today’s biz ladies post comes from social media writer, editor and blogger rebecca levie osberg. rebecca offers her social media savvy and blog writing skills to her clients on a daily basis, and today, she shares with us some helpful tips for using a blog attached to your website to cultivate your business. thank you rebecca for sharing your social media expertise with us!–stephanie
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Being a small business owner can leave you feeling like there is a perpetual to-do list living in your brain, rapping at your temple just when you think you’re about to relax. The to-do list whispers, “remember you were going to start that blog?” While a nuisance, the list has a point. Blogs offer so much to a small business. They are interactive, conversational, interesting, and if updated frequently enough, and with quality content, they can position you as a leader in your field.
First though, let’s start at the very beginning. Why do you need a blog? Is it really worth the hassle? Short answer, yes. Long answer, keep reading.
A blog will help increase your company’s web presence and deliver better SEO. The more pages you have on your website, the better your chance of being found by search engines, which means more hits on your website! But don’t just take my word for it, look at this article where HubSpot proves that companies who blogged had 55% more visitors, 97% more inbound links, and 434% more indexed pages. To better understand blogging and SEO, read this fantastic Modish Biz Tips article.
A blog provides an easy way to relay details about your business. A blog is a way to announce a sale or share a new delivery right when it happens. If what you sell is visual, it’s also a great way to constantly be uploading pictures to share with your customers. For example, if you’re a clothing store and you get a new shipment every Tuesday, have your staff model for you and take pictures and post them to your blog. Your customers will eventually know to go to your blog every Tuesday to see your new inventory. It’s a powerful tool. And eventually people will start commenting on your posts, and you can respond, fostering another form of dialogue. The ways to use a blog to communicate with customers are really endless. Additionally, make sure customers can subscribe to your blog via rss feed so they will be up to date on the comings and goings of your business.
Gain credibility in your field. You are an expert at what you do, flaunt your knowledge! Use your new blog to post about your professional insights, or to muse about what is happening in your industry. If you dye your own fabrics and sell them, blog about your method, take pictures, document the process, and your customers will know for sure that you are a fabric dying expert. Not only do you gain credibility, but people are always more willing to buy from people they trust and have confidence in. You’re not only selling your products, you’re selling yourself. Another tip is to make sure you connect to other bloggers in the blogging community. See how they position themselves as experts, or even shoot them an email to introduce yourself and ask for advice.
Humanize your business. Blogs are a great way to show a bit of your personality. You’re not just products and marketing, you are a person behind your brand, and by posting something you found humorous, or a quick tip for a customer, you’re making yourself real. For example, if you’re a fabric store, why not post a sewing tutorial? You may feel like you’re giving away information for free, but karma will come back at you, in the form of more hits on your site, and hopefully, more sales.
Now that I’ve given you four indisputable reasons why you should have a blog, and you’ve seen the light, there is a logistical question to get out of the way: what blogging platform to use. I recommend either WordPress or Typepad. The difference is with WordPress you have more control, but some find it a bit more difficult to use. Typepad is easier to use, but you don’t have as much control. A wonderful article, which lays out all the differences, uses the analogy that the distinction is basically the difference between owning your own house and renting. You can read more about it here. I personally use WordPress and have no complaints.
So now that you have made the decision to include a blog on your website, you’re probably wondering what the rules are. I know the usual questions. How often should I post? What should I post? How do I come up with ideas? Guess what? There are no rules! But there are a few guidelines to follow.
I suggest that you post once a week, at least in the beginning. It’s easy to install a blog and post a few times and then suddenly realize it’s New Years Eve and your last post was in July. Therefore I always recommend taking the first couple of months to post at least once a week in order to get a routine in your blood. After 3-4 months, see how you’re feeling about the blog. Make sure to install Google Analytics (it’s free and easy) when you start your blog so you can keep track of your traffic and visitor loyalty. Check its pulse and decide how you want to continue. If it’s getting a great response, you may want to keep doing what you’re doing, or even upping your posting frequency.
The next question is what most people find to be the most difficult. How do I know what to post? Where do I get my ideas? There are several ways to go about this. I’m of the mindset that being as observant in the world as possible is a wonderful form of inspiration. I often wait for inspiration to hit me in the form of a commercial, a song, another blog post I read, or simply talking with customers and listening to their questions. I’ve written many a blog post based off a client question. However, I know there are many who are uncomfortable leaving the post topic to chance, and in that case, I recommend an editorial calendar.
This is somewhat akin to what Design*Sponge does. We know every Monday is Sneak Peeks, every Tuesday is Biz Ladies, Wednesdays are DIY etc. Your editorial calendar doesn’t need to be as tight since you aren’t posting 40 articles a week, but having a sense of what your topic is going to be can be very comforting.
As an example, back to the fabric store. Make a schedule so you know the first week of the month is all about the new fabrics you get in. The second week is your DIY sewing lesson, the third is photos from customers who have bought your fabric and turned it into something beautiful, and the fourth is what you yourself have made during the month. Just knowing what is coming up can be very stress-relieving. I really think you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to come up with interesting posts that you will enjoy writing and your customers will enjoy reading.
The next part of the equation is promoting your blog, I am going to go through four ways.
Twitter is a wonderful platform because it fosters conversation. It can take awhile to build up followers, but here is a great tutorial on how to accomplish this feat. The key to Twitter is to use it to promote others in addition to yourself. If someone you follow posts an article that you really enjoyed reading, you can re-tweet it so the article goes to all your followers too. I read somewhere that in this day and age, re-tweeting is the sincerest form of flattery, and I completely agree. A great goal to have with every blog post is to hope someone will like it enough to re-tweet it.
Facebook is a completely different beast. Facebook is less interactive and more about getting fans to “like” what you have shared. With Facebook, you need to have a fan page as opposed to a personal profile. Instead of having people be “friends” with you, they “like” your company. The more “likes” you have, the more people your blog post will go to when you post it to Facebook. For a more in-depth tutorial on how to use Facebook to market your business, read this.
3) Guest Blogging
Another idea is to guest blog. Find someone in your industry that also has a blog and write for each other’s blogs one week a month. You’ll find a lot of traffic will come from this opportunity. This goes back to becoming part of the blogging community. If you comment on other blogs, some of those bloggers will start commenting on yours, and you’ll foster a relationship. This can make approaching the idea of guest posting easier. Another tip is to add blogs you like to your blog roll and ask them to add your blog to theirs.
4) Email Lists
And finally, you can use your email list to do an email blast whenever you write a new post, or a monthly newsletter encompassing all the posts for that month. If you’re a small business owner, you’re definitely in the mode of promoting your business, so just apply that knowledge of promotion and networking to your blog as well.
If after reading the above, you’re still on the fence, I leave you with this thought: Blogging is fun. I find that most people who start a blog, end up loving it. It’s such an amazing way to connect with readers and receive instantaneous feedback on your ideas, your product, and your business. It’s hard to top that feeling when you see a comment from someone who loves what you have to say.
I hope this post was of some help in both convincing you that you need a blog and helping you figure out what to do once you have it. Small businesses really can’t go wrong by making a blog part of their overall marketing plan.