Does Your Small Business Need a Blog?
An effective marketing strategy is an essential part of any successful business, big or small. And while you probably don’t need to be told how important a good website is, you may not have considered how critical and influential a blog could be to your company’s marketing efforts.
Unlike your website, which is part shop window and part reference tool, a blog gives your small business a place to show off its personality through expression and interaction. It’s an informal, sociable forum where selling is less important than sharing and communicating.
If you haven’t already started a blog for your small business, here’s a closer look at why it’s so important, and a few things to keep in mind as you get started.
Why blogging is a big deal
If you’re like most small business owners, you’re excited about your company and what it has to offer. You probably also pay close attention to trends and developments in your field. A blog is the ideal place to share that enthusiasm and expert knowledge, positioning yourself as a leader and innovator.
Besides serving as a demonstration of your knowledge and expertise, your small business blog is also a place to engage and interact with potential customers. By sharing different kinds of content and inviting replies, you can cultivate an audience of dedicated followers and glean vital information about customer’s interests and desires, all in a pressure-free environment that’s not expressly designed to generate sales.
A good blog not only builds awareness of your brand, it infuses it with character and identity. Perhaps most importantly, it achieves all this without any significant investment other than time.
What to do before you start
As excited as you may be to get blogging, some planning and preparation are required before you write and post your first entry.
First, come up with a clear idea of your blog’s focus. Ask yourself what you want to get out of blogging, who your core audience will be, and what you want them to take away from your posts. For example, you may wish to create a journal-style blog that pulls back the curtain on life as a small business owner and entrepreneur. Perhaps you’d prefer to examine trends in your industry, and assert yourself as a thought-leader and expert. Maybe part of your strategy is to help boost traffic to your business website, using keyword-driven posts to generate hits and improve search engine results.
Your blog will also need a name, something catchy and memorable that conveys a sense of the content. Choose a site to host the blog – there are many free options available – and select or create a clean, professional design, or ‘theme.’
How often should you post?
Once you’ve decided on the look and feel, map out and maintain a content calendar. Brainstorm some ideas and think about how frequently you’ll be able to post. Don’t feel compelled to add new content every day – it’s probably too time consuming for you and isn’t absolutely necessary to attract and retain readers, who likely don’t have the time to consume daily updates. Two or three posts per month is typically enough to stay fresh without overburdening your audience. If possible, compose a few ‘evergreen’ posts and keep them in your back pocket for weeks when you’re too busy with other stuff to create new content.
Remember that posts don’t have to be long – in fact, shorter is sometimes better for you and your readers. Still, don’t be afraid to go long every now and then – you just might strike a chord with a particularly impassioned post.
Who’ll create the content?
Concerned that the burden of blogging will be too much for you to handle while still handling the day to day part of your business? Consider getting a trusted employee to help share the load. If writing isn’t your strong suit and none of your staff fit the bill, you might hire a virtual assistant to create posts for you. Just be clear about the tone of voice you want to have, and make sure it stays consistent. Whoever you get to handle the writing, whether it’s you or someone else, make sure every post is properly checked for spelling and grammar – you don’t want careless mistakes to undermine your opinions.
Be sure that you are creating original content (i.e. – you are not copying something you found on the internet) and any images you use are ones you create yourself, or stock imagery that you have the right to use (either because you’ve purchased it, or you’re using a free stock imagery site).
Use multimedia to make it engaging
You may well have a whole lot to say in your new blog. But unless you write like an award-winning novelist, you’ll need more than just words to build a loyal, appreciative audience. Consider posts that include photos, videos, audio clips and links to relevant content, even if it’s elsewhere on the web. Don’t worry about driving traffic away from your own efforts – readers will remember who steered them to something worthwhile, and will come back to see how else you can enlighten them. Plus, the people whose pages you link to might notice the attention and link back to your own content, which can help your boost traffic and performance in search results.
Remember to generate additional attention for your blog by linking to each piece of new content from your company’s social media profiles and your personal ones, too.
As much as possible, include a call to action in each post, whether it’s a request for the reader to subscribe to your blog, to download some information, to register for an event or mailing list, or to click elsewhere on your site for more information.
Finally, invite people to comment on your entries, and be willing to engage with those who do. Even if you don’t always agree, your readers will welcome your willingness to debate and discuss their point of view.