Check out Trada’s other posts in our online marketing series: How to Market Your Business on Facebook, How to Market Your Business on Twitter , How to Market Your Business With a Blog , and How to Market Your Business with Video. Leave us a tip of your own on marketing with a blog, and the best comment will win a $25 Amazon gift certificate. Comments must be made by Friday, Sept. 16 at 11 pm ET.
Blogging is easy. You write content and post it. Blogging as a business or blogging with specific goals in mind is much trickier. It’s an art and science and few do it well. For our series on how to market your business with the blog, we reached out to three marketing geniuses who have been in the trenches for quite some time. They speak from experience, rather than just spouting off theories.
Meet the Experts:
- Anita Campbell is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of SmallBizTrends, the best small business blog helping small business owners with all facets of their business. Anita has been an entrepreneur at heart her entire life. A lawyer by training, she has a wide range of interests, as reflected in her varied background in banking, information technology, human resources, marketing and eCommerce. You can read her blog posts at SmallBizTrends and follow her on Twitter at @SmallBizTrends.
- Erika Napoletano is the Head Redhead at RHW Media, a Denver-based online strategies consultancy. Her blog, RedheadWriting, is a bastion for “unpopular thoughts and blunt advice – delivered” and consistently strives to say what others won’t and don’t (but should) about marketing, social media, business integrity and life in general. She’s the author of two forthcoming books (due out Spring 2012), a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine, was recently named by the Denver Post as one of Colorado’s top Twitter Personalities and received the 5280 Magazine Top of the Town 2011 Reader’s Choice award for Best Twitter Personality. You can connect with her online on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. She closed her MySpace account when she found out that no one really wanted to pay her $5,000 a night to “party.”
- Tamar Weinberg is a social media strategist who specializes in strategy and execution, blogger outreach, reputation management, video marketing, and search engine marketing. She is also author of The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, and Mashable’s Global Advertising Manager. She was also named as someone to watch by Kaitlin Pike in our interview on How to Market Your Business on Twitter. You can find Tamar at her blog Techipedia and on Twitter at @Tamar.
As a business, how do you determine what content your audience will enjoy?
Tamar Weinberg: The best recommendation for businesses is to understand the mindset of their consumers. What is your consumer interested in? What pain does your business solve? Once you understand what your customers are looking for, you can use your blog as a platform to answer these questions and to assert authority on the subject matter (which ultimately leads to more business!)
Businesses should do competitive analysis of their landscape, finding out what others are doing in the space. They should be monitoring for changes in the industry (great fodder for blog posts) and finding out if there are any larger trends that may be of interest to their readership. For example, just about every industry could have turned the resignation of Steve Jobs into a blog post with the right creative angle to encourage industry-specific dialogue on the outcomes or consequences of his departure.
Erika Napoletano: At first, it was a complete crapshoot. I’d publish something and see what stuck. After nearly 400 blog posts later, I’ve got a feel for not only my audience, but my voice. I have history of what they liked, what they shared, how widely it was shared and I take that information into account whenever I head into my cave to craft something new. I think the key for any business is to understand that there will be a learning curve, but if you pay attention to what your audience tends to gravitate towards, you’re miles ahead of your competition if you use that information to shape your blogging strategy.
Anita Campbell: We listen to what our readers tell us they like. They tell us in several ways — here are 3:
(1) Via Google Analytics – We look at Analytics data to find which articles and categories get the most pageviews. We also look at which keywords are the top phrases sending readers from the search engines. When we see something that works, we do more of it. We also analyze what we think makes an article popular — was it the topic, or was it a catchy title, or was it something timely in the news? A good title is 50% of the battle when it comes to getting eyeballs.
(2) Via social media data — The number of tweets an article gets,andr the number of Facebook Likes, can be valuable to show the popularity of topics. Of course, you must delve beneath the surface. Example: any post with the words “social media” tends to get double the tweets of other posts (because of people who autotweet based on certain phrases). But don’t fool yourself — the articles may not necessarily get double the page views or comments. People may be tweeting, but not clicking and reading.
(3) Most emailed (via a WP plugin) — For a small business audience we also look at the number of times emailed. Many of our audience prefer to keep their discussions private. They don’t comment publicly, but may be sharing via email. This metric can be revealing for B2B audiences. Sometimes the articles that are the least popular via social sharing are the MOST popular via email sharing.
How often do you think a company should blog?
Anita Campbell: My view on this has changed. I used to say daily or twice a week.. Now I think that once a week is great for small businesses.
Small businesses may not have enough information to share any more frequently than that. When a small business tries to publish too frequently, I see a blog that gets off track from its purpose. It starts veering off toward topics that have zero relationship with the business (even indirectly!). Ask yourself: are you blogging to grow your business, or to create an online publication? Most business owners would say the former — to grow the business, not try to be an online magazine.
I’m not saying the every blog post should be a sales pitch. On the contrary — that would be counterproductive. But I am saying that a blog post should support your goals to get people interested in your business, or create deeper relationships with customers, or show them your values, etc. — something that communicates in a relevant way. When a blog for an ecommerce store selling supplies for small businesses starts blogging about how to grill hot dogs, then you know it has lost its way.
