Steps to Light Up Your Place in the Blogosphere

blogging with intention
In coaching financial advisors, John Bowen Jr. writes in Financial Planning, he found that the most successful individuals had a secret weapon at their disposal: the power of their presence. Bowen names steps advisors can take to “light up a room when they enter”.  Blog content writers, I believe, can use every one of those steps to “light up the blogosphere” with their posts:

Know your story. “By opening up to others about what’s important to you, they will be more inclined to trust you with what’s important to them.”

Customers don’t want to feel like they are being told a brand story, the authors of “Tips & Traps for Marketing Your Business” caution. In your blog content writing, engage readers with storylike entries about existing customers and about you, they advise.  The idea is to create an emotional – and personal – attachment with your company or practice.

Build your dream team. “Leading financial advisors surround themselves with top people, in the form of strategic alliances.”

When things don’t work well in blogging, I’ve come to realize, it almost always has to do with lack of coordination among the team. The webmaster has to work together with the blog writer to provide the optimization and analysis that make the content “work”. Not only should there be periodic team meetings to discuss content, the blog writing must be coordinated with email and social media.

Live with intention. When you define your vision, your tasks become crystal clear.

One concept I emphasize in corporate blogging training sessions is that focusing on main themes helps blog posts stay smaller and lighter in scale than the more permanent content on the typical corporate website. The posts fit together into an overall business blog marketing strategy through “leitmotifs”, or recurring themes. These themes tie together different product or service descriptions, different statistics, and different opinion pieces. Once five or six over-arching themes have been chosen, the tasks of creating individual blog posts become crystal clear.

Amplify your influence.  Communicate your vision in a clear and lively manner. Make your vision come alive to others by using metaphors, examples, and anecdotes.

Most business owners and professionals can think of quite a number of things they want to convey about their products, their professional services, their industry, and their customer service standards. The problem is those ideas need to be developed into fresh, interesting, and engaging content marketing material. Metaphors help readers “appreciate the information picturesquely”.

Inspire those around you by providing leadership.

When it comes to blogging for business, positioning ourselves (or our business owner/professional practitioner clients) as SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) is obviously a worthy goal. Being a thought leader is even better. Our readers need even more from us than expertise, I’m convinced. Yes, we’re giving them subject matter, but they need help processing that subject matter. They need thought leadership!

Take steps to light up your place in the blogosphere! 

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Blog To Show Readers You’ve Got Their Number

numbers in blog titles

Numbers that can be expressed in one or words should be spelled out, while figures should be used for larger numbers the Purdue OWL advises. Following that guidance, you’d express ”two million dollars”  or thirty-one years in words, while writing “126 days”.

There’s a very good reason, however, that most magazine editors and blog content writers choose not to follow the first part of that OWL advice.  Few would choose to write “two million dollars”, “fifteen reasons”, or “thirty-one years”.  Numbers – in digits, as opposed to being spelled out in words – have more impact.

Here are just some of the titles I saw displayed on magazine covers at my local pharmacy only this morning::

  • 341 Cluster Solutions
  • 147 Tips From Home Cooks
  • 101 Hearty Dishes for the harvest Season
  • 50 Fall Ideas
  • 293 Fresh Looks for Classic Cuts
  • 145 Festive and Easy Decorating Tips

When colleagues at online marketing firm Hubspot analyzed their own blog posts to see which titles had performed the best in search results; the top eight, they found, each included a number!  Some of the numbers were short, and OWL would have had the authors spell those out in words.  But numbers in words simply lack the “punch” of numbers in digits, it appears.

Some of the Hubspot winners:

  • “How to monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day”
  • “22 Educational Social Media Diagrams”
  • 12 Mind-Blowing Statistics Every Marketer Should Know”

Several research studies have show that headlines with numbers tend to generate 73% more social shares. “Our brains are attracted to numbers because they automatically organize information in logical order.” And, for some reason, one study revealed, odd numbers are seen as more authentic than even numbers.

It’s interesting. The American Marketing Association’s Manual of Style tells us not to use digits to express numbers that occur at the beginning of a sentence, title, or subtitle! Another way Ryan McCready thinks the so-called experts have it wrong has to do with the number 10. Thought leaders have agreed the number 10 is too common and will not stand out on social media, but McCready found the exact opposite to be true – the number 10 is the best number to use for blog titles.

