How to Create and Launch a Blog for Your Small Business

It’s pretty hard for any small business to survive today without a web presence. Beyond a basic website and social media accounts to inform and interact with customers, it’s now becoming more important for small businesses to launch dedicated blogs. While blogs present a tremendous opportunity to reach consumers on a deeper level, they should not be approached from anything but an expert perspective. If you’re considering starting a blog but are unsure how to proceed, read on.

1. Outsource the Technical Tasks Unless you’re an IT pro, your blog’s technical set-up is best left to someone who can put it together with quality and efficiency. However, that’s not to say you need to break the bank in the process. Explore outsourcing websites like Guru, Freelancer, and Elance to find a qualified web developer. Investigate each candidate thoroughly and be sure to ask for references and examples of past projects. I had my blog set-up for $125 by a freelancer, and I was very impressed with the finished product.

2. Commit to Superior Content The most important element of any blog is the quality of its content. Potential customers are going to assume that you’re an expert in your field, and they want that assumption to be validated before they commit to giving you their money. Post high quality articles with informative and relevant advice, showcase your industry knowledge, and provide tips that add real value to your customers’ lives. And don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. It’s not a given that you have to post something every day. Simply decide on a posting schedule, write compelling content, and remain consistent so your readers know what to expect.

3. Market on Newer Social Media Websites Assuming that you already have a Facebook and Twitter presence, you should also look to share your blog posts on some of the newer social media outlets that are quickly gaining popularity. Google+ is rising in significance; Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, and StumbleUpon are excellent options as well. Not all are suited to blog content, but all can be used to draw web-surfers to your site. The most important thing to remember is that you can’t expect word to get out about your blog on its own. You have to spend just as much time finding avenues of exposure as you do writing copy.

4. Include an About Us Tab By creating an About Us tab on your blog, you give readers the opportunity to get a quick snapshot of your business as a whole. Include pictures of yourself and your senior staff members to personalize the page and give your company a friendly face. Many people are going to click on this tab before looking at your blog, so be sure to devote a good amount of effort to it.

5. Answer All Comments Whenever you get a comment on any of your blog posts, be sure to answer it as quickly as possible. You might simply want to show some gratitude to a reader for taking the time to offer an opinion. If you encounter a provocative or contrarian comment, address it, but always be deferential and respectful of the commenter’s viewpoint. One of the goals of your blog should be to build a community of readers and subscribers by interacting with them. Make them feel valued, and you give potential customers a reason to do business with you.

6. Make Your Blog’s Home Page Easy to Read Some small business owners make the mistake of overwhelming their readers with content on their blog’s home page. That’s definitely a mistake to avoid. There’s nothing wrong with including tabs to other resources in your blog, but keep the body of your home page relatively clean and straightforward. A basic design with some white space will help readers focus on the content you do display there.

Final Thoughts Creating a blog for your small business takes both time and effort, and maintaining it does, too. If you get to the point at which other areas of your business begin to suffer, consider hiring a freelance writer or two with industry experience so you can simply oversee the blog rather than produce all of its content. Saving money is important, but it’s equally important to know when making a minor investment will save you valuable time.

What tips do you have for small business owners who want to launch a blog? Share them in the comments!

How to Create Great Social Media Content for Your Small Business

Now that you’re done with all of the hard work of planning your programsetting up your profiles, and building your follower base, you’re ready to get started on the fun part of social media marketing: content!
Most businesses adhere to the 80/20 rule: 80% of the content you post on social should be informational or entertaining, and 20% of content should relate to business promotions, events, and updates. This strategy makes sense: If you share valuable content, your followers will be more willing to engage with your business-related posts than if you only sell, sell, sell to them on a regular basis.

The 20% of business-related content will come easy-but what about the rest? How do you create great social media posts that will engage your followers? The answer depends on a variety of factors. Here are a few to consider as you develop your content plan:

Start with Your Audience

What questions do your customers ask about your industry? What problems do they have that you can help solve? What topics of interest do you share in common with them? Thinking about your audience and what will engage them is the best way to come up with relevant content.

Consider Your Messaging

How can you present information to your audience in a way that’s compelling, appropriate, and reinforces your small business’s vision or mission? The way you convey information is just as important as the content you share. For example, if your small business provides financial services, your messaging will be very different than a small business who sells children’s clothing.

Capitalize on Your Blog Content

If you’re already writing articles for your small business’s blog, social media is a great way to promote that content and drive traffic back to your site.

Make the Most of Timely News Stories

People get excited about trending topics, whether they’re local news or national headlines. When it makes sense, feel free to share news articles with your followers and use them to start a conversation.

Share Articles from Relevant Sites and Blogs

Read an article for education? Watch an entertaining video? The content you find valuable will often be of value to your audience as well. If you’re a hair stylist who finds a great how-to article on a fancy up-do, share it! If you’re a restaurateur who reads an interesting piece on dining trends in the local area, share it! While your patrons may not work in your industry, that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in learning more about it.

Bring Your Business to Life with Photos and Videos

Reality shows are evidence that people love behind-the-scenes glimpses into other peoples’ lives. So why not share the inner workings of your business’s life? Photos and videos that give followers a better sense of your staff, your process, and your inspirations are great content to share—especially Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and other visually-oriented social channels.

Showcase Customer Quotes and Accolades

Social networks are the new forum for word-of-mouth recommendations. If you’re getting great customer feedback via email, online review sites, or in person, you can highlight these comments on social media (if your customers aren’t sharing their feedback there already). You can also brag about awards and accolades you receive from other organizations; tagging those organizations in your posts gives you the opportunity to be reshared as well, which can get your business even more exposure.

