Blogging for Business — New Wrinkle or Old Tradition?

Of course, the Internets (that series of tubes) have made blogging ridiculously easy for millions of bloggers around the globe. That’s what’s new about communicating your thoughts to a large audience, sometimes with the intention of selling them on an idea, a product or a service. What’s old about it is the tradition of communicating with purpose.

Blogging began unauspiciously, with a few isolated souls pouring out their hearts and/or minds in what could loosely be termed “columns” for the enjoyment of themselves and their friends. Suddenly, you didn’t have to get into a newspaper or magazine to have your thoughts blasted out to the world. Wow! The power!

Then, via Blogger, WordPress and TypePad, blogging exploded into a major enterprise. I say enterprise because people began to realize that instead of blogging about “What My Cat Told Me Today,” they could blog about ideas, products or services they could sell. Conservative, progressive, retail, wholesale, IT-oriented and other blogs abound today. Conversations with strangers take place via comments on blogs. Amazing.

Is it all so new, or was there a long tradition of blogging, before the word was invented? Hm.

Take a look at the cave pictures at Lescaux. Why would people 17,000 years ago draw pictures of bison on cave walls? Daniel Quinn, in The Story of B, hypothesizes that the paintings were instructional in nature, created in order to communicate successful hunting strategies. That sounds kinda modern, doesn’t it? Like a blog or a PowerPoint.

How about P. T. Barnum’s postings of the progress of Jumbo the Elephant toward the next town where he’d be appearing? Isn’t that pre-Internet blogging? Of course, meant to whip up excitement about seeing this exotic animal from afar when he finally arrived. Don’t blogs sometimes do that? “Be sure to sign up for our (whatever) Webinar next week! Secrets of successful blogging will be revealed — From the King of Blogs himself!”

Seems to me the new wrinkle is the ability to communicate via Web. But blogs, tweets and other messages are just a newer version of cave painting. Or any other messages distributed widely for a purpose. Hey, even Paul Revere had a message, and he wouldn’t have had to race from place to place on a horse to deliver it if he’d had the Web!

Well, I hope all two of you who read my blog posts have a very happy Thanksgiving and that you take time to express gratitude for all the people, things and events of your life. I surely intend to.

Blogging for Business

Advertising was so simple back in the day. Just put together a combo of print ads, TV and radio spots, maybe a sprinkling of direct mail, and you were done. Expensive, and results were hard to judge, unless you had some mechanism to measure direct response (common in direct mail, but not so much in the other media).

Now, it’s simple again. Throw out all the traditional advertising and focus on social media marketing. Get your company on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo. Get yourself a website, mix it all up, and you’re set. Right? Well, not so fast there. You have to have a plan. Yes, the sad news is that you need a social media marketing plan, just as you used to have an advertising or marketing plan. You have to have a strategy and stuff.

And where above, I said it’s simple — well, it’s not. You probably need to incorporate some traditional media in your marketing plan, too. Bummer, huh? Depends on how you look at it.

Lots and lots of people are on social media for business and pleasure alike. So you can reach lots of people there. But to reach the right people, the ones who will buy what you’re selling, social media can either be a shotgun or a laser-guided missile. Not to be too martial, here, but it is a war out there — for your attention, your interest, your dollars.

If you do only social media for business, you’ll be missing a big slice of the pie. Direct mail still works about the same way it always has. If you put together a good deal with an enticing design and copy, you can count on about a 2% response rate, which is good in DM. This is great for businesses cutting a wide swath through a zip code or a target audience.

Figure out who your ideal customer/client is, then choose your print vehicle. Your selection of magazines, newspapers or inserts can home in on a certain demographic or psychographic group you want to do business with.

For example, newspapers tend to attract older readers, so there is an excellent chance your senior-oriented business can get a response from a newspaper ad or advertorial in a special section. Check out the schedules on those with the paper’s rep. A weekly entertainment tabloid like the Pitch or Ink attracts a whole different demographic — younger, more likely to seek out funky new restaurants and new entertainment venues, more likely to be in the market for cool new clothes to wear when they go out.

Radio and TV ads are more expensive, but again, different stations attract different audiences. So if you want classical music listeners (upscale, better incomes, more need for luxury goods or senior products), check the demos of your local classical music station and the cost, and see if you think it’s worth a shot. If your ideal customer is a suburban mom, maybe you want to advertise on a soft rock station.

But let’s look at what businesses are actually doing today. A lot of companies are starting with just a website and wondering, now that I have a Web presence, what do I do to get found on the Internet? Well, you can carefully construct your messages to appeal to your most likely buyers. And you can get to the top, or close to the top, of the Google page rankings when users go there to find a business or service. How? By blogging on your website.

Blogging for business is THE best way to get higher Google page rankings. If you’re at the top of page 1, you have an excellent chance of snagging the user’s attention. The farther down the page, or the farther away from the first page you are, the less your chances. So don’t you want to be at the top? Sure.

