With so many quick and easy social media tools at our fingertips, many companies are wondering if they need to bother with blogging. Community managers are now focusing on Facebook and tweeting on Twitter, looking down on blogs as relics of our digital past.
However, this is a mistake.
Trendy online services are increasingly keeping us away from in-depth conversations and compelling content, and a business blog is the perfect resource to give your company an official and authoritative voice on the web. Moreover, with a blog as an important part of your overall site, you will give your customers or clients reason to discover more about what you offer.
Today marks the start of Canada's Small Business Week. If your company doesn't have a blog, here are five easy steps to get one up and running.
1. Choose the right blogging platform
There are plenty of different web-based software choices for the blogging professional, many of which are free or cost just a few dollars a month. While services such as Blogger have been around for years, two of today's most popular platforms are Wordpress.com and Squarespace.com. Both provide hosting, a number of attractive templates (if you don't have a designer on hand), and easy integration with other social media services. Choosing a flexible blogging platform versus building your own will allow you to focus on what is important to your online community: content.
2. Focus on compelling content
Many businesses neglect their blogs, leaving dated content online or ignoring comments. Aside from committing to a regular blogging schedule, which should be a minimum of one new post a week, the most critical component of a successful blog is compelling content. This doesn't mean that you have write half a dozen paragraphs every time you post, but try to think of writing an entry that your community will want to read -- and share. This means that you should shy away from posting boring press releases. Instead, post quick lists and tips, include photos and embed videos. For example, if you run a self storage business write about organizational tips. If you own salon consider doing a regular Q&A for customers or post updates on the latest hair trends.
3. Drive traffic using social networks
Once you've chosen a platform and you've committed to writing, focus on how to share your posts in as many places as possible. If you're on Twitter and Facebook, make sure you regularly promote your blog posts. Use a social media dashboard, such as Hootsuite (which is free), to send out your links to multiple online destinations at once and to track your traffic. Take a look at your link stats on a regular basis to find out what type of content your community likes, and tailor your articles based on these results.
4. Write catchy headlines
With more than 160 million people frequenting Twitter on a regular basis, a big part of your blog traffic strategy needs to involve writing headlines that work. Twitter is not the only place where a catchy head will grab your readers' attention, your Facebook fans will also appreciate creative copy. Many professional bloggers have posted headline writing tips, which will help you wrap your head around why how-to, list, and question headlines really work. If you are relying on Twitter for traffic, remember that fewer words in your headline will make it easier to secure retweets from your followers (so your blog link spreads to their networks).
5. Love your audience
Although it's difficult to be friendly with someone who writes a negative comment on your blog, many times you can turn this individual into a brand ambassador if you simply listen and respond to his or her feedback. If the conversation starts to spin out of control on your site, it's a good idea to ask the person to follow up with you via e-mail so you can address the issues in a more effective manner. Many companies are afraid of comments, but today's blogging platforms make it easy to skim and moderate comments so you can keep obscenities or personal attacks off your site. Also, if you don't have anyone commenting on your blog, don't hesitate by jumping in there to add the first comment or encourage others within your company to help get the conversation started.
If you're looking for a few examples of good business blogs, there are plenty. For starters, web shop 37signals has a very successful blog that focuses on how customers use their products, among other topics. Zillow, a popular real estate destination in the US, posts about real estate, mortgages, and celebrity homes. While Twitter might fade in the months to come or Facebook could flounder, a good business blog on a site you own is an investment in your company's future, online and offline.