Guest Post by Ardi Kolah. Ardi is a marketing and blogging expert and the host of Vocus Europe’s recent 10 Golden Rules for Blogging webinar, which is now on-demand.
It’s never been a better time to start blogging!
That’s the conclusion of a new research study published by Technorati showing that consumers are increasingly turning to blogs as a primary source of information before making a purchase decision and it’s the third most important source of information (31.1%) over other channels such as Facebook (30.8%), YouTube (27%), LinkedIn (27%), Twitter (8%) and online magazines (20%).
Other sources of information that are likely to influence a consumer’s purchase decision include retail (56%) and brand (34%) sites.
On Thursday 21st March I presented a Webinar on this increasingly important topic in order to share my experience in writing the Guru in a Bottle blog for over a decade for Brand Republic, the biggest marketing portal in Europe.
I was delighted there was a lot of great interaction and insight being shared through #VocusWebinar and we took at least fifteen minutes of questions before running out of time!
Here’s a quick recap of the important bits from the Webinar as well as a chance to review some questions and answers on the topic of blogging.
Rule # 1: When you start, keep it up! Remember a blog is personal. It’s a conversation. If you start and then all of sudden stop, it can appear that you don’t care. Show courtesy and if you are going to stop, tell your followers that this will happen.
Rule #2: Be personal and friendly. Avoid management speak and jargon. Use a natural tone of voice to express your thoughts, ideas, points of view and observations. Think how you would talk to a friend in the café or bar. Colloquial English is often the most effective way to get a message across.
Rule #3: Give people a reason to read you. The key here is to have something to say, rather than something to sell. Remember you are sharing content in order to build a dialogue as well as engagement.
Rule #4: No hard sell! A lot of blogs I’ve read promise ‘get rich quick’ or ‘earn money while you sleep’ claims that are such a turn off! Don’t end up looking like a bad second hand car salesman – that’s the quickest way to damage the reputation and goodwill you need to build with your readers.
Rule #5: Don’t think a blog is a web page. A web site can contain product and service information and a blog can help drive traffic to a web site (and vice versa). Remember you are sharing opinion and insight. More complicated stuff should be left to the web site.
Rule #6: Be in ‘receive’ as well as ‘transmit’ mode. As marketing professionals we tend to spend a large proportion of our time ‘doing stuff’ but we should spend just as much time listening to customers, clients, supporters and prospects. Posting a blog to forums and groups on LinkedIn is a good way to stimulate discussion and debate – and it shows you are in ‘listening mode’.
Rule #7: KISS! Keep it simple and straight forward. The best blogs are those that you ‘get’ without having to grab a dictionary or consult Wikipedia. You want the reader to find it almost effortless to follow your line of thought. I find the use of pictures really helps to get across what I want to say and to help me use fewer words.
Rule #8: Don’t take criticism personally. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and so you need to respect that. If you offer a point of view, except that others will have a different one, or even disagree with you. That doesn’t mean you should ‘attack’ them or engage in some sort of troll-like behavior.
Rule #9: Make recommendations. And I don’t mean recommend your own product or service! Avoid doing that!! I mean recommend other people that you admire or agree with, that may have a point of view that you feel represents how you also think. I often refer to other ‘experts’ in my Guru in a Bottle blog for Brand Republic.
Rule#10: Don’t forget to have fun! No one wants to be perceived as dull or boring. The ‘secret sauce’ of Guru in a Bottle is to do three things brilliantly: entertain, inform and engage. Remember, if you can entertain first, and I use a The Guru cartoon character to help me do this, then you’re more likely to succeed in informing and engaging.
Q: How frequently should you post a blog?
A: It does depend on how much you have to say – think about being original and insightful – I can manage that once a week! Some are able to do this every day – although I doubt they can keep this up on a sustained basis!
Q: How long should a blog be?
A: This question presupposes that there’s an optimum length for a blog. Well, there isn’t! If you can write something that can hold the interest and attention of the reader for over four minutes as it’s such a compelling piece of content – go for it! That said, as a ‘rule of thumb’ the shorter the better – and keep the headline to 60 characters or less so it can be picked up by search engines that come across your blog and the whole headline can be run rather than be chopped off in mid-flow.
Q: Have you ever used video in your blogs?
A: Yes, I’ve shot a short film of my cartoonist Steve Marchant drawing The Guru character and explaining how it is used to convey marketing best practice by using an element of humour and fun.
Q: How much of your organisation’s ‘personality’ should be in your blog entry?
A: That’s a great question. It reveals a common mistake in my opinion in that a blog can sound like an organisation. A blog, however, is written by a real person for another real person and it’s there to create a dialogue ideally. The personality shining through should be your own – after all, you are one of the best ambassadors for your company, organisation, or cause. Internal training in the past had tended to focus on what you should or shouldn’t say. I don’t agree. Instead, the communication professionals within your own organisation should support those who wish to blog by training them to use the tools correctly, such as to be aware of the legal boundaries of what you can safely say and not say. This will help build trust and confidence amongst the natural brand ambassadors to communicate on behalf of the company, organisation on cause and in turn that will help enhance its reputation with all its audiences.
Q: How long does it take to build up a good following on a blog?
A: That’s an interesting question – my advice is not to do this for the short term ‘instant fame’ type of result – it won’t happen. As with all genuine and solid friendships, you need to invest in them. And that takes time and patience. You’ll get people following your blog when you tweet it, but then they may fall away as they discover it’s not for them. Don’t get put off. Look at the long term and measure traffic through a number of tools, such as Google Analytics. After ten years, I’ve built up a healthy following but I’m more interested in quality rather than quantity, so I’m not worked up by the numbers of followers. Remember retweets of a link to your blog by non-followers is really valuable!
Q: How do you avoid your blog becoming a forum when responding to criticism?
A: A blog isn’t the best place to deal with that type of communication and you may want to suggest taking that discussion ‘offline’ such as through email exchange. Even the phone is a good channel – let’s not lose the art of face to face communication!
Q: What’s the best way to get readers for a blog?
A: We all had to start somewhere! Today, I think the best tool (and it’s free) is WordPress. This will help you in how to write the blog and also get it posted to other social network sites. It’s awesome.
Q: How do you promote a blog?
A: Definitely use the URL of the blog when it’s posted in your twitter feed so that your followers know where they can find it. I also use the ‘Link’ facility on LinkedIn to post my blog URL to special interest Groups that I belong to.
Q: Can we have ‘fun’ if the subject matter is serious?
A: That’s a great question. For example, if you find yourself wanting to blog about the defence and security issues as opposed to how to drive incremental sales from marketing efforts, then of course you need to adopt a slightly different approach. As it happens, I’ve spent a lot of time working in defence and security and health where there are serious issues that can be discussed. I would tend to try to find a picture that encapsulates the point of view or the idea or the subject in order to hold the reader’s interest.
Ardi Kolah is author of Guru in a Bottle® High Impact Marketing That Gets Results (£19.99). It’s available at a special 30 per cent discount. Visit Kogan Page and add VOCUS30 before checking out to receive your discount.
Image: miong (Creative Commons)