On a cold January evening in Barrie, Ontario, 20-25 enthusiastic business owners gathered at the Barrie Public Library for my presentation about blogging and social media, including some spirited exchanges about the good, bad and ugly of trying to market a business online.
Good: Blogging is as easy as answering your customers’ questions.
Bad: Starting a blog and then neglecting to post gives a negative impression when people visit your website.
Ugly: According to one participant, promoting your blog post effectively on social media “seems like a LOT of work!”
Here is a brief summary of what I covered in the presentation, along with links where you can learn more about each topic.
Overview – Helping versus selling
I opened with the story of Marcus Sheridan of River Pools and Spas, and his incredible success with blogging and content marketing. As Marcus explained, business blogging is about helping, rather than selling, by answering actual questions from customers and prospective customers.
If you keep up with your blogging and continue to help, this will create and build a connection that can lead to a long-term relationship and a position of trust. Then when it’s time to purchase the product or service you offer, people already have a meaningful foundation from which to choose you.
For more about helping versus selling, check out Is Your Business Blog Serving Up the Right Information?
Coming up with blog post ideas
I encouraged the group to put on their “blogging antennae,” and promised that once they’d identified broad themes (categories) they wanted to write about, ideas would magically start to appear – if they paid attention.
Barrie naturopathic doctors Kerri Fullerton and Whitney Young of Rooted do a wonderful job of answering common questions about their areas of expertise. Here are just two examples on the topic of infertility, and you can visit their blog for posts about improving your mood, living gluten-free, helpful books and more:
I asked if anyone was struggling to think of blog post topics for their business. We heard from a massage therapist, hair stylist, and sign language interpreter, and we successfully brainstormed topics for all of them.
Here is some further reading about coming up with blog post ideas:
- Reader-Focused Blogging: Set an Empty Chair at Your Blog
- How to Turn One Great Idea Into a Series of Future Blog Posts
- Top 10 Blog Post Idea Generators
- How to Focus Your Mind, Your Topic and Your Writing
To keep up with your blogging and avoid turning your website into an abandoned ghost town, I suggest you start with a plan, stick to your categories, and use upcoming events, holidays and promotions as a starting point.
(Just remember, blog posts should be about your customers, not about your business. So if your promotion is a sale on paint, provide tips about the hottest new decorating trends of the season.)
Break blogging up into a series of tasks so you can tackle each of them when it’s the best time for you, instead of trying to sit down and start, finish and publish a post in one sitting.
Also consider other types of posts besides full-length feature articles, such as video or audio recordings, or a review or recommendation of someone else’s content (here is how to share other people’s content without plagiarizing).
Even with these other types of posts, it’s still a good idea to provide at least 250-300 words of text to put your own slant on the topic and remind your readers of your expertise. Also, some people prefer to learn by reading and may never open your recordings.
Here is some further reading about blogging consistently:
- Which Types of Blog Posts Are Right For Your Business?
- How to Write a Blog Post
- How to Keep Your Blog on Track and Your Readers There With You
- Free Blog Planners from Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing
Promoting your blog posts on social media
There are three things you need in order to share your blog posts on social media:
- The permalink of your blog post – Otherwise people will have to search your website for the specific information you promised (and most won’t bother). Here’s how to find the permalink of your blog posts, or you can use a tool like Buffer.
- A reason to click it – With so much competing for your reader’s attention, they have to know, “What’s in it for me if I click this link?” Here are five ways to get noticed when promoting your blog posts on Twitter and LinkedIn.
- People to see it – Full-size images really draw people in, especially on Facebook and Google+. On those sites, upload your photo first, and then add your permalink to the text description. Otherwise, all people will see is a small thumbnail of the photo from your blog post. UPDATE (September 13, 2014): Facebook is now giving more visibility to posts that contain links with thumbnail images, versus those with uploaded photos (they consider that “click-baiting“). So put your link directly into the status update box so just the small thumbnail image is displayed.
Here is some further reading about growing your social media network and what/how to share on social media:
- Once You’ve Met, Then Connect – Taking Your Local Networking Contacts Online
- Twitter Tips from Inc.com – Having a balanced Twitter stream
- How an Auto Repair Shop is Winning Female Customers With Social Media (case study)
Blogging is a wonderful way to connect with new customers, give more value to returning customers, and gain visibility as an expert in your subject area. When you see blogging as a way to help, focus on a few key topics, and stick with it over time, you’ll build a rich collection of useful content to share with your networks and spread across the web.