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I’m sure you’ve already read a lot of articles advising you about the power of blogs. They provide fresh, content that search engines love, that you can farm out through social channels and use to engage and amuse your audience, share links, grow your network… the list goes on.
The problem is, you really aren’t sure how to go about it. First and foremost, running a successful blog requires a lot of hard work on your part, and maybe you just don’t feel you have enough interesting content to fill page after page.
The biggest mistake made is often the assumption that a blog is simply another promotional channel for your business.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with showcasing new products and projects on your blog, but even the largest companies may struggle to keep this interesting and engaging, often resulting in poorly written or overly dry articles that simply re-word press releases.
A well written blog shouldn’t just promote your business; it should provide a window into your internal culture and showcase the personalities and opinions of your team. In short, it should help humanise you, and show potential clients exactly why you are a company they want to do business with.
Some companies go the whole hog, freeing up staff to write about whatever they like. John in accounts is a keen Bass fisherman? Kasey in PR is mad for LARP? Let’s hear about it!
Unfortunately this isn’t always practical for smaller businesses. Ultimately you still want to see a return on this, so what should you write about?
Here's a few subjects you might want to cover to ensure your blog isn't just a stream of 'Product X is fantastic!' advertorial:
Check out the competition
Sure, you’re in business to be ahead of the competition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion.
Let your users know what works and what doesn’t, where the market is right now, and more importantly, what sets your product apart from others.
It will give readers a sense of your own preferences when it comes to design, usability and functionality, and highlight the business practices you feel are most valuable.
Talking about the competition in a balanced, thoughtful manner can be a great way to add to your network and position yourself as an alternative.
Talk about the tech
Despite what some gurus would have you believe, marketing isn’t a philosophy.
There comes a time when we all need to actually do some work, and that’s when we get to play with the shiny things.
People are obsessed with phones, browsers, CRM systems, tiny helicopters that deliver your morning coffee, and some of the biggest blogs on the web are based on this.
Why not give your readers an insight into how you run your business on a day-to-day basis? Let them know whether you’re using Chrome or Firefox, are you a Tweetdecker or spot-welded to your Hootsuite?
More importantly, let them know why. What is it about your tool of choice that really speeds up your workflow? And of course, if you just happen to find a neat tool or fun website, share the love.
All this will humanise your blog and provide great, shareable content.
Keep things close to home
However big you are, it pays to keep the locals happy.
Putting up a few posts talking about local business events is a good way to let people know that you are an integral part of the local business community.
Promote events and network with exhibitors and attendees (If you do it well enough, maybe you’ll even start getting in free) to increase your profile.
Even in the age of Twitter, you’ll still gain a much better understanding of your market by actually meeting people and asking them what they love or hate about your business, so hand out those business cards and write about it afterwards.
Get under the hood
Again, this is about letting people know what makes you tick, but here’s your chance to provide some really useful advice in the process.
“How To” articles are consistently popular, and what better place to start than your own site?
Delve into your analytics, work out which campaigns and platforms are working well for you and let your readers know about it.
Go as granular as you like, post step-by-step guides to setting up Adword accounts, creating funnels, optimizing up-sales after purchase. Show how your checkout works. If you change something on your site, let people know why.
Here at Econsultancy we always try to be as transparent as we can about these things, but its fine to round off the figures or give percentages if you don’t want to share everything and risk a hostile takeover.
If you really, really can’t risk hard figures, then you could offer advice about your promotional tactics.
What campaigns really worked for you and why?
Are you being innovative on a platform? Let others know what an amazing company you are and pick up some tips along the way.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions in these posts either, you can get some fantastic advice and insight from your comments, just look at Quora.
If you’ve spent years in marketing and accrued qualifications and strategic knowledge (maybe you’ve even embarked on Econsultancy training to top up your skillset…) then that’s a wealth of useful info you can impart.
Don’t be shy about letting others know that you’re a marketing genius.
Meet your heroes
Interviewing the big names is a great way to expand your network and increase your visibility by hosting new content by popular figures.
You’ll be allying yourself with the movers and shakers, and if you ask the correct questions you can deliver a wealth of valuable insight for your readers and show that you are a thoughtful and informed source.
Interviews are a great way to network, share links and can really help build an audience.
Let off some steam
Generally speaking, business and bellowing angrily about your industry don’t mix ( If you want proof just read Chris Lake’s recent post about syncing social accounts).
You aren’t Charlie Sheen, and you won't do yourself any favours by spouting angry rhetoric all over the shop. But there are times when a bit of bile can go a long way (excuse the metaphor).
Maybe there’s been a change in industry regulations that you feel is counter-productive, or maybe you see people using inaccurate success metrics.
Maybe, deep down, you’ve always felt that social media gurus are full of crap.
Why not tell people?
As long as you’ve done a little research and are sure to throw some humour in then a good rant can be great fun to write and to read.
If you’re nervous, you can always hedge your bets and go for a ‘for and against’ style post, and there’s no need to be nasty, but a bit of righteous anger can make for a fantastic, thought-provoking post. Just make sure you’ve got the journalistic skills to back it up and argue your corner.
Have fun with it
Finally, remember that not every post has to be all business.
There’s nothing wrong with sharing a cool video or some fun pictures from the office party (within reason obviously…).
We often run a LinkLove list on the Econsultancy blog, it’s fun and it lets people in on a list of sources they may have missed otherwise.
Share the love.
This might not always be the richest, stickiest content, but again, it adds a face to your company, it shows that you’re human and like to kick back at the end of the week occasionally. Who knows, maybe it will even provide insight into exactly why your company runs the way it does.
Above all, remember: keeping a full-time blog running is hard work, but if you don’t enjoy writing, then its unlikely people will enjoy reading it.
Look around, loosen up and share with your readers. That’s why we call it social.