Having a blog is now pretty much standard fare for business content marketing. Most companies and organizations have blogs. But only some of them update it. And then only a portion of those actually does it well.
As a professional blogger, I've seen it all: the ultra-serious finance blog, the light-hearted lifestyle blog, humour blogs, review blogs, health blogs, news blogs… pretty much anything you can imagine. If you can imagine it, there's a blog out there about it. But because there are so many of them, a majority of the blogs that exist don't have much of a readership. There's only so much human attention to spare between millions of different blogs!
So when we suggest to our clients to add a blogging component to their digital marketing packages, it's not just for padding: blogs have a use and lots of value. But only if it's done well. And in order to do it well, a blog owner or manager has to answer a few questions. Whenever I'm asked to contribute to a new blog or start a new one myself, here are some of the things that I work through to do the job as successfully as possible.
1. Who am I talking to?
Audience is a very fickle thing. It can be wide swaths of people or a tiny slice of population. The larger the audience, the harder it is to please everyone; more specialized audiences, on the other hand, are harder to grow.
Choosing the right audience, then, is a matter of balance between choosing a wide enough target to have a sizeable audience and something precise enough that will let you pinpoint specific characteristics. Target audiences can be as large as "moms" or "university students" and as precise as "sci-fi tabletop RPG players who live in Winnipeg."
When you write a blog post, who are you talking to? Are you targeting a specific gender, age range or education level? Are you writing for a specific geographic area or to anyone who can read English? Putting a face to your audience will help you talk to it more efficiently.
2. What problem am I trying to solve?
People visit the internet mostly to solve problems. Maybe they're looking for a recipe for tonight's dinner. Maybe they don't know how to file their taxes online. Maybe they don't know what's the most romantic spot for a date in their town. Most successful business blogging involves problem-solving… or at least information that can lead to problem-solving.
Thinking through the perspective of problems makes things a lot easier when I'm looking for ideas. Frequent questions and concerns from clients is also an excellent source of blog post topics. Solving specific problems also has the advantage of limiting the scope of the post to something manageable and quickly digestible. It means posts are never too long and are always informative.
3. What makes me (or my brand) special?
Maybe you're the life of the party or love telling jokes. Maybe you treat customers as if they were family. Perhaps you're very frank and like to tell it how it is. What would your friends say is the best thing about hanging out with you? The answer to this question should guide how you write your posts.
Because there are probably thousands of other blogs covering your topic, it's your voice–the combination of words, tone and style that make your own writing unique–that will make the difference. It's easier to identify with, and get attached to, a real human being with a personality than some neutral, detached robot voice.
Think about how you talk about your business with your friends and family. What words do you use? How do you express your passion and love for what you do? What makes you… you?
4. What will be of use to my readers right now?
This is somewhat related to question 2, but it involves taking timing into consideration. Season changes, holidays, major news and events (when they are related to your business) are all occasions to discuss topics under a theme.
People in the moving business, for example, might want to increase their blogging output in major moving seasons–May and September in a university town. A landscaping company can discuss how to protect delicate plants against the winter weather in the late fall. The topics are endless.
Thinking seasonally helps you not only with finding topics but also with solving timely problems for your readers.
5. What kind of expertise do I want to bring to the world?
When it comes to writing, I'm the expert at Stikky Media. I'm asked to look over my colleagues' work before they send it off to clients. I answer grammar and usage questions all the time. I continually try to improve the writing of all the DBI websites. I'm the writing expert.
Some people learn on the job and others are experts before they work, but eventually we all become experts in something (if only changing your own oil on your car or fixing a broken bike chain). This expertise is precious, because others can rely on it to, again, solve their problems. Your blog is a great way to display your expertise to the world (without being a smartass about it though!). If you do it right, you'll soon be known as "the barbecue guy" or "the computer girl".
Share your expertise widely–and freely–on the web. It's those who give up things for free (not everything!) and generously help others who tend to be the most successful in their business. It gives people a reason to listen to your advice!
Just have a conversation
Despite the doom and gloom around the overcrowded blog space, I'd say there's always place for a new, fresh voice. It's not like we've stopped buying books because there are already plenty of successful authors! So take a sheet of paper, write these questions down and then answer them. Give your blog a refreshing boost!