Here's why blogging has become an important marketing tool and how you can leverage it to your advantage.
By Liz Lemarchand, MediaDev
No matter where you turn nowadays, everyone’s blogging. (Look, I’m even doing it!) It used to be that blogs were personal journals, written by a few Bridgette Jones’ or Carry Bradshaw types, who would post dear-diary entries and keep a running account of the events of their everyday lives.
Now, blogs have evolved and have taken over mainstream content media (and have even put some newspapers out of business). They have not only become a platform for expression, but an important marketing tactic to help companies stand out. Blogging and social media are the lightning rods for strong opinions and viewpoints, and it’s important to be able to harness the energy that can come along with it.
According to Andrew Keen, Silicon Valley insider and pundit, 10 years ago blogging had become such a mania that a new blog was created every second of every minute of every hour of every day. One can only imagine that the creation of new blogs is even greater today since it’s only recently that blogging has become a truly sophisticated tool for expression and a two-way dialogue (between blogger and reader). At the same time, so many new blogs reach next to no-one. So how can you be successful if you’re new to blogging to make sure your blog gets read (by the right people)?
Define objectives for your blog and stick with it
Unlike the blogs of the past that just gave a window into the daily life of a particular person, today’s blogs usually have some kind of business objective in mind. Perhaps you want to position yourself as a leader in a particular service area, or you want to share your expertise and give insights related to topics you’ve come across frequently when working with your customers.
Regardless, the purpose should be to increase visibility for your company and you should outline goals that reflect that. Creating a content calendar of topics to write about will help guide you with a clear roadmap; it will also help you define publishing frequency (which should be reasonable to start in both length and frequency, and scalable as you have more followers).
The important thing is to stick to it. Don’t be discouraged if at first you don’t have the outreach you expected from that witty post. Creating a following doesn’t happen overnight and consistency (despite lack of results) is half of the battle in the beginning. (I know this and see, I’m still writing!)
Create collaborative (corporate blogs) to share the workload
Collaborative blogs (those written by more than one person usually on a particular theme) and corporate blogs (those written by companies for PR, marketing or branding purposes) are prevalent. Combing both can make it easier to create content faster, and will help leverage your existing resources for blog contributions. Instead of looking for the perfect blog writer, businesses can empower individuals within the company to help contribute to collaborative blogs.
Help by encouraging employees to take the plunge and write one. Share your content list with them and ask for volunteers to write posts (which can be related to their different areas of expertise).
Get personal with your audience and share your passion
People love stories. A good storyteller relates personal experience in his/her blog posts and can captivate an audience with true-life lessons learned. I love reading blog posts about working moms, because I’m a working mom. I love reading posts about sales and marketing, because I work in sales and marketing. If you’re looking to speak to a like-minded audience, it’s easy to relay information in a way that people can identify with.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and share your opinions -- not only does it help create great content, it’s the stuff viral posts are made out of. If you’re not passionate about the topics you’ve listed in your content calendar, you shouldn’t be writing them in the first place.
Determine the best blogging communities and directories to tap into
Online communities connect people to blogs, and bloggers to other bloggers. Instead of just posting your blog onto your website (which is good to do too!), you should tap into LinkedIn or Facebook Groups, Google Plus communities and other interest-specific forums.
Not sure where to start? Conduct an audit to see where your competitors are and how you can meet them on their playing field. Or create a new community of your own; this is great if you target a very specific market niche since you could become a leader quickly if you’re the first one out there.
Don’t use blogging for pure advertising
Featuring banner ads or promotional content on a blog post is one thing, creating a totally fake blog is another. Readers can usually see through fictional blogs that were just created as pure marketing tools to promote a product, so it’s better to steer-clear.
Consumers are weary of sponsored posts (blog posts in the form of feedback or product reviews that usually contain a link back to the desired site). It’s become a controversial and debated form of advertising, as many in the blogging community fear that it will eventually destroy the blogosphere’s credibility.
I think this is also becoming the case in the B2B space. I’ve seen a lot of end-user prospects register to attend a webinar only to back-out the day of because they “realized it was just an hour-long sales pitch.” The same is true for blogs. If it’s just seen as marketing mumbo-jumbo instead of true insight, you won’t attract the reading audience that you desire. My personal feeling is that it’s better to be authentic. You can still get your message across without having to resort to pure advertising tactics.
When in doubt ask for help
While anyone can blog, not everyone can be a successful (half a million follower) professional blogger. Reaching out to the experts can help get you started, or enable you to hire people to do the work for you. As I mentioned in another recent blog post of mine entitled How You Can Have it All, Without Having to Do it All, outsourcing is a great way to increase bandwidth for projects you wouldn’t have the time for otherwise.
See you on the blogosphere!