opinion

Blogging: Not Just An Online Diary

Kelly Shibari
Businesses traditionally use old-school PR to market products, regardless of whether or not it’s mainstream or adult. But with everything becoming more digital these days, do people even look at advertising any more?

Personally, I know that I DVR most of the television shows that I watch — and when I have the time to watch an episode or two of my favorite shows, I always have my remote at the ready to scan past the commercial breaks. Sure, I’m seeing the ads — but at four times the speed. Or I watch my programming on an online “station” such as Hulu, which utilizes sponsored ads, so you only see one ad per traditional commercial break. Do I really care what products are being sold in between the televised acts of “Lie to Me”?

Either businesses can come up with ways to catch a viewer’s eye at four times the speed, or they need to find new ways to market their products. Social media is a great way to do this — and blogging in particular.

Most kids these days (and some not-so-kids) have a My-Space, Twitter or Facebook page. I often see schoolchildren hanging out in groups — but they’re all texting. Whether they’re texting other friends, or each other, I have no idea. But it’s pretty obvious that they’re spending a whole lot of time online.

The problem is that businesses haven’t really caught onto the notion of blogging yet. To many, it still seems like an online diary of sorts — something kids do. It’s the equivalent of hanging out at the mall. Smart business people just don’t do those things. Smart, responsible adults just don’t do those things.

Really?

Most large corporations have people hired specifically to handle social media. They hire bloggers to handle their blogs — and some large companies have more than one blog, to cater to different segments of their target audience. In addition, blogs can be a great SEO tool — the more blog posts you have about a particular topic, the higher the likelihood that it’s going to be read. The more it’s read, the more it’s talked about. The more it’s talked about, the more traffic is generated. The blog can even become viral if it’s really successful. And when thousands of people are reading your blog on a regular basis, and talking about what you’ve written, and commented on the posts ... and someone does a Google search on your field of expertise, guess who’s site comes up on the first few pages?

The problem, though, is time. There really are only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, despite your desire for a time machine or the ability to work twice as fast as the rest of the world. For most business owners, after you remove weekends, evenings, kids’ activities, meals, client meetings, commuting time ... you’d be lucky if you even had enough time in the day to get some actual work done. Do you really have time to add another project — a blog — to that ever-growing list of work duties?

Matthew Bandyk wrote a great article about this in U.S. News and World Report, titled “How to Blog Your Way to Small-Business Success.” In it, he shared some great ideas on how a business owner can effectively and efficiently become a successful blogger:

1) Be a reader of blogs. Blogging has its own unique language that is different from other forms of writing. To understand how to speak that language yourself, it helps to regularly follow at least a few other blogs. Find blogs in your areas of interest by searching for them with Technorati or Google Blog Search. Becoming a fan of blogs paid off for (Joel) Libava, because it gave him plenty of places to post comments — which directed people to his blog.

2) Don’t stress about it too much. Even though being a successful blogger takes work, trying to do too much can be almost as bad as never updating your blog. “I see a lot of people struggle that they have to write 700-word feature articles,” explains (John) Jantsch. “A lot of people who have that mentality never get down to writing the thing.” Jantsch recommends short, breezy, and conversational posts. He thinks that posting three to five times a week is adequate.

3) Don’t do adspeak. Even if you’re blogging to promote your business, you can’t seem like you are only interested in promoting yourself. That is a big turnoff in the blogosphere. A better way to approach blogging, (Chris) Brogan recommends, is to give the readers what they want: useful, specialized information that comes from your own experience.

4) Tell a story without ranting. Many blogs on the Internet have a personal diary-like quality to them, where the author keeps a daily track of what’s going on in his or her life. It can be good to add a personal touch to your blog about your business topic because it humanizes you and might make the reader more interested in your business. But don’t overdo it. Long rants about personal subjects will get in the way of conveying the information that makes you sound like a credible source, which is why most business people start blogging in the first place. “Let people know enough about you to connect,” recommends Jantsch.

5) Keep it simple with search engine optimization. That’s the term for getting the most out of Google searches for your site. There are countless ways to figure out how to make your blog more search-engine friendly. But trying to know everything about it is almost a second job. “That’s probably something that it wouldn’t be in the best interests for a small-business owner to know how to do inside out,” says Brogan. Just do the few things that matter the most for search engines. A biggie is prominently using phrases that will cater to the potential customers searching for you. “I guarantee that people in town are going online first to find products and services,” Jantsch says. So if you’re blogging about plumbing and you are based in Buffalo, don’t just blog about “drain clogs”: Write about “drain clogs” and “Buffalo.” Another easy thing to do is to insert links to other pages in your posts, which also makes Google searches more likely to find you.

I’m going to add a sixth suggestion here, since, after all, this is what I do:

6) Hire a competent blog writer. But don’t put every single blog post in the hands of a blog writer, no matter how good he/she may be. After all, this is your company, and you know it better than anyone else. Make sure that you’re posting on your blog — but if you can’t make it a daily thing, then hire a blog writer. Good blog writers can make sure that your blog has articles every day. Great blog writers, on the other hand, will do research for you to find pertinent articles and relevant topics that are crucial to your business and your target market. They’ll make sure that the blog is SEOcompliant. They’ll end up being your virtual assistant, your online gal Friday, and help you keep your blog current, interesting, and regularly tapping Google on the shoulder.

And the best part about blogging, whether you go it alone or hire a blogger? You’ll probably end up knowing a lot more about the business that you’re in. Through researching about the product that you’re selling, the target audience, inviting commentary and discussion and exploring new advances, you’ll end up being pretty knowledgeable, which in turn will send more traffic your way as well as take you one step closer to being an expert at whatever you’re selling.

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