It’s no secret that I am a big fan of blogging as a marketing tool. I will happily wax lyrical about the importance of generating quality content and how small businesses can make blogging central to a content marketing strategy. So I was delighted by the findings of a new survey that proves that blogging is “where it’s at”.
Published by Technorati, a leading US social media company, the 2013 Digital Influence Report presents insights into the use of social media following surveys of consumers, brand marketers and “influencers” — those people with a “greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace”.
The report reveals that there is overwhelming evidence that consumers rely heavily on blogs for advice and recommendations when making purchasing decisions.
One of the most significant findings is that blogs are right up there with “official” websites — 56% of consumers form opinions by visiting retail sites and 34% turn to brand sites, while an impressive 31% are motivated by what they read on blogs. This compares to a mere 8% of consumers who use Twitter for the same purpose.
And why do bloggers have such clout? Because they are generally considered to give honest and sincere reviews of products and services, they are giving their opinion and will tell it as they find it — what’s more, they aren’t being paid to write favourable endorsements. In other words, they are building trust.
This is something that can come out of even quite small blog communities — when it comes to blogging, size really doesn’t matter, something that the big brands just don’t seem to understand. Popularity doesn’t necessarily equate with trust, and a more intimate experience in a smaller community is much more likely to generate positive action.
Good quality content continues to be the key to a successful blog. Focusing on providing value to your readers through advice and opinion builds that all-important element of trust and will ensure a strong and loyal community. If you want to widen your net, use social media to “advertise” your blog. So Facebook and Twitter should be seen as a valuable means to an end. In other words, it’s your online word of mouth marketing that can direct people to your blog, get them reading your latest posts and then pick up on any calls to action.
Twitter undoubtedly has its place in your marketing toolbox, but your blog is, ultimately, the most valuable tool of all. Twitter, with its short and sweet 140 characters, can only convey so much about your brand and what you do or offer.
So it is through your blog that you will most effectively engage with your audience, influence their thinking and convert them into loyal customers. And that will only happen if they trust you. And trust is built organically through an ongoing dialogue — tricky to do within a mere 140 characters, but eminently possible through regular articles of 400-500 well chosen words.
Ask anyone in the business of selling a product and they’ll evangelise about the benefits of having their wares featured in a magazine. Not only does a feature in a magazine — be it in the “What’s new” section, part of an article or a specific feature to drive traffic to your site — it’ll give your business much-welcomed kudos to be endorsed by a magazine title your customers look up to. It’s also a sneaky ego-boost.
But gaining PR in printed titles isn’t easy. Nor is it as cheap as it first seems. You either need to be on very good terms with the magazine editors, which takes time to foster, or you need to have an incredibly hard-working and focused PR company working on your behalf, which, let’s face it, ain’t cheap.
What many e-tailers seem to be overlooking is that the rise in the uber-bloggers provides just as precious PR as traditional printed literature channels. These blogs can provide just as much influence as the glossies and better still, these blogs often link direct to your website! I’m not just talking about you using your own blog to build relationships and generate awareness, I’m talking about you getting your products featured on top blogging sites just as you would an aspirational magazine.
So how do you get your products featured on an uber-blog?
Start by doing your homework. Read the bloggers in your niche and suss out which ones resonate with your brand and your clients. Draw up a hit list of five or so that you’d like to be featured on and start to build relationships with the writers. Network with them on social media sites such as Twitter and comment on their blogs. Ideally you want to maintain a buzz of regular exposure, so build long-term relationships if you can, rather than one-hit wonders.
Bloggers love good content! Great photos, news their clients will love, scoops, sneak peeks and so on are great for the bloggers. It adds richness to their site as well as making their lives easier. I love the ethics of bloggers such as Design*Sponge who only feature on merit rather than due to backhanders! It definitely makes the reading experience more authentic.
I’ve seen too many blogs recently that have clearly just cut and pasted badly written press releases on blogs. It doesn’t work for the blogger or the product and it looks transparent. Blogging is different to the printed media. Just as you wouldn’t want a journalist to print your press release in full (including contact information for your PR), so you don’t want bloggers to publish that info either. And whereas traditional PR may follow a very fixed format, blogging is more free and easy. When we’re reading a blog we want the inside scoop – and that means the blogger giving their opinions and hopefully endorsing your product in some way – so don’t write your usual style press release.
Make sure you send in great images and ask the blog owner what they’re looking for. Oh, and just as with printed media don’t forget to be grateful – a little thank you (I mean literally just thank you – no need to bribe…) goes a long way!
Find out more on how to write blogs:
When we received a particularly vile piece of feedback via our feedback button, I have to admit that my smile did fall for a moment… well, about the time it takes to eat a chocolate brownie actually.
And, then I saw a tweet from a lawyer who is doing great things in social media, saying how he had received some vicious feedback in a LinkedIn discussion.
It put me in mind of Seth Godin’s excellent advice on dealing with trolls in which he says:
Lots of things about work are hard. Dealing with trolls is one of them. Trolls are critics who gain perverse pleasure in relentlessly tearing you and your ideas down. Here’s the thing(s):
1. Trolls will always be trolling
2. Critics rarely create
3. They live in a tiny echo chamber, ignored by everyone except the trolled and the other trolls
4. Professionals (that’s you) get paid to ignore them. It’s part of your job.
“Can’t please everyone,” isn’t just an aphorism, it’s the secret of being remarkable.
