After years lurking in the background of the internet, blogging has become big-time business. More companies now have a blog than don’t, and 85 percent of business leaders consider their blogs to be useful, according to a study by Hubspot. A resounding approval for blogs!
In general, blogs are easy to set up and use. But just having one isn’t enough to make it useful. You need to make it work to support your business goals. Then it will become an actual asset for your company. But how exactly do you do this? The answer: use it to reach and engage with both new and existing customers.
However, actually getting to this point is much easier said than done. Here are some things to help you build a loyal and engaged blog following, and to make the most of this powerful tool.
#1 Create amazing content
There’s an expression in the world of content marketing that “content is king.” You can have everything else perfect: messaging strategy, outreach team, design, etc. But if your content is below average, you’ll struggle to attract and engage followers.
So, what makes amazing content? It’s true there’s no one answer, and there’s no formula for good content. But you do know it when you see it. Try to make every piece of content you produce fit the following criteria:
100 percent original.
This goes beyond not plagiarizing. Make sure the content you produce is something only you could create, or that carries weight only because you’ve produced it. Research what other people are saying about the topics you want to write about, and then try to come up with something different. If you can’t, then take this as a sign you should look for other topics to cover on the blog.
Be really useful
The key to creating killer content is relevance. People are busy, and they are under no obligation to read your blog. Never forget that. To get them to open your email, or to click on your Facebook post, you need to prove to them, really quickly, that it’ll be worth their time.
Make sure your headlines clearly outline the benefit your readers stand to gain by opening your content, and also make sure they can determine in the first few paragraphs what you’re going to tell them and why it’s useful. If you wait too long, people will tune out and the hard work that went into creating content will go to waste.
And make sure you link everything you talk to back to something actionable. This is sort of a buzzword in the world of marketing but for good reason. It’s all well and good to write a 2,000-word article on developing company culture, but your readers need to walk away with some tangible steps to take so that they can put their newfound knowledge to use in support of their businesses.
Consider listing these out as bullet points in the beginning of the article or highlighting them in the text so that people are aware of what they’re going to learn and read your entire post.
Avoid being overly promotional
Your blog is not a sales platform. And if you use it as such, people are going to walk away almost immediately. In fact, your blog serves the exact opposite purpose. It’s your chance to show people you’re about more than convincing them to spend money. You’re there to win over their hearts, so to speak, and you’re not going to do this with sales content.
Avoid posts that only talk about your products and how great they are. And don’t use your blog for sales copy. Instead, share stories relevant to the industry and your core values, or offer up some useful, actionable advice your readers can use. You could also profile employees to show your audience who’s working behind the scenes.
It’s okay to include a little bragging in your posts but be sure it makes sense in the context of the article. If promoting yourself would seem out of place or inappropriate to you, imagine how your readers will interpret it. Keep this stuff off the blog and you’ll begin to win people over, encouraging them to become engaged and loyal followers.
#2 Focus on Branding
Your brand is going to be what separates you from the crowd. It’s your company’s identity that will attract people to you and keep them coming back. And if you ever decide to sell your business, it’s what will attract those lucrative offers. In short, your brand is really important.
To create a loyal and engaged following for your business blog, it’s important you have loyal and engaged customers. And this will come by merging your blog content strategy with your brand strategy. Here’s how to make this happen.
Focus on Vision, Mission Statement and Core Values
To develop a strong brand, you’ll need to clarify these three concepts. Let’s define each one really quickly:
- Your vision is your image of the world where no one suffers from the problem your business seeks to solve. An example: ABC Company strives to bring people together.
- Your mission statement is your tangible plan on how you’ll get there. To continue the example: ABC Company creates and distributes devices that make it easier for people to communicate with one another.
- Your core values are the set of beliefs you hold as a company that will help make your vision a reality. Some sample values for ABC company could be: interconnectedness, ‘think global,’ inclusiveness, etc.
These are so important in your branding strategy because they’re what people will connect to. The goal of a brand is to create a tribe sensation among a group of people; by buying from you and participating in your community, they are joining a group that shares similar beliefs and values.
For your blog to attract loyal and engaged followers, make sure your content reflects one or more of these principles. Share news stories, offer analysis and give tips about topics that relate to this set of core values. Use your content as a means of building this connection, and you’ll be well on your way to building an engaged blog audience.
Understand Audience Expectations
However, for this to be successful, you need to make sure the messages you are sending somewhat align with people’s expectations. It’s important you broadcast your identity, but it’s also important you shape this identity in a way that will resonate with your target audience. As such, it’s important you learn as much as you can about the groups you’re pursuing.
The best way to do this is to ask them. Surveys and focus groups, when done correctly, can yield great results. But they’re expensive and time-consuming, and if you don’t do them right, the results can be misleading. Still, if you have the resources, this is a good route to go.
However, there are other ways to learn about your target audience. Ideal Customer exercises and Customer Journey Maps are both useful thought experiments that get you thinking like your target audience so that you can produce content that’s in line with their expectations. Check out these resources to learn more about these methods of audience research and to learn how to implement them in your business (Ideal Customer; Customer Journey Map)
#3 Actively seek out participation
Generally speaking, people want companies to connect with them personally. They don’t like feeling like they’re just a number, or that they’re talking to a computer when they call in. So, to change this, and to encourage active engagement from your audience, consider doing some things to incentive people into action.
Social media contests are great for this. You can ask people to post photos of them with your products, or of anything else relevant to your business. Encourage people to comment on the blog by asking thoughtful questions at the end. Or open up your blog to guest contributors so that other audience members can see they are part of a larger community.
These activities, although seemingly small, can really get people excited. And when you can be in on their excitement, it’s only good for your blog and business.
#4 Be consistent
Lastly, consistency is critical. While you want to get people’s attention with eye-catching headlines and content, you also want them to have a sense of what to expect. This is especially true after you start to get some positive response.
Before launching your blog, think deeply about the topics you want to cover. Make sure these topics reinforce what you’d like to accomplish for your brand. And unless it’s 100 percent relevant to your business, don’t stray too far from these content areas.
Two critical parts of building a loyal and engaged blog following not mentioned were patience and practice. Like anything, this won’t happen overnight. You’ll need to try out different things, evaluate, adjust and try again. If you keep at it and apply these tips to your strategy, you should find yourself working with a group of loyal and engaged blog readers before too long.
About the author:
Jock is the founder of Digital Exits. Throughout his career, he has bought, run and sold three different digital businesses and he now uses his experience to help others succeed. In addition, he writes frequently to serve as a resource for other entrepreneurs.