Tuesday, August 24, 2010

12 tips for creating business blog content

One of the major problems for business blogs is "What kind of content should I put on it?"

Business owners often stop right there.

They've never created much content on the web. They may have read a few blogs, skimmed over some comments, or followed a debate in an online forum. Perhaps they've even posted some remarks here and there, on someone else's blog.

But they generally don't know how to write blog posts. To suddenly start writing articles, and letting others post criticism, questions, complaints, right there for all to see, can seem a bit intimidating. Blogs give you the opportunity to express your point of view and benefit others, so you should want to receive feedback from readers, both negative and positive.

Once you appreciate the communication value of blogging, how do you even guess what to talk about in a blog post?

What if you say something that upsets a customer? Nobody wants to look dumb or get into a big argument. Also, people don't want a blogger to be constantly pushing products in a high pressure manner. Relentless sales hype or self-promotion in social media is considered spam.

So how do you blog about your business, in a way that will be interesting and valuable to others, without offending or boring anybody? In other words, how can one be altruistic and relevant in social media, while accomplishing business objectives?

Here are 12 tips for creating content on a business blog:

(1) Focus on Benefits to Others

Have a clear goal: to benefit others with your unique insights, expertise, product knowledge, industry experience, customer service enthusiasm, and personal style. This goal will guide all your blogging, from information shared and tone of voice, to sidebar widgets and blog design.

(2) Be Friendly and Sincere

Consider a blog to be an “email to the world" (- Doc Searls).

Write the article as if you were composing an email to someone who looks to you as a mentor, a customer who just asked you a great question, a student learning about your industry, a news reporter who asked you to clarify a policy, or a colleague who challenged you to think deeply about some aspect of your business.

Communicate in your own words, in a warm and human manner, as though you were discussing a topic with a person who was physically present with you.

(3) Solve a Problem

If you've been in business a while, you have a wealth of information about specific customer needs and interests. What's a common problem your customers encounter? Explain how to solve it, even if it doesn't necessarily involve buying your product. Be altruistic, eager to serve, happy to help others.

Customers are always looking for ways to do things better, faster, more economically. Do you have a solution you wish they knew about? That would be an excellent blog topic. Make your explanation short, simple, step-by-step, and inject a little humor if you can.

(4) Answer Questions

What questions do customers ask you constantly? What concerns related to your field is the mainstream media all fired up about? What are some facts that your sales literature or website weren't able to expand upon as much as you wish they could?

Is there some important, newsworthy aspect of your industry that your competitors are silent about? Here's your chance to differentiate yourself from them. Shine the light of your wisdom on the issue to educate your blog audience.

(5) Challenge a Mantra

Is there some phrase that people repeat without thinking, like a mantra or proverb? Like "Content is King" or "Location is Everything" or "Privacy is Old Fashioned"? Is the statement always valid? In what context is it false or misleading? Is it self-serving or exploiting? What are the exceptions? Can you come up with a more accurate phrase?

Is the truth more like "Content is Important, but Without Good Presentation and Audience Relevance, It Won't Be Effective"? Think of some idea or saying that has been abused, misinterpreted, or is outdated, and write a blog post that explains your insight regarding the topic.

(6) Explain a New or Neglected Product

Do you have a new product that's unfamiliar to customers? How about an old product that remains fantastic, but is under-utilized? Which of your products or services contains a special benefit that people don't appreciate? A new way of using the product that's not immediately obvious? Is there a product that would sell better if people had some background information about it? Provide this clarification as a blog post, or a series of posts.

(7) Spark Controversy

Do you have a strong feeling or opinion that might surprise people? Do you have an opinion that's runs contrary to the prevailing point of view? Is there a commonly held misunderstanding concerning your industry that has gained traction in the media.

Do battle with this false concept. Proclaim your contrarian idea, be assertive and confident without any arrogance or ill will, and back up your claim with credible quotes and links to substantiating reference material online.

(8) Share New Discoveries

As a professional, you have to keep up with trends and developments in your field. Your customers look to you as an expert, someone they can trust to keep them up-to-date, separating the wheat from the chaff. Teach your audience what you've learned recently. Pay attention to what the news media is reporting on, do some research, then set the record straight or deliver the information in a more complete or simplified presentation.

(9) Tell a Story

People love narratives. Do you have a favorite anecdote related to your business?

Something funny that happened when you first started out? A mistake you made and a lesson learned?

A bizarre customer request? An unexpected way your product was used? A customer request that caused you to improve your business or re-position your product? A customer service dilemma you figured out how to solve? A tale about why and how you got into this business?

(10) Respond to Another Blog

You should be reading other blogs relevant to your industry, and posting comments on them once in a while. As you do this, you'll stumble upon a post that shakes you up, inspires you, or makes you angry, or cause you to re-think something.

Maybe a brilliant blogger in your field wrote something that you bookmarked as a favorite web page. Perhaps you Twittered a link to it, it was so good. Why not quote some of that post, linking to it in your citation of the post's title, and add your own remarks or amplifications to it? That's a really great way to honor other bloggers and add rich content to your own blog.

(11) Tie in With a Viral News Story

Here's a way to please your readers and generate more traffic to your blog. It's an SEO (search engine optimization) technique that can work wonders. You ride on the coattails of an already super-popular topic.

Think of some current news item that everybody's talking about. How can you merge that topic with your own business, your industry, or the products you sell? How could you deal with this news item, in a way that relates to your own expertise?

A creative mind can link any two events or concepts. Just build a bridge from the news item to your products or business field.

Let's say the big buzz is a sports hero who was caught illegally using steroids. You sell sports equipment.You know a lot of athletes and you have formed your own opinion about performance enhancing drugs in professional sports. State your opinion in a blog post, with links to the story as it's presented on the big online media, like ESPN, Huffington Post, Fox News, MSNBC, or WebMD.

This will keep your blog timely, and it will drive traffic from web surfers who are doing internet searches related to a hot news topic.

(12) Make a List

What are your favorite books that deal with your industry or field of expertise? Who are your biggest influences in business? What are your company's driving philosophies? What are your favorite movies? People like lists, especially when they can learn something from them.

People like to feel they know a business owner as a person, not a vending machine that simply wants to sell products and make money. By sharing things you care about personally, as a non-commercial individual, you make yourself more accessible to regular folk.

Lists are fun to read and can inspire others. Lists also convey the sense that a methodical approach is being taken, rather than a rambling rant or heated expression of emotion.

Be sure to include the number in your blog post title: "8 Ways to Improve Your Memory", "12 Leadership Books CEOs Need to Read", "15 Tips on Search Engine Optimization", “7 Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe Online”, “5 Dangers of Location-based Status Updating”, or "Top 10 Books for Sales Professionals".

When the driving force behind your business blog is caring and sharing, the core values of social media participation, you'll naturally tend to compose articles that people will look forward to reading. Even better, you'll generate good will and deeper understanding of your business, which will result in increased sales and business success.

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