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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Blogging to Inspire

“Unless your blog only serves as a personal diary, you should aim to inspire others with your writings,” hongkiat.com advises. All you need to be concerned about is how much value you can provide to readers.  How do you go about providing value? Honkiat’s answers:

  1. Write what others didn’t think of.
  2. Write what is noteworthy, be it a solution or an opinion-based entry.
  3. Be specialized.
  4. Be persuasive.
  5. Be relatable
  6. Demonstrate expertise.

All well and good, but for blog content writers whose aim is the marketing of specific products or services, how does inspiration figure into it?  The answer, I concluded, might come from a YouTube video a friend had turned me onto, listing the ten most common regrets people have later in life.

On the one hand, I reminded myself, in a business blog, the last thing one would want to do is sound “preachy”. After all, readers arrive at a particular website seeking information about a product or service, or to learn more about what that company or individual knows or knows how to do. Still, wouldn’t that information be even more compelling when combined with an inspirational element?

For example, the first most common regret people have is not having travelled more. What if, in a blog post, you described ways to learn about and experience other cultures, even if you had neither the funds nor the time to actually go abroad?  A furniture company describes “12 Spaces Inspired by India.” From catering to fashion, there are endless opportunities to market  products and services  using the appeal of international culture.

Not spending enough time with one’s parents is another common regret. Rather than reinforcing guilt feelings, blog marketers can introduce unique gift ideas, conversation starters (“Tell me a story of a special holiday we shared when I was little)”. Of course, the topic of connecting with parents is ideal for eldercare facilities, elder lawyers, photographers, and therapists, but even shoe companies, food delivery companies, and cell phone companies can offer ideas to help adult children do “a little bit more” to connect with and help their parents.

One of the biggest regrets people mentioned was caring too much about what other people think. This one has endless applications to inspire readers by offering advice, products, and services that help boost self-esteem. As wealthygorilla.com says, “You cannot let the opinions of others dictate how you are going to live your life.”

The typical website, I believe, is more like the catalogs of an earlier era, explaining what products and services the company offers, who the “players” are and in what geographical area they operate. Of course, the better websites give at least a taste of the corporate culture and some of the owners’ core beliefs. The blog’s purpose is to address unspoken questions such as “So, is that different?”, “So, is that good for me?” More than that, however, the blog is there to inspire, helping people address those common regrets.

 

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No Thank You to Using the Ziegarnik Effect to Keep ‘Em Reading

 

We worry about things in which we have not achieved closure, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik realized back in 1927.  When writing content for a business blog, Hassan ud-Deen of unbounce.com concludes, you can use that Zeigarnik insight to “seduce your prospect”. You start the blog post with a hypnotic sentence, he says, snagging readers’ attention and “dragging” them into your copy, talking of a “mysterious little secret”. You keep dangling this secret “open loop” throughout the post, stoking their curiosity, using short sentences that go heavy on the “power verbs”, light on the adjectives. The right action words, Ud-Deen says,” give your copy a muscular, grab-you-by-the-throat effect that keeps your reader glued to the screen.”

To demonstrate one form of  the Ziegarnik effect magic, psychologists Davis and Knoles tested a technique known as reframing.  Going door to door to sell note cards for charity, they used two different “pitches”.  In Pitch #1, prospects were told the price was $3 for 8 notecards.  40% of the households approached completed a purchase. In Pitch #2, prospects were told the price was 300 pennies for 8 notecards;80% of the households became buyers.

What had happened?  The prospects’ routine thought processes were disrupted and they were distracted, Told that the 8 cards for 300 cents was a bargain, they kept trying to “close the open  loop” by figuring it out, remaining engaged in the buying process. What Hassan ud-Deen is inviting blog copy writers to do is “crank up” that confusion factor power to increase conversions.

Uncomfortable reading about all these “tricks??  I know I was, particularly in light of the fact that so many of our Say It For You clients are professional practitioners. . “You can use hard sales tactics when you’re doing door-to-door sales or sending sales letters, but you can’t use the same method for social media,” asserts Heather Sawtell of multibrain.net.  Writing in the Daily Egg, Neil Patel says ,“A successful blogging initiative has to provide valuable information and eye-catching visual content without coming off as pushy and sales-ey” Sawtell and Patel are much more in tune with my preferred methods of creating blog content..

What I like to call the “I/you conversational style” is precisely the approach most effective for business blogs. As a corporate blogging trainer, I use the word “selling” in a very specialized sense.  That’s because, in today’s world, whatever your business or profession, there’s almost no end to the information available to consumers on the Internet.  Our job then, as business blog content writers, isn’t really to “sell” anything, but rather to help readers absorb, buy into, and use all that information. Thank you, but I don’t believe I’ll have much need for  Ziegarnick today!