Keep this in mind, too: if you blog once a week, you are updating a portion of your site 52 times a year. Many small businesses don’t update their sites anywhere near that often. So give yourself a pat on the back if you manage once a week — or even twice a month. You are well ahead of the typical small business that only updates its website a handful of times per year.
Erika Napoletano: Simple – as often as you have something to say, but on a regular schedule. Whatever schedule you choose, commit. Your audience expects a certain flow of information from your side and if you go off the map, they’re likely to forget about you. Sure, you can blog more than you planned, but blogging less? A losing proposition. If you’re really bogged down, look within your company for help on creating the blogs and if push comes to shove, outsource some of your content creation needs (just make sure the finish product has your brand’s personality).
Tamar Weinberg: Any type of blog appears to stay afloat with consistent updates. In terms of frequency, once to three times a week is important for small to mid-sized businesses. Large businesses should be updated at least daily to show the commitment to the medium and to your customers.
What are your tools of the trade for putting together a blog?
Erika Napoletano: I’ve been powered by a WordPress self-hosted installation forever. Pro tip? Stop thinking you can design a blog theme yourself. Hire a developer who specializes in blog themes. There are a ton of them out there. Your blog should be hosted on your own domain (there’s no way you can get me to change my mind on this one). Establish an editorial calendar (how often and on what you’ll write), get your blog feed setup so people can subscribe via email (Feedburner is great and there are many email distribution services like Aweber available). Blogging, from a technical standpoint should be easy. It’s the whole “writing” thing that bogs people down!
Tamar Weinberg: I’m a huge fan of WordPress with a good deal of plugins. Minimally, I’d recommend WordPress SEO by Joost. For blogs that will be promoted heavily through RSS, RSS Footer (also by Joost,) is a great way to maintain your copyright by adding “this is a blog post from XXXX blog.” I also recommend Subscribe to Comments so that users can be updated when comments are posted — sometimes comment threads have more information than the blog posts themselves!
Anita Campbell: WordPress. Sometimes I compose in Microsoft Word first. A Window open to an online synonym dictionary helps. Occasionally I use a headset and the built-in voice recognition software in Windows to dictate directly into Word. istockphoto for royalty free images at low cost, to break up text.
What tips do you have for businesses looking to promote their content?
Erika Napoletano: Your audience is the best promotional tool available. Sure, it takes time to build, but if you remember to share your audience’s content, the likelihood they will share yours increases astronomically. leverage your colleagues and relationships as well. Request retweets and make sure your blog makes it easy to share your posts. Plugins like Share This and Digg Digg make it simple for people to share your posts with a single click of a button across the social web. My buttons of choice, though they might be different for your industry and audience: Google+, Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook and Twitter.
Anita Campbell: Spend 50% of your time creating content, and 50% of your time making others aware of it.
Use Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word.
Using bookmarking sites like BizSugar.com to share your content and get visibility.
Tamar Weinberg: Businesses need to take a social mindset in terms of any type of promotion in the social media space. That means that building relationships with influencers and general customers is paramount. Find out who is talking about you and join the conversation. That means you should participate altruistically, not for immediate gain. Help others and they will help you.
The question every business owner asks, how do you determine ROI?
Tamar Weinberg: ROI is really dependent upon goals. What are your goals? More business? More RSS subscribers? More press mentions? Through a blog, you can achieve all of this, though social media isn’t necessarily as easily measurable.
Anita Campbell: We are an advertiser supported publication, so the ROI is pretty clear for us. More pageviews and visitors = more revenue.
For those with different business models, look to whether you have gotten new business as a result of social media or blogging. Look also at whether your existing customers are engaging with you. If they are, they must be finding value from it.
Erika Napoletano: I’m different from many business owners, where the product I have to sell isn’t really on my blog. I’m a consultant and strategist – people and companies buy my brain on either a project or retainer basis and that’s not for sale on any post you might read. Where the rubber meets the road for me is when I receive online new business inquiries directly from my website or referrals. That’s how I measure ROI. When those stop coming in, when the speaking invitations stop coming my way, when the book deals cease and when the comments from readers stop – that’s when I’ll be bankrupt. Honor your audience – their response is the best measure of ROI I have in my toolbox.
What do you wish you knew a year ago about having a blog?
Anita Campbell: I wish we had expanded with more posts per day, sooner. Quality is certainly critical. But quantity makes a large difference in your readership. If you read the State of the Blogosphere report by Technorati, there’s a pretty close correlation between volume of posts and brand recognition, authority and traffic.
Tamar Weinberg: While I’ve been blogging for 10 years now, blogging is something that takes about a year to pick up steam. I explain some of the best traits for bloggers in an article where I emphasize some of the traits that make top bloggers shine.
Erika Napoletano: How about we go back to 2006 when I started blogging instead? The one thing I wish I had known is that you can’t thrive in an echo chamber. You can publish all you want, but if you’re not getting out there and joining other people’s conversations on their blogs, it’s pretty arrogant behavior. When a business or blogger wonders why their blog isn’t getting more traction, let’s talk about your commenting efforts. Who are you reading? Who are you sharing? What are you commenting on? If you can’t answer those questions, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re not reading, you have no business blogging. Blogging is tough work and some days it comes easier than others. Why cheat yourself out of inspiration by thinking you’re too busy to read? Other people are the best possible source for inspiration we have.