Blogging is the starting point of Social Media Marketing
Tags: Blogging in Business, Social Media and Business
BY Deep Banerjee
After you plan to use Social Media Marketing (SMM) for your business, the first question that strikes you is if you really need a blog. This is a question that comes up these days because, with all the talk of Twitter and social media, blogs may have seemed to fall out of favor.
What has really happened is that blogs have worked themselves into the fabric of everyday marketing.
People don’t log in because they want to read your blog, but they do go to Google and other search engines to find answers to questions and challenges and to find local suppliers and buyers alike.
Blog content is what they are finding.
By the way, what is a Blog?
In simplest terms, a blog is software that allows anyone who can type to post content to a website or blog home page. The content is generally displayed much like a journal, usually in reverse chronological fashion.
The content can be anything the author chooses to write, or post, as it is referred to in blogging terms.
What this means is that anyone can update a website that has this blogging software installed. Websites benefit from change and blogs make it easy to change, update, and add content.
Blog software also allows:
- Readers of the blog pages to make comments and add their own content.
- Readers of the blog to subscribe to the content so that they are automatically notified whenever the content is updated.
- Search engines to receive notice or pings whenever the content is updated.
All of the above items happen automatically once the software is configured.
Blogging is such a great tool because it allows you to easily accomplish many of the marketing objectives that today’s small business must address.
A blog is your ticket to creating:
Moreover, please be informed that search engines love blogs! If for no other reason, consider creating and frequently posting relevant, keyword-rich content to a blog, hosted on your domain, because it will dramatically improve your chances of ranking well in the search engines and being found.
The best way to start Blogging
If this article has convinced you to start blogging, let me tell you that the best way to start is not to start in haste. Sounds confusing? Let me explain.
Here’s the three-step process for getting started and note that step 3 is to start blogging.
- Monitor a group of relevant blogs: Use a blog search engine and RSS reader such as Google Reader/BlogSearch to locate and subscribe to a dozen or so relevant blogs in your industry, competitors, experts, etc. Learn how people blog, what they write about and how they engage their readers.
- Comment on a group of relevant blogs: Visit some of your chosen blogs and add relevant comments. Engage in the conversation going on inside these blogs. This, by the way, is an important part of online networking and may help get your blog noticed down the road.
- Create your own blog and start posting content: Only after you’ve engaged in steps 1 and 2 for a couple weeks do I advise entering the blogging pool.
As mentioned previously, blogs are run by software, so one of your first task is to determine what software you want to use and get it set up. A quick search for blog software will turn up dozens of options.
I will focus on just a few of the leading choices:
WordPress.org: It offers a free, open-source blogging tool that has many things going for it. You can’t go wrong with this tool. This is software that you download, configure, and upload to your Web host. Since it is open source there are many beneficial add-ons and plug-ins that can add even more power to the software.
The downside, if there is one, is that you must be able to get through a bit of technical tinkering to make it work, but it’s very straightforward.
WordPress.com: This is a hosted version of the WordPress software that allows you to easily create a blog that is hosted by WordPress. The benefit of this approach is that there is no real setup, you simply sign up (it’s free), choose a theme, and start blogging.
The downside with hosted blogging platforms is that they are not as flexible and might not deliver as much search engine benefit because the content does not reside on your website domain.
Blogspot.com: This is a hosted service and allows the user to easily create a blog. I myself use the service because it’s extremely easy to use for free. You simply need to have a Gmail account to sign up.
TypePad.com: TypePad is another great hosted service with many features and a simple startup process.
5 tips for getting more from your Blog
- Read, follow, and listen. You probably won’t get much in the way of results from blogging until you know what and how to write. The best way to do that, and by the way something I’ve done and continue to do daily, is read lots of blogs. Follow lots of people who point out interesting reads and read every question your prospects and customers voice. Use an RSS reader such as Google Reader to make it very easy to listen to lots of content and then jot down every question customers and prospects ask.
- Write what people search. If you are one of those folks who has resisted blogging because you don’t think anyone would read your blog, don’t worry.Most blogs aren’t read like a magazine, or like you might view it. They are found. In other words, post the answers to the questions, problems, and challenges that you know your market is asking and seeking and your blog content will become the single greatest online lead generation tool in your mix. Discover the exact phrases people in your market are using when they search and write valuable content around that and people will find your blog before they know your competitors exist.
- Ask for participation. Blogging is one of the first ways to build an engaged community.People talk about building community on Twitter and other social sites, but few things can compare to the engagement that can surround healthy debates, reader-generated content, and suggestions in blog comments.
Write your blog posts in ways that invite people to comment. Ask for their ideas, and even ask them to give their opinions. Often, some of your points are amplified and made better through the comment stream that can surround them.
Over time, you will build community participation and you may find that blogging is more fun and productive when it becomes a conversation
- Engage your comment community. When people take the time to offer thoughtful comments you should take the time to respond when appropriate. If a debate is in order, you can start one. Visit the sites of your comment community and engage in their writing.Link to their content in your blog posts and on Twitter. You might also find that using comment enhancing plug-ins such as Disqus, or Top Commentators, which shows a list of the people who comment the most, can make your comment community more active.
- Amplify your message. One obvious way to get more exposure for your blog is to post links to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with each new post. As long as that’s not all you do, this can be an effective traffic strategy. Also amplify and broaden the exposure for your blog by becoming a guest blog. Many high traffic blogs welcome wellwritten content from guests. Look for blogs that should have your same type of reader and offer samples of your writing. Be sure that your posts will receive a byline and link back to your blog and then also promote your guest appearance.
How to get more blog comments
One of the best reasons to blog is to open up an interaction channel with your customers, prospects and contacts. The fact that your readers can comment and add relevant content to your site via blog comments is a major breakthrough in the communication process. It’s why everyone is talking about social media these days. Blog commenting was one of the first mass, one-to-one conversation starters, and made people hungry for even more advanced forms of social interaction.
Active commenting is one of the first signs that a blog has some real life, so put in the work it takes to grow this important tool.
Small business owners can easily take advantage of this tool now since so many people know what it is and know how to interact. You can do a few more things to stimulate this interaction and draw more conversation.
- Ask for comments. Sometimes just creating a post and inviting your readers to add comments can be just what you need to get them flowing. Commenting is a habit that you need to help build in your readership.
- Ask questions and seek opinions. From time to time ask your readers what they think of something or what they have done that works or how they have addressed a particularly challenging situation. You don’t need to have all the answers.
- Comment on comments. When readers comment, you can encourage additional conversation by responding and showing that comments are welcome.
- Show some humanness. No matter what your blog topic is, readers like to know that the author is a human being. It’s OK to let that show and to add personal thoughts. Only you can determine how far to go with this, but I know that your readers will connect the more they know your story.
- Stir the pot from time to time. You don’t have to be a celebrity gossip blogger to stir up a little controversy. Often some of the best interactions come from topics that people are decidedly passionate about.
- Make comment participation a game. Keep score and reward your most active commentators with free whitepapers on relevant subjects.
- Make sure commenting is easy. Publish your comment feed and consider adding a Subscribe to Comments plug-in so that people get a notice when someone else comments on a post they are active on.
(DEEP BANERJEE with Marketingpundit.com as his virtual space identity is an ‘Independent Marketing Support and Brand Consultant’ and Visiting Faculty at B-schools. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)