 

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A Nutritious Business Blog Diet Balances Features and News

 

Like newspapers, business blog content writing can balance feature stories with news. News stories cover breaking, time-sensitive stuff; feature articles might have the same impact whether you read them today or two months from now.

The word “news” when it comes to blog marketing, can mean two entirely different things.  The first type centers around you and your company or practice. Readers need to know about new products and services they can now obtain through you, any new partners or employees you want to introduce, and your recent or upcoming activities in the community; your blog is the perfect way to keep your audience informed as these things are happening. It’s very important, I explain to newbie content writers, to present this “you news” in a way that appears to be “all about them”. For every piece of news about your company, you need to address the unspoken questions such as “So, is that different?”, “So, is that good for me?”

The second type of news relates to your community, your city, your country, even worldwide events, “what’s-going-on-and-how-do-we-fit-in news. In fact, reading daily newspapers is just one of many strategies for blog content development. In a blog post, you might cite material from the news story, relating it to new developments in your own industry or field. The idea is not to regurgitate what’s already been said, as waxmarketing.com points out, but to showcase your own expertise and experience, offering a new perspective on that very news item.

The second type (most blog posts would likely fall into this category) is the feature story. These offer helpful “how-tos”, questions consumers ought to be asking, and stories about how you solved clients’ or patients’ problems. Feature posts are non time-sensitive, and in fact, the goal is to have the material be “evergreen”. (When someone searches for information on a topic, it’s quite possible for them to “matched up” with content written a long time ago.) Good informational content, after all, can have relevance even months and years later after it was first published!

A nutritious business blog diet balances features and news!

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Saying What They Said in Blogging for Business

“Quoting other people is a staple of many types of writing. Journalists use quotes in their stories, magazine writers interview experts to support their piece, and academics quote research papers. As a blogger, you too can borrow the wisdom of others to inspire and support your writing,” advises Ali Luke of dailyblogtips.com.

There are plenty of different ways to incorporate a quote into your post, and you don’t need to use the same method each time, Luke adds, naming some popular tactics:

  • at the start of your post
  • as the basis for your post
  • to support a point you’re making

As I’m fond of saying in corporate blogging training sessions, quoting others in a marketing blog can be good or bad.

On the positive side, when you link to someone else’s remarks on a subject you’re covering, that can:

  • 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)

On the other hand, as is true of all tools and tactics, “re-gifting” content needs to be handled with some restraint and using proper protocol (attributing content to its source).

Professional speaking coach Andrew Dlugan agrees that there are good points to using quotes in your material. “A quotation is more powerful than simply repeating yourself in different words”, he says. 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.”

Curating others’ work – bloggers, authors, speakers – is a wonderful technique for adding variety and reinforcement to your own content.  Remember, though, 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.

Used with discretion, saying what they said can be good in blogging for business!

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In Blog Marketing, Accentuate the Practical

“Most products, ideas, and behaviors are consumed privately,” observes Jonah Berger in his book Contagious. Problem is, he points out, if people can’t see what others are choosing and doing, they can’t imitate them.

On the other hand, Berger cautions, making things more public can have unintended consequences. “If you want to get people to not do things, don’t talk about the people who are doing it.” Instead, his advice is, highlight stories of success that came through using your product or service.

Useful information helps people do what they want to do, but faster and better and easier, Berger says, citing an analysis done by the New York Times which revealed that articles about health, education, and cooking were the most highly read, theoretically because those topics are widely useful.

One piece of research recounted in Contagious is especially relevant for us content writers as we tell our clients’ stories to the public: “Don’t fall into the trap of providing only content that has a broader audience. Narrower content may actually be more likely to be shared, Berger asserts, because “it reminds people of a specific friend or family member who could use that information.”

Go for the practical; people like to help one another.  Of all the principles of contagiousness, what Berger calls Practical Value may be easiest to apply. Business owners and professional practitioners need to package their knowledge and expertise so that people learn about them even as they are passing the knowledge along.

Accentuate the practical, communicating the fact that you and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the latest technology to solve problems and meet needs, yet offer choices of action to help readers feel they are in control.

For effective blog marketing, keep accentuating the practical!

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How-I-Did-It Blogging for Business

“Starting and running a business is traveling a landscape filled with opportunity and hazards.  Knowing which is which can make the difference between growing your company and blowing it up,” begins the special issue of Inc. magazine in which twelve company founders describe how they rose to success.