It’s not only in blog post titles that numbers wield power. At Say It For You, I advise business owners and professionals to use statistics (one form of numbers) in 3 ways:

1. Attention-grabbing
2. Mythbusting (statistics help prove the reality versus the widely held misperceptions about your product or service)
3. Demonstrating the extent of a problem leads into showing readers ways you can help solve it

Blog to show readers you’ve got their number!

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The Barnum Effect Can Be Used Ethically in Blogging for Business

Barnum effect in blogging

As humans, we tend to crave to be “understood”. Sometimes, though, due to the Barnum effect, (named after famed manipulator and circus man PT. Barnum), we tend to give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of our personality. We believe we are being understood and that the descriptions (the “fortune”, the horoscope, the reading, the assessment) are tailored specifically to us. In reality, though, the descriptions are general enough to apply to a wide range of people.

Psychologist Bertram Forer tested this idea by giving a personality test to his psychology students, then asking them how well they thought the results matched their self-perceptions. Unbeknownst to those students, they had all been given the exact same summary of results “describing” their personalities. Almost all the students thought their “tailor-made” description was “spot-on” in describing their “one-of-a-kind“ personalities!

“Consider that marketing and advertising is also quite dependent on people believing that they are the ‘kind of people’ who would benefit from a product, or have a ‘specific problem’ for which they could purchase a solution,” observes Kate Kershner in How Stuff Works.

In a way, I explain to new Say It For You blogging clients, blogs are the perfect marketing tool for niche markets.  Remember, I tell them, you, the business owner, are not going out to find anyone! Blogs use “pull marketing”.  The people who find your blog are those who are already online looking for information, products, or services that match up with what you know, what you have, and what you do. Your online marketing challenge is not to seek out the people, but to help them seek you out!

The Barnum effect, when it comes to business blog posts, is what draws in those searchers, who perceive that the information and observations you’ve provided in the blog has “high accuracy” in terms of their own needs and wants. And, while Barnum’s tactics are now seen as having been manipulative, when it comes to business blogging, online searchers tend to make very accurate assessments of whether what they find is what they need!

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Before Blogging for Business, Know Your Fruits and Vegetables

know your blog readers

 

“Knowing the audience for a particular essay is important because it determines the content that will appear in the writing,” the Ames Community College Online Writing Lab teaches. “In other words, having a focused topic is important, but having a specific audience is equally important.”

My professional speaker friend Karl Ahlrich found out the importance of this advice – the hard way. Addressing a large audience of accountants on the topic of employee engagement, he had opened with the story of a grocery chain in which store clerks proudly wore nametags on which each had completed the sentence: “my favorite vegetable is….” One young man had written his choice in bold letters: “Tomato”.

Poised to use that anecdote to make his point about the proper training of employees (after all, grocers ought to know tomatoes are in the fruit family), Karl was horrified to notice one audience member striding purposefully up the center aisle, headed for the microphone set up for audience questions and comments. “Nix vs. Hedden”, the man pronounced loudly. “Ummmm”, the audience replied, heads nodding. Puzzled as to why his anecdote had fallen so flat, the speaker struggled, almost too late, to refocus their attention on the topic of employee motivation.

(Later, my friend learned, Nix v. Hedden refers to an 1893 Supreme Court case. The ruling: Under U.S. customs regulations, the tomato should be classified as a vegetable rather than a fruit. Alas, while Karl had indeed had a focused topic, and in fact was addressing a specific audience, he had failed to properly gauge that audience’s knowledge level, (at least where it came to tomatoes!).

“Had Free People done their research on this segment of their audience, they would know how important the dance form, and the pointe shoes are to them,” Andrea Goulet Ford writes in Why Knowing Your Audience is So Important and Not Knowing it is So Dangerous. (The author is discussing the fact that readers found dance clothing line Free People’s promotional video offensive; it depicted improper ballet dance form and clothing unsuited for classically trained dancers).

“…it is important to analyse your online audience and target your campaigns to them. There are many tools to help you identify your audience, from Google Analytics data and social media to surveys – the more data the better! Once you have your data you can start to put together personas and plan your online marketing activities around them,” Sleeping Giant Media teaches.

