Blogs are a vital component of any professional service firm’s business development and social media marketing; yet so many fail to have one or to use it to anything like good effect!
Social media marketing is all about establishing trust and building relationships; a blog has a central role in this process; it’s also where the business gets done.
If you use your blog well you can make great progress, use it badly, or not at all,and a great opportunity is lost.
So what should you be thinking about?
The key question we will therefore address is this: Is having a blog central to a social media plan and if so how should it be used?
Something that is often missed or passed over by many commentators when talking about the effective use of social media is the importance of your own website or blog in the context of your social media activities. Indeed listening to some all you need to do is have a Facebook account!
No. This is not the case; its selling yourself and your firm far short.
Working with a blog should be central to everything you do. Don’t let web designers or agencies who want to develop an expensive Web 1.0 style website tell you differently; refer them to this blog post.
The social media provide the means to build rapport, relationship and trust; this is where you become known, liked and trusted but it’s not where the business is conducted.
Because this is done back at your blog. The blog should be you centre or hub where everything is pulled together in one cohesive, substantive and all encompassing centre of excellence.
The social media utilities are where you create excitement interest and enthusiasm, your blog is where you pull it all together.
So if its that important, where should one start?
The starting point is not to start but to look and learn!
The starting point is to research the social media world; try it out as a user. In this way you’ll come to see how your blog might fit in the wider context; then
Set up an RSS reader and subscribe to blogs;
See what is really popular and think about what it means for you and your output;
Sign up on twitter and see what others in your sector are saying and doing [it may not be good]; its a good idea to do Twitter searches on your competitors;
Make a commitment to actively follow people on Twitter who you find or who you know put out great quality content on their blogs so you get to see it as it comes up;
Sign up at a mix of social book marking sites and engage; see how others use their blogs in this context;
Visit the main networking sites for your service arena;
Visit relevant forums and start posting a few comments, but only when and where you can add value;
Get a feel for it, take your time, see how it all works; get a feel for where you feel most comfortable
Remember that when your social media plan, your online videos, your podcasts and all else is in place you’ll have a fully interconnected series of new media sites that work blogreloaded in concert on your behalf; but don’t try or even think you can set it all up in a day and that’s it; it doesn’t work like that!
When you’re comfortable the 1st thing to do is to set up your own blog and simply start blogging with your very best materials.
A blog is a powerful tool as it allows your readers to: add content and to subscribe so they are automatically notified when content is updated; they also automatically ping the search engines when content is updated.
I recommend a WordPress blog as they are simple to set up and there are many free plug-ins available giving extraordinary functionality dependent on what you want to do.
The great thing about WordPress is that there is almost no set up but the downside with hosted blogging is that it does not deliver as much search engine benefit because the content does not reside on your website domain; therefore I recommend getting your own keyword focused domain name and placing your WordPress blog there;
All the main hosting providers have ready made arrangements for facilitating a WordPress blog so it really is very easy to set up.
The keys to effective use of your blog really are very simple:
Focus your posts on things that are current;
Address issues your target audience are concerned about or interested in;
Make sure each blog post is keyword optimised for words people are searching for that the post focuses in on;
Encourage people to contribute to debates;
Post the answers to the questions, problems, and challenges that you know from looking elsewhere that people are asking;
Don’t be afraid of controversy and taking a stand; this encourages participation; and
Focus on developing active conversations that draw more and more people into the frame;
It’s also important to:
Post links to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn sites whenever you make a new post;
Think about guest Blogging on other high traffic, blogs using well written posts with a bi-line and a link back to your own blog;
Keep asking for comments, asking questions, seeking opinions and do make sure that you comment on all the substantive comments that folks make on your blog;
Visit the blogs of those who are commenting and write on their sites; and where appropriate link to their content in your blog posts and via Twitter; all is well as this becomes infectious and everyone benefits.
WordPress templates are also readily available giving preset functionality helping the newbie to quickly achieve the desired results. I use the Socrates template which you can find out more about by clicking on the Affiliate link word ‘Socrates’ at the very bottom right hand side of my blog page; see the bio for the address.
Your blog should become the main way for people to really come to know you and your firm.
Do people want to go to your blog per say? No! So why have one?
Because on your blog, with its keyword titled and optimised posts, prospects will find the answers to their questions and get to know you as you help them to understand more.
When considering the potential of the social media, its not the utilities themselves, be it your blog, Facebook, twitter, the social book marking platforms or news sites or LinkedIn that are important, it’s the information they contain
Set up an RSS feed:
1. RSS feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically at the same time as benefiting readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from preferred blogs or websites.
2. In essence what happens is all those feeds from as many sites as you chose to draw from come into one place where the reader can view them all.
