In the daily operation of Atlanta Tech Blogs, I have spoken to dozens of daily and weekly bloggers about what, how, and why they blog. Unfortunately, I’ve spoken with many more businesses who do not blog. The reasons so many startups and small businesses do not blog are many, and include the following:
- Not enough time
- Can’t write well enough
- Not enough content
- Don’t see the advantages
These are valid points that anyone can make; however, the biggest obstacle I’ve seen in those who “get” content marketing and really understand that the need to blog is this: they just don’t know where to start. To help everyone overcome that obstacle, here’s a step by step plan to get you started blogging regularly, consistently, and effectively.
Sometimes this decision is the hardest one! Isn’t it odd when life gives you too many choices that it’s even harder to make a decision? That’s how I feel when trying to decide on a new pair of running shoes. I just shut down, and that’s how it can be when you dig deep into all the different blogging software available today. It’s amazing! But fear not. Here’s a short list that beginners won’t find overwhelming.
- WordPress – simply the easiest, most flexible, most popular, and most well supported platform for anyone to start blogging.
- Blogger – Google’s clean and simple blogging service gives you a free yourblog.blogspot.com domain or your can use your own custom URL, e.g., yourblog.com
- Tumblr – Yahoo acquired Tumblr last year, and has generally left the service alone, allowing Tumblr to remain a really, really simple user experience.
- Medium – If you just want to write and show off beautiful images, Medium (built by the same guy who created Blogger back in the day) is for you.
I’ve used all of these, and now in my daily blogging I use Blogger because of its simplicity. For more flexibility (via plugins) to manage Atlanta Tech Blogs, I use WordPress. Don’t fret too much about it. Just pick one and make a start. A year from now, if you want to switch to a different blogging platform, you can do it. It’s not the end of the world.
More specifically, you should ask these questions about your intended audience. Your target audience could be your customers, your prospects, your partners, your community of resellers, or a group of users who cause your community to thrive. Asking – and answering – these questions as the purpose of your blog will help you every time you sit in front of that blank screen wondering what to write. (We’ll cover that in part 2 of this series!). Here’s some food for thought on each of these questions.
- Why are you blogging? This question is first for a big reason, or I should say dozens of reasons, but you need to understand why you are blogging for your brand. That’s part of your plan (next step)
- Who do you want to read your blog? This answer is the audience you will reach with your words.
- What does your audience like to read or consume (e.g., images or video or podcasts)?
- Where are your readers? The Bitter Southerner is targeting an audience is mostly located in the south, so colloquialisms and southern phrases are the norm.
- When (2 parts) can you write and when will your audience read? Both are very important. You will develop a rhythm of blogging, whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly, or 2-3 times per week.
The worst mistake you can make when you start a blog for your company is not having a plan. What does that mean? Well, the result of not having a content marketing plan looks like this: “OK, what should I write for today’s blog post?” Don’t do that. Create a plan, no matter how simple. Here are the basic elements of your content marketing plan for the first 3 months.
- Goals – back to the why you’re writing a blog question, you aren’t just blogging to say that your company has a blog. You must have goals before you start. Some common goals of a blog are:
- to establish your company as an authority in your market space
- to keep your ecosystem updated on the changes in your software (or whatever you make)
- to share your customers’ successes
- to generate buzz for an upcoming launch..
- Writing team – who owns this blog? In a small company or startup, it might be just you. ProTip: make sure company leadership is completely 100% on board with content marketing as part of the company’s marketing plan.
- Posting frequency – how often will you publish posts? Decide and agree on a frequency (daily, weekly, twice a week, but no less than once a month) and stick to it.
- Post length – for SEO purposes, 300-500 words is optimal; however, you should try (and measure) different length posts to see what your audience prefers.
- Post image types (or not) – decide from the start whether you will use images in your blog posts and to promote your blog posts. I recommend using at least one beautiful, relevant image in each post and to promote each post.
- Subject matter categories – what sort of topics will you write about? You really want to decide this long before the first post. The next post in this series will provide different ways to come up with ideas for individual posts, but here are a few “buckets” of topics to consider writing about:
- Company events
- Products and product updates
- Your market space
- The company’s ongoing history
- Announcements (in addition to press releases, if you do that)
The idea behind your plan, no matter how simple the plan, is to make sure you never ever sit down in front of that blank screen knowing you have to publish a blog post later today, and asking yourself, “so, what should today’s post be about?” Don’t do that. Create a plan.
So many times, I have had the conversation that starts with, “But I just don’t know what we should even write about!” It’ll come back to your plan (above), but in its simplest form, a blog is by definition a “web log” of happenings or events or thoughts. So when you start your company’s blog, start by telling your story, one little bit at a time. If it’s your company, then nobody is as good as you at telling the story, because you invented the story. So tell it. Break it down into digestible chunks, and write it.
“How much detail, you know, should I share?” The acronym “TMI” should never be in the reader comments of your blog, but your company is a reflection of who you are, and so your blog should be as well. The most important purpose of a blog is for the readers to get to know the people behind the blog. When someone reads your content that you’ve written, they are consuming your content and getting to know who you are and what you’re all about.
Fortunately, not everyone majored in English in college. For those of us who did, it is our blessing to understand grammar and our curse to not be able to correct every single mistake we see on the internet. For the everyday blog writer, if you are not comfortable with your own grammar knowledge, you are not alone. That’s why there are free services like Grammarly to do it for you. Give it a try, and if you don’t like it, that’s ok. I highly recommend that you find someone – on your team or outside – to do a simple grammar check on each of your blog posts.
There are those who think that grammar is not important in this text language world, and it may not be important to you, but there is no quicker way to remove a reader from your audience than to make a big, ugly, glaring grammatical mistake on an important point.
If you don’t tell anyone, then nobody will read your blog. We won’t get into your entire social media strategy here, but generally speaking, your most effective methods of promoting your blog are as follows.
- Link to your blog front and center on your web site.
- Use your blog content in your monthly newsletter if you have one (you should).
- Share each blog post appropriately on all your social media channels. There are best practices for sharing on each different social media channel, and you will do well to follow them.
- Make sure everyone else in the company also shares it to their social networks, and give them appropriate text and images to use.
- Measure it
You cannot change what you do not measure. Remember that as you start your blogging adventure. If you use WordPress or Blogger, the stats are built in so you can see how many people are reading your blog posts, how long they’re staying on each page, which are your most popular posts, and what they are clicking on when they arrive at your blog. Those are easy to do, and you should align your goals (above) with your measurements so you can tell at a glance if you are hitting your goals or not. Establish goals first, then measure against them regularly (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually).
Not meeting your goals, or blowing past them? Then it’s time for a change! If you’re not meeting your goals, try something – anything – different. Longer posts. Shorter posts. More images. Fewer images. Do something different to see if it moves the needles in your statistics. That’s the beauty of digital content marketing: you can change it as often as you want to meet your goals. The most important part of changing though, is re-setting goals and expectations. When you change strategy or tactics, your goals will change, too.
That’s right, repeat! Whatever you’ve done right, do more of it. Whatever you’ve done wrong, change it. The more often you post, the more and faster you will learn, and the more effective you will become in your content marketing.
I have found that getting over the first hump of actually creating and maintaining an active blog is the hardest, and most important, step. You can start an effective, popular blog if you follow these simple steps. Then you’ll be able to enjoy all the benefits of content marketing for your brand.
Kevin is a serial entrepreneur and veteran of 7 tech startups. He runs Atlanta Tech Blogs, Pitch Practice, mentors startups and entrepreneurs at ATDC, and teaches Digital Marketing courses at GA.