“Consumers are used to telling stories to themselves and telling stories to each other, and it’s just natural to buy stuff from someone who’s telling us a story,” observes Seth Godin in his book All Marketers Tell Stories. My speaker friend Karl Ahlrich knew the power of story; he didn’t go quite far enough in researching his audience. “No marketing succeeds if it can’t find an audience that already wants to believe the story being told,” Godin explains.

At Say It For You, I tell newbie blog content writers: “Everything about your blog should be tailor-made for that customer – the words you use, how technical you get, how sophisticated your approach, the title of each blog entry – all of it.” Since we, as ghostwriters hired by clients to tell their story online to their target audiences, we need to do intensive research, as well as taking guidance from the client’s experience and expertise. Interviewing experts allows blog content writers to dig deep into the topic, hopefully avoiding tomato-style “faux pas”.

And, (drumroll, please), the moral is: – Before blogging for business, know your fruits and vegetables!

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Business Blog Readers are Looking for a Fix

“Can you email me the information?” is never a request any sales professional wants to hear, admits Paul Cherry, author of Questions That Sell.  What should the salesperson do? Agree, then clarify, is  his suggestion. Ask the prospect: “ What kind of information will be most useful to you? What are you looking to accomplish?”

Salespeople should look for certain key words in their prospects’ answers, Cherry says. Those words reveal if the “targets” have any real interest in the product or service.

“We are looking to:

  • achieve…
  • solve…
  • eliminate…
  • avoid…
  • secure…
  • improve…
  • fix…

For most business owners, when asked why they want to use social media, their answers come down to one thing – selling more stuff.  In fact, as internet marketing consultant Chris Garrett remarks, “The blogosphere is coming around to the idea that commerce is not necessarily evil, that in fact businesses need to make money and they do that by selling stuff.”

Effective blog content drip-drip-drips the necessary benefit-led, fact-filled, objection-busting content to your targeted audience, in such a way that they don’t feel they are being sold to, Garrett explains. His own way of describing the blogging sales cycle is as a series of small agreements, where the prospect clicks to the blog, reads content, subscribes to the blog, signs up for an e-newsletter, and finally decides to call or write.

Jeff Thrull, author of another sales training book, Exceptional Selling, advises sales professionals to act against type:, “When in doubt, so the opposite of what a salesperson would do.” The good news in blog marketing is the same as the good news Thrull describes as operative in direct selling. At Say It For You, I advise using blog posts to demonstrate the business owner’s or professional practitioner’s expertise, and to offer valuable tips to readers.

At Stage #1 of their search, what the majority of consumers are likely to have typed into the search bar are words describing:

  • Their need
  • Their problem
  • Their idea of the solution to their problem
  • A question

    In short, those searchers’ first encounter with your business or practice is based on their need for help to do the very things Paul Cherry named in his keyword list:  they want to achieve, eliminate, avoid, secure, improve, and FIX.

No, you’re not in their living room or on the phone with them, but, in order convert those “strangers” to friends and customers, then, address your blog posts to them, and write about how you can  help them do exactly those things.

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Good Luck/ Bad Luck Blog Comments

handling blog comments

Often, when we’re setting up a new blog for a business owner or professional practitioner, the topic of comments comes up.  Should readers be invited to post comments?  Initially at least, most Say It For You clients are afraid to allow for comments on their blog.  Why? They fear those comments might be negative or critical.

When, just the other day, I received my copy of Steve & Jack’s Home News (from my friend Steve Rupp, the Keller-Williams real estate consultant), I thought about this dilemma of whether it’s good to allow readers to comment on your business blog.  The newsletter started out with a story called “Good Luck, Bad Luck.” This farmer’s stallion runs off, and neighbors comment on what bad luck that was.  Farmer says, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” A series of bad/good events follows: The stallion returns with a herd of wild mare; the farmer’s son, while training one of the mares, is thrown off the horse and breaks his leg.  Because of the broken leg, soldiers do not seize this son for military service. The moral of the story is that all luck, both good and bad is fleeting.

Same thing with blog comments:  Blogs need to be available not only for reading, but for acting and interacting. Just the way that even bad reviews help ticket sales for plays, even when a posts a negative or critical comment about your product or service, you’re still getting “bang for your blog” from the search engines.

