Business Blogging With Round-Up Posts – Part 1 of 2

Authorunlimited editor Cathy Presland calls them Best-of-the-Web Round-Ups, referring to blog posts consisting of “lists of the best websites, You Tube clips, or any other kind of web content that relates to your topic”, and round-up posts are great way, she advises, for business blog content writers to demonstrate the breadth of your own knowledge and your perspective on a topic.

Round-ups needn’t be confined to websites, Presland adds.  They might consist of:

  • Favorite Facebook pages to follow
  • Best software or apps
  • Best blogs you’ve read in the past month
  • Favorite personalities in your area of expertise
  • Top tips from around the Internet  (this very Say It For You post is an example of that.)

This week, I’m doing a round-up of noteworthy observations about blogging:

“Video continues to be a growth market, as well. But, let’s not forget about the words. Not just our tweets and status updates, but our thoughts… the longer pieces of content.”

– Mitch Joel in “The End of Blogging”

 

“Not promoting your blog is like renting a theater to stage your one-man show and then refusing to put up flyers because you don’t want anyone to show up.”

– Michelle Weber in “Should Your Blog Be on Facebook?”

 

“Do you like me? I mean, you know, in a platonic, Facebook sort of way. Well, you should. Moreover, if you’re a blogger, you should have a Facebook page — it’s a great way to get your content out to a larger audience and engage with new people.”

– Jeff Goins in “Why You Need a Facebook Page”

“Highly effective bloggers have an established writing and publishing schedule that they adhere to with fervor. They don’t write and post when they feel like it. They write and publish according to a schedule that helps them to both remain on track and accountable and build anticipation among their audience.”

– Dwaynia Wilkerson in “7 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers”
Blog writers are very much like museum curators, I often explain. We “gather” pieces of art and then help the visitors understand what they are seeing.  On behalf of our business owner of professional practitioner clients, we add “spin” to the curated material, showcasing the wisdom and expertise of our clients’ business or practice!

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“Ever-Wonder-Why” Blogging for Business

My friend Larry M. shared a fascinating list of “Ever Wonder Why Trivia” that I think you’ll enjoy.  More important, there’s a lesson here: trivia and blog marketing go together like “a horse and carriage” (if you’re my age) or maybe like peanut butter and jelly (if you’re not).

Trivia can be used in business blogs for:

  • defining basic terminology
  • sparking curiosity about the subject
  • putting modern-day practices and beliefs into perspective
  • explaining why the business owner or practitioner chooses to operate in a certain way

Here are some choice tidbits from Larry M.’s list – see if they spark some ideas related to your own business or profession:

  • Why do men’s clothes have buttons on the right, while women’s clothing has them on the right? When buttons were first invented, they were very expensive and used primarily on rich people’s clothing.  Most people are right-handed, so the buttons went on the right. (Rich women were dressed by their maids).
  • Why do Xs at the end of a letter signify kisses? In the Middle Ages, few people knew how to write, and documents were signed with an X. Kissing the X. was a sign of accepting the obligations specified in the document.
  • Why is someone feeling great said to be “on Cloud Nine”? Clouds are numbered based on the altitudes they attain, with 9 being the highest level.
  • Why do we save coins in jars called “piggy banks”? Dishes and cookware in Europe used to be made of an orange clay called “pygg”.

A tidbit of trivia, I’ve found, can be the jumping off point for explaining what problems can be solved using your business’ products and services. Trivia is just one of the many tools that can help business owners present what they know, what they do best, and what they have to sell.

When I’m offering business blogging assistance to writers and owners, I talk about the need to create as much fresh material as possible to inform, educate, and entertain.  That’s a pretty tall order for most busy business owners and employees.  Collecting trivia can be part of “keeping up” with blog content creation.  “Ever-wonder-why” blog posts are one good place to start. 

