Let Me Count the Ways to Use Numbers in a Business Blog

numbers in blogs

“Use numerals to express numbers 10 and above, and use words to express numbers below 10,” Paige Jackson of the American Psychological Association reminds writers.
Another writing guidance source, the Purdue OWL, has this to say: “Although usage varies, most people spell out numbers than can be expressed in one of two words and use figures for other numbers.” The OWL offers several examples of each choice:

Words:

  • over two pounds
  • six million dollars
  • after thirty-one years
  • eighty-three people

Numbers:

  • after 126 days
  • only $31.50
  • 6,381 bushels
  • 4.78 liters

When Pamela Vaughan and her colleagues at HubSpot analyzed all there own blog posts to see which titles had performed the best in terms of search results, the top eight each included a number, starting with::

  • “12 Quick Tips to Search Google Like an Expert”
  • “12 Mind-Blogwing Statistics Every Marketer Should Know”
  • “How to Monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day”
  • “The 9 Worst Ways to Use Twitter for Business”

Ryan McCready of Vennage.com is even more specific, suggesting, after looking at 121,333 unique articles, tthat 10 is the best number to use in blog titles. The number 5, McCready points out, is second. Avoid using the teens, he adds, and never, ever use the number 2.

Career coaches suggest that using numbers may be one of the most underutilized strategies in cover letter writing. Numbers are a great way to be specific about your accomplishments.  They also show that you pay attention to benchmarks and concentrate on setting and meeting goals.

As a blog content writer and trainer, I stress that numbers can be used in business blogs to “build belief”. For example, statistics can demonstrate the extent of a problem your product or service helps solve.

Whether you follow the APA formatting or the Purdue OWL, using numbers in your business blog is a way to quantify, or to qualify – and get the business!

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In-Command Business Blogging

COMMAND -   3D stock image of Red text on white background
Messages have two aspects, explains Elizabeth J. Natalle in Teaching Interpersonal Communication, the report aspect and the command aspect. Since we blog content writers are always looking to find the right tone to translate corporate message into people-to-people terms, I found Natalle’s explanation of the two categories very useful.

I put the well-written article “50 Ways to Live a Longer, Healthier Life” (in the March issue of the AARP Magazine) to the control/command test. Author Nick Farrai offers lots of information and statistics from credible sources, including:

  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel review
  • 15 studies published in the European Heart Journal
  • New York University’s Langone Medical Center
  • Harvard University’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health
  • JAMA Internal Medicine
  • American Heart Association
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Concordia University
  • U.S. Department of Transportation

So how did this long article fare when it came to the command aspect? (Remember that the command aspect related to the relationship between the communicants – the people offering the advice and those for whom the advice is intended). I gave Farrai high marks for knowing his audience, and for showing how the information he was serving up would help you (he uses the word “you” a lot, which is great for creating a relationship). He’s “giving away” highly useful tips with no hint of salesmanship. “With this collection of some of the most important longevity findings, you’ll have the road map you need to get to 80, 90, 100 or beyond.”

The 50 healthful hints following each set of statistics and findings come in the form of definitive “commands”.

  • “Go nuts”.
  • “Keep watching LOL cat videos”
  • “Get social”
  • “Watch your grandkids”
  • “Read more”
  • Practice home fire drills”
  • “Take the stairs every day.”

You might say the art of blog marketing consists of supplying facts, and then putting those facts in context, which is precisely what this AARP article does. As bloggers, we’re giving readers the raw materials to think about, but we need to go one step further, demonstrating why those facts matter, and suggesting ways readers can use the information for their own benefit. That’s exactly what in-command business blogging does!

 

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Basically, We Bought Their Car For Them

Buying a new car

 

At a recent study session for financial planners, Waypoint Residential’s Todd Patterson made it really easy for us in the audience to understand exactly how excellent a return Waypoint had managed to generate for its investors over the last two years. After comparing dollars invested and dollars realized, Patterson summed up the situation in these simple terms:  “Basically, we bought their car for them.”

Let’s face it – most business blog posts make claims, either outright or implied.  The claims may be understated, exaggerated, or exactly on the money, but still – a claim is a claim is a claim. And when you make a claim, the problem is, blog visitors probably don’t know how to “digest” those claims you’ve “served up”.  They simply don’t have any basis for comparison, not being as expert as you are in your field. What I’m getting at is that every claim needs to be put into context, so that it not only is true, but so that it feels true to your online visitors. That’s precisely what Todd Patterson did so well in talking to us financial planners.