It is, of course, important to distinguish between trolls and genuine and constructive feedback. We do, occasionally, get negative feedback (I know, I admit it… we’re human). Usually this is really useful, and gratefully received. We can always improve — and that is exactly why we have a feedback button on our website. But, when it is vicious and unhelpful you need to find the strength to hit delete and carry on.
The thing is, if you put yourself up to scrutiny — which is exactly what you’re doing by having a website or posting a blog — then you will at some point encounter nasty people. Even bullies grow up and get jobs. If you engage heavily in social media, then I’m afraid to say that you’ll find them.
If you’re not expecting it, then an ugly side-swipe can really knock your confidence. Surround yourself with a group of people who you trust, and whose opinion you value. Get them to regularly feedback on whether you’re doing good stuff. And, if you are, then hold your head up high and brace yourself… at some point a mean-spirited individual will try to burst your bubble. It is amazing how much nastier people feel able to be through a remote connection, and even more cruel when hiding behind the mask of anonymity.
When it does happen, tick it off as a social media right of passage and congratulate yourself at having generated an emotional reaction in someone you don’t even know — that’s an achievement.
…well, that’s what you’d believe if you listened to the traditional marketers, online sceptics, and old-school business brains.
But – actually – there is a grain of truth in the shocking statement. Nobody cares about your blog.
Unless you give them one, two, or all of the following things:
* Useful information, such as ‘How To’ guides
* Proven case studies highlighting a return of some kind
* Open, engaged topical discussion without a hard sell
* Real-life experience and expertise in your niche for their benefit
* Passion and knowledge, packaged up in readable chunks
Or, alternatively, are you banging out a flog blog? Sell sell sell? Broadcasting, not listening?
If so, then of course nobody cares about your blog – after all, how are you really, truly, genuinely helping the reader?
Think give give give, and see what comes back – in time.
This may seem like obvious stuff, but there are a surprising number of flog blogs out there, and when you consider that 70% of all newly-launched blogs fail/quit/end within their first 12 months, you’ll see the importance of a giving ethos to ensure that your audience cares about your blog.
And, rather than being a blog death statistic, wouldn’t you rather care about your audience? If you care for them, they’ll take care of you. And that’s one guarantee careful blogging can give you.
One of the main things to remember is to forget yourself.
Receiving a comment on your blog is wonderful — it reaffirms that someone, somewhere out there is reading your ramblings. And very often it’s the start of a community, all centred around your blog. What’s not to like?
Well, not all comments are good comments. Spammers have become very clever at singling out bloggers, writing complimentary comments and then putting a dodgy web address in the URL field. The trouble is, that because many new bloggers don’t know what to look for, those comments sit there, undermining your credibility and tricking unsuspecting readers into visiting all manner of websites they might not normally frequent!
Well I have to say rule number one for me is to install Akismet if you’re on WordPress. That screens out all of my spammy comments and in almost 1,000 legitimate comments, I haven’t had a spammy one. If you’re not sure how, ask your developer to do it for you (we install as standard when we set up a blog).
Secondly, think “do I know this person?” If not, I always trace the link back to their site — purely to be nosey (and also to say thank you!). You’ll soon know whether it’s a site you’re happy for your business to be associated with or not.
Thirdly, click on the links in their comment and be sure you’re happy with them. And that’s it – very simple.
So tell me, do you have problems with spammy comments on your blog? And if so, how do you deal with them?
OK, so you’re blogging away, producing content regularly and starting to enjoy the writing process.
Visitor numbers are rising, albeit slowly, and you’re starting to deliver useful content. But something isn’t quite right, something doesn’t add up. There’s still a stilted edge about your blogging, something mechanical and clunky. Want to know what it is?
It’s probably due to my Number One of these quick six tips to better business blogging. If it resonates, you know you’ve got some changing to do. Nothing worse than that niggling internal voice telling you to change what you’re doing. Here goes:
1. Be authentic
Lose the corporate, parental, unemotional writing style. It’s dull, boring and your readers won’t engage. Try dropping your barriers and opening up. Write with passion, authenticity. Listen to yourself.
2. Be confident
There’s nothing worse than a safe, anodyne, sterile blog. Open up, be confident in your knowledge and expertise. Now share it!
3. Be challenging
Do you accept everything you see, read or hear? No? Thought not. So challenge what you see, hear and read out there, too. And highlight your challenging nature in your blog. Ask questions to make your readers stop and think. You can challenge anything.
4. Be humble
Not sure what this means? For me, it means there will always be better, smarter, faster, richer people blogging out there. And I am grateful that they share their mistakes, so I don’t have to make the same ones. Be humble for the wise old coots who exist.
5. Be funny
Nothing worse than a corporate blog which is totally devoid of humour. Boardroom bores. The antidote? Try humour, flex your funny bone, and engage with some witty banter online. Lightness, fun, and frivolity can get powerful messages across very well.
6. Be passionate
Are you passionate about your areas of expertise? Yes? Well, why hide it? Too many business blogs are devoid of passion. With so much competition out there, one of the best ways to stand out is to demonstrate your passion. Get emotional. Fight your corner.
Extra tip: just to keep you on your toes. Final nugget – ignore the critics, cynics and emotional drains in business. They are too many to count.
Wish them well, ask the gods that be for their success and happiness, and send them on their way. Ignore it and focus on the positive elements to your blogging instead.
There will always be a critic in the background. Usually an unhappy one.