For small business owners looking to attract more attention online, blogging can be a major step forward. It can help establish a social media presence, create a connection with clients and encourage feedback that can be a significant help to the business.
In an era when online shopping is constant, it’s crucial to bring in web traffic. Here’s a look at how blogging can be a boost in connecting with consumers online.
A business’ blog won’t help much if its content veers wildly across unrelated topics. A current event or pop culture moment may make for a witty reference, but devoting much time and space to it can turn off potential customers. So having a strategy for the blog is an important initial step. As Lou Dubois writes in a story for Inc.com, “you need to be clear about what users can expect when they visit it.” He includes commentary by marketing CEO Simon Salt.
“Think back to when you started your business and what it was about that particular business that attracted you,” Salt says in the story. “So if you’re a retailer, why do you sell what you sell? If you’re a B2B service, what made you decide to run a business around that? Tap back into that passion for whatever drove you down that road; when you tap into that passion it becomes clear to other people, they get excited by it and they want to read more.”
A blog can allow small business owners to address topics they feel strongly about, like customer service, charity, innovation or business trends. (Depending on the business, it’s probably wise to stay away from political issues to avoid polarization.) In a story for Forbes, Jayson DeMers examines how blogging “humanizes” a brand.
“Carefully crafted website content (e.g., a homepage or about page) can’t hold a candle to a blog post when it comes to showing the personal side of your business,” DeMers says. “Blogging gives your business a way to touch on issues and concerns of interest to your prospects, while also sharing what you and your employees are passionate about. Your blog posts give you a unique opportunity to share your voice and personality, building up trust and increasing your brand’s likeability quotient.”
What some might consider just a business catchphrase can actually help to build a small business owner’s reputation. Thought leadership — the concept of having insights that establish business leaders as experts, innovators or influencers — can be enhanced by blogging. This applies to the content itself and how the entrepreneur expresses his or her beliefs. It also applies to outreach and hiring, as William Johnson explores in a story for smallbiztrends.com.
“Another benefit of thought leadership is it attracts efficient employees, who might otherwise work in big companies,” Johnson explains. “Some of those employees feel the corporate houses are soulless places to work. Big companies don’t allow employees to perform fully up to their potential. Small brands, especially the ones that are thought leaders, grant them this privilege. What’s funny about thought leadership is it doesn’t go hand in hand with paid efforts. Customers always take promotion with a pinch of salt. Organic efforts, especially blogging, establishes thought leadership.”
Boosting social media
A great deal of marketing and promotion now revolves around social media. But there should be something tangible to promote, beyond sales and discounts. Blogging provides additional content that can bring in new audiences, DeMers writes, which can be ideal for social media efforts.
“It’s difficult to maintain an active social media presence without access to unique, high-quality content,” DeMers notes. “Sharing other people’s content on social media is great, but at some point you want to be directing those leads to your own site. As you share your blog posts on social media, you increase traffic to your business website — a feat that would be much more difficult without highly relevant, topical information such as that found in blog posts.”
It encourages discussion
Interacting with customers — in positive, respectful, back-and-forth ways — can make an impact online just as it can in person. This kind of communication can be fostered by blogging, with both sides learning more about the other, as DeMers writes.
“Blogging gives businesses the opportunity to connect with customers and prospects through a two-way conversation,” he says. “It signals to visitors that you’re open to comments, feedback and even criticisms. And from a business perspective, learning what’s on the minds of prospects is marketing gold. You can use this dialogue to ask further questions, gain new insights into your customers’ needs and structure your content and marketing initiatives based on what you’ve learned.”
Anyone can have a blog. It’s important for small business owners to know that the quality of writing can make a difference in how it’s received. This doesn’t mean that anyone expects Hemingway-level material, but it does mean that poorly written items can be easily dismissed. As Dubois writes, this may translate to sharing blog duties with employees.
“Whether grammatical, punctuation, usage or even spelling errors, there’s a good chance that if the blog isn’t written well, your customers won’t come back,” Dubois explains. “This is an easy problem to solve: no matter the size of your company, the chances are pretty good that someone on staff knows how to write. This is why opening the blog up to different employees and letting them write under their own name could be great. It gives your blog itself different voices for customers to relate to and also makes the employees feel better about themselves and their overall contributions to the organization.”
It keeps things new
The addition of original content can breathe life into a website, and that can keep potential clients coming back. The more eyes that a blog attracts, the more opportunity for a small business to generate interest and a wider audience. DeMers calls this “the freshness factor” in his Forbes piece.
“… Google loves to see new content being added on a regular basis, and rewards sites that do so with better visibility,” he notes. “Fresh content is also more likely to be timely or news-related, which means it’s more likely to get exposure for trending searches. More content also means more opportunities for adding internal links. This creates more pathways for search engine crawlers, which more effectively spreads PageRank throughout your site.”