Marketing methods have changed significantly since the dawn of social media. Luckily, many of the tools and tactics accompanying these changes are inexpensive and highly effective, regardless of your business' size.
Blogs are one of the most notable social media tools. The rise of blogging to a mainstream activity is emblematic of the new consumer's desire to find relevant content, connections and communities online.
Several years ago, the mantra was "Every business needs a website." Today it's "Every business needs a website with a blog." No matter your industry, your prospects have come to expect a blog from your business. And if you study some of the more popular blogs, it's easy to see why.
- Blog content is more naturally conversational; conversational content is viewed as educational and not sales heavy.
Blog content changes often, giving your customers fresh reasons to return.
Blog readers can contribute directly to content by adding comments and participating in dialogue.
There are other practical reasons for having a business blog: Posting content frequently makes you a better communicator and allows you to gain expert status in your industry--and it will make you a better salesperson. One of the most practical reasons to start and promote a blog is that search engines seem to love them. Just having a blog and posting content often allows your entire website and business to gain much better exposure from search engines.
If you want to create a blog, my recommendation is that you start by reading other blogs. You can go to a site such as Bloglines.com and create a free account. This service allows you to find, read and subscribe to blogs of your choosing so that you can view all the new content in one place and get ideas for your own posts.
As far as the software you'll need to run your blog, there are many choices, but you can't really go wrong with either Typepad.com or Wordpress.org. Each has its own strengths and special features. While setting up the software is relatively simple, you may want to look for extra help. A simple online search will turn up lots of folks who can help you get started.
Once you get your blog going, it's important to build readership and traffic by creating new posts at least three to five times a week; submitting your blog to RSS and blog directories like Google, Technorati and Yahoo; and commenting on blogs and networking with other bloggers. Make thoughtful comments on blogs that target your customers, and don't forget to add comments on blogs written by journalists you might want to target.
Creating an effective blog can feel like a lot of work at first, but the benefits will add up over time and give your business a significant competitive advantage.
John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award-winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide. Find out more at ducttapemarketing.com.