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It’s Smart to Answer “Stupid Questions” in Your Business Blog

“The next time someone asks you a seemingly stupid question, stop and look at it from their side,” advises speaker Todd Hunt. After asking his local copy shop to quote a simple black-and-white printing job, Hunt was annoyed when they emailed him asking whether he wanted them to print his job on their black printer or color printer. (“What a stupid question,” Hunt’s first thought was.) His printer explained that some clients want black jobs printed on a color printer because that gives the black a richer glow.  “My project didn’t need a ‘fancy’ black, he explains now. “But they asked, and that impressed me,” Hunt now concludes.

Remember, as business blog content writers, we need to impress readers even before they’ve had the chance to ask us their questions, “stupid” or otherwise.  They do have questions – in fact, those readers are online because they’re searching for answers to questions they have and for solutions for dilemmas they’re facing. I really believe that blog writing for business will succeed only if two things are apparent to readers, and in the order presented here:

1. You (the business owner or professional practitioner) understand their concerns and needs
2. You and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the services to solve exactly those problems and meet precisely those needs.

How can you anticipate what readers’ questions are so we can offer the answers in our blog? Let some of your existing customers provide the answers though testimonials. Besides that, every business owner fields customer queries daily. Just as Todd Hunt shared with his readers the question about black and white print jobs, you can share with your readers actual situations that have arisen in your business or practice.

In your blog, you can also be doing the questioning, inviting readers to comment on a particular statement or offering a brief survey or questionnaire. Point being, there are no stupid questions, and it’s always smart to answer questions in your business blog.

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Halloween Hints for Your Business Blog

blogging to answer questions

 

The late October wind was serene and tranquil as the bold orange sun faded into the seemingly empty autumn evening sky. Crisp shades of red, yellow, and orange from fallen leaves, formed a thin layer over the brown lawns of the neighborhood. Immediately noticeable were the bolder colors in the decorations of the local estates. Each color scheme of deep purples, grays, and oranges had a corresponding theme of horror….

(For the benefit of high school and college students, this piece of writing is offered as an example of an opening paragraph for a descriptive essay using a Halloween theme.)

“A descriptive paragraph describes a person, place, or thing, and its purpose is to paint a word picture using rich vocabulary,” the University of North Carolina in Asheville points out. One technique is “using the five senses. – what it looks like, how it feels, the sounds it makes, the smell, and possibly even the taste,” UNCA teachers point out. “Writing with sensory descriptions requires the use of precise and sophisticated vocabulary,” the authors caution.

But can visual imagery and subtle nuances be useful in business blog content writing? And are readers at all likely to “wait for it… wait for it…” as they read through the many descriptions of ‘crisp shades of red, yellow, and orange” to get to the “corresponding theme of horror”?

Opening blog post lines need to be compelling, to be sure. But painting word pictures in the first line? Maybe not such a good idea, I’d caution freelance blog content writers.  In fact, one critical function served by the first line of any marketing blog post is reassuring readers they’ve arrived at precisely the right location to find the products, services, and information they were looking for in the first place.

Keeping Halloween in mind, however, (think about the delicious eeriness of a haunted house, where you know scary things are in store, but not where or when they’ll show up), you can use the title and the opening line of a post to make a controversial statement or offer a make-’em-sit-up-and-take-notice statistic.

While opening lines in business blog posts should be definitive rather than mysterious, one very important function of blog posts can be de-mystification, shining the light of day on misinformation about your field.

There’s no doubt visual imagery is powerful, and freelance blog writers can certainly paint pictures with words, helping readers experience how safe, happy, beautiful and savvy they will be feeling after taking advantage of your products and services!

Happy Halloween, all!

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Halloween Hints for Your Business Blog

blogging to answer questions

 

The late October wind was serene and tranquil as the bold orange sun faded into the seemingly empty autumn evening sky. Crisp shades of red, yellow, and orange from fallen leaves, formed a thin layer over the brown lawns of the neighborhood. Immediately noticeable were the bolder colors in the decorations of the local estates. Each color scheme of deep purples, grays, and oranges had a corresponding theme of horror….

