This is my fourth and last post this week on blogging for business. I have covered many topics, from finding inspiration to writing tips to business blog rules. I hope you’ve learned.
But there’s something I haven’t really touched on that I truly believe will change your blogging life. It’s not illegal, it’s not hard to do, and it won’t wake you up in the middle of the night screaming. So what is it you ask? (hint: it’s in the headline). It’s an editorial calendar.
You run a small business. Your life is as full as it can be. There is always something to do, something you should be doing, something you just half-assed in order to accomplish a different task. And blog writing is down on that list after eat lunch and before doing inventory. Which means you probably put out a lot of posts that don’t have that much thought, that aren’t terribly polished, or even worse — you don’t put out posts at all because you don’t have the time or the will to think of a topic.
I am painting a pretty bleak picture, I know. But I don’t think it’s terrible off-base for many of you.
Therefore, I implore you to try out the editorial calendar. (I used the word implore, this is serious).
It’s very simple, and I could explain how to make one, however I wouldn’t be half as successful as others. I like to think part of good blogging is bowing to the masters. So take a look at this excellent and comprehensive post from ProBloggers on editorial calendars and blogging, and here is another post on editorial calendars from the wonderful Lisa Barone at Outspoken Media.
So what are you going to gain from taking my advice and using a calendar? I’ll give you three very positive outcomes.
1. Better blog posts
2. Less stress
3. More loyal readers
So what do you think? Are you going to give it a try? Do you think it will help your blogging? As a small business owner, is blogging something that does get pushed aside?
When researching the art of blogging, one will often read this rule: Write with your ideal customer in mind. It is a powerful tip, one that comes second to my most sacred blogging rule: Provide value to your reader.
I am going to take my own advice and write for my ideal customer. Who is my ideal customer? It’s a small business owner who is just dipping their toe in social media. If I had a roomful of these people, what blogging advice would I give? What do I think would be the most helpful to learn and remember?
Many business bloggers write like they would write a memo. They use business language, they never incorporate humor, and while their posts have a purpose and a message, readers most likely never find it as they stop reading three sentences in.
Just because you are a business does not mean you need to write like you are in business school. You are a person, writing for people. Keep this in mind. If you want to stand out, trying reeling people in with humor, with voice, and with valuable posts. But I promise you will get more readers and more recognition if your blog has personality.
Comments are a bloggers dream. You want people to respond to your hard work and to let you know what they gained from a post, or what they still want to learn. When you respond, do not respond in the voice of your company, but instead in the voice of a person. Be real and your real customers will respond.
I think this is such an important step for any blogger to take, but especially a business blog. Why are you starting the blog? What do you hope to gain from it? Are you writing the blog as a way to engage with customers? Are you writing it in order to add another branch to your customer service? Are you adding it in order to ramp up your SEO?
Knowing the answer to this will help you figure out what to write and who to position it toward. If it’s engagement, then you want to pay close attention to your comment section. If it’s customer service, you’re going to want to make sure you have Google Alerts set up and know how to find what people are saying about you on the web. If it’s SEO, you’re going to have to focus a lot of attention on key words, and possible hire someone to manage your SEO.
Your blog has to look pretty. It should look like an extension of your website, which has to do with branding. You are running a business blog, so brand it so that it fits in with the rest of your promotional materials. Use the same logo, the same colors, and please hire a professional to design it. It will be money well spent. The last thing a business blog should feel is amateur, or potential customers will assume your work is amateur as well.
Additionally, when writing posts, make sure to remember the three guides of blog formatting:
-Using headers to break up text
The web is not like a book; people skim blog posts and skim them good. Give their eye a break with large headers, with a lot of white space, and by using photographs or illustrations. You’ll keep them there longer.
Your business blog should not just be about YOUR business. It should be about the business you are in at large. Don’t just promote yourself, promote your industry. Give us your views on the industry news. Promote others who you think are doing a good job, as long as they are not your direct competition. Make the blog interesting by not making it all about you.
My last piece of advice is to be patient with your blog. At first it may feel like you’re getting no response and you are spending time you could be spending actually doing “real” work in order to send 500 words it into the abyss. Tia Peterson at BizChickBlogs wrote a great post on this phenomenon. Keep in mind that readers will come, and that your business blog will add credibility, value, and respect to your company. In addition to boosting you higher and higher in the search engines.
Do you have any rules for your business blog I didn’t mention? Do you already follow any of these rules?
After my post yesterday on social media scaring people to the point where they are paralyzed, I began to think of ways to alleviate this pressure that many people seem to feel. In fact, I feel it myself sometimes. The other day, after feeling frustrated trying to update my own About page on my blog, I put this into the Twitersphere: Why is it I can write great copy for others but I get writers block for myself? I got a response back from @CristinaFugaru who told me: It’s the pressure of being awesome. And something clicked. That’s why I have trouble writing for myself, that’s why so many people are scared to dive into social media.
When you own your business, and your livelihood depends on other people being satisfied with your work, people tend to become perfectionists to the extreme. And anything we are not 100% confident we can master, we put on the backburner, until it disappears from our view completely.
In order to help you and me overcome the pressure of being awesome, I interviewed Dr. Jeff Sieracki, therapist at the Family Institute at Northwestern, who specializes in helping his patients overcome anxiety. I hope they help.
1) Realize that everyone makes mistakes (you can’t possibly say or do everything correctly).
2) Think about the worst-case scenarios (ie, the consequences of the mistakes). For example, if some one is scared of meeting a new person because they don’t know the right thing to say, then what is the worse case scenario? That they say something stupid. All that means is someone who doesn’t know them thinks they may be nervous or not perfect, which really isn’t a big deal.
3) It expends unnecessary energy to be perfect (think about what it takes to get 100% on an exam vs. just getting an A – is it worth the extra energy?)