The Bottom Line

The possibilities for social media content are endless. Just make sure to keep your audience in mind as you create and curate posts, and you’ll see your engagement metrics improve in no time!

Social Media Marketing for Small Business

By now, pretty much everyone with an internet-enabled device belongs to at least one social network. It’s where we go for news, entertainment, conversations, and information. It’s an integral part of our everyday lives, and it’s where we expect to connect with people, brands, and businesses.
You likely already have a social media account or two set up for your company. But having an active profile and actually using it to benefit your small business are not one in the same. Learning how to connect with your followers in a meaningful way that has a positive impact on your business takes time, planning, and commitment. That’s what social media marketing is all about.

What Is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing involves sharing content across social networks that users will then share with each other. Social media marketing serves multiple purposes:

  • To increase a brand’s online visibility and presence
  • To position a brand as an expert in a particular industry
  • To stay top-of-mind with customers and connect with potential customers
  • To drive traffic back to your business’s website or blog
  • To drive consumers to an e-commerce experience where they can make a purchase
  • To let followers know about new items, offers, events, and specials that will drive in-store business

How Do I Develop a Social Media Marketing Program?

Creating a social media marketing program is, on the surface, pretty simple. But the devil lies in the details, as the saying goes, and the details are what make social media marketing a challenge—but also a lot of fun. These are the basic steps involved in developing a social media marketing program:

  • Goal-setting: Think about what you hope to achieve with social media, where your customers are most active online, and what types of content will have the most impact on your audience.
  • Select your networks: Choose the social networks you’re going to join.
  • Create profiles: Set up consistent, detailed profiles on each network.
  • Follow people and invite followers: Connecting with other social media users is the best way to promote others to follow you as well. You should also make it easy for people to find your social accounts on your website, blog, and listings pages.
  • Share content: Whether it’s original content or relevant articles, photos, quotes, and videos, the content you share should be interesting and useful to your followers.
  • Track your performance: Look at the analytics provided within each social network and the traffic back to your website and blog from your social channels to assess what you can be doing better.

What’s the Benefit of Social Media Marketing?

Just because a particular marketing technique tends to be popular doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worth doing. In the case of social media, though, your efforts will be well rewarded. A few reasons why social media marketing is worth your while:

  • Social networks are the online marketplace for word-of-mouth marketing. The more active you are in a social network, the more motivated people will be to share positive feedback with other users who might also be interested in your business.
  • Social media marketing isn’t just about selling your products or services. It’s about developing a community around the industry you’re a part of or the problems you help solve. Being a part of a dynamic conversation, rather than just talking at an end user you never interact with, is exciting stuff!
  • Social media marketing can help you reach a large audience without taking a huge bite out of your budget.
  • The conversations you have on social can help you identify improvements for your business and find the sweet spot for special offers, events, and deals. You can even field impromptu surveys to ask specific questions to your followers.

The Bottom Line

Social media marketing is is a simple concept that becomes complex during implementation. Now that you’ve got the basics down, we’ll delve more deeply into specific aspects of social media marketing to help you get even more out of your investment of time and effort.

How to Land New Leads with Content Marketing

The term content marketing has been thrown around for a while now in the business world, and it’s becoming increasingly popular as a lead generation mechanism. According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, 90% of business-to-consumer marketers plan to employ content marketing in 2014.
But what exactly is content marketing, and how can you use it to generate leads for your small business? This article will address both questions.

What Is Content Marketing?

In short, content marketing encompasses any marketing method that involves creating and sharing content in order to acquire new customers.

What’s the Purpose of Content Marketing?

Rather than selling a specific product or service, content marketing is focused on providing valuable information to readers. The goal is to inspire interest and brand loyalty among online readers who will then become more likely to turn into revenue-generating customers for your business.

What Kinds of Content Can Work for My Business?

The great thing about content marketing is that it can take many forms. You’ll need to consider what makes sense for your business in terms of your industry, personal interests, and staff bandwidth as you put together a content plan. Here are a few types of content you can use to generate leads:

  • Blog Posts: Hosting a blog for your business is an easy way to share valuable advice or entertaining content with prospective leads.
  • Social Media Posts: Social channels allow you to share news, information, and other engaging content with both current customers and potential leads.
  • Videos & Photos: Share quick insights, show behind-the-scenes glimpses of your business, and spotlight happy customers with visual content.
  • How-to Guides, Whitepapers and eBooks: More in-depth publications such as how-to guides, whitepapers, and eBooks can provide real value to consumers and generate concrete leads you can follow up with about your products or services.
  • Tips and Comments: Providing tips on forums or commenting on review sites with helpful information can also generate leads if you link back to your business website.

When Should I “Gate” Content?

Marketers often talk about “gating” premium content. “Gating” simply means requiring a user to submit contact information (name, phone number, email) in order to access a particular asset.

Generally, more in-depth pieces of content such as how-to guides, whitepapers, and eBooks are the kinds of items marketers will “gate.” Requiring contact information from viewers will, by necessity, turn some people away. Keep in mind that whatever kind of content you offer has to be worth a reader “paying” for it with their information.

The Bottom Line

Content marketing can take many forms, depending on your audience and industry. Developing and publishing great content will take time and effort, but the effort will be worthwhile when you start landing new leads—and converting those leads into customers.

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