In Business Blogging, Focus on Attitudinal Variables

audience attitude in blogging

 

Laurie Hazard and Jen-Paul Nadeau wrote Foundations for Learning because they were keenly aware that many first-year college students have personal development issues.  It’s often not intellectual failings that affect achievement, the authors understand, but “attitudinal variables and personality traits”. Simply put, these authors understand that before their audience can be expected to respond to their “calls to action”, the students might need to be given some tools and techniques to help them succeed.

In blog marketing, we need to start out by really knowing the audience. In fact, that’s the only way that we can select items from our “tool kits” that are most likely to help those blog readers and move them to action. Every aspect of the blog needs to be based on that knowledge – the look, the content, the style of the blog – all must be based around your audience.

Hazard and Nadeau use “Jason” as an example. Jason perceives writing a term paper to be an arduous task, so rather than tackling the job, he avoids it. His anxiety fuels his fear of failure, since the young man assumes that a college student should already know how to do research for a college paper. The authors suggest students do a “cost-benefit analysis”, weighing the advantages of procrastination against the drawbacks.

Similarly, many of our blog readers think they ought to know how to deal with their issue or need. That’s the reason they’ve put off seeking help! The authors of this book invite students to imagine the end results of action – better grades, less pressure, greater sense of accomplishment. For blog content writers, that’s a pretty good model: Empathize with their pain or problem, then offer a path to a feel-better result. Stories, about both past successes and past failures can help our “Jasons” gain confidence. One way business owners and practitioners can demonstrate they understand their readers is by sharing tales of their own failures and the obstacles they needed to overcome.

In Hug Your Haters, author Jay Baer cautions marketers about three word choice categories that can cause trouble:

  • words that lack humility
  • words that diminish the customer
  • words of argument and avoidance

In blog marketing, we need to take a clue from the authors of Foundations for Learning: Before we can expect our readers to respond to our “calls to action”, we need to offer them tools and techniques to help them succeed!

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5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Posting on Social Media

Stories about people who were fired or suffered career-related consequences for posting on social media are easy to brush off as rare events. But they’re also an important reminder that your social media presence isn’t all that separate from your work life. So ask yourself these questions first.

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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Using the ‘Whenever’ Rule to Not Feel Crappy About Your Social Media Feed

Whenever you're having one of those days and seeing others' social media posts makes you feel low, the "whenever" rule can help cheer you up.

Let Your Blog Content Writing Be Driven By Demand

market research“One of your most important concerns is just how much knowledge, experience, or training you can expect in your readers,” David McMurrey teaches in Audience Analysis – Just who are these guys? If you expect some of your readers to lack certain background, do you supply it in your document, he asks?

 

  • If you say no, you run the risk of customers being frustrated with your product or service.
  • If you say yes, you increase your work effort and add to your page count.

There’s no easy answer, McMurrey admits, but you need to know what your audience is going to expect.

As Sleeping Media Giant points out, it’s important to analyze your online audience and target your campaigns to them. I like pointing out that, while blog content writing is an art, there’s quite a bit of science to it as well, and a good part of the science involves targeting that content towards the specific type of customers you want – and who will want – to do business with you.

At Say It For You, we tell clients, one way to target content is to set up a category index on the blog page, so that readers can find their way to content that matches their specific interests. (When you’re just beginning to post blogs for your business or practice, organizing the material isn’t so important, but as you continue posting content over months and years, those categories come to be invaluable.

For your part, when you’re studying your report from, say Google Analytics, you can see which categories were most frequently viewed. That allows your content creation to be driven by “demand”, with the blog itself functioning as a consumer survey tool!

One thing I often find myself pointing out to business owners is that the navigation from the blog to the main website will be smoother and more direct if new “landing pages” are added to the website top match the different search term categories that attract searchers to the blog. (As a blogger, I become part of the company’s marketing team, which, hopefully, includes a web designer and Search Engine Optimization expert.)

