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Why Do Small Businesses Need To Be Blogging?


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.

Blogworld Speaker Interview: Deborah Micek


Q: In two sentences, highlight your background and professional experience to date. One bonus sentence: how’d you get started blogging?

A: My background began with a quick rise to the top of my field as a social worker with a degree in Psychology. Ok well, it was actually to the #2 spot in my field, but I realized I’d have to wait another 30+ years to get the president’s position as she was fairly young with no plans to go anywhere. That’s when I started exploring other ways to challenge myself. After spending a decade as a behavior analyst, overseeing managers and motivating the unmotivated, I decided it was time for a change. A BIG Change!

As a result, I changed everything about my life. I started a coaching & consulting business in the NY/NJ area, I quit my “secure” job, and I sold my house and all my belongings (except my shoes) and moved 5,000 away from my home state to live and work in the state of Hawaii.

Once I realized how time consuming in-person networking was, and how costly advertising was for a small business owner, I began the quest to find another way to get the word out about my boutique coaching firm. That’s when I discovered the power of blogging.

Deborah Micek, aka CoachDeb

Deborah Micek, aka "CoachDeb"

I started blogging after participating in a coaching club with Stephen Pierce where he talked about blogging as a way to get traffic for all the articles we wrote for Hawaii’s daily newspaper The Star Bulletin and magazines back in 2002. Having my own Coach was just the kind of accountability I needed.

After that, my blogging efforts took a life of its own. My business partner and I started seeing additional benefits for our blogging platforms, and took it to the next level, writing the first book on new media marketing tools and strategies. But instead of calling the book “blogging secrets” we wanted the book to be full of timeless strategies, and instead titled it, “Secrets of Online Persuasion” taking the topic beyond blogs and Podcasts, which were all trend setting topics at the time, and the book was released way before its time in regards to the blogging bandwagon that followed.

The book covers what’s most important when you’re using any communication platform – which is your influence and ability to persuade with your words via your blog. And to me, that’s more important than just the mechanics of blogging.

Q: How often do you blog?  What platform do you use?  Why?

I blog often. I guess I could say daily, now that I use Twitter as my micro-blogging platform, but as far as article blogging, it’s several times weekly on a variety of the blogs we run.

I started using WordPress, but found there were so many plug-ins to install, and with the updates they issue to fix bugs, etc. it became incredibly time-consuming.

The platform we use is BLOGi360.com.

Why do I use this platform? Simple = Because we created it.

Ok, well that’s the short answer, but on the serious note, we developed it to take care of an unmet need for busy business owners who didn’t have the time to do all the things necessary for their blog to work for them. We hired a team of programmers to create software that works automatically for the busy business owner (starting with me).

The system took a ton of tech time off my shoulders so I was able to focus on writing & uploading content, videos, etc instead of worrying about the techie stuff. All the installation and plug-ins along with proprietary software that goes far beyond WordPress are all done for me on any blog I create with this software. Now with the BLOGi360 system working for me, I can get busy doing the things I love – like tweeting on Twitter and connecting with other influencers.

We originally created the system to use for ourselves (selfishly) and then shared it with our private coaching clients. Recently we decided it was time to share the technology with the world of small business owners. Thus began another journey.

Q: Point us to a recent postings on your blog that you think are superb, and tell us a bit about your writing process. How long did it take for you to come up with the topic?  How long to write?

http://tribalseduction.com/blog/womenrule is a recent post that was uber fun to create & share with my subscribers. The topic generated 30 comments almost immediately and continues to get a lot of hits to this day.

People often tweet me mentioning how they laughed when watching the video on this post, and then share whether they agree or disagree with what the gentleman in the video shared.  The blog post posed a question (instead of a statement) “Do women rule on Twitter? (What Men Think)” and shared a few paragraphs about the making of the video that was shared in the post. The video itself was created while at a friend’s place, and editing less than 5 minutes because we kept it “reality style”.

This topic on my personal blog was a continuation of a column written for Entrepreneur magazine where I posed a controversial topic that people couldn’t help but comment and tweet about. 72 comments came in from my Twitter following who were not afraid to get engaged in a controversial dialogue.

My writing process is to not fear controversy. I even posed the thought for my readers, “Does this make me sexist?” and allowed readers to decide for themselves. In a politically correct world, people are tired of only saying what they’re “supposed to say” so anytime you go against the norm and try something different, it’ll have a certain shock value where people will enjoy participating in. And that’s what the blogosphere is all about – isn’t it? To get people engaged, entertained and sharing their two cents about matters important to them.

Q: How often do you leave comments on other people’s blogs?  How do you find their entries in the first place?

I comment anytime I come across a topic that interests me. I often find the blog posts from the people I follow on Twitter. I love knowing the moment a blog post goes up and have some bloggers who regularly DM me about 10 minutes before their post goes live to give me a chance to read and comment first, and then tweet my following so they can do the same.

Q: Tell us a bit about your talk at Blogworld Expo. Topic, key points you’ll cover, etc?

I’ll cover the issues of how to use controversy and creating shock value in my Tribal Seduction presentation at Blog World Expo on the Entrepreneur track.

Once you understand how people are tribal by nature, you’ll be able to gather a tribe yourself of raving fans.
Most people are afraid of “rocking the boat” yet that’s the precise way of generating a flood of traffic, fans and clients.

New Media has introduced a more authentic, transparent world, and when people try to disguise their views or true identity, it backfires, or worse, gets them no results as though they don’t exist.
We’ll talk about how to brand their voice and develop their story in order to be known in the marketplace of ideas.

I’ll also reveal an amazingly effective process that’s a 180° turn from all you’ve been told about marketing in the 20th Century. Most people do it backwards. That’s why I’ll discuss how business owners can solve the problems that most entrepreneurs encounter when developing their marketing strategy.

