Blogging for over 10 years has been quite a journey to say the least. During that time, I’ve had my share of challenges, opportunities, disappointments and surprises.
Back when I started, there’s no way I would have imagined having so many things to say for so long or anticipated what impact ongoing content creation would have on me personally and for our digital marketing agency – TopRank.
It’s true that a blog is not for every business, but every business that blogs, sees numerous advantages. For many, there are roadblocks and unrealized opportunities. Businesses can get caught up in those distractions and let their blogs die. As an example, IBM research shows that 80% of the blogs started there have fewer than 5 posts.
To navigate those distractions, it takes more than commitment. It takes some vision and inspiration. Along those lines here are a few lessons and takeaways I’ve learned from writing over 1.2 million words on this blog over the past 11 years.
Stand for Something: Be Specific
Being focused and opinionated attracts attention. It builds authority & credibility. When a company can establish trust with readers, it’s a sure way to create a connection and become a source of information on a regular basis. Specificity brings clarity and as your audience grows, topical focus can diversify. Being opinionated will attract and repel readers. Rather than looking at what you lose, look at what you gain in terms of actively engaged members of your growing community.
Know Your Audience: Empathy Drives Relevance
Make an active effort to understand how your blog readers prefer to discover, consume and act on content. This means knowing your target audience and the stages of inquiry they go through during the customer lifecycle. Blog content that satisfies those information needs in the formats that readers most enjoy will retain readers and inspire engagement. Empathy for your readership (vs. only writing about your own brand) will help you create more relevant content experiences.
Tap Into Offline to Online Engagement to Create Content Magic
Events are one of the most untapped sources of great content that bloggers can use to connect with a variety of audience targets. Whether liveblogging a prospective customers’ presentation at an industry conference or writing a wrap up of a panel of industry influencers, event blogging creates content that serves multiple objectives: creates useful content for your blog community, creates value for people you’d like to do business with, creates a content asset that will be linked to from newsrooms and share on social networks.
Blogging about industry influencers and prospective customer contacts online and then engaging them in person at an event is another powerful connection of offline to online for blogging. The content is a win for everyone and the potential relationships are valuable too.
Great Content Isn’t Great Until It’s Discovered, Consumed & Shared
Invest equally in creative elements of your blog and in the promotion of blog content. Simply writing great ideas isn’t enough to stand out. To attract, engage and inspire blog readers, it’s important that the experience has a visual component to it. Of course the content needs to be easy to find as well – wherever your target readership prefers to discover content. That could be email, search, social streams, news feeds or subscriptions.
Look Beyond Yourself For Blog Topics & Writing
A person has finite topic ideas and brands tend to have a limited scope of topics they want to talk about. Running out of ideas is a common source of writers’ block, so be sure to connect with the community for inspiration – crowdsource topics through analysis of blog engagement, through social media monitoring and important questions that get asked.
At the same time, insourcing content creation within your company is an important way to share the load of business blogging as well as shining a light on other voices and talent within your organization.
A Blog is Only As Interesting As the Interest Shown in Others
One of the most powerful motivators for humans is recognition. Business blogs are a terrific platform for recognizing talent in and outside the company. More importantly, business blogs have an opportunity to highlight members of the blog community. That recognition is very powerful, but it doesn’t “just happen” by publishing lists.
Get into the habit of asking the blog readership and connected social networks questions. Ask their opinions. Ask for feedback and insights about a particular topic from your blog editorial calendar. Then curate the responses into content that recognizes contributors. Promote the crowdsourced content back out to the social networks where the questions were asked and it will be very motivating for all involved.
Optimizing Blog Performance is a Continuous Effort
Expectations for how a business blog will provide value for the brand and community of readers can vary. What’s most important is that specific goals are identified, if not hypothesized, along with key performance indicators that measure progress towards stated goals.
Blogging, social media and communities are a very dynamic mix and it will take a persistent effort to try new topics, formats and media to connect with your readership. Monitoring social network friend counts, traffic and search ranking isn’t enough in most cases, so business blogs should allocate marketing analytics resources to the blog as they would to any other business marketing effort. The insights drawn from social media monitoring, community engagement and web analytics alone can provide a goldmine of information on topics to write about, types of media to use in posts and where/how to promote on social networks.
Takeaways for Business Blogging
- If you start blogging, finish it – commit to success
- Focus on meaningful vs. mechanical approach to content
- Create value for readers first, build your own brand and create demand for your valuable information
- Don’t go it alone – ask for help!
I’ll be talking about blogging for business and marketing more in-depth this weekend at the Minnesota Blogger Conference #MNBlogCon – I hope to see you there!