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Breaking Into Blogging for Businesses

At this point, the case for business blogging has been made loud and clear. A well-implemented company blog generates a valuable interaction point with customers and prospects, a “thought leader” reputation for the company and lots of keyword-rich “content food” for search engines to gobble up. However, dipping that first toe into the blogging pool is a daunting task and many marketers have trouble figuring out where to start.

To learn how to begin, it’s best to examine the end goals of a blog:

A blog is social
A blog provides valuable content for readers
A blog is constantly updated with new content.
A blog gives value to its owner.

That last goal is actually one of the easiest to obtain. A blog, tied to your company’s domain name and constantly updated with content, will do wonders for your search engine rankings. Search engines love content, so having a site that lives on your domain getting loaded up with fresh text will increase your “authority” and level of relevance with the search engines. The blog will work even harder once other sites considered “authorities” on your subject matter start linking to your blog posts. Those other sites will effectively share their “good search karma” with your blog, which will reflect well on your corporate domain.

The Power of Time and Passion

The biggest factor in the success of a blog is the content. For this reason, the blog’s author needs to be passionate about the material, and available to write a lot of it. Often, a company will pull their marketing coordinator, primary PR person or someone else who’s already got a full plate and say “congratulations: you’re our new blogger.” Blogging requires significant time and a writer who wants to write. If blogging is something that an otherwise busy employee “squeezes in” grudgingly between other things, it’s going to come out in the writing, and the readers will connect that sense of disinterest with your company. Bad news.

“So…what do I write about?”

A common misconception is that blog topics must flow like wine from the imagination of the author. Unless you’re extremely passionate about your subject matter, coming up with unique and interesting topics on a weekly (or more frequent) basis can be horrifying.

Use your audience. Think about the types of people who would visit your blog, and find out where they “play” online. Check out industry blogs and forums. Search Twitter and Facebook for common keywords in your business. Think of questions you hear frequently from customers.

Now take all this “topic fuel” and make yourself a schedule. Plan out 10, 12, even 24 blog posts in advance. If you just say “I’ll write a blog post each week,” frankly, you won’t; the stress of sitting down and coming up with a topic will be too much. If, however, you’ve got a timed list of pre-selected topics that you just need to expand on, the task becomes a lot more approachable. Always leave yourself with a few topics out in the future and “in the bag” so you never run out of “fuel.” As important current events pop up, or time-sensitive posts need to be made, you can easily maneuver them into your post schedule.

Don’t forget the “Social.”

Human beings instinctively need to be part of social groups; it’s the reason we join sports teams and clubs. Now, when they hear “social media,” most people immediately think of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other networking sites. Remembering that blogs are also part of the social media world will go a long way in making your blog popular and securing repeat visitors.

To make your blog a truly social interaction, you need traffic. To help pull that traffic, go back to those blogs, forums and networking sites where you did your topic research. Create accounts there and make sure to include a link to your blog in your signature and/or profile. Now, talk! Take part in the discussions, link to your own blog posts (only when relevant: don’t spam) and offer some valuable “insider information.” Don’t speak as a representative of a company; don’t even mention your company. Communicate as just another user interested in the topic at hand. If you provide useful information to the community, they’ll click your links and follow you back home.

Once they’re at your site, you’ve got to engage your audience. Leave “comment bait” in your posts; ask questions directly to the commentators, look for opinions, and reply as much as possible. If you look active and interested in the community, the community will respond well.

To take your blog into the future, you simply need to repeat these steps and nurture that community. Do your audience research, write valuable posts and participate in the communities on and off your site. Once you get into the routine of careful blog maintenance, the content will flow and those daunting first steps will be miles behind you.