Blogging ain’t easy.
When I started my sports blog as a college junior back in 2006, I had a lifetime of writing experience and no experience doing so online. It was a true trial by fire…or it would have been, had there been an audience to serve as that fire. Writing for a tiny handful of readers is an interesting experience, to say the least.
But it was also a valuable learning experience. Over time, I learned of the importance of linking to other stories, making sure to attach photos to every story to catch a reader’s eye and what kind of writing and topics appealed to my readers. Today, nearly five full years after I started, the site is approaching 2 million hits.
Business blogs can and do have the same kind of success, or even more.
Allow me to share my lessons with you, in the hopes that they will be helpful to your small business. I hope you’ll share yours, as well.
- Be Patient. I can’t stress enough what your business is up against. There are countless businesses out there, many of them with their own websites and blogs, and initially finding you is going to take dedication or luck. Anyone who tells you they have a surefire way to immediately build, grow and sustain an audience is lying.So it’s hard work and a willingness to do what initially might seem like a slog. Five or more days a week, you need to be providing content. One article, two articles, three articles…whatever you can sustain. For the first six months, the first year or even longer, your successes will be sporadic, but you will be building name recognition and establishing a trusted voice for your business. When your traffic inevitably reaches the thousands per day and you have a huge archive to tap and a lot of experience under your belt, you’ll be thankful you put in the work.
- Mix up topics. This goes for format, too, but topics are the most important. If your business deals with something very narrow—say the installation of industrial air conditioning units—you cannot possibly build an entire blog around that topic. What you want to do is play the alchemist, always folding in new topics and creating something startlingly new.For example, you will want blog posts about your industry and your business…but not in a vacuum. How does what you’re seeing compare to the rest of the industry? What advice can you offer that is unique to you? What stories outside your industry affect your customers, and how can you inform them through informal link collections or more detailed posts? By keeping your fingers on the pulses of your industry and the larger economy, you can make yourself valuable to your customers.
- Engage. This is the single most important thing you can do. Without engagement, you don’t have loyal readers who can spread your brand around or be converted into customers. You just have casual readers.Getting to the point where you have people to engage depends heavily on adhering to the last two points. You need to have a lot of good content and some time for it to germinate before you’ll start seeing consistent comments—aside from spam comments, which you’ll get even if you have a readership of exactly one—and you need to plug away. Once the opportunity presents itself, however, you need to move.
Answer comments, thank readers for their time and always ask for feedback. In fact, every blog post should have some kind of call to action. That can be as basic as “what do you think” or as complex as asking them to fill out a survey, but it must be done. By engaging, by serving as an ambassador to your company through the written word, through audio and video and through photos, you can make your blog worth its digital weight in gold.
If you’re looking for additional good advice in more of a A/V format, you’ll want to check out the Social Media Summer Action Series. C’mon, they’ve got Rambo up there!
Share your blog in the link and let’s talk about your efforts to connect to your target audience.
Photo credit to svilen001 at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1139525