Practical answers for start-up bloggers

It’s been nearly a year since our firm launched its blog site. We love it. (Of course we’d say that, right?)

What started as a creative outlet for our team has turned into one of our firm’s most recognizable and respected attributes. Our blog has allowed us to extend our brand, provide real marketing solutions to businesses in need of our support during this New Economy, and continues to keep our current clients engaged with our team, and more importantly, engaged and aware of all the services we provide to them.

Why? Perhaps it’s that our team provides practical solutions to common marketing challenges and showcases integrity and passion for our industry in every blog that is posted.

Speaking of practicality, people frequently ask me to provide them basic suggestions so they can start, host and maintain their own company blog site:

Plot – Identify your blog’s plot and write pieces relating to that matter. Will your blog focus on your specialized area of expertise? Will it provide practical information or serve as a motivational site to readers? More importantly, identify what you are passionate about because in order to successfully maintain your blog site, you’ll need to regularly write blogs relating to your identified plot (i.e. focus area).

Content – It’s absolutely critical to post information that’s relevant and of interest to your readers. Remember that your blog site is competing with the endless amount of information that the Internet already provides users. This means writing pieces that include references to current events or emerging markets and putting your own personal “flair” to them. Be relevant or your blog will surely die.

Blog Promotion – Managing a blog site alone will do nothing to help you. Promote your site as a resource or point of interest via other communication channels you have available to you. For instance, post your blog to 10-15 top social bookmarking sites and refer and link to it within your email signatures and e-newsletters. Notify your customers of your blog through a letter campaign, include paper inserts within your month-end invoices to customers. Include key industry phrases and words within your blog posts. This will allow search engines the ability to find your blog site as a result of the end-user’s keyword search entry. To capture different audiences, set-up a Facebook, Twitter and MySpace account that can automate your blog postings as well. Or, automate it all on social networking maintenance platforms such as Hootsuite.

Internal Blogging Policies (or perhaps better said as “etiquette”) – Have safeguards in place. Blogging is great to enhance your brand and position you as an expert, but there’s a reputation management side of it that’s often overlooked. (Not to mention the fact that you must always assume everyone will see your blog as it will be made public online.) In our case, our team understands the objective and structure of our blog and they have the freedom to contribute to it in their own personal way. But there are a few people who review all blogs for grammatical and spelling errors and appropriateness of content before posting online to ensure all blogs represent our organization the way we intend them to.

Reader Engagement – Allow readers to post comments to your blog…easily. While a blogger may think they’re simply taking precautions by formatting a site to not allow comments to be left, the reader will perceive you as defensive. A blog is a social discussion that exists online. Be social and allow others to participate. (This includes blogs that are imported to your social networking sites as well.) If you don’t, you’ll alienate readers, they won’t come back to the blog and they certainly won’t refer the blog or your site to others. You will need to regularly maintain your blog site and its feedback, but it’s worth it to you to make it easy for others to participate.

Converting Site Visitors into Leads/Sales – Provide a value-offering or include a call-to-action at the end of your blog. It can be simple, but worth the effort to the reader to pick-up a phone or send you an email. It can be something as simple as including a promotional code valid for a product discount, an invitation to attend an educational workshop, an encouraging note for readers to submit their email and name to you in order to receive a free packaged service item or product and so on.

To finish, blogging is an excellent way to drive traffic to your website (especially if it is hosted under your site domain), help position you as an expert, as well as educate and introduce your products and services to an audience of prospective buyers. However, they’re hardly an overnight success. It takes time, passion and diligence to build a regular, responsive reader base.

Amber Stidham is the director of strategic planning at Imagine Marketing.
Contact Amber at astidham@imnv.com

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