4) Remember that mistakes can be helpful tools to learn from.
5) Perfectionism comes from a good place, you want to do a good job on your work, but if you are not doing things because of a pressure for it to be perfect or if you are spending an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to get things just right, then you should do a cost-benefit analysis of whether the end outcome is going to be that much different than if you just gave 90-95%.
6) How do you know what perfect actually is? Especially in something as vague and newfangled as social media.
Thanks Dr. Sieracki for some wonderful tips to help me and others get over their fears and do what needs to be done.
If you are considering starting a blog for your business, make sure to put in the thought it requires. I don’t believe it should be a question of if you want to start a blog (I tell you why you should here), but what will the goals of the blog be? In order to get the most from your blog, it is important to know what you are starting with and what you are working toward. Below are four questions I think are important to ask yourself when launching your business blog.
You are obviously hoping to make money from your blog, but there are essentially two ways to run a blog. The first is to make money based on your content, which will hopefully draw visitors and advertising revenue. A lot of interior design blogs make money from their blog in addition to working on actual design work. Their blog allows them to have a two prong approach to revenue. When thinking about this, you should also take into account how having advertisers on your blog will seem to your customers. Will they assume you sold out? Will they start to question your integrity if you review a product you really like, but they assume you were paid to do so? If you decide your goal is to make money directly via your blog, you are going to have to put in a lot of time and effort to build up your reader list, and it could take months if not years to make real money.
The second way to run a blog is to use it to promote your business, increase your website SEO, and add to your overall web presence. It does not include advertisements and you will not make any money directly from the blog. However, if people come across your blog, perhaps because you now have better SEO, and like what they see, they may hire you/buy your products.
How you set up your blog will be based on if you want to make money via the blog or not. If you are in it simply to promote your business, then you don’t need to worry about ad space and ad revenue. If you want to make money from your blog, then you’re going to need to be set up with the ability to do that, and it should be built into the design of your blog.
You’re going to want to have a mission statement in mind with every post you write. There are so many possible categories to write about depending on your business. If you are a lawyer, you could post about law in the news, tips for clients, how your area of law affects people’s personal lives etc. It may be a good idea to come up with a few categories in the beginning and rotate them. If you post twice a week, come up with six categories in order to assure you do not post about the same thing too often. Additionally, having categories will help jog your mind when coming up with post topics. Needing your post to fit in a category may make it easier to corral your thoughts and get your fingers to the keyboard.
In other words, why are people going to come to your blog day after day and week after week? What are you providing them? This is related to content, but an important question to be able to answer. Perhaps the answer is to be an all encompassing view on your business. Back to the lawyer example, you want to cover all of law, if that is even possible. Or else you could decide to be very niche, but readers should have a general idea of what they are going to find when they go to your blog.
There are so many ways to promote your blog. You could be a guest blogger, leave comments on other blogs, send email blasts etc. If you have decided to make money through your blog, this will be a lot more important. If you decided not to, then this is not as big a deal and you can assume those who go to your website for your actual business may just happen to check out the blog.
Different ways to promote your blog is a pretty heft topic, and one I will tackle later in the week.
Is this list of four not enough? Here’s a list of ten to consider also.
What do you think? Can you answer all those questions or do you need to sit down and really think about your answers?
If you want your blog read on a consistent basis, you need to provide your readers with value. Assuming you started your blog as an extension of your business, your blog is a way to keep customers informed of your comings and goings and also to grow your online presence. If you are using your blog as a platform for your business, you want to get as many return readers as possible. This will grow your online presence and your clientele. How can you do that? Listed below are five ways:
1. Tell a story
If you have a new product or service to roll out, turn it into a story. Make what you’re selling interesting. There’s background to what you do. You don’t wake up one day put your finger in the air and yell “Eureka” and three seconds later, you have a new product to sell or a new service to promote. There’s a painstaking process that goes into your work, so share it. Put a bit of an interesting spin on it. Perhaps attempt to elicit a chuckle or two out of your reader, but let them know what went into your product. Not only will you entertain them, but perhaps you’ll sell it them too.
2. Provide new information
In order to establish yourself as an expert in your field constantly be sharing new information. Not only does it make you look smart, but it will give you credibility with potential new customers. You know more about your industry than your average customer. And if they are your customer, they are probably interested in your industry. So don’t be greedy. When you find out new information, send it their way. Turn it into a post. Share what you know with the Internet. It may be offering free information, but it will also be interesting and informative and keep those readers coming back for more.
3. Go for the kill
You blog so your readers will buy. But most people are procrastinators. Most people will read your post and think to themselves: that sounds like a really good product which I want to buy, but not today. Or this person is an expert in their field and hiring their time could really help my business, I’ll think about it tomorrow. However, if you end your post with a call to action, you are giving your procrastinators the push they need in order to use your post to stop procrastinating and start buying. If you don’t tell your readers what to do, how will they ever know to do it?
4. Put on your teacher hat
One reason people read blogs is to learn something new. So teach them. Find something super simple that you know a lot about, because after all, it’s your business. But try to pick something your average reader wouldn’t know the first thing about. Write them a very simple lesson and post it. Perhaps it’s a recipe, or a DIY idea about making their own no-sew curtains. Really anything that someone would read and want to attempt. Not only have you shown your expertise, but you’ve motivated them. A win-win.
Help your customers understand what you do by comparing it to something almost all people are familiar with. For example, if you own a yoga studio, explain that the amount of calories you would burn in an average class with you is the same as forty minutes running on a treadmill. It’s a motivator and helps your new customers feel more grounded in their decision to give you their business.
What do you think about these ideas? There really are so many out there. Are you going to attempt any of these and see what the response is?