This is a guest post by Tara Anderson Marketing Manager at Lijit:
With the landscape of today’s media changing at a rapid pace, if your company doesn’t have a blog, it’s sure to be left behind. I know, I know, everyone tells you that. But perhaps by answering a few of the commonly asked questions I hear when discussing small business blogging, you’ll be more prepared to jump into the blogging waters.
Why do small businesses need to be blogging?
Short answer: Because your competitor is.
Long answer: Blogging can help you to generate leads and keep your current customers informed. And aside from the acquisition and retention of customers, blogs can assist with getting found on Google easier. Most search engines index blogs faster and more regularly than static websites because blogs are dynamic. Since you’re updating a blog frequently, search engines get notified and therefore your “Google juice” increases. What business doesn’t want to be ranked higher when a potential customer does a search?
Additionally, as someone who does marketing for a technology company, blogging has benefitted us in two ways. First of all, our blog has shown people the human side and personality of our company. This is huge when it comes to engaging our users and giving them a sense of our company culture. And secondly, we like to hear feedback from the people using our product. With our blog, we can do just that. Having the ability to talk with your users in an informal way is priceless.
I’m a little nervous about getting started. What should I take into consideration before launching my blog?
In my opinion, the most important thing to keep in mind before starting a company blog is resources…namely–time, money and ideas.
First of all, small businesses need to take stock of the talents they have internally. If there is someone working for the business who already has an interest in social media or perhaps really enjoys writing, you should consider that person a resource to help you with blogging. Maintenance is key with a blog and if you already have someone in-house who enjoys such things, you should take advantage of that. There’s nothing sadder than an abandoned blog.
Next comes the money part. Do you want to pay for your blogging platform or go with a free offering? There are pros and cons to each, obviously, and with the majority of paid versions come many more options for customization. Think about what you want to put into your blog financially and do your research.
Finally, there’s the task of deciding what you’re going to write about. Sit down for a brainstorming session and get creative. Your blog shouldn’t just be a mouthpiece to shout your message, but a place for you to feature your customers, discuss industry specifics and establish yourself as a thought leader.
Don’t forget about the fun. Talk about what conferences you’re going to or what meetups you’ll be attending. Ask others in the company what they want to be reading about on your blog and then get them involved. Have a few ideas and blog posts in place before fully launching your blog…it’ll make things easier in the long run.
Now that you have your person, your platform and some topic ideas, are there any essential tools that I should be using to enhance my blog?
Here are my top three recommendations for any beginning blogger…
- Images. When a reader comes to your blog and sees all text, it can look a little boring. Don’t be afraid to liven things up by illustrating your blog post with something visual. Or think about including pictures of your employees, your customers or your office. It all goes back to the personality piece I mentioned earlier.
- Search. [Full disclosure: I work for Lijit and we provide a custom site search for bloggers.] Make sure your readers have a way to find all of that great content you’re creating on your blog. And if your site search is any good (*cough* Lijit *cough*) then it will provide you with analytics about what your readers are searching for, how they’re getting to your blog and what searches they’re doing that return no results. This is huge for better understanding your blog audience.
- Comments. The whole point of a blog is to be able to have a conversation with your customers. If you don’t have comments enabled, then you’re shutting down that two-way street and your blog becomes another one-way marketing message with no engagement. Feedback and discussion are only going to happen if you let it. And now, with third-party commenting systems like Disqus and Intense Debate, you can have the option to moderate comments before they go live. This gives companies a small element of control over potential spammers and trolls.
What about some challenges I may run into with my blog?
I think people get overwhelmed with the care and feeding that goes into a blog. They launch their blog and then expect to have lots of readers and commenters the next day. You have to be patient because like anything else, blogging takes time. I suggest putting together an editorial calendar to plan out your blog posts a bit. Perhaps you want to do something fun every Friday or schedule interviews with customers every other week. Having a visual aid can be a fantastic organizing tool when dealing with the maintenance of a company blog.
Also, see what other people are doing with their company blogs. There is a lot of creativity floating around out there and sometimes it just takes opening yourself up to it in order for things to click. To illustrate my point, if a fiber equipment company and a concrete company can create successful blogs, so can you.
Any final thoughts on blogging?
Blogging is, by nature, a much more informal type of writing. Take some time to develop your voice and tone on the blog. The blog should sound more like a conversation than anything else. Readers aren’t there to read a white paper or to read something that’s overly technical. They are there to find out more about your company, to engage and the easier you make it for people to read and do that, the more successful your blog will be.
Whatever you do, stick with it because very soon, if you don’t have a blog, you will be one of the few.
“Short answer: Because your competitor is.” That’s funny, I was speaking to a potential client today in general about online marketing and the different avenues you can use to build your online brand, and I basically ended by saying “if for no other reason you should be doing it because your competitors are and it works.” Short and to the point but it’s the damn truth.
Blogging is just like alot of marketing tactics, it takes time as you say. Patience and consistency, if you have at least both of those attributes, blogging and alot of things in life tend to work out for the best. It’s something that useful for all businesses, big or small.
Good read Tara.
I had an interesting experience recently. I had an associate I had known for close to 25 years basically complete his slide into what I call obnoxious narcissism.
Unfortunately, even though I have always done right by this person, I noticed a character defect in this person in which over the years they have just become outrageously condescending.
This one person who I have known as long as almost anyone else in California could attest to my abilities (I’ve won a regional emmy) including editing a documentary his son had shot on very crude equipment that I was able to make came out fantastic, has instead chosen a dark dark and competitive view against the people he should be celebrating successes with.
I was going to make http://www.alexlogic.com anyways, but the disappointing experience of seeing this person become an ultra obnoxious narcissist who know longer even cares they are so obnoxious led me to accelerate the development of my alexlogic blog.
Don’t rely on any one else to vouch for you, if you feel it is important to document your job history, then get a blog and go for it. My blog was free and I feel I more than got my money’s worth. I still have a lot of content to add but I think I’ve least shown I have had a lot of film and video production experience.
One more thing, eventually, on my alexlogic blog, when one clicks on any picture, it will take them to a column that discusses important information related to the image being click on.
I have so many up now it may take me half a year or longer to catch up.
You need a blog or at least some type of web 2.0 presence to get the word out and keep intouch with your customers and to compete. The web enables the playing field to be leveled so that small business can compete with much larger companies. it’s also a very cost-effective way of promoting your business.
Could not agree more. We started a blog at BornFit.com and we have built wonderful online relationships with several of our customers and supporters. Our blog has also led to some great partnerships and some TV spots. So yes, we encourage all small businesses to start a blog, it has also helped drive traffic to our website.
oh yes and using a Lijit Search bar on our blog has also been really useful so we can see who came to our blog and content they searched
I agree that blog posts shouldn’t be necessarily practical when they are being created to spread information about businesses.
@Domenick Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for the re-tweet.
@Beckie Thanks for the Lijit support! Good to hear that your Lijit search is helping you to become a better blogger.
Great Blog.Because your competitor is.Any business with a online presence needs to aware of the competition and remain one step ahead. A company Blog is a great way to inform your customer and begin to establish relationships. Relationships create sales.
A company Blog is great way to create backlinks back to your site. We have retweeted this to all our folks following at http://www.twitter.com/seonow
Thanks for the insightful blog.