One core function of blogs for business is explaining yourself, your business philosophy, your products, and your processes.  An effective blog clarifies what sales trainers like to call your “unique value proposition” in terms readers can understand. And one excellent way to do just that is by making comparisons with things with which readers are already comfortable and familiar! Even those financial planner “numbers people” assiduously taking notes on their laptops, intending to share those stats with investors, needed something more.  That “more” was the “sound bite” about investors making enough money in two years to fund a car.

There are tens of millions of blog posts out there making claims of one sort or another, even as you’re reading this Say It For You post. Based on my own experience as an online reader, I’d venture to say fewer than 10% of them attempt to put their claims in context; and only the very top few manage to convey to their blog visitors what those claims can mean for them!

Basically, blog content writers, ask yourself what benefit your product or service “buys” for your customers and clients!

 

 

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Blogging to Bolster Your Point of View

perspektive

“Indiana is growing – but we can’t neglect transit as a quality of life and economic development priority,” Michael Huber CEO of the Indy Chamber and Steve Sullivan, CEO of MIBOR Realtor Association agree. Both are in favor of raising taxes in Marion County to improve transit  services.  Huber and Sullivan use several tactics to strengthen their argument in favor of our investing in a transit system:

Offering details and explanations of the proposed plan:

  • New rapid-transit lines
  • All-day, high-frequency bus service
  • Weekend and crosstown service
  • Tax would be an additional 25 cents for every $100 of income, less than $10 a month for the average household
  • Who will benefit? Low-income households, senior citizens, people with disabilities, healthcare and hospitality workers who have evening and weekend hours, employers who want to attract employees

Statistics:

  • Marion Country gained 4000 residents in 2015
  • Indianapolis is the nation’s 14th largest city, but our bus fleet ranks 84th
  • Brookings Institute ranks Indy as 64th out of the 100 largest metros in transit services

Motivational statements:

  • “It’s a vote to bring new investment to struggling neighborhoods…”
  • “Better service connects people and jobs, and creates self-sufficiency.”
  • “Transit creates upward mobility and independence for those who rely on it most.”

“I just do not get it,” says Mitch Roob, Executive VP of Keramida Environmental, taking a stand on the other side of the debate. “How would a train-like bus benefit more than a very small portion of the community?  Is it equitable to charge someone for a service they likely never will use or for that matter even see?”
To bolster his argument against taxing Indy residents to fund a rapid transit system, Roob employs three tactics:

Statistics: 
Dallas invested more than $8.2 billion in a system that today carries only 4% of the area’s daily work commuters
Atlanta’s transit system ridership is down 15% from 2001

Turning opponents’ arguments against their case:
“Advocates suggest that “transit-oriented development” will spur development in the proximity of the transit corridor”. If so, says Roob, transit will add value to real estate, and the incremental property tax can pay for the service.

Emotional appeal – painting a picture:
“Trains and buses are not happy places.  Somber, hurried passengers cast their wary glance away from the strangers next to them whose personal space they have inadvertently but necessarily invaded.”

Which side makes a more powerful statement.  Truth is, both articles are impactful because both sides take a stand on the issue and then use various tactics to bolster their stance in the eyes of readers. Whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business to consumer blog writing, the blog content itself needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For Checks and Blog Content, We Need Both Words and Numbers

Writing a check
When it comes to check writing, business humorist Todd Hunt learned the hard way, words trump numbers. The humiliation will live with him forever, he admits, but he learned something: The bank goes by the amount you write in words (on the line that says “Pay”); not the numerals you write in the box. What actually happened, Hunt explains, is that he miswrote the words, which made his check worth more than he meant it to be…resulting in an overdraft. So, he concludes, words trump numerals.

In fact, to prevent his readers from falling into the same trap, Hunt shares an instructive article about foiling crooks when using checks. The gist of it is, write out the amount using words to avoid fraud and confusion.

“I am a Qualitative Social Scientist,” states Sarah-Louise Quinnell “I believe in that words tell you more than numbers”, she says, She came to that conclusion, she reveals, in researching cognitive processes for her Doctoral thesis.

For example, Quinell discusses a particular statistic:

“85% of students ranked the class a 4 or above”.

That sounds positive, she explains, until you dig a bit deeper and find out that only 30% of the people in the class answered the question!

“Words on the other hand,” she points out, “are harder to manipulate. They also tell you why someone voted a particular way.” To improve customer satisfaction you need to understand the why’s,” she concludes.

