Blogging has become an important part of the marketing mix for many small business owners—not to mention the 3.9-million lifestyle bloggers that are sharing advice and product recommendations all over the Internet. But is blogging really a viable marketing vehicle for small business owners? Is it worth investing time in blogging and other social media?
The short answer is yes—and maybe.
A couple of years ago I did some social media marketing consulting for a local nursery, and my recommendations included a blog. Over the years they had created hundreds of data sheets about gardening and how to successfully grow tomatoes, grow a healthy lawn, and a myriad other gardening topics. When I asked them why they weren’t sharing all this information online, they bemoaned the fact that their customers would learn from them and then go to the big box stores where they could buy at a discount.
The response was so positive they decided to dedicate one of their gardening experts to continue the effort full time.
I challenged them to an experiment.
Over the course of a couple of months we shared this information via a 450-500 word blog three times a week, promoted the content via Facebook and Twitter, and invited readers to the store to speak with a gardening expert who could address specifically the challenges of their garden and their gardening ambitions. On our blog entries, we encouraged customers to mention that they learned about us on the blog when they visited the nursery.
The response was so positive they decided to dedicate one of their gardening experts to continue the effort full time. Despite their original concerns, they found their customers came straight to them to buy tomato plants, trees, flowers, shrubs, and all the other stuff you need in the garden. The effort was a success.
Over the years I’ve learned a few things that might help you create a successful blog or at the very least determine if you have the resources to devote to the effort.
- Be Consistent: It really doesn’t matter if you write every day or once a week; the key is to be consistent. You’ll soon discover that your readers will anticipate your posts and you’ll start building an audience. It’s also important to be consistent because Google won’t really start paying attention to you until you’ve written 50 posts. Most blogging efforts don’t make it past the first two or three posts—which means the exercise didn’t do much good.
- Don’t Use Hired Guns: You and your staff are the experts in your industry. If you really want people to take you seriously, you’ll need to write yourself. That being said, not all CEOs or business owners have the chops to sit down and craft interesting and compelling articles. Not to worry, you may have an employee who can step up and be your thought leader. Let him or her represent your company and become a spokesperson.
- Business is Personal, So Is a Blog: Whether it’s you or someone else in your company, make it personal. Although I write about small business issues for Lendio, I write as Ty Kiisel. I’m not the corporation and I don’t sound like it. What’s more, I occasionally share the details of my life when it’s relevant to the conversation. My readers know I love motorcycles and attempt to catch fish with a fly rod. Making it personal makes you more accessible.
- Be Credible: If the only thing you ever talk about is your business and your products, you’ll never be considered credible and people will ignore you. Your goal should be to share insight into your industry, tips, best practices that will help your readers whether or not they patronize your business or not—but let me say, many of them will. Our efforts in this regard at Lendio allow us to share information that helps our customers and more than pays for itself in terms of ROI (which is really only a small part of the value we see from our efforts).
- Be Honest: Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Because business and blogging is personal, misrepresenting who you are is never a good idea. Not only is it difficult to keep up the charade, your readers will eventually find out the truth and you will have lost all the credibility you’ve worked so hard to build. The truth always wins.
Is blogging right for you and your business? Depending on how you approach the above-mentioned five keys, the answer will likely be a definite yes.
Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business best practices, tips and advice accessible by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into relevant discussions about leading people, managing a business and what it takes to be successful. Ty writes about small business for Lendio.