One of the key objectives and performance metrics for business blogging is to grow the network of people that find, interact with and share blog content. An optimized approach to growing a blog community relies on an understanding of who the audience is and what their information goals are, not just what the brand wants to achieve. Many companies start out blogging about their own products and services, company news and essentially the kinds of things that belong in a corporate newsroom.
An ego-centric approach to business blogging misses the opportunity to create meaningful connections with people empowered to publish, share, refer and buy. Blogging is a publishing platform that allows both one to one and one to many communications so content should take advantage of those engagement opportunities by thinking about content that’s interesting from the reader’s perspective.
So, what can companies that are planning on setting up a blog or that would like to improve the performance of their blog do?
The first thing I’d recommend is to find a niche related to the major problems your business solves for customers and make a plan to dominate it. Develop a matrix of topics and media types that map to the intersection of target audience needs and the key messages your brand is trying to promote. What’s the one thing your company, division, department or product is absolutely the best at? Think of blog posts, videos, images, presentations, infographics, polls, interviews, liveblogging, reports, reviews and other types of content that you could create to be the “go to” resource for that category. Once you’ve achieved dominance of conversation, referrals and search visibility for that key topic, document what has made your niche efforts successful and duplicate that process to other topics relevant to your business.
What are the mechanics of growing a blog community? It can differ a bit according to your industry, goals, target audience and resources, but here are a few simple tips that have helped our agency at TopRank Marketing gain an online footprint and brand credibility that is equal or better to agencies that are many, many times larger than we are.
- Tell Stories. Whatever it is that you’re trying to communicate, always think of what “the story” is. If you were a journalist assigned to cover a beat, what unique angle, hook or perspective would you use to make the information you’re publishing interesting to a particular audience? With practice, you can find good stories in anything.
- Empathize with whatever market or audience you’re after. Put yourself in their shoes when thinking of topics. What are your target audience’s pain points and goals? Write about the journey to solving those problems.
- Engage and Recognize. Find ways to ask your readers, subscribers, fans, friends and followers to interact and participate directly on your business blog as well as the other social media and networking channels used to grow community and promote useful content (including your own). Reward and recognize the kind of participation you’re after. Repeat. The simple satisfaction of contributing and being recognized is one of the most powerful when developing a strong blog community.
- Quality for the win. A quantity of quality is what wins with blog content. There’s a lot of competition in the blogging space so it’s important to produce high quality, relevant and sharable content on a regular basis. At TopRank Online Marketing we help companies plan and implement this but with a good plan, it’s entirely possible for companies to figure it out on their own over time. Provide something your readers can’t find elsewhere online and do that consistently.
- Easy to Search and Share. Blog content that is easy to find on search engines and that is often shared by credible sources within relevant social networks can grow your community in very meaningful ways. People that search are often looking for something specific and when your blog content “ranks” well for those phrases, it lends instant credibility that can manifest as an increase in traffic, readership and growth of your community.
Many companies start blogging because competitors are doing it or because it seems a necessary piece of the online and social media marketing mix. Hopefully those companies are thoughtful about what they want to achieve through blogging and understand both the necessity of planning and commitment to make it work. We’ve been blogging for over 8 years here at TopRank and with nearly 50,000 blog subscribers, almost 20,000 Twitter followers, 14,000 Facebook fans and a growing community on Google+, we’ve been able grow a network, readership and community that many of the world’s largest internet marketing agencies can’t come close to matching. On top of those social KPIs we can attribute millions in $ of new business, amazingly talented employees, speaking opportunities and partnerships to the content and relationships built from our blog. I think that kind of impact is possible for any company that wants it and is willing to make the commitment.
For me this is a short post, so there are many other things a business could do to grow community, readership and traffic to their business blog. What are some of the tactics or approaches you’ve taken to attract and engage your blog readers?