While much of the content here on ProBlogger is about the ‘Business of Blogging’ I’m regularly asked to speak at conferences and receive emails from readers with questions about how Businesses can use Blogs to grow themselves – particularly in their marketing efforts.
Below are a 13 tips that I usually try to share with Businesses wanting to use blogging in their marketing mix.
1. Listen First, Blog Later
Perhaps the most useful thing a company can do before they start blogging is to monitor the blogosphere. There are some wonderful tools around for listening to what bloggers are writing about your industry, your company and your products. Many of these tools are free (Google News Alerts for example). Plug in some keywords relevant to you and your industry and see what is being talked about.
You’ll also find that as you ‘listen’ that you’ll begin to learn the culture of blogging and how those in your industry are already using it. This will teach you a lot both about what is acceptable and what the etiquette is but it also could give you some clues on how to differentiate your blog from what others in your niche are doing with their blogs.
Lastly – watching and listening will help you identify key bloggers and influencers in your niche – these are people who can teach you a lot, introduce you to the niche blogging network and perhaps help you get started .
2. Know what you want to achieve
What objective of your business is your blog helping you to meet? Don’t just start a blog because it is the ‘thing to do’. Consider what channel/s of your business your blog is going to help strengthen, what goals you want to achieve with it and what it will and won’t aim to do.
You might find as you ponder this that you have quite a diverse set of goals for your blog. This can work – but you should also probably consider multiple blogs if your objectives are wide and varied. There’s nothing wrong with multiple blogs, each with their own focus and purpose.
3. Be Useful
Good blogs meet needs, solve problems and help those who read them in some way. This doesn’t mean your blog has to be full of ‘tips’ (although tips related to how to use your products could work) but you should consider who will be reading your blog and what sort of needs they’ll have.
Will they be looking for information about your company and products? Are they looking to find information on your staff members? Do they need news from your industry? Do they have specific problems that you might be able to help them solve?
While being ‘useful’ might not sound like something that will convert to sales directly it can have a profound impact upon those reading your blog and your business in the long term. Solve a problem for someone and when they next are looking to make a purchase they might just come knocking on your door. Meet a need for someone and they might just tell their network about you.
4. Be Personal and Professional
There’s no single way to build a blog and no one style to have to write them in. Ultimately it’s your blog and you can develop your own approach…. BUT…. blogs do lend themselves to a personal style of communication. Your company probably already has a more static site which conveys content in the third person – use your blog (or blogs) to do something different.
Give your company a face, voice and personal touch by writing in a more personal voice, using pictures (of the author and other staff members), by showing some of the behind the scenes of your company etc. Be Human!
Try using different mediums (video, image, audio) as well as text to show your company is not just a logo and mission statement but a place where real people are at its heart.
This doesn’t mean professionalism goes out the door – always keep in mind that everything that goes up on your blog either potentially adds value to your company or takes away from it – keep your standards high and remember that everything you publish is effectively on the web for ever (even when you delete it it’ll usually be indexed in an internet archive somewhere).
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Sell, but Don’t be too Salesy
It’s OK to use a blog to promote products or run sales oriented campaigns. I’ve seen some people argue that blogs shouldn’t be used to sell – but I think as long as you’re transparent and keep your posts useful ‘sales’ related posts can work. The key is to make the post more useful than just going with a ‘sell at all costs’ attitude.
Why not run a blog special where you offer those who read your blog a special discount that can’t be had anywhere else? Perhaps offer blog readers coupons or bonuses when they buy? If you are providing people with value they won’t mind a promotion from time to time. The key is to keep everything you do on your blog of a high value and usefulness and avoid getting into hyped spin sales talk.
6. Link, Link, Link
Many businesses are afraid to send people away from their blogs and end up being very insular. This ignores one of the key things that blogging has been built upon – the link. Blogging is a medium that has grown so quickly because traditionally people have been very generous with their links to other sites and blogs.
