Don’t Do This with Your Blog Content

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Though it may be a bit circular to say on a blog, I love blogging.

It’s a great way to drive traffic, generate leads, demonstrate expertise and share information that is of interest to your customers. It does take some time and effort to do it right and we’ve posted about this quite a few times.

Today, I want to take the opposite angle. Rather than look at what to do, I want to look at what you should never do with your blog content.

7 Mistakes To Avoid In Your Blog Content

  • Don’t be a blogvertiser. This is a sure way to drive people away. Fundamentally, blog content needs to be informative rather thanpromotional. No one’s going to want to read your blog if it’s a nonstop stream of sales pitches. When you’re thinking up blog content, focus on posts that will be useful to your readers.
  • Don’t become a linkohaulic. Linking to other peoples’ content is very good every now and then, but the primary focus of your blog should be your own original content. Don’t get addicted to sharing other people’s posts. If you can add some context to an existing story or post, that’s OK. But try to be as original as possible.
  • Don’t be a photophobe. Graphics and images should absolutely be a part of your blog. Pictures make blog posts more inviting and also break up your text to keep it from becoming a wall of words. You can skimp on pictures if you’ve got a creative writing or literature blog. But for most businesses, think visually before hitting “publish.”
  • Don’t be stiff. Every successful blog shows some level of character and personality. Don’t write like you’re producing a textbook or a research article, even if it is a business blog (like this one). Never be afraid to insert some of your own personality. Blogs are expected to be a bit informal and should feel like a conversation.
  • Don’t be longwinded. Blog content should be generally short and to the point. Posts are read quickly and should be easily digestible. For a business blog, try to keep posts under 800 words and it’s better to stay in the 400-600 word range. If you’re exploring a topic that needs more space than that, consider breaking it up into a series of posts.
  • Don’t try to hit too many targets. You may have products that appeal to all people aged 10 to 100, but that doesn’t mean you should try to target them all in the same blog. If your audiences are so varied that what appeals to one group will turn off the other, you’ll need to break your content into separate blogs. Try to keep each blog tightly focused.
  • Don’t be inconsistent. A regular posting schedule is one of the marks of a professional blog. Decide early on how often you want to update your blog and stick to it. Don’t change that schedule without good reason, and never let yourself go for long periods without updating.

None of these seven mistakes is particularly hard to avoid. You’ve just got to be aware of them. Write interesting, original blog content that helps your audience, keep it visually appealing and easy to consume, and publish with focus and consistency. Oh, and remember to have some fun.

5 Simple Templates for Blog Content

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Even for an experienced writer, few things can be more terrifying than staring at a blank screen and realizing you don’t know what you want to discuss.

After all, it’s easy enough to say you want to start blogging, but then comes the hard part: producing your blog content.

The good news is there are a handful of formats for business blog content that you can see in practically every company blog post online. If you’re stuck for inspiration, pick one of these templates and have at it.

Five Simple Templates for Blog Content

  1. Tips for the reader. These are simple enough. In fact, you’re looking at an example right now. Take subjects you’re informed about and write posts designed to help your readers become better at them. These could be posts with step-by-step of instructions or lists of general suggestions. Either way, these “tips” posts are great because they are truly useful for your readers.
  2. Mistakes to avoid. These are pretty similar to “tips” posts except they’re lists based on real-life challenges. They’re also a great way to show off your analytical and problem-solving skills. To really impress, each item needs three components: an example of doing it wrong, an analysis of why it’s wrong, and a discussion of how it should be done correctly.
  3. Product/service review. These are very straightforward. Write reviews of things you’ve seen or used that are relevant to your audience. There are lots of reviews out there about major consumer products like computers and cars. But far fewer when it comes to business-specific items. Remember, the best-written reviews are analytical, explaining why a product or service is good or bad.
  4. Favorites list. These posts are simple and fun. Generally, they’re lists of your favorite products or services in some category. Alternatively, they can come in the form of “Top X Reasons…” posts. This type of blog content necessarily presents a broad but shallow overview of your subject. So, don’t overuse it.
  5. News analysis. Want to show the world you’re a true expert? Write posts analyzing the state of your industry or looking at how outside news events impact your readers. Aim for honest discussions of the events, and try to keep your posts as fact-based as possible. Good examples might be how a proposed law will impact your industry or how a recent merger in your sector will alter market dynamics.

Most blog content follows the basic formats outlined above. If you find yourself struggling to write, they can be a lifeline.

Just pick a topic you’ve been thinking about and select one of the formats that works with the idea. You’re already halfway there. Now, just figure out the key points you want to make and everything will fall into place.

How Creating a Blog Is Like Climbing a Mountain

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As the old proverb says, there are many paths up the mountain.

This can apply to quite a number of business endeavors, and getting started with your business blog is definitely one of them. While it may seem daunting, the challenge of getting your blog rolling is absolutely worth it. It can drive traffic to your website, using SEO to target the right visitors, and deliver valuable leads who can eventually become customers.

Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you work to get your blog up and running.

