Thursday, March 1, 2012

Simplifying Social Media: Blogs

(RSS is a standardized method of publishing and viewing blog entries.)

Blogs. What exactly are they and what can they do for your business?

The word "blog" is short for "web log." In the most basic sense, a blog is a web page akin to an online journal or newspaper. A blogger logs into the blogging software (such as WordPress or Blogger), writes an entry, and then with a click of a button that entry appears on the blog itself.

The entries are organized so the latest one appears at the top of the page. Blogs are highly interactive, as readers can comment on entries and the entries themselves often contain links, embedded videos, and the like.

While blogs started out more for personal use, they have long since exploded into the business world. Why? Because blogs are a powerful business and marketing tool. For example:

  • Search engines, such as Google, love blogs. As we explored earlier in the series, the goal of search engines is to help users find quality content. Thus, the more quality content your site is deemed to contain, the higher ranking you receive. To make this determination, Google looks for: certain key words in your website; how often your site is updated with fresh content; how many links your site contains; and how many other sites have linked to you. A regularly-updated blog can easily fulfill all these criteria.
  • A blog adds to your credibility. By sharing quality articles and content, you are establishing yourself as a credible and authoritative voice in your area of expertise. This can lead to more business, networking opportunities, and even media recognition.
  • A blog allows you to easily communicate with your customers (and vice versa). This can include posting event or news updates, asking for feedback, sharing product or service releases, posting coupon codes, or passing along industry information your target market may find helpful.
  • A blog can set you apart from your competition. Why should someone hire you instead of your competitors? A blog allows you to answer that question in a variety of ways.
  • It grants you a method of reputation management. Is there a negative rumor floating around about your business, product, or service? A blog will allow you to publicly address any issues that could be tainting your reputation. 
  • A blog gives you something to go viral. In social media, "going viral" means that a piece of content (whether it be a video, blog post, etc.) is becoming vastly popular in a short amount of time. This occurs through people sharing a link to that content through Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Imagine if one of your blog posts went viral - thousands more people would suddenly know about your business.
  • It's FREE. Like other forms of social media, blogging can be done for free or low-cost. Which makes it  a huge marketing asset, considering all the ways it can benefit your business.

Selecting a Blogging Platform

When it comes to blogs, there are several platforms to choose from. The top two are WordPress and Blogger. So how do you know which platform is right for you? That's a question for your web designer. From a technical standpoint, each platform has differences, and so you need the platform that will work best with your current website. (And if you have a website, integrating the blog into your website is the best way to go. Why draw traffic to a blog that is separate from your business website?)

If you don't have a website, then you can easily set-up a blog without purchasing a domain name or hosting account. In that case, choosing a platform comes down to personal preferences such as which platform interface you like more, etc. Both WordPress and Blogger are very user-friendly.

Action Step: Watch the "Blogs in Plain English" to gain a better understanding about how blogs work. Think about your business, your business goals, and the advantages of having a blog. If you find that a blog would be a great asset to your business, place a checkmark next to "Blog" on your Social Media Strategy Guide.

How to Create a Blog on Blogger:

Helpful Books:

Blogging For Dummies

Helpful Links:

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