Q: How do you recommend new folks best experience a major conference and expo like Blogworld Expo?

I’d recommend new attendees going to Blog World Expo for the first time begin their experience by tracking the hashtag #BWE08 on their mobile phones and the internet using Search.Twitter.com in order to follow the conversations happening in all of the different rooms.

This is another great way to find and connect with people who are at the conference that you might not otherwise have the chance to meet in person due to the overwhelming number of people attending this conference.

Q: Easy ones: Mac or PC?  Ipod or Zune?  Iphone or Blackberry?

I go both ways. I use a PC for all my business needs with corporate clients so all documents transfer easily. And I use a Mac for my iPhone connection and think of it as my portable Mac computer, since I use it mostly for internet connection, checking email, etc. all the things people buy a Macbook AIR for.

Then I carry around my Blackberry in order to use the phone reliably and not hang up on people when my cheek hits the touch pad on the iPhone. I also have it as my backup for when my iPhone battery dies. I can never go a full day without recharging. So – I find going both ways works best.

As for iPod, I use the Creative Zen to download from my Napster account and listen to tunes and Podcasts on my long flight from Honolulu to Vegas.

Thanks for sharing all of this, Deb!  If you don’t, you should consider following @CoachDeb on Twitter too, though be warned, she’s as prolific a Twitterer as I am. But then again, perhaps you can just follow both of us (I’m @DaveTaylor) and add Rick Calvert, host of Blogworld (@blogworld) and fill your dance card quickly. 🙂

Interview by Blogworld Expo co-host Dave Taylor, of Ask Dave Taylor.com and Intuitive.com.  He’ll see ya in Vegas in just a few days!

Blogworld Expo Speaker Interview: Rich Brooks


Another of our speaker profiles for the upcoming Blogworld Expo. It’s not too late to join us in Las Vegas and hear amazing speakers like Rich Brooks!

Q: In two sentences, highlight your background and professional experience to date. One bonus sentence: how’d you get started blogging?

I started building Web sites back in 1997 because I didn’t want to work for the man any longer. As time went on I got more involved with Web marketing to help grow clients’ businesses: search engines, then email newsletters, and finally blogging.

I had a client enamored of Howard Dean and his Web marketing savvy; he asked me to start a blog for him, so I tried it out as well. Never looked back.

Rich Brooks, Flyte New Media

Rich Brooks, Flyte New Media

Q: How often do you blog?  What platform do you use?  Why?

I blog three to four times a week in four primary blogs. Most of my posts are at the flyte blog, but I also write a more basic Internet Marketing 101 blog for the local newspaper, which helps me reach a different, more localized market.

In addition, I started an SEO blog with our new search engine marketer at flyte, and we have an internal, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time, NSFW flyte crew blog as well.

The flyte blog is on TypePad, which I still feel is a great blog for business people who don’t have a coder on site and just want to blog. The Maine Business blog is on a platform they coded themselves. The Maine SEO blog and our flyte crew blog are both on WordPress.

I’ve always recommended TypePad or WordPress, but until recently I found TypePad’s UI to be better for the average user; cleaner, easier-to-use. However, the last few iterations of WordPress have made it a favorite of mine.

The bottom line is I can strongly recommend both TypePad and WordPress; both have nice features, both are great for business blogs, and neither will prevent you from succeeding on your blogging career.

Q: Point us to one or two recent postings on your blog that you think were superb, and tell us a bit about your writing process. How long did it take for you to come up with the topic?  How long to write?

Geez, superb? Now you’re making me self-conscious. How about just solid?

I wrote about Technorati Tags here: Do Technorati Tags Matter Anymore?

I liked this post b/c for years I’ve been promoting the benefits of tagging along with a great anecdote. However, as I looked at my own stats, I realized I got very little traffic from tagging. So, very publicly, I questioned myself and what I had been telling people.

That goes towards my “warts and all” belief of blogging honestly, plus I hope it will help a number of small business owners with their own blogs.

Q: How often do you leave comments on other people’s blogs?  How do you find their entries in the first place?

A few times a month, not nearly as much as when I started. I find it’s a great way to generate more traffic to your blog, and it shows an interest in the networking aspect of blogging. However, it’s tough to find the time to publish my own material, run a company, be a dad and find time to respond to other people’s posts. These days my commenting is more organic; I comment if I feel an urge to voice an opinion, and less as a marketing exploit.

Q: Tell us a bit about your talk at Blogworld Expo. Topic, key points you’ll cover, etc?

I’m looking forward to both panels. The first I’ll be moderating on How to Plan, Build and Promote a Business Blog. I’ve got three great panelists with me, John T. Unger, Des Walsh and Denise Wakeman. We all have experience working with businesses on a consulting level on building a more effective blog. We’ll be talking strategy and answering questions on how blogging fits into a broader marketing campaign.

The other panel is about getting buy-in from decision makers. I think this will be helpful to internal marketers who realize the values of blogs, but need ammunition to convince their company’s decision makers.

Q: How do you recommend new folk best experience a major conference and expo like Blogworld Expo?

Get off your track. Experience at least one seminar that you would never think of going to. Business bloggers should check out a milblog seminar; Godbloggers should go to a monetization seminar. Plan to have your eyes opened and your mind expanded.

Q: Easy ones: Mac or PC?  Ipod or Zune?  Iphone or Blackberry?

Mac, iPod, and iPhone. Are they still making the Zune? Didn’t it turn out that it led to tumors?

I don’t know about that tumor part, Rich, but thanks for sharing with us!

Interview by Blogworld Expo co-host Dave Taylor, who is also going to be giving the opening keynote speech, a talk on blogging and SEO, and popping up elsewhere during the show. Dave is a prolific blogger and writes about tech support and business blogging, among other topics.

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