‘How-we-did-it” stories make for very effective blog content for both business owners and professional practitioners, I’ve learned. In a post a couple of years ago, I quoted The Moth founder George Dawes Green, who teaches storytellers to share their own human failures and frailty. “It’s easier to connect with someone who is or has been where you are,” is the way Beccy Freebody of the Australian charity realisingeverydream puts it.

Sounds great, but how can sharing secrets and failures help when you’re trying to market a business or a practice?

  1. True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the business or practice.
  2. Stories of struggles and failures can be used as a means to an end, using the special expertise and insights you’ve gained towards solving readers’ problems.
  3. Blogs also have a damage control function.  When customer complaints and concerns are recognized and dealt with publicly (there’s nothing more public than the Internet!), that gives the “apology” – and the remediation – a lot more weight in the eyes of readers.

The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that many business owner and practitioner clients are so close to the subject matter of their own past and present business battles, they can’t see how valuable those “failures” can prove to be in terms of blog content. That’s where the outside eye of a professional blog writer becomes especially valuable.

In “how-I-did-it” blogging for business, failures can sometimes be the secret to success!

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Text Still Tops in Delivering Information

infographic

“For years now, I have been listening to numerous digital marketing experts preach about the end of written content as we know it,” Milica of fourdots.com writes. “Even though the entire Web is basically built on it, more than a few experts believe that sooner or later, video is going to take over.”

According to those text-doomsday-ers, Milica explains, the two main reasons text is nearing its death are a) the dramatic decrease in the average attention span of readers, and b) lack of time. Of course, there’s also content overkill, she adds, expressing sadness over the fact that, “although almost every brand is creating and publishing at least some type of content on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis – the overall quality of it has never been lower.”

As a Say It For You blog content writer and trainer, of course, I share Milica’s commitment to words, appreciating the despite-all-that, 4-point case the author makes for text’s continuing viability as the primary driver of online communication:

  1. Unlike video, text gives you the option to stop exactly where you want to, wrapping your mind around a certain piece of information.
  2. Unlike video, text can be easily updated and upgraded.
  3. B2B buyers consume whitepapers, case studies, and webinars, looking for industry thought leadership.
  4. Text stimulates the mind like nothing else.  Video communicates many different things all at one, destroying focus.

The Infographic Design Team agrees. “First, consider the fact that nothing can replace the spoken or printed word. Words are the most important center of our system of language. They express things in a direct manner that carried more meaning than any amount of images, graphics, or pictures could do. At the same time, the Infographicdesignteam authors admit, infographics “captivate the eye in a stronger way due to their attractive images, colors, shapes, and forms, allowing you “to have a more minimalist type site that focuses more on images and graphics to tell a story”.

At Say It For You, we like to cover both bases with “infographic blog posts” designed to include both visual elements and text in a “show-and-tell” combination. As infographicdesignteam.com aptly puts it, “Graphics and infographics complement the text you write in your blogs”.

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Would-You-Rather Blogging for Business

People like hearing other people’s opinions almost as much as they like expressing their own, which accounts for the popularity of the party game “Would You Rather”, in which a dilemma is posed the form of a question beginning with the words “Would you rather”. Would you rather be forced to wear wet socks for the rest of your life or be allowed to wash your hair only once a year? Wear someone else’s dirty underwear or use someone else’s toothbrush? Always have to tell the truth or always have to lie?

The format is highly adaptable to different audiences. The Seventeen Magazine version, for example, asks whether you’d rather live in a fro-yo shop or own your own ice cream truck, and whether you’d rather get thrown into the pool fully clothed or get caught skinny-dipping.

My point in all this? The Would-You-Rather format can work for business blogs. (As a corporate blogging trainer, I’m always considering different ways of communicating with online readers.)

While my writers at Say It For You offer a sort of matchmaking service to help our clients “meet strangers” and hopefully convert at least some of them into friends and customers, we need to realize that the readers will process the information we offer in the context of their own past experience and form their own opinions.

Opinion is compelling. When your blog reveals your unique slant or philosophy relating to your field, potential customer and clients feel they know who you are, not merely what you do. Revealing what you would rather, why you chose to do the kind of work you do, why you’ve created the kind of company or practice you have – that’s powerful stuff.

But what if we find that a business owner or practitioner hasn’t yet formed an opinion on some important trending topic? That’s where the blog can “take a poll”, asking readers for their slant! It’s even valuable to readers when you clarify and put into perspective both sides of a thorny issue within your industry or profession.

“Would You Rather” is popular because people like hearing other people’s opinions almost as much as they like expressing their own. Taking advantage of that in a business blog makes great business sense!

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