Old Dogs, New Tricks

blogging_monkeys-kellyshibariBusinesses traditionally use old-school PR to market products. But with everything becoming more digital these days, do people even look at advertising any more?

Personally, I know I Hulu or Netflix most of the television shows that I watch – and when I have the time to watch an episode or two of (or binge watch) my favorite shows, I rarely even see advertisements at the volume I used to see them when I had a traditional TV – and I usually just tune them out. So – do I really care what products are being sold through this medium?

Either businesses can come up with ways to catch a viewer’s eye, or they need to find new ways to market their products. Social media is a great way to do this – and blogging in particular. It’s a great add-on to traditional press release and media pitches – combining the two delivers a one-two punch for brand visibility.

Most kids these days (and some not-so-kids) hang out in groups – but they’re all texting, or Tweeting, or posting on Facebook, or Instagramming. Whether they’re texting OTHER friends, or each other in that grouping, I have no idea. But it’s pretty obvious that they’re spending a whole lot of time on their mobile devices.

The problem is that many businesses haven’t really caught onto the notion of microblogging or social media marketing quite yet. To many, it still seems like an online diary of sorts – something kids do. It’s the equivalent of hanging out at the mall. Smart businesspeople just don’t do those things. Smart, responsible adults don’t do those things.

Really?

Most large corporations have hired people specifically to handle social media. They hire bloggers to handle their blogs – and some large companies have more than one blog, to cater to different segments of their target audience. They hire social media community managers to handle their brands online in real time. And with people these days having Internet-based ADD, making sure your content is visible amidst all of the other constant messages is so important.

The problem, though, is time. There really are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, even if you might want there to be more. For most business owners, after you remove weekends, evenings, kids’ activities, meals, client meetings, commuting time…you’d be lucky if you even had enough time in the day to get some actual work done. Do you really have time to add another project – a blog or social media – to that ever-growing list of work duties?

Matthew Bandyk wrote a great article about this in US News and World Report, titled “How to Blog Your Way to Small-Business Success“. In it, he shares some great ideas on how a business owner can effectively and efficiently become a successful blogger:

1) Be a reader of blogs. Blogging has its own unique language that is different from other forms of writing. To understand how to speak that language yourself, it helps to regularly follow at least a few other blogs. Find blogs in your areas of interest by searching for them with a Google Search. Becoming a fan of blogs [have] paid off… because it [gives] plenty of places to post comments—which directed people to [your] blog.

2) Dont stress about it too much. Even though being a successful blogger takes work, trying to do too much can be almost as bad as never updating your blog. “I see a lot of people struggle that they have to write 700-word feature articles,” explains Jantsch. “A lot of people who have that mentality never get down to writing the thing.” Jantsch recommends short, breezy, and conversational posts. He thinks that posting three to five times a week is adequate.

3) Dont do adspeak. Even if you’re blogging to promote your business, you can’t seem like you are only interested in promoting yourself. That is a big turnoff in the blogosphere. A better way to approach blogging, [Chris] Brogan recommends, is to give the readers what they want: useful, specialized information that comes from your own experience. Business owners who deal with practical issues every day are in a unique position of knowledge to write top-10-style “how-to” lists. That format often gets a lot of attention on the Web.

4) Tell a story without ranting. Many blogs on the Internet have a personal diary-like quality to them, where the author keeps a daily track of what’s going on in his or her life. It can be good to add a personal touch to your blog about your business topic because it humanizes you and might make the reader more interested in your business. But don’t overdo it. Long rants about personal subjects will get in the way of conveying the information that makes you sound like a credible source—which is why most business people start blogging in the first place. “Let people know enough about you to connect,” recommends Jantsch.

5) Keep it simple with search engine optimization. That’s the term for getting the most out of Google searches for your site. There are countless ways to figure out how to make your blog more search-engine friendly. But trying to know everything about it is almost a second job. “That’s probably something that it wouldn’t be in the best interests for a small-business owner to know how to do inside out,” says Brogan. Just do the few things that matter the most for search engines. A biggie is prominently using phrases that will cater to the potential customers searching for you. “I guarantee that people in town are going online first to find products and services,” Jantsch says. So if you’re blogging about plumbing and you are based in Buffalo, don’t just blog about “drain clogs”: Write about “drain clogs” and “Buffalo.” Another easy thing to do is to insert links to other pages in your posts, which also makes Google searches more likely to find you.

I’m going to add a sixth suggestion here, since, after all, this is what I do:

6) Hire a competent blog writer or social media manager. Don’t put every single post in the hands of an outside writer, no matter how good he/she may be, though. After all, this is your company. Make sure that you’re posting on your blog or social media account – but if you can’t make it a daily thing, then hire a outside writer. Good writers can make sure that your accounts and blogs have articles on a consistent basis. Great blog writers, on the other hand, will do some research for you to find pertinent articles and relevant topics that are crucial to your business and your target market. They’ll end up being your virtual assistant, your online guy or gal friday.

And the best part about blogging or microblogging, whether you go it alone or hire a writer / manager? You’ll probably end up knowing a lot more about the business you’re in. Through researching about the product you’re selling, the target audience, and new advances out there, you’ll end up being pretty knowledgeable…which in turn will send more traffic your way, as well as take you one step closer to being an expert at whatever you’re selling, which will gain customer and fan loyalty.

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