I first started blogging from Chanters Lodge in June 2006 and have found it challenging but rewarding. I loved this excellent article in Mashable which really says it all! The photo? The fabulous Victoria Falls, just 10 kms from Chanters Lodge.
This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
Business blogging can be exceptionally rewarding. When done correctly, a successful blog can bring attention to your business, can attract new customers, and can turn your current customer base into the type of fans that companies like Apple, Netflix, and Ben and Jerry’s have: people who will not only buy your product or service, but evangelize it to their peers. Of course, like anything, there is a right way to go about starting a business blog and a wrong way.
Creating a blog for your small business isn’t easy; it requires hard work and the ability to think creatively about your work. But if you avoid the five big mistakes laid out in this post, your chances of building a successful business blog will be much better.
Mistake #1: Treating Your Blog Like a Press Center
The number one mistake that business bloggers make is to treat their blog as an extension of their current press center. Blogging is a conversation and it offers a way for your customers to connect with your business on a completely new level. If you use your blog to republish press releases your customers will have no reason to keep reading and they’ll also likely not trust your content. Don’t ever put out a press release on your blog. You can use your blog to make product or other business announcements, but do so with original writing and in a more casual voice. Use your blog to write about things other than your core business. Share your thoughts on your industry, share insights into the day-to-day work life and processes at your company, and provide tips and tricks you have learned during your time in business.
Mistake #2: Not Blogging Regularly
Think about the blogs you read on a regular basis — how many of them publish only sporadically? Most successful blogs put out new content at least a couple of times per week and try to stick to a regular schedule. Consistently putting out quality content will keep readers returning and over time it will help you build a community and turn your customers into fans.
Remember that anything can provide fodder for a good blog post, so pay attention to the things you read or see on other blogs, newspapers, magazines, or television. Have blogs prepared ahead of time.
Mistake #3: Not Enabling Conversation
As I already said, blogging is a conversation, and not allowing it to occur on your blog is a mistake. It’s true that blog comments can open you up to criticism, but blogging is an unparalleled opportunity to connect with your customers. You’ll get a lot more out of blogging if you enable — and even encourage — your customers to respond to what you write.
Mistake #4: Making New Content Hard to Discover
Your blog won’t be very helpful to readers if they aren’t able to easily find new content. You need to make your blog discoverable and you need to make sure that when you add new content, your regular readers will be able to find it. Make your blog easy to find by linking to it prominently from your company’s web site and including your blog’s URL in your email signature, on your business cards, and in sales and marketing collateral. Use a full RSS feed (because the goal with most business blogs should be to get read, not boost page views) and make it easy for your readers to find and subscribe to. Embrace social media technologies like Twitter and Facebook as a way to notify your fans and followers of new blog content, and make it easy for your readers to share content with each other through social media channels and via email.
Mistake #5: Expecting Too Much, Too Soon
Blogging isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Your blog won’t be an overnight success, and for the first few months it might feel like you’re writing for no one. It can take time to build up your readership and have a regular community of people who participate on your blog. Don’t expect immediate returns from your blog and do expect to put in a lot of hard work. Set attainable goals and realize that you’re in it for the long haul. Don’t cancel your blogging efforts after three months — give it at least a year of regularly putting out quality, original content. And make sure that your blog is easy to find, and that your readers are able to easily comment and share posts with others.
There you are then – get blogging!