(For the benefit of high school and college students, this piece of writing is offered as an example of an opening paragraph for a descriptive essay using a Halloween theme.)

“A descriptive paragraph describes a person, place, or thing, and its purpose is to paint a word picture using rich vocabulary,” the University of North Carolina in Asheville points out. One technique is “using the five senses. – what it looks like, how it feels, the sounds it makes, the smell, and possibly even the taste,” UNCA teachers point out. “Writing with sensory descriptions requires the use of precise and sophisticated vocabulary,” the authors caution.

But can visual imagery and subtle nuances be useful in business blog content writing? And are readers at all likely to “wait for it… wait for it…” as they read through the many descriptions of ‘crisp shades of red, yellow, and orange” to get to the “corresponding theme of horror”?

Opening blog post lines need to be compelling, to be sure. But painting word pictures in the first line? Maybe not such a good idea, I’d caution freelance blog content writers.  In fact, one critical function served by the first line of any marketing blog post is reassuring readers they’ve arrived at precisely the right location to find the products, services, and information they were looking for in the first place.

Keeping Halloween in mind, however, (think about the delicious eeriness of a haunted house, where you know scary things are in store, but not where or when they’ll show up), you can use the title and the opening line of a post to make a controversial statement or offer a make-’em-sit-up-and-take-notice statistic.

While opening lines in business blog posts should be definitive rather than mysterious, one very important function of blog posts can be de-mystification, shining the light of day on misinformation about your field.

There’s no doubt visual imagery is powerful, and freelance blog writers can certainly paint pictures with words, helping readers experience how safe, happy, beautiful and savvy they will be feeling after taking advantage of your products and services!

Happy Halloween, all!

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Having the Last Word in Your Business Blog

closing lines in blogs“Nothing can be more annoying to your reader than an article that ends too abruptly or shabbily,” Elizabeth Soumya writes in BlogVault.com. “As writers we can often feel complacent, as if we have little to say by the time we find ourselves at the end.” But concluding means bringing your blog post to a convincing end, one that doesn’t leave readers feeling dissatisfied, Soumya cautions.

My favorite trivia magazine, Mental Floss, understands the importance of last words, devoting a long article to 64 famous people and their famous dying words, including:

  • Blues singer Bessie Smith: “I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.”
  • Frank Sinatra: “I’m losing it.”
  • Benjamin Franklin: “A dying man can do nothing easily.”
  • Charles Gussman (writer and TV announcer): “And now for a final word from our sponsor…”
  • Sir Winston Churchill: “I’m bored with it all.”
  • Steve Jobs: “Oh wow, oh, wow, oh wow!”

“How you start will determine if you get read,” says Brian Clark of copyblogger.com, but “how you end will determine how people feel about the experience.”  Of course, he admits, the direct response copywriter’s favorite closer is the call to action. “Make it clear what you’d like to have happen,” Clark warns. Endings are critical, he points out, because the last impression you leave with people is the most important.

End with a lesson, a discovery, or a revelation, is the advice of world-words.com. You shouldn’t simply repeat what you’ve already said, however.  Use an image, fact, or anecdote that helps summarize and demonstrate all that has gone before, while simultaneously hammering home the main point.

A great opener with a lame last line is.., well, lame, I point out to business blog content writers.. Sure, it’s super-important in blogging for business to have great titles and strong, curiosity-stirring openers, but you’ve got to “close your parentheses”. One way to do that is the tie-back, a news writing device that refreshes readers’ memory about earlier parts of the business blog post.

In corporate blog writing, it all matters – the title, the opening line, and the reader-friendly, relevant, updated, useful content.  Somehow it’s not the same, though, without a great finish. Have the last word in your own business blog!

