How many times have you read in social marketing books that your business needs a blog? Once? Twice? Forty or more times? It's become something of a mantra for social marketing professionals and it's understandable. A blog is an easy, cost-effective way to tell your company's tale without having to spend an enormous amount of time on structure, promotion or strategy beyond what enters your head at that particular moment. Now, I admit that my description of bloggers' motivations is somewhat narrow, but the bigger picture of blogging as an easy way to avoid using traditional marketing techniques has some validity. The truth is that whether or not business blogging works has less to do with whether bloggers are being paid, than it has to do with whether they will produce more than one post.
Here's the truth, folks. Blogging is hard. It involves commitment. It also needs an off-page strategy that might require some investment, small as it may be. It has less to do with whether you think your company needs a blog than with how your company perceives the value of customers who go online. If you are practical and realize that even your technologically-deficient clients will be on the web from time to time, then you understand that this is similar to hiring a new business person or sending out a direct mail piece. You're not going to hit the bull's-eye with every potential lead, but if you keep at it the numbers will be in your favor.
If you're committed to the idea that blogging will benefit your company, you'll need to follow these steps to make sure customers actually find you, read your blog and retain the information.
1. Set a weekly article quota
In most business spaces you'll be competing with companies, publications and professionals who've either:
A) Produced hundreds of posts on numerous subjects and offer a bonanza for Google's search spiders.
B) Published new content daily and are a bonanza for Google's search spiders.
C) Had a reputation that preceded them -- and, therefore, have numerous references to them across the web -- which make them a bonanza for Google's search spiders.
Did I mention Google's search spiders? Of course I did, because no matter what you do on the web, Google is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that determines whether anyone will find your post or not. That is why the content of your posts is as important for your position in large preferred searches as the volume of your posts is.
When I began developing HDCameraGuide.com several years ago, I knew that fresh content would be as vital to the website's domination of its category as my insistence that new products be included every day. As a result, the website went from 2,500 unique visitors in the first month to 20,000 in the third month, thanks to a relentless campaign of updating and posting. My recommendation is to set a quota of at least three solid posts a week. If you can do more, even better. The great thing about posting consistently is that you get better as you go along, rather than running out of material (which is the fear of many).
2. Let your social network know your articles exist
LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. I will talk ad nauseum about the tricks of the trade to make these social networks work for your business, but for this post I will say one thing -- after you post on your blog, go directly to these channels and post a reference to it. It is a job, but it will reap dividends. Your blog is probably the least-known entity on the web at this point, and you need to get the message out to established sites.
3. Use discovery websites to push your articles further
Digg, Reddit, Delicious and StumbleUpon. Create an account with each. Heck, create two. These websites are about letting a greater public know about content that interests the individuals who stumble upon them. You should be aware, however, that most of these sites penalize users who shill for one site in particular so, to be fair to the audience and your blog, share the wealth. Find other articles of interest to you and sprinkle them in with your valued blog posts.
4. Talk up your blog on appropriate forums
We have a client whose customers are engineers. In addition to buying traditional banner ad positions on Eng-Tips.com, the client also spends time responding to questions in the forum. It's a smart move. The client's customer base gets to know the client beyond the monolithic company name and it also provides a great customer-service element. Every business category has some kind of gathering space online for those who swim in the same pond. Make yourself available on these forums or blogs, and when the opportunity permits and your audience knows you're a straight shooter, plug an article or two. What's more, your postings will also show up as valued links in Google searches (did I mention Google?).
5. Make some of your articles press releases
Free-Press-Release.com and PRLog.org are two of many PR distribution websites that will push your content out for free. If you want to spend $80 or more, you can use PRWeb.com, which will distribute your content to the likes of Google and Yahoo News in addition to thousands of targeted blog websites. It's a quick way to bombard the web with your article and generate links that "stick" (articles that stay on websites for months, if not years, to come). Most articles through press release distribution sites disappear from view after a month.
6. Embrace the unconventional
Ever use Flickr? It can be a great "back door" channel to your blog, particularly if you are posting images or videos with your articles. Create a Flickr account. Post all your image-based content there and include a short description of your article, along with keywords and a direct link. Use it as the embed for your blog. It will provide instant access to an audience who is more than likely to look for subject matter through an image or Pinterest search than through a general search.
And there's much more than this. Blogging is a job. Don't ever think otherwise. But if you or your company are determined to help your business succeed through your own hard work, this medium can help it along greatly -- and, in time, the leads will follow.