The “bad luck” side of the coin, of course, is that spam comment attacks tend to plague newly created blog pages.  That spam typically shows itself in three forms:

  1. Total nonsense, with links to sites the writer is promoting
  2. Totally unrelated to the topic of the blog
  3. Blatant advertising for web services

There is no definitive way to stop SPAM comments as Jeremy Politt of the ITeam admits. There are a few steps business owners and practitioners can take when setting up the blog platform, including:

  • Don’t automatically accept comments – reserve the right to review them and decide whether to publish them. (This is how I handle comments on this Say It For You blog.)
  • Include a “Captcha” so that readers must prove they’re human, not a digital SPAM machine gun.

Like the stallion running off and the farmer’s son’s broken leg, negative comments on a business blog are “good luck, bad luck – who knows?

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Good Luck/ Bad Luck Blog Comments

handling blog comments

Often, when we’re setting up a new blog for a business owner or professional practitioner, the topic of comments comes up.  Should readers be invited to post comments?  Initially at least, most Say It For You clients are afraid to allow for comments on their blog.  Why? They fear those comments might be negative or critical.

When, just the other day, I received my copy of Steve & Jack’s Home News (from my friend Steve Rupp, the Keller-Williams real estate consultant), I thought about this dilemma of whether it’s good to allow readers to comment on your business blog.  The newsletter started out with a story called “Good Luck, Bad Luck.” This farmer’s stallion runs off, and neighbors comment on what bad luck that was.  Farmer says, “Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” A series of bad/good events follows: The stallion returns with a herd of wild mare; the farmer’s son, while training one of the mares, is thrown off the horse and breaks his leg.  Because of the broken leg, soldiers do not seize this son for military service. The moral of the story is that all luck, both good and bad is fleeting.

Same thing with blog comments:  Blogs need to be available not only for reading, but for acting and interacting. Just the way that even bad reviews help ticket sales for plays, even when a posts a negative or critical comment about your product or service, you’re still getting “bang for your blog” from the search engines.

The “bad luck” side of the coin, of course, is that spam comment attacks tend to plague newly created blog pages.  That spam typically shows itself in three forms:

  1. Total nonsense, with links to sites the writer is promoting
  2. Totally unrelated to the topic of the blog
  3. Blatant advertising for web services

There is no definitive way to stop SPAM comments as Jeremy Politt of the ITeam admits. There are a few steps business owners and practitioners can take when setting up the blog platform, including:

  • Don’t automatically accept comments – reserve the right to review them and decide whether to publish them. (This is how I handle comments on this Say It For You blog.)
  • Include a “Captcha” so that readers must prove they’re human, not a digital SPAM machine gun.

Like the stallion running off and the farmer’s son’s broken leg, negative comments on a business blog are “good luck, bad luck – who knows?

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Template Your Blog for Variety and Timesaving

 

There are many different ways the same information can be presented in different business blog posts, and thank goodness for that, I say.

In fact, at Say It For You, I’m always on the lookout for different “templates”, not in the sense of platform graphics, but in terms of formats for presenting information about any business or professional practice. Here are just a few possible “templates”:

How-to Post
This type of post aims to teach the reader something, Ali Luke explains taking them through a step-by-step process. Variations include “How I _____and How You Can, Too.” And “Why ____ Matters and How To Do it”.

List Post
The list post offers readers a selection of ideas, tips, suggestions, or resources.

Review Post
Review posts offer an informed opinion about a particular product or service.

OpEd Opinion Post
This post states a point of view about a particular topic (the blog author can then add his or her own commentary.)

Interview Post

The author interviews a client, an employee, or an outside source.

In addition to varying the format or template, I teach, you can offer different kinds of information in different blog posts. In a way, each time you post you’re pulling out just one of those attachments on your “Swiss army knife” and offering some valuable information or advice relating to just one aspect of your business. Another day, your blog post can do the same with a different “attachment”.

According to The Book of Totally Useless Information, a rough estimate of the numbers of snowflakes that have fallen on earth is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,0000, yet each one is different from all the others.

What does this have to do with blog content writing? A snowflake needs a nucleus around which to form, usually a speck of dust, sea salt, or other particle. No two specks of dust are truly identical, and the conditions of temperature and moisture are different each time; those minor changes are enough to make all snowflakes different.