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Respect the Rules of Reversal in Blogging for Business

first impressions in blogging

 

First impressions can affect many elements of your life course, from how you fare in job interviews to whether you gain friends at social gatherings, Psychology Today explains. Yet first impressions can be reversed, as Melissa Ferguson, head of Cornell University’s Automaticity Lab found after conducting some very interesting experiments….

In the first series, test subjects were introduced to a fictional character named Bob, initially portrayed as good, displaying nice behaviors such as helping a woman carry groceries and donating to a soup kitchen. Only after that initial impression had formed were subjects told Bob was convicted of a heinous act involving a child.  The good impression of Bob completely flipped.

In the second test series, Bob was introduced to participants as a nasty guy who hunts deer out of season, yells at his girlfriend in public, and refuses to help a child fix a bike. When it is later revealed that Bob donated a kidney to a stranger, subjects did think a  little better of Bob, but never really thought well of him. The negative first impression was much harder to turn around than the positive first impression.

Negative first impressions, however, were found to be completely reversed when they had been the result of mistaken information. When participants were told Bob was found knocking over furniture in a neighbor’s house and taking precious items out of the house, the negative impression that gave was totally reversed when subjects learned the house was on fire and that the precious items Bob was saving were the children living there.

Amazing, I teach Say It For You client company owners and professional practitioners, the difference your customers’ first encounter with you will make to your success in business!  And, if that encounter takes place online (as so often proves the case today), the one chance you’ll be given to make a great first impression is going to come through your business blog. You want online readers to get a good first impression of not only about what you do, but of who you are and why you see things the way that you do.

Statistically, marketing blogs are most likely to be read by potential clients as opposed to existing ones. As a content writer, you have only a few seconds to help readers put themselves into the scene, envisioning the savings, the satisfaction, the pride, the increased health and improved appearance they’ll enjoy after using your product or service.

Respect the rules of reversal in blogging for business!

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Blogging for Business While Inspiring Three Types of Trust

blogging to inspire trust

Trust is a powerful intangible asset,” Allen Harris, CEO of Berkshire Money Management Inc. reminds financial planners.  A Knowledge@Wharton special report describes three types of trust between financial advisors and clients:

  1. trust in know-how
  2. trust in ethical conduct
  3. trust in empathetic skills

“Trust is everything in the online world,” writes A.J. Agrawal in Forbes. In fact, Agrawal cites a recent Econsultancy study showing that 61% of customers read and trust online reviews when making a purchase. By producing quality information that’s true and reliable in every blog, you are making sure you yourself become reliable, Agriwal advises.

As business blog content writers, we can work to inspire three types of trust in the business providers and professional practitioners who hire use to convey their message:

Trust in know-how
Sharing know-how, I’ve found, is sometimes a cause for concern to some business owner and practitioner clients of Say It For You – they don’t want to come off boastful and self-serving or be perceived as using hard-sell tactics to promote themselves. But browsers on the Web “stopped” at your particular business blog because they need advice about a subject you know about, I remind them. Those readers want to feel trust in your know-how and professionalism and you won’t be able to help them until that trust happens.

Trust in ethical conduct
The second level of trust addresses the question all buyers ask themselves, “Do I trust you not to steal money from me and to deliver on your promises?” In training blog writers, I often use the example of job interviews. These days, interviewers focus less on the facts (which they’ve already read on the resume), but on how the prospective employee tends to function in various situations.  Employers are trying to discover the person behind the resume. In the same way, readers who visit your blog are trying to learn about the business owner or practitioner behind the blog.

One way to address that need is to use opinion to clarify what differentiates your business or practice from its peers. Primarily, the blog has to add value, not just a promise of value should the reader convert to a buyer, but real value in terms of information, skill enhancement, or a new way of looking at the topic. Searchers will sense that they’ve come to a provider they can trust.