Creating a Blog Is Like Climbing a Mountain

  • Every expedition needs good planning. If you start climbing without planning your route, you’ll likely get stuck halfway up. Before setting out on your blogging expedition, address core issues like how often you’ll blog, what topics you’ll cover and what tone you’re going to take. This includes researching your competition. If they’re all producing heavy, jargon-laden blogs, perhaps adopting a more informal tone will help you carve out a niche.
  • Understand you must start at the bottom. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Understand and accept that at the beginning you’re not going to have many readers. Do what you can to promote yourself, and focus on producing quality content.
  • Realize the summit will be out of sight when you start. It’s easy to get discouraged when all you can see are endless trees. Yet, once you’re above the tree line, the path to the summit becomes clear. You can speed up this process by allowing commenting on your blog, encouraging readers to contribute to the conversation. Interesting discussions make for repeat visits and social media sharing.
  • Find your climbing legs. One of the worst things to do when climbing a mountain or starting a blog is overdoing it. Pace yourself, and focus on quality over quantity. If you run out of wind — good ideas — too early, you’ll handicap yourself. Try to get into a rhythm of posting on a weekly basis and build from there.
  • Put together a team for your expedition. When Sir Edmund Hillary conquered Mt. Everest, he didn’t do it alone; he took over 400 people along as guides and porters. In business blogging, your help comes from social media. Make sure your posts have links so visitors can share them on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and any other other social sites that seem relevant. Your readers are a vital part of the process, and they’re usually happy to help.
  • Keep climbing! Step by step. Reader by reader. If you produce good work, you’ll gain followers. Creating a blog that’s successful requires fresh content. You know all those websites with blogs that haven’t been updated in months? Those are memorials to people who only got halfway up the mountain and quit. In terms of public exposure, an abandoned blog is worse than no blog at all.
  • Plant your flag. How will you know when you’ve reached the summit? You won’t. But you will know you’re accomplishing something big with your blog. Traffic will be up substantially on your site and you’ll be getting valuable leads from your calls-to-action and landing pages. Your blog posts will be generating social media discussion and you’ll be getting comments. Most of all, your blog will have become a centerpiece of your marketing efforts and you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it.

If you want a takeaway, it’s this: Creating a blog is like climbing a mountain because it’s a big job that requires dedication and persistence. However, with good planning, hard work and a little help from your friends, you’ll make it to the top.

How to Promote Your Blog with Social Media

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Blogging and social media make a great couple.

On their own, each are wonderful tools for marketers looking to extend their brands’ reach and awareness and drive engagement. Together, however, their power multiplies. By using social media to promote your blog, you extend the reach of your content substantially.

The good news is it’s really not that hard to do. Just follow the seven steps below to power your blog with social media.

How to Promote Your Blog

  1. Provide social media sharing links. This is pretty obvious and most blogging software makes it a simple matter. You should provide links on every post to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, at a minimum. Other social networks may be available as well, so provide links to the best of those for your audience. The key to sharing socially is making it easy for your visitors, and these links turn it into a one-click affair.
  2. Set up automated sharing. Many blogging software packages offer this and if it is available to you, use it. Automated sharing basically takes your posts and automatically posts them on Twitter, Facebook, etc. My only caveat is some blogging software makes the Facebook posts without adding your post image. If this is the case, I’d disable automated sharing for Facebook and post to that network manually. Images are key for capturing readers’ attention.
  3. Use Twitter multiple times per post. The key to Twitter is that your timeline is always moving, so if you’ve posted hours ago you should consider that tweet gone forever. If you’re got a good blog post you want to promote on Twitter, you’ll need to tweet it several times during the day. You can even come back to it the next day for a few rounds. Unlike other social networks, this won’t be considered spam. So be aggressive with your Twitter account.
  4. Repost on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn. In terms of the other major social networks, I recommend hitting them all, regardless on whether each is a priority for you. It doesn’t take long to post on all of these networks, probably less than a a minute each. You never know what you’re going to get. And even though Google+ doesn’t seem to be terribly active yet with everyday folks, it seems to me like there’s substantial SEO value to be had by posting there.
  5. Start conversations in LinkedIn groups. I’ve found this to be a terrific source of traffic. LinkedIn folks are serious about their networking and have a real thirst for valuable content. So, find a half-dozen or so groups that cover your industry or interest and make sure to share your blog posts there. You’ll find that your content is appreciated, and over time you can build a nice audience. Just make sure to share only valuable content. Don’t spam the groups with marketing.
  6. Ask your friends, followers to reshare. Don’t be shy about this. When you’ve got a good blog post, ask the folks you know to reshare it. It might be your friends and colleagues you ask to share on their social networks. You might post on Twitter and ask your followers to retweet your content. People can’t help you if they don’t know you need it. So go ahead and request resharing. Most people will be happy to do it.
  7. Don’t forget about your older posts. This one is critical. As you create blog posts, you are building a great library of content. You shouldn’t think that your sharing can only take place the day you write the blog. You should come back to your old blog posts periodically and reshare them as long as they are still relevant. Some posts will have a shelf-life of years. As long as the content is valuable, keep pushing it out. You’ll build real value for your blog over time.