3. RSS feeds are read using an “RSS reader”. A user subscribes to a feed by clicking the RSS icon in a web browser. The RSS reader checks the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new work, downloads any updates that it finds, and provides a user interface to monitor and read the feeds.
It’s a good idea to start social book marking your ‘stuff’ including all your videos and your high value blog posts. This will open up channels to your website creating back links and visitors; examples of book marking sites include: Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon,Google buzz, del.icio.us, Mixx, Fark, Clipmarks, Newsvine, Propeller, Mister Wong, Blinklist, and faves; but there hundreds more.
Now I know that most of these sites are US based but UK people do use them. As far as I can tell there are few if any of note specifically focused on the UK.
Your Blog should be integrated into all aspects of your social media initiatives;
1. every post should be promoted via twitter;
2. when videos are included in a post each should be uploaded to the main video upload sites,
3. all your blog posts with video should be posted to Facebook and LinkedIn,
4. and if its of real interest you should make a Pod cast of the blog post video and up load it to the main Pod cast channels although for the minute its itunes that is the most important
One important guideline is that a significant percentage of your blog posts should include a short video, with commentary. The commentary should be a repeat of the same information presented in the video; its for those that prefer to read quickly, including giving any links that are mentioned in the video,
One of the most frequent questions about blogging is this:
What is more important the quality of the content of a blog or the frequency of the updating of the blog itself? i.e. do we go for a few infrequently placed really good articles or loads of average fare?
Now of course frequency is an issue and it is important. Who wants to repeatedly go back to a blog and see very little that is new? Nobody!
If you do take this approach then you’ll quickly find that the few that come in the first place start coming back fewer and fewer times if you’re not updating.
So if you want regular visitors, whom you’re seeking to build rapport and relationship with, you must keep updating regularly
But above all else,, whether considering the blog from the readers perspective or the search engine’s, it’s the quality of the material that is by far the most important factor in the success of your blog in the business development, relationship building context.
This is where most go wrong and loose what following they have built because the substance just isn’t there to warrant repeat visits
This means whether you use a daily, or a once or twice a week or a twice monthly blog update regime this is far less important than only Blogging when you have something relevant, valuable, timely or interesting to say to those you’re targeting.
The upshot of all this is that you must keep on top of your Blogging:
you must be doing your research; you must be developing new or fresh insights;
you should be shaping up interesting angles;
you must be posing questions to stimulate debates and new threads;
you need to get off the fence and polarise folk into taking a position;
you need to be providing an insider’s perspective, developing an angle, or taking a stand, whatever it takes to be someone people appreciate hearing more from.
The adoption of such a tack will mean your blog will get backlinks, people will respond and make comments; people will quote your ‘stuff’ and it will be seen as useful and worthy of future visits.
The result your market profile will become ever stronger, you will enjoy better search engine rankings people will see you as someone with something say; people will start to appreciate your worth and a whole new world will open up.
A problem for some firms that have started using Blogging and the social media is their failure to manage it as a means of attaining beneficial results.
Jumping into Blogging & social media initiatives without knowing what clearly defined benefits you seek to attain is a totals waste of time. as usually this means that little will achieved as there is no focus in what you’re doing and no integration in the campaign context with other social media sites.
Real value must be defined from both the client’s and the firm’s perspectives.
There is no purpose in doing something that will take time and resource if its not clear why you’re doing it, how all parties will benefit and where should be the focus to achieve the desired benefits.
For example For your firm the benefits of your blogging and social media activities might be
To improve the service innovation process by encouraging customer input;
To build trusting relationships with prospects that translate into new client contracts;
To identify service short falls via client feedback;
To understand what people think of you and what is being said about the firm in the local context;
To connect and build relationships with other firms that result in JVs or new business;
To get happy clients to become advocates of the firm;
To reinvigorate past clients to use the firm once more; or
To build must use status for the firm in its area of expertise or To build go-to status for the firm’s business leaders
Then from the client’s perspective the benefits might be:
The provision of excellent quality information communicated in ways and at times when they want to receive it;
To gain the feeling that the organization values and really cares about them;
To enjoy a great experience when interacting with the company;
The ability to affect how a service is being marketed or created thus giving a feeling of contribution and involvement; and
They can enjoy special Offers and promotions which they take exclusively through the social media channels they like to use or at the blog.
These may or may not be specific to your clients as there will be hundreds of objectives and resultant benefits arising from the effective use of the social media sector by sector, practise by practise.
The key here is actually setting up these value statements so that you have a clear idea in what areas and how, the firm its partners, prospects and clients who are consuming your materials and entering into dialogues with you are benefiting.
Because herein lies the raison d’etre for committing too and implementing your Blogging programme and your social media plan.