Trust in empathetic skills
In meeting a financial advisor, Tucker observes, potential clients are asking themselves, “Do you care about me?” Soft skills such as relationship-building and interpersonal communication are going to be more important in coming years than technical skills, he adds.. Your content helps visitors judge whether you have their best interests at heart. Even if you’ve come across as the most competent of product or service providers, you still need to pass the “warmth” test.  Does your blog present you as “real people”, with a passion for serving in your field? In today’s click-it-yourself, do-it-yourself world, our content writing needs to demonstrate to online searchers that, in our fields, we ARE smarter than Google Maps, or eHow, or Wikipedia. Most important, we need to make clear, we’re a lot more caring for our customers – they can count on us!

 

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More About Quotations in Blogging for Business

Chocolate Quotation Marks and Asterisk

Using quotations in blog posts can help create anticipation, suspense, or drama, as we went over earlier this week in my Say It For You blog. Quotations help reinforce points while adding variety and authority, and, so long as they are not overdone, they can be a very good idea in blogging for business. But, in addition to the content writing itself, there are some technical to-dos and no-nos about quotations that bear need mentioning, and that will be our focus today.

On the negative side, Dave Smith of realestatebloglab.com issues a caution about quotations: Don’t use double quote marks in blog post titles, he says.  Double quote marks at the beginning and end of a phrase tells the search engine to look only for those exact words in that exact order, severely limiting your ability to “get found” through category or organic search.

A second crucial caution has to do with plagiarism.  The dictionary definition? “An instance of using or closely imitating  the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s
own.” Sure, you’re creating value for your readers by curating, gathering information from many sources, but it’s only fair to create a link to the authors’ sites, giving them the attribution or credit, advises Nick Schaferoff of Torque.

While we’re talking about mechanics, there’s benefit to be had in linking back to your own former blog posts. ”I find that when someone views more than a single page on your blog that they’re more likely to remember it, subscribe to it, comment upon it and become a regular and loyal reader,” Darren Rowse of problogger.com observes.

“Quotations can bring your writing to life – the reader imagines someone saying the words,” says Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, but you have to follow certain rules, depending on what other punctuation marks you mix with your quotation marks. In American English we always put periods and commas inside quotation marks, she stresses.

There are two reasons to use quotation marks in English writing, explains yourdictionary.com.

1.  You are quoting someone; that is to say you are using someone else’s exact words, and you are giving that person credit for having said them.
2.  You are being sarcastic (He can’t get a date, because no one wants to be seen in his “car”.)

As a blog content writer and trainer, I’m not being in the least sarcastic when I say that, in business blogs, quotations can be a very good idea!

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In Business Blogs, Quotations Can Be a Good Idea

Quotation MarksHow good an idea is it to use quotations in your business blog? Very good, once you allow for certain caveats. You can use a quote to:

  • reinforce your point
  • show you’re in touch with trends in your field
  • add value for readers (by aggregating different sources of information in one business blog)
  • add variety to your material
  • add to the authority of your claims

In “How to Use Quotes in Your Speech”, Andrew Dlugan says that a quotation is more powerful than simply repeating yourself in different words. But Dlugan offers a caution I want to emphasize to business bloggers: Avoid closing your speech with a quote. “Your final words should be your own,” he cautions.

I agree.  Curating the work of others (bloggers, authors, speakers) is a wonderful technique for adding variety and reinforcement to your own content.  Remember, though, when it comes to writing marketing blogs, you’re trying to make your own cash register ring.  It’s your voice that has to be strong throughout the post, so readers will click through to your website or shopping cart. (In the case of Say It For You ghost blogging clients, the blog writer must become the voice of each business owner or professional practitioner.)

“Depending on how you deliver the quotation,” Andrew Dlugan adds, “you can create anticipation, suspense, or drama.”  (As much as I’d like to imagine otherwise, “Abraham Lincoln once said” or “Microsoft founder Bill Gates once said…”, will probably capture more attention than “I always say…”.)

Dlugan offers a couple of warnings:  a) Don’t use a quote that everyone knows: you’ll receive no benefit from repeating it. b) Don’t overdo.

In blogging for business, quotations can be a very useful tool!

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