Blogging 101 For Small Businesses By Krystle L. Wright, Public Relations Specialist Owner, Krystle L. Wright Public Relations & Marketing
Blogging 101 • What is a blog? • Why blog? • How to create a blog • What to blog about • Characteristics of a successful blog
What is a blog? Word origins: Blog = Web log
Ways to think about blogs • As a new genre of writing/communication: • A blog is not an advertisement, a shopping website, a review website, or a strictly informational website. It has bits and pieces of each kind of site, but it is completely unique. • “Unlike almost everything else online, weblogs are not just a digital variation on an established formula. Everything about them – their format, their reliance on links, their immediacy, their connections to each other – is derived from the medium in which they were born. They are of the Web itself.”* *Blood, R. (Ed.). (2002). We've got blog. Basic Books.
Ways to think about blogs • As an ongoing communication/conversation • Following a blog is like reading a story published serially or watching a television show** **Rettberg, J.W. (2009). What is a blog? Blogging. Malden, MA: Polity Press.
Imagine a bulletin board of infinite size • filled with: • clippings of newspaper and magazine articles, • advertisements, • handwritten notes about personal experiences, and • daily teachings in the style of quote-a-day calendars.
Then make it available 24 hours a day, accessible everywhere, and you have an idea of exactly what these blogs create: A virtual bulletin board of limitless proportions.
Why should small businesses blog? • Credibility • Share information about your industry to showcase your knowledge and skills to potential customers and clients • Build the image of yourself as an expert or authority
Why should small businesses blog? • Build relationships • Good blogs frequently encourage interaction through users’ comments • Remind current customers of your existence and importance • Attract new prospective customers
Ways not to use a blog: • Sales pitches • Blogs can be used to promote your business, but overt sales pitches are more likely to annoy and alienate your readers than they are to persuade them to purchase your products or services • Some authorities say, “Don’t use a blog as a public relations outlet.” What this really means is: • Don’t use your blog solely or mainly as an advertisement. • Instead, use it to build relationships, share information, encourage community participation and establish the credibility and expertise of your business.
How to create a blog • Choose a blogging tool • So many options: Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr… • Things to consider: • Cost (free vs. paid) • Features (widgets, social media compatibility) • Technical knowledge needed
Wordpress is recommended for business blogging, so that’s what we’ll be talking about today
Sign up for your blog • Choose a blog address • Ideally, choose something that is descriptive, unique and easy to remember • Try to include keywords that people might search for • Decide whether you want to purchase your own domain name. If not, you can use _____.wordpress.com for free • You can change your blog address later
Sign up for your blog • Supply account/contact information • Choose if you want an upgraded account to avoid having advertisements on your blog and other features (today we’ll be talking about free blogs) • Click “Create Blog” • Activate your blog using the link emailed to you
Start blogging • Wordpress creates your first blog post for you
Start blogging • To manage your blog, you use the page known as Dashboard • To edit this post, click on Postson the left-hand column of the dashboard. On the next page, click Edit under the blog post.
Start blogging • From this page, you can: • Change the title and body content of your blog post. You can also format text to be bold or italicized, add bullets and numbering, spell check and perform other tasks like you would in standard word processing software. • Upload or link to media like images and videos • Categorize your posts to help organize your blog • Add tags to help identify what your post is about so that readers can find it • Publish your post
Start blogging In the future, when you create a new post, simply click the Add New subcategory under the Posts link on the left-hand side of your dashboard.
Blog setup • Appearance • To change the appearance of your blog, click on the Appearance link on the left-hand side of your dashboard page • The easiest way to change your blog’s appearance is by selecting a Theme. You can browse themes alphabetically, newest to oldest or by popularity. You can also search for a keyword. Preview a theme before you activate it to see a better view of what your blog will look like. • You can also change the background color and add a background image or header image from the Appearance tab.
Blog setup • Widgets • Widgets are additional chunks of content separate from your blog posts. • To add widgets to your blog, select the Widgets link under the Appearance link on the left-hand side of your dashboard page. Use your mouse to drag and drop the widgets you want. • Widgets can help readers navigate your blog and share your blog on social networks – which will help build your blog’s traffic and increase your audience.
What to blog about We’ve already said businesses should blog to create their reputation as experts in their fields. The best way to do that is by sharing information that is: • More useful than commercial • Likely to be relevant or interesting to people beyond your company or industry • Accessible to the average reader (doesn’t use too much technical jargon, etc.)
What to blog about • Ask yourself what your business, others in the industry and your customers should know. • A blog post doesn’t have to present just one viewpoint. It can explore ideas about a topic, too. You can highlight the pros and cons of an approach to, say, baking if you own a bakery or different types of hair treatments if you own a salon. • Don’t be afraid to share good information that doesn’t belong to you. You can link to posts by others in your industry (but make sure you give the original creators’ credit by providing their information with the link). You can also respond to it on your blog. (This works well for social media use, too.)
Characteristics of a successful blog • Consistency: Be consistent with your message/ideas and frequency of updates. • If you intend to update your blog only every couple months, say so. • If you intend to blog about one topic, don’t post about totally irrelevant subjects later on.
Characteristics of a successful blog • Ease of readability • When choosing a theme for your blog, keep in mind that it should be legible. Light text on a dark background can be difficult to read, especially if there is a lot of it. • Choose an easy-to-read font and font size. • The dreaded ‘wall’ of text online can be overwhelming and discourage potential readers from finishing your blog post or returning to your blog later. Break your content into chunks using spaces, subheadings, bullet points and numbered lists when applicable. • Make sure your blog content is professional – proofread it for spelling and grammar mistakes and keep the tone of the writing appropriate to the subject. Remember, the blog and each post represents you and your business. If your blog looks unprofessional, so does your business!
Characteristics of a successful blog • Promotion • If your blog is perfect but no one reads it, how does it help you or your customers? • Promote your blog through online and social media channels you are already using, like your business website and directory listings and facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. • Build relationships with other bloggers – find blogs that relate to your industry in some way and comment on posts. Often those bloggers will visit your blog to learn more about you. • Linking to relevant sites will often get the attention of the site owners. If they link back to you, their visitors are more likely to find and read your blog, too.
Characteristics of a successful blog • Interaction – the best way to connect with your readers Encourage readers to comment on your blog by: • Asking questions • Asking for feedback • Keeping blog posts interesting and engaging • When a reader comments, try to keep the conversation going – thank the reader for commenting, ask follow-up questions and ask others to respond with their opinions