Social media’s power lies in numbers, in networks, and in its immediacy. One of the most popular social media platforms is the blog, and having one for your business can help you in many ways. You probably have your own favorite bloggers to follow (and blogs to visit) as there are a lot of them that have risen to the top of their niches in terms of popularity and reach, in no smart part due to the trustworthiness, value and reliability built with each post, and how bloggers engaging with their followers and subscribers.
The speedy evolution injected by the internet into our communication media exploded the ways we used to talk to each other. Snail mail was superseded by email, the numbers of long-distance calls fell once Skype was stable and running, and anyone could make their own free website — remember Geocities?
Blogging is no longer a recent phenomenon — not when you think in internet time. But it addresses the same ancient longing to make a connection, only now we can use Wi-Fi to do so. Whatever medium we use –social media, blogging platforms, networking apps and websites, we use it to connect, find information, share it, and motivate people to act on it for our benefit or on behalf of others.
With a large segment of the online masses growing disillusioned with the way more traditional news media present news and events, many have chosen to to go to other sources for their updates. Blogs like The Huffington Post, Gawker and LifeHacker have become part of the daily routine of millions of visitors and subscribers. Because of their varied and always updated content, and their speedy updates, more and more people are coming to trust power-blogs for their source on things happening online and around the world.
Before the internet took off, marketers and advertising were able to control the factors governing their tactics; people had only so-and-so options as dictated by the constraints of print and broadcast media.
- Think of how we build up interest for movies today with teasers, behind-the-scenes, interactive websites and the promise of extended editions with extra footage, and compare it with how movies were promoted during the 80’s and 90’s.
- Think of how promotional materials were limited to mass-mailed envelopes, call-ins or mailed-in rebates then, and compare them to the print-out coupons, re-tweet to win freebies, online discount codes and other promotional tactics you’ve seen in action now.
Now, we have mailing lists, business websites, online stores, video channels and Facebook to get in touch with our target markets and let them get in touch with us. We can gather subscribers and followers, and tap them into being viral promoters for us, a network of our own to be part of and fall back on for feedback, constructive criticism and help — not to mention continued sales, support and publicity.
The holdovers from traditional media have been slow to realize that old ways of advertising and marketing can’t apply to the new ways of thinking bought about by the internet. People are quicker to point out mistakes, with many willing to dig deeper to find out the details and information that didn’t make it to the sound-byte or the 3-minute feature on the news. And that’s the news.
- Burt’s Bees landed in hot water for its word choice in its copy for Vanilla Flame Body Butter: “Soak in the moisturizing seductiveness of shea butter and indulge in the scent of vanilla and rice milk. And let the catcalling commence.” (Emphasis added)The product has since been discontinued.
- Sephora pulled a lipstick with the name Celebutard from Kat Von D’s lipstick line when they received complaints.
- And can anyone forget Paula Deen’s Buttergate? (Note the social media links to share on Twitter and Facebook on the page.)
- Then there was fashion house Valentino’s social gaffe when they issued a press release announcing that Amy Adams was using their Valentino Garavani Rockstud Double bag “from the Spring/Summer 2014 collection” on February 6, 2014, in New York, and added a photo of the actress with the bag… on her way to to her friend Philip Seymour Hoffman’s funeral.
The competition is fiercer. More people have access to tools and databases to check the facts. Paparazzi and serious journalists alike, as well as the determined citizen, have the same access to online search engines, public records and various databases to get to the truth. Doublespeak online, on what essentially is an open, public forum, leaves you open to criticism, heckling and parody. Just ask any politician.
To send believable messages, speak plainly about what you want to say and why you’re sharing it. There are hard-selling marketers who have made no bones about what they’re here for, and they have their own niche-market that’s responsive to what they’re selling. Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s, Lush, for example…each brand has its own lifestyle approach and philosophy, which dictates how they market their products and who they tailor their marketing to, as well as what tactics they use to get people to buy.
A sales page trying to masquerade as a helpful tip will never make it under the critical eyes of the marketplace. You get people invested in your brand, in your message or in your products (or all three) when you know how to show that you share their experiences and understand what they need.
How can you blog for your business?
A blog post shouldn’t be a sales pitch. People can sniff those out a few sentences in, and they won’t work. Blogs are to inform, share and educate, not to sell. Sale material should be in your promotion and marketing section on your business website, not your blog.
Think of what you want for the long run, and then assess the resources you have right now. It’s like a pyramid to success — you need a very good foundation first, before you can build high enough to see from the top.
- Posting schedule — what will be your posting frequency, and what article lengths do you want: long-form, short-form, poll-type, Q & A, list-form, etc.
- How exactly will the blog strengthen your business? Answering this will help define the themes and direction of the blog.
- Who is your target audience: if you have a mental picture of the people you want to engage, it will help tailor your message so you can connect better.
- Who composes your writing team? Fact-checkers/researchers, writers, graphics artist and photographers, etc. Someone has to help centralize everyone involved to ensure steady and varied article production, good article values, and keep in touch with the core goals of the blog.
These key ares are not random, they build on one another. For example, updates for fast moving developments in the computing and IT field will influence how often you update. An informed, IT- focused audience will want to know the specs and relevant details of the latest thing to keep a weather eye on developments in their fields, which will affect how technical the articles will be, and how long they can run, and how time-sensitive the information shared is.
If you want to create a network of interested visitors, followers and subscribers, regular posts can build a sense of reliability and trustworthiness the more you engage your readers.
- Cross-posting, guest-posts and polls elicit feedback and generate lively conversations with your followers. An enthusiastic recommendation in the comments can spur lurkers into buying your products and signing up for your mailing list.
- Contests are also a big draw. For example, in cooperation with sponsors, you can host a contest for the most innovative use of your product, and the winners get to showcase their creations, while the sponsors get free publicity by having their products featured as the prizes. The short-time joint venture strengthens relationships between bloggers, between you and your readers, and helps inspire others for more creativity. Everyone wins.
- People will read to learn, and to see if you have knowledge that can help them address certain issues they’re struggling with. Common-sense advice, tips and tricks, sharing how you dealt with this issue or that problem, all these can help engage readers and empower them to help themselves. This builds trust, and establishes your blog as an authoritative source.
- People may also be stuck for time, and you have to make sure that they can get to the heart of your posts fast. This may call for leaner, tighter writing, visually powerful info-graphics, or even schedule posts to go live in the evening when people are off from their 9-5 schedule.
- Putting social media links to ‘like, retweet, upvote or recommend’ at the end of your posts makes it easier for your readers to show their support and spread the word.
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