We live in a world in which content creation equals visibility – thanks to our new rulers, Google and the giant social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram everyone needs to use blogging.
And while sometimes they can seem like monsters that need feeding, what is absolutely the case is that when you feed the monster (and feed it in the right and a consistent way), your brand grows online. You need to feed this monster and use blogging for your business.
It all starts on your blog, which lives on your website, because it is here that you are ultimately trying to bring people back to, and it’s this long form content that you can edit down into social posts that are both on message and get your message across.
- Get your content type right
The type of content you create is closely related to what you sell, but you are trying to educate, inform and entertain potential and new customers – and in a way that makes them know you, like you and trust you.
A large proportion of your efforts should use blogging to create ‘evergreen’ content. Most business owners focus on ‘live’ content because the pressure of an upcoming event they need to sell tickets for, or a new product launch, spurs them into action. Of course live content is important, but evergreen content that has value all year round and remains relevant for the long term is too because it can be repurposed and shared out multiple times (more on that later!)
- Take content seriously
Content-writing is not a job that can be delegated to a part-time PA or landed on the plate of an already busy employee. It requires thought – and a schedule. Even if you only publish once each week, the week can quickly roll round with the next blog post still not written. Make it someone’s responsibility to use blogging effectively.
- Think about what your customers are asking you…
And then write up the answer as a blog post. Their questions are the best source of inspiration all the time, but especially when you are starting out. Using these topics, you can also extend your thinking to include what you would like your customers to know about your business or understand about the industry you operate in.
- Use your industry news for inspiration
All industries have their own news, and you can use developments and happenings in your industry to inspire your blog posts, and make you appear like the industry leader you are. Try to be one of the first to offer your comment or opinion on major industry developments, suggestions as to how the industry as a whole can improve. Set up Google alerts for keywords that relate to your industry and use these news stories for inspiration.
- Write on themes that are wider than just your business
This year, the UK Blog Awards company category finalists included a huge variety of businesses using content in an inspiring and successful way. I loved the way the finalists were writing on themes wider than just what they offer which will make their content more engaging. Take this comment by finalist Cottages & Castles self catering cottages: ‘Our blog shows another, more personal, side to our self-catering letting business. We understand that going on holiday is about the whole experience – where you can go, what you can do and how you can get the most out of your visit. We have built a library of posts which share hints, tips, advice, and inspirational stories showing Scotland off as the fantastic holiday destination it is.’
- Set your expectations right
The downside today is that there is an ocean of content out there. You’re not going to get visibility overnight. It might take a year, even two years, to get the attention that you want. But each post increases traffic, and if you want to spread the word about what you do, creating useful valuable content really works. This is one of the best ways to use blogging.
Your other option is an expensive PR or advertising campaign. Of course, they work too, and for maximum visibility you’d have both. The brilliance of content though is you can just get on and do it. No waiting for editors, for print runs, for space, for publication dates – and it’s usually the lowest cost option.
- Forget what you learned at school
Good skimmability involves short paragraphs of 3 – 4 sentences with the occasional one sentence paragraph for effect, subheads, interesting bullet lists and highlighting specific texts with block quotes.
- Rinse your content for all it is worth
This means finding ways to repurpose and reuse the same piece of content again and again to get maximum value from it. For example, you might pull one or even five key quotes from a blog post, change them into ‘quotable’ images, and then edit the original post into different captions. Suddenly that one blog post has given birth to five different social updates. Step two of this is loading it into a social media scheduling tool that contains a library that circulates content out again and again in a never ending cycle (good examples are Meet Edgar and Sendible).
Natasha Courtenay-Smith is author of The Million Dollar Blog, published by Piatkus. For more information visit www.natashacourtenaysmith.com