It’s widely regarded that blogging for your brand, while not a guarantee of success, is essential for reaching your crowd on a different level and in a different space. Think of a blog like a Victorian courtship versus the one-night stand of direct mail. Results might be slow in coming, but when they do, they’ll have substance and be longer lasting.
Blogging requires some discipline. And if you want a blog to be more than a dog-and-pony show, you have to be able to communicate what you’re an expert at, and understand what makes your audience tick. With that squared away, blogging can be a great vehicle for sharing your magic.
Despite how ubiquitous blogs are, many people are still vexed about their use and intimidated at the idea of blogging. Below are some tips on getting ideas, how to think of a blog and some best practices.
How you want to be seen and known should drive your content choices. Do you want to become a trusted, go-to person in your industry? Or is your goal to get your wares out there as much as possible? Which do you want to do—help, delight, promote, humor, inspire or educate? Or some combination?
Take two interior design firms.
One might use a blog only to promote recent work or awards. Another might offer tips about caring for the home, direct readers to home and garden events, share what inspires them and show work. Both approaches are valid. They’re just very different and lead to a different ideal customer.
Blogging for business should be a strategic decision based on how you want to position yourself in your industry.
A blog is often the only area of a website with changing content. For many businesses, the rest of the website is mostly static, giving people little reason to return. Fresh content gives people a reason to return and stick around, and, ideally, visit other pages while they’re there. Coupled with an e-newsletter, a blog is a powerful way to get people to think of you first when they need your services. Out of site, out of mind (pun and misspelling intended).
Lastly, a blog has the potential to put a human face on a business or organization. More and more, people want to connect with businesses that have shared values. They want to know the story behind the story. They want to be part of the goings on.
Where to get ideas
- What does your ideal customer/audience wonder, worry, care, think or dream about? Your everyday expertise is a fount of potential content. Every question or comment you get is material. Get used to jotting down these ideas. Flesh them out later.
- Other blogs. Who is blogging about your industry? What are they doing right? What’s missing? Is there a gap you can fill?
- Check out this post from Copyblogger about post ideas.
Getting into the groove
- Create a lot of draft posts and publish them later. I have about 150 unpublished drafts. Don’t hit publish till you’re ready. (There’s no way to undue what subscribers see in their inbox, though you can edit the post itself.) This method helps you get used to blogging and prevents feeling pressured to create, finish and publish a post in one sitting.
- Consistency is more important than frequency. Seth Godin has a daily blog. Posts are short and wise, mostly about business and marketing but also double as good life advice. You can’t sort of do a daily blog so don’t make that your schedule. Find a schedule that works for you.
- See this great post for developing a blogging plan.
- Speak to one person. Writing is easy; writing well is not. You can have a great idea for a post and sit down to write, only to wonder what your point is. The best trick to staying focused is to imagine one ideal customer or reader. Talk to them. It works like a charm.
- Use tags and categories properly. People often use categories and tags interchangeably, wrongly or not at all. Categories help visitors figure out what you’re blogging about (I’m a fan of a categories widget in the sidebar.). Categories are broad, topical groupings. Think of a table of contents for a community college catalog, for example. Five to 10 should be sufficient. More, and you’re using them like tags. Tags, on the other hand, are specific to individual posts, and help search engines find your post. Tags might be specific keywords in your post such as a name, a place, a technique, etc. Apply only one or two categories to a post. If you’re assigning more, you’re not using them the right way, or they aren’t the right categories. This will just confuse readers.
- Allow people to subscribe. WordPress users can add this subscribe-by-email plugin to let readers get new posts by email.
- Images. If you don’t have your own photos or illustrations, use creative commons images and make sure they’re available for commercial use. Always provide a link and attribution to the photographer.
- Direct visitors to other content on your website in a blog post, such as related content.
- Create calls to action at the end of a blog post to engage readers. Ask a question at the end of your posts or include a link to to join your mailing list.
- These are great technical tips for blogging.