Of course, the key to promoting your blog with social media is to make it a process. Every time I post a new blog, I promote it as described above. The whole process is quick, taking far less time than writing the post in the first place. And it pays off.

Having a well-read blog can enable you to use your blog for a variety of purposes, such as serving as the centerpiece of your inbound marketing efforts. Then you’ve created the ability to generate leads and, over time, new customers.

5 Tips for Successful Corporate Blogging

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Many companies today are bloggers. And this is a very good thing.

As a way to keep a website refreshed with new and constantly changing content, very little beats a blog. But there are other reasons to embrace corporate blogging, too.

  • Google loves blogs. Here we are talking about search engine optimization (SEO). I can’t think of a single website addition that adds as much SEO value as a blog.
  • Blogs drive traffic. And traffic turns into leads. And leads turn into customers.
  • Lastly, blogs give your content an online home, and this content — via links — becomes fodder for social media campaigns. So, blogging enables meaningful Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts.

Tips for Corporate Bloggers

So, how should companies get the most out of their corporate blogging?  Here are some ideas.

  1. Commit to a regular schedule of posts. It can be once a week, twice a week or more. Just make a decision and stick to it. It may help to create a calendar of post topics a month in advance. Then, just execute the plan.
  2. Select your topics strategically. Don’t simply write about anything that occurs to you. Pick topics that you know will be of interest to those you wish to draw to your website. Keyword analysis can be a great help in making these decisions.
  3. Write for your readers. Keep your posts short, clear and free of jargon. Your blog posts should give your readers a taste for the topic you have chosen to discuss. They do not have to be definitive.
  4. Include a relevant image with each of your posts. Images draw in readers, and this is important for getting them to your first paragraph. After that, it’s the quality of your writing that will keep them going.
  5. Sweat the headlines. They are critical to your success. Headlines should be both short and compelling. They should grab the reader’s attention. If you have verbs in the headline, they should always be in the present tense.

If you’re already blogging, keep at it. It will pay dividends. If you’re not, consider getting started. Corporate blogging is actually easier than you think.

How Bad Is This?

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And now, a story that practically tells itself…

The following ran in today’s New York Times. It’s the tale of a response from Target, the giant retailer, to blogger Amy Jussel of Shaping Youth, who had called to complain about a Target advertisement. You have to read it to believe it.

Target offered an e-mail response:

“Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets,” a public relations person wrote to ShapingYouth.

“This practice,” the public relations person added, “is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest,” as Target refers to its shoppers.

Word of the exchange quickly spread and the blogosphere did not appreciate the slight. “Target doesn’t participate in new media channels?” asked the Web site for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. Target “dismisses bloggers” commented the blog for Parents for Ethical Marketing. “Ahem! So bloggers don’t count!” Ms. Jussel chimed in on ShapingYouth.

Now, I can’t even count all the communications lessons in this one. But let’s try to hit the key points:

  • No organization should cut bloggers out of its information flow. Would you respond to CBS News that TV is beneath you?
  • It’s never a good idea to insult a reporter, blogger, etc. who is asking you a question.
  • Why would anyone ever have such an exchange via email, which can be forwarded and published?
  • It’s important — even critical — today for communications professionals to understand new media and its reach and impact.

I could go on and on here, but I think the point is clear. Basically, it seems that Target — like Rip Van Winkle — slept through the development of Web 2.0 and awakened to find a whole new PR/media world with a very new set of rules. Hopefully, the company can move quickly to address the situation.

(Hint to Target: If you want to respond to this post, please leave a comment instead of sending an email. Bloggers like that.)

Pitching Bloggers — The Rules Are Different

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As the blogosphere progresses and becomes increasingly influential, communicators will need to find ways to reach out to bloggers just as we do to traditional journalists. This will become an integral part of media relations.

However, bloggers are not traditional reporters. Sending them press releases via a blast email will not turn out well.

The Lorelle on WordPress blog has an interesting post titled “Promoting Your Wares to Bloggers.” Here’s one of her points:

Don’t Waste The Time of a Blogger

If you want a bloggers attention, don’t waste their time. Do not put a blogger on a mailing list they never asked to be on. Know the blogger and the blog you are approaching. Read their blog and their policies. If they clearly state, like I do, that they will not accept any requests for commercial link exchanges, don’t even ask.

If your subject matter it unrelated to their blogging topic, go elsewhere. If it is, and you expect them to take you seriously, ask first, and send them the product with no expectation of a response or publicity. I’m often asked to review photography products and services, as well as software and hardware. If it isn’t in my hands to rip apart and put back together, don’t waste my time.

Now, Lorelle is a blogger and she is clearly speaking from her own experience. Those of us who work as professional communicators may view this from a different angle, but understanding the audience is critical.

From my own experience, bloggers have always proven to be both thoughtful and helpful — but you must understand and participate in their world. If not, let the flames begin…