Blogging for business is rather odd. It’s not like you can just sit down and dash off random thoughts off the top of your head, like, “What I had for lunch today, and how it tasted.” You have to deliver compelling, useful information, change it regularly, and also incorporate keywords that a user might Google in order to find you.

What would YOU Google to find you? Make a list of those keywords and use a tool like Google Analytics to find out how common and popular those terms are. Choose only words that directly pertain to your business, that people would commonly use to find you. The name of your blog is terrifically important, too. Don’t make it “Rooster Tales” if your business is die-making, for instance. The title should contain keywords, too.

Blogging for business is information, yes, and it’s also a mechanical process of utilizing keywords to get page rankings. If they don’t see you, they can’t find you, and then they can’t buy from you, can they?

Blogging for business is something most company owners either don’t have the time or desire to do. So typically, they will either hire a freelance writer to write their blog posts, or they’ll rope some junior employee into doing it when they have time. Which turns out to be virtually never, since everybody these days is already doing two jobs to save the company money. Or they might hire a blogging company that offers package deals. But beware. Some of them employ foreigners who speak English, but not colloquial English. So when they do your blogging for business, it tends to feel stilted and repetitive. Probably not worth the money, even though the package is pretty cheap.

So if you think blogging for business is the way to go, hire a professional to do a bang-up job for you. Land on the first page of Google, where potential clients/customers will find you, and supplement your blogging efforts with other traditional advertising ingredients mentioned above as needed. Hire someone who can figure out the right mix for your business. Like an experienced freelance writer who knows how to do traditional advertising and social media for business. That’s the way to reach the most potential customers where they are looking for you, whether it’s in print, broadcast or on the Web.

Can Social Media Really Bring You Business?

Can using Facebook and Twitter really bring your business more business? Is social media just smoke and mirrors? Should a girl kiss on the first date? Wait a minute. How’d Groucho Marx get in here? Anyhow, in regard to the biz-building effectiveness of FB and Twitter, the answer depends on who you talk to.

They're everywhere!

A slew of “social media experts” out there offer e-books, Webinars and consulting about using social media to build your business. I’ve never seen any of them saying they can raise your revenue by X%, but they strongly imply that without utilizing Facebook and Twitter and other Webby applications, you’re missing out on a big chunk of change. How big? Well… don’t ask, because they won’t say. I’m not saying they can’t help you, but I catch a whiff of the patent-medicine salesman wafting off some of these “experts.”

Is social media 21st century patent medicine?

It seems to me the lion’s share of money to be made via social media goes to the social media “experts.” Want a higher Google ranking? Gotcha covered. Want better monitoring of your Web visitors? I can help. Need an integrated social media marketing plan? Can do. Will I get results that will justify the money I spend to get them? Can’t guarantee anything, and it’ll cost you several thousand smackeroos to find out. Such a deal! Sign here.

Now, a big new study indicates these two Web sensations may not create as much buzz or biz as we’ve been led to believe.

According to the study, more than 2/3 of companies have been using Facebook and Twitter to generate business. Yet only 29% report these two social media venues have had any effect whatsoever in generating business. To download a free copy of the report, go here.

Okay, you might say, about one in three companies using FB and Twitter have benefited. That’s reason enough to invest the time and money. Can’t hurt, right? Not so fast there, pardner. Yes, it can hurt, right in the old bank account.

The fact is, social media costs time. Keeping up an effective presence on Facebook and Twitter and using these applications to direct people to your website and drum up business takes a LOT of time.

Are you going to spend your own valuable time Facebooking and tweeting? Figure out how much per hour your time is worth, and you’ll quickly decide against that strategy. It also costs money to hire someone, even part-time, or a company that specializes in social media marketing, to do that work for you.

Social media may be free to utilize, but keeping up a viable, profitable marketing presence via Facebook and Twitter costs lots of time and money. Unless your business is involved directly in Web-related business (because many customers and providers of Web services use FB and Twitter), it doesn’t look like a good gamble to me.

The only sure-fire application on the Web, that I know of, is LinkedIn. And nobody’s selling LinkedIn. Know why? It sells itself. If you are in business, it’s a given that you need to be on LinkedIn. That’s where people look for partners or contractors or even just get in touch with people they’ve worked with before. That’s where people go to look at your resume, your profile, and find out more about you. Maybe even recommend you.

Since I’ve changed my LinkedIn page to maximize its effectiveness, using hints that came from the actual creator of LinkedIn, I’ve started getting inquiries about blogging and writing from across the U.S.A. No kidding. I’m working with one on a permanent part-time basis, because he saw on my LinkedIn profile that I have a financial background. I got a call from a man in Newport Beach wanting me to write blog posts for his business. I’m starting to work on copy for a new client’s brand-new website. Hey, LinkedIn works!

Social media: the cherry on the banana split

If you enjoy Facebook for keeping in touch with family and friends, and if you like tweeting for fun and seeing great tips and hints from experts in your field, by all means, use these applications. But don’t expect more than pleasant enjoyment. Although I can see them as the cherry on the banana split to an integrated marketing plan that includes traditional vehicles such as ads, brochures, direct mail, TV and/or radio. Your opinion?