Business blog headlines and business blogs themselves are filled to the brim with statistics. In fact, one of the hottest trends in business blogging today is infographics, which is a way of presenting statistics in visually appealing form by combining numbers with graphic images. “Infographics are all over the place nowadays. How do you know which ones to trust?” asks Randy Olson.

In fact, Olson views “data visualizations” or “infographics” with a jaundiced eye. Yes, he admits, they have repeatedly provided us with new and insightful perspectives on the world around us. However, time and time again, he says, “we have seen that data visualizations can easily be manipulated to lie.”

As a corporate blogging trainer, I see a lot of value in the use of numbers in blog posts (assuming, of course, that statistics are presented fairly and honestly).

Using numbers in blog post titles is a great way to set expectations for a post. It tells readers exactly what they’re going to get, and exactly how much of it, says Pamela Vaughan of Hubspot.

But where the words come in, I believe, is that one of the primary functions blogs serve is putting statistics into perspective, so that readers are given the answer to the “So what?” and “So, what’s in-it-for-me” questions.

Payors must fill out their checks with both words and numbers. Business blog post content writers shou
ld do the same.

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A Business Blog Needs Words

emoji

Blogging has become the best possible way to leverage your online presence and gain traction with Internet searches performed by your potential clients.”(No surprise there, but what I did find surprising is the source of the remark – none other than the National Association of Realtors!)

The realtor website went on to repeat the modern blogging mantra: “An interesting, relevant image is an essential part of your blog post. It’s no merely aesthetic; it’s crucial for boosting your readership and your SEO. People are much more likely to read a blog illustrated with a nice image,” the NAR advises. “It doesn’t matter what industry, topic, niche, or specialty, images matter.”

“Hey!” I sometimes want to shout. “Don’t forget that, no matter what industry, topic, niche, or specialty, the main content of the blog post consists (or at least should consist) of WORDS. Words matter.” Jennifer Olney of bealeader.com knows what I mean. In “Lazy Blogging: Why Your Word Matter,” Olney comments that too many authors rely on visuals to take the lazy way out of writing. Real authors, she implies use adult words and showcases their understanding of the use and beauty of the English language.

“Content comes in many forms, but web copy, articles and blog posts are among the most popular – and effective,” writes Dan Hughes of jtvdigital. Like Olney, Hughes observes that “ Many people overlook words and the power they have to entice their target audience. In this day and age, pictures and video are powerful promotional tools that cater to the attention span of the modern digital consumer, Hughes points out. “However,” he continues, “much like any business, well-crafted web copy is an essential part of success.”

“Words are art, and our ability to convey our message in words helps us be understood without distraction, Olney says. All the emojis in the world could not convey the extent to which I agree!

 

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“Iffy” Blog Content Writing

questions

 

 

 

 

National Geographic Kids collects quirky, fun facts. I like the ones presented as “ifs”. I think we blog content writers could sometimes present business information in that same thought-provoking format.  The “If”, I find, is what puts each fact into perspective and makes readers curious to learn more.

 

“If you continued to grow as fast as an average baby, you’d weight about 413,300 pounds by age 10.”
Any of the following business owners or professional practitioners might use that fact to kick off a discussion about child growth, offering useful information to prospects and clients and demonstrating their own expertise:

  •   Child care centers
  •   Pediatricians
  •   Children’s magazine publishers
  •   Child psychologists
  •   Photographers

“If the longest blue whale could stand on its tail, it would be as tall as a ten-story building.”
Who might be interested in using such an arcane comparison in their content marketing? How about…

  • Cruise companies
  • Travel agents
  • Recreational boat operators
  • Science and nature publications

“If you spent a dollar every second, it would take about 32 years to spend a billion dollars.”
Sometimes, in quoting statistics about the economy or about events in the news, we’re forced to use numbers so large we cannot comprehend their meaning. Marketers can play off this concept:

  • Organizations raising money to fight world hunger
  • Financial advisors talking about economic trends
  • Money management counselors
  • Science academies

As a business blogging trainer, I urge bloggers to demonstrate why the facts they’re offering might matter to readers, and to suggest ways that readers can use that information for their own benefit.  Engaging readers’ interest by including in your blog posts facts that are even loosely related to your industry is a fine tactic. That information, though, doesn’t always need to be actionable.  If the facts you present in your blog are intrinsically interesting, it’s worth including them. Why?  To add variety.  To make reading your blog posts fun. To demonstrate your own interest and knowledge in your field.

What “iffy” thought provoking statements can you think of to put your business messages (or, in the case of freelance blog content writers, your clients’ messages) into perspective for readers?

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