The “nucleus” around which business blog posts are formed is their topic, the expertise and products that business offers. The key words and phrases around that topic are what bring readers to the blog posts. But, even though the overall topic is the same, there is endless variety that can be used to make each blog post special, and one way to differentiate blog posts is by using different templates.

Template your blog for variety and timesaving!

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Poor Grammar Spells SPAM in Business Blog Post Content

When scammers call, threatening you will be “taken under custody” because you owe back taxes to the IRS, that poor grammar alone is a giveaway,” business humorist Todd Hunt assures innocent victims. Of course, Hunt explains, “the real IRS never calls, never mails or texts, never asks for a credit card…and certainly never threatens to arrest you.”  The real clue, however, is that if ever custody were involved, you would be taken into it, not under it!

As a corporate blogging trainer, my favorite recommendation to both business owners and the freelance blog content writers they hire to bring their message to customers is this: Prevent blog content writing “wardrobe malfunctions”, including grammar errors, run-on sentences, and spelling errors.

What’s so important about grammar?  Aren’t blogs supposed to be conversational and informal in tone? In fact, I get a lot of pushback from business owners and professionals when I tell them their website is filled with grammar errors. Supposedly nobody “normal” pays attention to such language detail these days. That’s a dangerous attitude, because as Writer’s Digest Yearbook points out, unconventional or incorrect grammar may be seen as an indication of carelessness or ignorance, with the result that readers may take the content itself less seriously.” “If a visitor sees a spelling mistake on the site, he will naturally assume that the carelessness applies to the business as a whole,” warns conversionmedic.com.

Blogs (as I’ve often taught) are more personal and more informal than websites, but they shouldn’t be sloppy. There’s a difference between more formal business writing and blog writing, he says, but “that’s no excuse” (for typos, misspelled words, and poor grammar).  Unlike your sixth grade teacher, internet searchers won’t “correct your paper”– they’ll navigate away from your blog and find somewhere else to go!

A parallel aspect of “good taste” in presenting your brand in a blog is to be sure any claims about your company’s products and services come across as reasonable and provable. Observing “Nice Guy” rules along with those of ”nice” grammar and spelling will tell readers they can trust you to do the right thing in all your dealings..

You may never take those prospects “under custody” or even “into custody”, but you would like to do business with them!

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Is Your Blog Post Title Worth a “Watch”?

Since we’ve been focusing on effective titles in my last couple of Say It For You posts, I couldn’t help but notice a certain article in my August issue of Financial Planning. The title reads “A Sector to Watch” and the article by Craig Israelsen is about including commodities in a portfolio to provide diversification as inflation ticks up. I really liked the “soft-sell” quality of that title. The author wasn’t “hawking” commodity funds, or even recommending them. Instead, it felt as if he was simply alerting his financial advisor readers to something that might be worth their attention.

Ryan Scott of HubSpot would describe that Financial Planning title as an “If I Were You” headline.  “When someone tells us how we should do something, we balk,” Scott explains. But when someone offers to show us why we should do something, it appeals to us,” he adds.
The Israelsen article does, in fact, include facts on the performance of commodities in different markets, and does make an argument for handling inflation using that type of investment. It’s the title, though, that caught my blog content writer’s attention, because it pulls back a couple of steps from making any argument, offering the almost casual suggestion that commodities are worth a “watch”.

“The job of a headline is to get people sucked into your ad/article in the first place,” is the advice Kopywriting Kourse offers. “The most important rule of titles is to respect the reader experience.  If you set high expectations in your title that you can’t fulfill in the content, you’ll lose readers’ trust,” Corey Wainwriight writes in HubSpot.

That’s precisely what’s so refreshing about the Israelsen title – it takes a contrarian position, literally ignoring both these pieces of advice. (Reminds me of the Tom Sawyer story, where, rather than persuading his friends to help him whitewash the fence, Tom makes it look like the task is so much fun that they want to participate…).

“Captivating titles are the ones that stand apart from the rest. Great titles aren’t afraid to be a little weird,” observes Ryan VanDenabeele in Impulse Creative. Craig Israelsen’s A Sector to Watch” certainly caught my attention. Is your blog post title worth a “watch”?

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