5 Tips for using social blogging to grow your business

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“Why do we need a blog” is often the reaction when some suggests it as part of a business’ strategy. The thing is, your blog is your most powerful tool and a key driver of your social media strategy.

Why? Well continuous updates and punchy messages can easily increase user heighten interest, provide ongoing regular information and give you a reason to engage with them on an ongoing basis.

Social media is no longer an outcast in the business world

Social networking has been embraced by the big dogs in the market place, but don’t forget the little guys. All the way down to independent consultants – there’s no escaping social media. The trick is to accept this is the new way of doing business.

Its greatest advantage is that it’s a quick and efficient way to get the word out about your product or service. It boosts brand awareness, builds loyalty, attracts and retains customers. A brand couldn’t ask for more right?

Not quite. Companies are always exploring new ways to get more bang for their ‘e-buck’. The next frontier for social media, social networking and weblogging is social blogging.

In general, social media is used to increase visibility, improve search engine results, and drive more traffic to the company’s website, which then puts you in good stead to increase sales and grow the business. Social blogging is simply another tool to add to your overall social media strategic toolkit.

Show me a business out there – whatever stage of the life-cycle it’s in — that is not looking for an effective promotional tool, that is also cost-effective, and I’ll eat my hat. Well not literally.

“Though social media is one of the most exciting new communications tools to emerge in the last twenty years and can provide cost-effective marketing, it’s one of the most misunderstood mediums,” says Gail Z. Martin, author of 30 Days To Social Media Success.

Social media, be it weblogging, microblogging (i.e., Twitter), or posting status updates, is a different kind of marketing. It’s not about creating a hard sell or sales pitch for your product or service. What it is about is generating interest and staying relevant from keeping up with current news, industry trends and events, to the latest product developments.

What is social blogging?
A social blog is essentially a combination of microblogs (short posts) and status updates where users post content (such as short sentences, images, or video links etc) to large groups of friends, followers, or co-workers. As is the case with regular blogging the topics are endless from “Social Blogging for Business” to the likes of “Best places to eat sushi in Cape Town”.

How does Social blogging work for business?
Businesses can use the concept of social blogging to provide blow-by-blow news info, down to the second. This allows for quick, current condensed content which is a lot more relevant and palatable to their target audiences.

But this isn’t limited to just news content. Businesses can use this medium as an effective means of communication to reach large groups of consumers and associates instantaneously to learn about their needs and wants.

Starbucks has its finger on the pulse when it comes to social media. When the trendy Seattle-based coffeehouse chain realised that its sales were stagnating and that competition was becoming fierce, it had to find ways to solidify and expand its market share.

In 2009, Starbucks launched the MyStarbucksIdea website and corporate blog. While some industry analysts doubted whether or not the site would catch on, over 100 000 internet users visited the site by the end of its first week online. The main attraction was that the site allowed users to submit ideas for new drinks, food items, packages, even store designs. Suggestions were then voted on by Starbucks consumers with the most popular ones getting highlighted.

Starbucks took things a step further by adding Ideas in Action to the blog, which gave users updates on the status of suggested ideas or changes. What set the brand apart is that Starbucks didn’t just communicate news and business developments with its audience; it also let them know which of their suggestions the company had really taken to heart.

Twitter is another platform Starbucks embraced wholeheartedly. Over and above than just notifying consumers about bargains @Starbucks focuses on sharing interesting events and music information or brand- and charity-related topics the company would like to address, discuss or share with its consumer base.

Starbucks is an example of a brand that doesn’t just roll with the punches — it dishes them out. You won’t find any one way monologues in its twitter space, and followers are not just entertained, they are actively engaged in the brand and sparking and driving conversations around it.

Starbucks is a great example of Social Blogging, but how do you go about setting this up for your brand?

The value from social Blogging is the added-value and engagement it offers which translates to increased brand awareness and direct sales.

So how do you get started? Here are a few tips to help you on your way.

1. Position your brand as an expert
When people are looking for a product or service, in most cases they turn to the internet to search for information as their first point of call.

The general idea behind blogging is to ignite conversations in a public space that position you as a subject matter expert.

“The type of discussions you ideally should be having ought to answer questions that people are searching for,” says Adria Richards, Organic Technology Consultant and blogger. “For me, social blogging is a way to have conversations with potential customers and to draw traffic to your site.”

A simple and great way to get started on this is to answer questions from consumers via Twitter.

2. Share experiences and information
Social blogging is often used to share experiences not just business ideas and concepts. Always seek unique opportunities to share your ideas and offerings with not only your readers, but their communities, circles, fan groups and followers as well.

Announce upcoming events, awards, or other newsworthy topics, but do it in a conversational tone. Hopefully, your target audience will retweet or share your story.

Tumblr is often a platform which is overlooked in this space. Don’t. It’s an effective platform to share text, photos, quotes, links, dialogues, audio, video, slideshows and “Tumble” other posts.

3. Keep it fresh and mix it up
Frequent one note updates can be a major turn off for say Facebook fans, while Twitter followers are more accustomed to frequent posts. Try to mix it up.

Spark conversation by mixing in an image or video here and there and make sure update your audiences on a regular basis but only if there’s something new, informative and interesting to say. Even if you need to repeat an update to promote a current offer or a call to action for a project, rejig it and put a new spin on it every time.

4. Encourage interaction and feedback
Your company can benefit from valuable feedback through comments and suggestions. Always include a call to action in your posts as you can gain valuable insight about your audience. Make sure it is easy for readers to share posts on numerous platforms, and encourage them to share tips and their personal experiences of their interaction with your products or services.

The critical thing to remember here is to make sure you have the people or systems in place to ensure that any comments are addresses and responded too quickly, if not instantly. Failing to do this is a sign that you don’t respect or care about your audience and in layman’s terms will pee them off.

5. Make your blog the central hub
Your blog should be your main driver in your content and social media strategy by using your blog as the central where all content is driven from.

The benefit of this is that it allows you to retain control over what you say within your different social media networks.

So if you’re in control if Facebook decided to change a whole bunch of policies and restrict how people access your data (as it tends to do) you still have control over your messaging and can create information on your blog and then promote it using other social network tools, adds Richards.

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