. Get your blog noticed by publishing links on social media vehicles such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (all social spaces relevant to your industry). And make sharing simple. Ensure that your blog has the ‘sharing widgets’ embedded.

13. Write for the web. Remember, people don’t read online, they scan. Use short paragraphs. Short sentences. Bullet points. Clear headers. Links signposting readers to explore deeper into your website and services.

14. Be useful. Try to provide at least one piece of practical ‘how to’ advice in each blog post. That way the reader will learn that you are always going to provide something useful. In order to attract people to you – you’ve got to give them something of value.

15. Don’t push. Don’t focus your posts on selling your products or users will switch off (as they do in other conversational platforms like Twitter and Facebook). Instead, share advice, news and information that will prove useful to your readers (and grow your authority in the space).

16. Be creative in procuring your content. If you have published materials offline, ‘blogify’ them where relevant.

17. Follow the leader. If you find a respected and popular blogger/expert who focuses on areas you are interested in, your business area, subject, etc., write a post commenting on their post.

18. Guest blog. Ask others to guest blog on your blog and advise other blogs you respect that you’d be happy to do the same. You can make requests for guest blogging via Twitter using popular hashtags #PRrequest or #journorequest – and you’ll reach a whole load of bloggers.

19. Create a blog boiler plate. Create a succinct ‘60-second elevator pitch’ that describes your business, the author and includes a link back to your site. Ensure this blog boiler plate is included at the end of every blog post you create (keyword enabled where possible).

20. Link to other posts. Refer to other posts you’ve written and include links so that you showcase other relevant and related content in your blog. (There are many plugins you can add to your blog that automate this process; for example on WordPress check out the ‘Related Posts’ plugin.)

News articles, case studies and customer stories (brilliant way to sell your business), list and FAQ posts, and an employee spotlight are all a great ways to promote your business without appearing like you’re selling it to them.

After you have a plan in place appoint an editor (that may just be you!), create an editorial process/content/images/style and a content calendar. Try to allocate blog posts to relevant team members to write – set targets and aside an hour to blog each week/month. Also set alerts in Outlook or on your phone to ensure you hit your blogging targets. Remember to stay conversational and be yourself (don’t be too formal).

Finally keep at it; as mentioned blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s unlikely to be an overnight success, so give it time and keep at it. And remember, learn from what engages. If you see a spike in traffic or engagement – then think about why that is. Did someone retweet it, or was your subject highly topical. For example, ‘5 Things all Businesses Can Learn from Game of Thrones’ posted on the eve of the next series may tap into a Game of Thrones audience.

This extract was taking from The Business of Being Social (Second edition) by Michelle Carvill and David Taylor. 

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