While this might seem a little counter-intuitive (sending people away from your blog) if you provide value to your readers by sending them to high quality and useful information they’ll thank you for it and be back for more. Helping people learn something, be entertained, make a great new connection, stay up to date with the latest news etc can grow your own profile and perceived expertise. It can also help you to make in-roads with others in your niche when you send them traffic and could lead to links coming back at you and fruitful partnerships.
7. Establish a Rhythm of Posting
A blog doesn’t need to have new content on it every day to be successful. What is just as important as lots of posts is regular posts. In my experience readers like to know that they’ll get a regular stream of content and not sudden bursts of lots of posts and then extended periods of silence.
My advice for a new blog is to aim for 2-3 posts a week when you’re starting out. In time you might be able to lift this rate to 3-4 and then move towards 4-5 in time. This way you’re not biting off more than you can chew too early and providing your readers with a steady stream of useful content.
8. Avoid Ads
If your main objective as a business starting a blog is to grow your own profile and add to your own Marketing messages then you should avoid running ads on your blog. I’ve seen a number of businesses fall for the temptation of making a few dollars by selling ads on their blog – but all this really does is distract your reader from the one company you should be advertising – yours.
At the worst end of things you could be highlighting your own competitors by running ads on your blog with a system like AdSense which allows any company to target ads on your own blog. Instead of making some loose change with advertising – develop internal banner ads for your products and services and put them at key points on your blog so drive readers to buy from you.
9. Determine your Comment Moderation Policy
One of the biggest fears of many companies getting into blogging is about what will happen in their comments section. What happens if a customer with a vendetta starts doing damage there? What if a competitor sees an opportunity to stir up trouble or promote themselves?
Different companies have different approaches to moderating comments on their blog and while some bloggers can get a little rigid with their views on this – there’s really no one single rule that should be applied to all blogs. Ultimately it’s your blog and you determine how people should interact there.
My personal preference on blogs is to keep them as easy as possible to comment upon and to allow all comments unless defamatory, spammy or containing obscene language – however your comments policy might be a little more closed than this. The key is to know what you will and won’t allow ahead of time and to make that policy available somewhere for your readers.
Also have in place a system for enforcing your policy and moderating comments. This will probably include giving a person (or a team of people) the task of regular monitoring of comments.
10. Be Interactive
Blogging is often at its best when it’s an interactive thing. Encourage comments by asking questions in post, run polls and surveys, encourage your readers with blogs to write their own posts that extend ideas in yours, run competitions, offer special discounts for readers etc.
11. Integrate Your Blog with your Website
In most cases you should think carefully about how to integrate your blog with your company’s existing website. Again there are no rules here and it’ll partly depend upon your objectives but it’d be normal to link to your blog from your main company website and link from your blog to your website. In most cases you’ll probably also want to make sure your blog is on your main company domain (yoursite.com/blog will work well in helping both areas of the site to build your SEO authority) and that design elements are consistent between areas.
12. Finding Readers by Leveraging Your Existing Profile and Network
One of the challenges facing new blogs whether they be tied to a business or not is how to get people reading them. One of the starting points in this is to think about what existing profile or network you already have developed. Most companies have customers, staff, industry associations etc that they can notify (without being spammy) of their new blog.
If your company has other places of online presence (your company site, social network profiles etc) you should also link to your blog from these. Other marketing materials such as letterhead, business cards, email signatures etc can all also help get the word out about your blog.
13. Mix it Up
If you decide just to go with one blog instead of multiple blogs for multiple channels of your company it can be worthwhile to mix up the type of content that appears on your blog. There are so many types of posts that a company could run depending upon their objectives including:
- highlighting key staff members
- message from the CEO
- state of the industry posts
- linking to breaking news in the industry
- announcements of new products
- highlighting key clients/customers
- tips on how to use products
- live blogging from industry events
The sky is the limit on both the topics of posts as well as the mediums you can use to deliver them. Keep your blog fresh by mixing them up.
What tips would you give businesses wanting to use blogs as part of their marketing mix or in some other aspect of their blogging?