If you are new to blogging and social media it can be difficult to know where to focus. How do you know what is truly going to inspire your audience, drive engagement and real results? There are millions of bloggers telling you what to do and what not to do. However, you wish you could simply get a little social love of any sort on your own blog.
If you would have asked me a year ago when I started this blog if I would in less than a year make it to the AdAge Power 150 Top blogs I wouldn't have believed you. I spent 15 years of my life in corporate America working in brand, product management and marketing. I got tired of the layoffs, budget cuts and losing passion for what I was doing. I knew there had to be a better way. A better life. I will tell you now that in less than a year our business is thriving, expanding and yes, this blog made it officially on to AdAge's Top 150 a few weeks ago. I have never done any fancy smancy link backs or dirty SEO games. The only recipe has been focusing on my audience, their needs and providing the best possible content I can on a regular basis to help their lives and business.
For the purpose of this post I am going to provide you with two categories of advice. Take it or leave it, it's your choice but it is what has worked for me. The first is goals and the second is tactics.
4 Goals Every Blogger Must Have:
Let's start with 4 top goals that every blogger should master. Note, these goals are not associated with your own goals and objectives. All four of them are about your audience!
Goal #1: Know your audience. I don't want to hear “my products are for anybody so my blog is open to the world.” You must segment your market and get in their heads. What do they like, dislike? What makes them tick? How can you help them? Where are they hanging out in social online circles?
Goal #2: Inspire your audience. Get them at hello and goodbye. Make them remember you and your blog. Focus on connect that is relevant and helpful to your audience. Sometimes the most simple conversations spoken in a real human form can be the most meaningful to your audience.
Goal #3: Connect with your audience. What does it mean to connect? Think about more than brand impressions here. We are talking about human to human connection driven by conversation. How can you relate to your audience in a way that leaves them wanting more? How can you inspire them so that they want to double click, sign up for your opt-in email list, click like on your Facebook page, Google+ circle you, and come back tomorrow to learn more? You must go a step above your competitors and get in the head of your audience. Go the extra mile to truly deliver content that will help their business grow or make their life better. If you forget about this goal you might as well forget about every thing you are going to read from here forward.
Goal #4: Help your audience achieve their goals. Yup, you got it. I am not telling you to focus on yourself first. I am boldly telling you to focus on your audience first. Help them achieve their objectives with a genuine mind and heart and your objectives will be met as well. It's business 101. However, many seem to forget they are in business to serve their clients. No, this doesn't mean you keep the nightmare client who doesn't want to pay you, wants everything yesterday and is not happy. This simply means you focus on the good eggs, the good nuts, and the good peeps who value your content and are inspired by what you have to say.
Top 10 Things Every Blog / Website Must Have
1. A plan. I can not write a blog post without including the importance of a plan. As Brian Solis states earlier this year, “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.” I can't stress these words enough with everything you do in the social world. Setting goals and objectives are a requirement, not an option.
2. Goals and objectives. Many small business leaders and entrepreneurs think that taking time to plan and set goals and objectives before developing a blog, launching a website or executing social media strategies is a waste of time. Some social media consultants and agencies will tell you to hop online, start tweeting and Facebooking and it will all work out, that it's all about “being social”. We help clients build integrated online business platforms, not just a website. So yes, perfection is the enemy of good and we must at some point simply get the site launched. However, doing such without a plan will steal your greatest asset which is time and offer little in regard to return on that time spent. Goals and objectives will help drive the site user experience, call to action such as an email opt-in subscription, sell of product or service, attend online event etc.
3. Knowledge & understanding of the online world. You must obtain or hire the right expertise to help you navigate the online world. Taking your old brochures and expecting to push them to a new website, tweet about them and create six months of Facebook posts is a recipe for failure. Hire a consultant, agency, anyone who can help you. Don't be fooled by the first “guru” that comes along. Check out their online platforms and ensure that they are walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Most agencies that know what they are doing should show visible signs of a successful blog, online brand persona, social platforms where fans are engaging, etc. If their platforms look and feel like a desert, chances are they won't do much better for you.
