06/06/2011

By Victoria Tomlinson, Chief executive, Northern Lights PR

The best business blogs are an easy read, written regularly in short digestible chunks, with an opinion or nugget of information in each that will inspire or help you.

The goal for most bloggers (people who write a blog) is to create a following. As a business, the groups you probably want to target are:

- Your customers or clients

- Target customers

- Referrers of work

- Opinion formers in your market

- Journalists

Exactly who you want to follow you will be defined in your communication and social media strategy. But whoever you target, your blog should be strategic and support your business goals — not just an outlet for your chief executive or a new recruit in the social media team to spout their thoughts on any subject.

You want to plan your blog before writing it. Ideally, you will already have researched your clients and target clients as part of your business, marketing and comms strategies and will therefore have a good idea of how you are going to be helpful to your clients.

If not, go out and start talking and listening to your clients and prospective targets!

If you are stuck for topics, try these to get you going — these might trigger thoughts. You will need to write them within the strategic theme you have decided on:

• Are you going on a buying trip that might interest your customers? A wine merchant might talk about this year’s trip to France — how the weather is going to affect this year’s production or a trend they have spotted

• You could blog about what is new or disappointing at a trade show

• If you are visiting two or three suppliers, you might want to compare the good and bad — maybe not naming the companies

• New legislation that will affect your customers

• Are you about to speak at a conference or a meeting of local business people? Are you preparing a power point or presentation with some key points that could be the basis of a blog?

• When you spot something in your industry paper that makes you want to respond, don’t rant at the coffee machine, write it down

• Questions that your customers are asking you about

• Reviews of new books around your industry or customers

Your voice

Writing a blog is harder than it seems for many people, even for regular writers and journalists. It can take some months to find what is called your ‘voice’. A good blog is chatty, not an essay or a feature piece in a magazine. It needs to be written as the writer would speak so it feels like a conversation.

It is a good idea to write a dozen or more posts before they go live. That way there is time to practice and feel comfortable with a theme, check that the content is useful to the target audience and that it is consistent. An archive of posts also means that when the blog goes live it looks immediately full and interesting - one blog post looks very lonely. Apparently Google does not start picking up blogs on searches until 25 blogs have been posted.

Ready to post?

Part of your social media marketing strategy will define what your blog is going to achieve, who it is targeted at and how you will measure success (sorry to keep repeating all this, but social media must be focused on your business goals).

Most good blogs will need posts at least once a week — some post daily and others several times a day. There is no definitive answer about best practice. The more frequently you post, the better for search engine optimization (provided you are writing good quality content). But if you are building up a following of people who ask to be informed every time you post a new blog, getting several blogs a day would drive most professionals mad.

Whatever you decide, you need to set a goal and stick to it - posting once a week is a good start for most businesses. We would then recommend coming up with a schedule of topics that you can blog on, thinking always — what will be of interest and helpful to our target audience? Why might they read and comment? What can we write about that will help people spot trends, understand the market better or solve a problem?

When the blog is set up, it needs an RSS button (a software device that allows people to request new content from the site) so people can subscribe to the blog. You will also need buttons to link to any other social media accounts that you have set up such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Would you follow your own blog?

You have to think all the time — would I follow my own blog? Why? What would I get out of it? Ask critical friends to give you feedback. And of course, set up a Google Analytics account to measure how many visitors are reading your blog.

We talk later about how to generate comments and engage with visitors to your blog. This is important in terms of writing in a way that make people rate you and want to come back again to share thoughts with you.

One of the tips to get people to comment on a blog is ‘don’t finish the conversation’. This is really important to think about when writing, so that you don’t come over as the ultimate expert but want your blog to be a meeting place to discuss and share ideas.

This article was taken from the ebook: Why you can't ignore social media in business


Watch the video below featuring Jemima Gibbons of AAB Engage discussing ow social media can positively impact your business.

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