We’ve spent a lot of time predicting what 2014 will hold for small businesses and their online content strategies — from the evolving fate of SEO to key Social Media solutions and trends. While consulting (our well researched) crystal ball, we kept finding one theme over and over and over: Killer content is hands down one of the most crucial strategies for better search engine results.
Enter the Blog: Quality Content Crucial to Your Success
Blogging is a wonderful way to produce quality, industry-driven content that will win you dedicated followers and new sales. According to Social Media Examiner’s own 2014 social media predictions, this is the year to “finally start that blog.” They warn that small businesses without a big social media ad campaign budget may run the risk of getting lost in the shuffle unless they produce and share their own quality content for their niche.
And although blogging might not pop into your head first when someone says “social media”, we’d like to argue that blogs are both social and crucial to your social networking success. We love how Brian Clark puts it best: Blogs aren’t just social media, “Blogs pioneered social media.”
Here’s What Blogs are Not
Static: That’s right. We’re back to content quality already. Blogs share information, but don’t just present facts. One of the most common blog mistakes people make is confuse them with a well-crafted press release or product description. Blogs are less newsy, more inviting, emotional and entertaining. In fact, blogs should always encourage conversation.
Promotion-heavy documents: Just as blogs aren’t newsy in the traditional sense, they also aren’t sales documents. Although a blog post is a great way to create buzz about your new project, share one too many promotional posts and you’ll find your follower base dwindling. Pitches are one-sided and after a while will bore and alienate even your most avid readers.
Before you post ask:
- What will my readers get out of this kind of content?
- Why would they feel compelled to share it with their friends?
- Will they want to continue the conversation in the comment section?
These questions should help you shift your focus from your agenda to your audience — where it belongs.
One-time Communications: The best way to kill a conversation? Don’t talk. It almost goes without saying that blogs that aren’t updated aren’t effective. But the opposite is also true. Business blogs that are regularly updated generate 67% more leads for their companies than their blog-less competitors. So get blogging! And don’t let time be a barrier. Remember there are many qualified business bloggers who are just a click away.
Just Words: That’s right, visual interest is also key to an engaging, social blog. Here are a few eye-catching options:
- A Well-Placed Image: This is actually not an option. An image is a must. A well-chosen picture will make your blog appealing when people read the post or see it linked on a social platform. When selecting an image, make sure to use a picture that offers more than a pop of color. Instead, try to make a statement or offer extra insight on what the readers should expect.
- Infographics: You can also let infographics do the talking from time to time. This captivating information-graphic mashup gives readers plenty to take in. From a visual presentation of stats to fun flow charts, infographics offer a valuable mix of content and visual oomph that will get people to your posts and keep them there longer. They are also fun to share, so you’ll be social before you know it.
- Video: Online videos are popular — like over “188.2 million Americans watched 52.4 billion online content videos” in the month of December 2013 kind of popular. So up the chances that people will find and stay on your blog with the most popular type of online media.
7 Characteristics Successful Blogs Share
Ok, enough about what blogs aren’t. Let’s move on to the hallmarks of successful, social blogs. Here are the most important components to take your blog from one-sided conversation to a fun place to hang out and keep coming back to.
1. A Call to Action: You may never know who wants to join in the conversation unless you ask. At the end of each of your blogs, find a creative way to get your readers involved. Pose a question. Ask them to share their opinion. See if anyone has had experiences to prove or disprove your point. That’s right; blogs need to be a dynamic exchange of information.
2. Periodic Contests: To get things really going, you can run a comment contest from time to time. If your audience knows that every once in a while you give something back, they will eventually become your adoring audience.
- Pick a Number: Let’s say you run a fitness center. With this low-maintenance approach, you’d ask people to post what workout they did that day in the comment section on your “20 Minute Workouts” post by 5 p.m. Later that evening, just use an online number generator to randomly pick a number. If the generator gives you the number 8, then the lucky 8th commenter will win the resistance band you featured in one of the arm workout sets.
- Trivia Questions: You can also drum up comments by posing a question and getting people to guess the right answer. If you get more than one correct answer, make sure to go with the one with the oldest timestamp.
3. Sustained Conversation: If readers do answer your call to action and comment, make sure to comment back. Thank them. Answer their questions. Address their issues. You can also return the favor and comment on other bloggers’ posts who comment on yours.
4. Easy-to-Use Share Buttons: Optimize your content by making it easy to share. That way, you won’t be the only one sharing your post on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll get your blog’s fans in on the sharing action. If that’s not social, we don’t know what is.
5. Low-Engagement Social Actions: Similar to adding social share buttons, make it easy for people to like or +1 your posts and pin your images. They won’t have to type in anything, just click a button. And as we proved above, this will give your blog the social edge.
6. Subscription Encouragement: Make sure if people want more of your fabulous blogging content, they can get it easily. Along with those share buttons, include access to sign up for your RSS feed and email blasts.
7. Fun-to-Read Content: It is fitting that we leave you with a final reminder to post QUALITY content. Remember, posting a constant stream of fun, niche-centered posts will soon make you an authority on your industry. And soon, fans will come flocking to your blog to see what you have to say.