4. An audience. This is what many bloggers think a chicken and egg debate. I agree and I disagree. Yes, your audience will help us define what we should write about. However, there are millions of bloggers who have never defined their audiences and simply write to write. I am not speaking to those peeps. I have several blogs (not this one) where I do just that. One is my Christian blog plus a couple others. My only objectives for those are to get my thoughts on digital paper. It's more therapeutic than anything. If peeps read it then that's fine with me but I don't lose sleep over it.
Before you put a lot of work into anything on or offline you should know your audience. Depending on your objectives and your audience the tone, framework, and entire approach will be different. The worst thing you could do is start building a house without knowing who is going to live in it, what the weather is like where it is being built etc. A blog is similar. At minimum define your core audiences. Get in their heads. Take time to understand what it is they want, need and how you can help them. Listen to them on the social platforms and take time to understand the tone of their conversations, who they are talking to and what they are talking about.
Action: Define, research and understand your top 3 audiences.
4. A framework. The blog framework is similar to the framework of a house. Take the time to do it right. However, don't over do it so much that you spend a year building the framework and miss your market needs completely. If you are tight on budget then teach yourself the tools if necessary. However, find the money to do it right if you can. Hire an agency or consultant to help you build the framework with a focus on your business goals and objectives.
5. A conversation platform. Your blog must enable the ability to communicate more than just one way. Give your readers the opportunity to interact with you. I am amazed at some of the businesses we have consulted with and how they are so afraid to engage with the people who want to engage with their brand. Why not let your sale rep engage with your clients if that is what the clients want to do? It breaks my heart and makes my head hurt when I see businesses hide in the unsocial closet afraid to peep their head out for fear someone might talk to them.
Action: Install a good commenting system such as Disqus, LiveFyre, CommentLuv or the numerous others that are out there.
6. The right share buttons and widgets. Don't skip this step. Make it as easy as possible for the website or blog visitor to share your content with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ etc. My three favorite plug-ins for sharing are Digg Digg, Simple Share Bar and Sexy Bookmarks.
7. Content that inspires & connects you with your audience. I am shocked how many websites and blogs I see from supposed market leaders in their niche that is basically “content free.” If you position yourself as a thought leader, then put some content muscle behind it to prove it. If you have a difficult time writing but have a head bursting with content that you don't know how to get on virutal paper then find someone to help you. There are writers who can interview you or listen to voice recordings or videos of you talking and then help you get it into words for online consumption.
The only way you are going to inspire and connect with your audience is if you know your audience as mentioned above in #2. You must “get in their head.” Understand what makes them happy, sad, motivated and inspired. How can you educate, entertain and enlighten them?
8. Editorial calendar. The biggest mistake business leaders and bloggers make when it comes to their website and blog is being unorganized. From day one leverage a simple editorial calendar. Create it in a simple Excel spreadsheet or Word document. Make sure to outline the key topics you'll be covering along with the target audiences and objectives.
9. Google Analytics. Google Analytics is more than enough to provide basic web analytics for any new blog or website. It is loaded with information to help you understand how your audience is liking and engaging with your content. Pay close attention to the bounce rate, time on site, top content, organic search keywords, return vs new visitors for starters.
Action: Install Google Analytics prior to launching blog or website.
10. Integration with your other social platforms. Websites no longer work in a “build it and they will come” model. Today there is much competition for mindshare. There is no shortage of Facebook pages to “like”, people to follow on Twitter, or blog posts to read. Creating a seamless brand and user experience that connects your social blog or website with your other social platforms will increase the chance the visitor will do a double click, visit another social profile and possibly come back for a second visit at another time. Integration doesn't have to be hard. However, it takes some planning up front so that your website doesn't end up looking like a patch work blanket.