Spend an afternoon wearing the hat of an online searcher who’s looking for information about the type of products and services you provide. What are the search engines “serving up”? What kinds of information are you finding on your competitors’ websites and social media pages?

Ten years ago, when I was just starting in the blog content writing field, I heard Chris Baggott, co-founder of then-company Compendium Blogware, caution: “Without a system for gathering and analyzing information about the visitors to your blog, you’re operating in the dark.” Marketing company Hubspot  agrees. Providing valuable content will get you far, the Hubspot authors explain, but it will only get you so far!

Let your blog content writing be research-based and driven by demand!

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Companies Use Blog Content Writing to Get Real

blogging

 

Just why do companies blog? Susan Gunelius, author of Blogging All-in-One for Dummies, offers a list of reasons:

  • to build brand awareness
  • to network with other businesses and experts
  • to build relationships with existing and potential customers
  • to boost sales
  • to communicate marketing messages
  • to learn more about their customers
  • to manage reputation
  • to set up expectations for the customer experience

    My favorite on the Gunelius list was this one:
    “To seem real and human in the consumer’s eye rather than as an untouchable entity”

As a blog writer and blogging consultant, I find that “getting real” through online content is the real goal – and the real challenge. I explain to business owners that putting up fresh blog posts about new products or recent accomplishments tells people that you are in the game. Blog posts help demonstrate that you care about quality in all dimensions of your business.

One interesting perspective on the work we do as professional bloggers is that we are interpreters, translating clients’ corporate message into human, people-to-people terms.  That’s the reason I prefer first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting”. I think people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

“Do you want a tone (for your blog) that is professional? Humorous? Journalistic? Personal diary? Choose one and then inject your own personality into that style,” Gunelius advises.

Getting down and human” in business blogs is so important that it becomes a good idea for a business owner and professional to actually write about past mistakes and struggles. And, I tell entrepreneurs, whether you propose to do the blog writing yourself or collaborate with a professional blog content writing partner, the very process of deciding what to put in the blog is one of self-discovery. In a sense, blogging is a way to “get real” with yourself!

To be sure, marketing, boosting sales, and reputation management are all worthy goals.  The over-riding goal, as Susan Gunelus so aptly puts it, is “to seem real and human in the consumer’s eye!”

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Companies Use Blog Content Writing to Get Real

blogging

 

Just why do companies blog? Susan Gunelius, author of Blogging All-in-One for Dummies, offers a list of reasons:

  • to build brand awareness
  • to network with other businesses and experts
  • to build relationships with existing and potential customers
  • to boost sales
  • to communicate marketing messages
  • to learn more about their customers
  • to manage reputation
  • to set up expectations for the customer experience

    My favorite on the Gunelius list was this one:
    “To seem real and human in the consumer’s eye rather than as an untouchable entity”

As a blog writer and blogging consultant, I find that “getting real” through online content is the real goal – and the real challenge. I explain to business owners that putting up fresh blog posts about new products or recent accomplishments tells people that you are in the game. Blog posts help demonstrate that you care about quality in all dimensions of your business.

One interesting perspective on the work we do as professional bloggers is that we are interpreters, translating clients’ corporate message into human, people-to-people terms.  That’s the reason I prefer first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting”. I think people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

“Do you want a tone (for your blog) that is professional? Humorous? Journalistic? Personal diary? Choose one and then inject your own personality into that style,” Gunelius advises.

Getting down and human” in business blogs is so important that it becomes a good idea for a business owner and professional to actually write about past mistakes and struggles. And, I tell entrepreneurs, whether you propose to do the blog writing yourself or collaborate with a professional blog content writing partner, the very process of deciding what to put in the blog is one of self-discovery. In a sense, blogging is a way to “get real” with yourself!

To be sure, marketing, boosting sales, and reputation management are all worthy goals.  The over-riding goal, as Susan Gunelus so aptly puts it, is “to seem real and human in the consumer’s eye!”

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The Title Can Be the Tease in Blogging for Business

There are two types of titles, I realized, browsing the business section at my favorite local bookstore:

1. The “Huh?s” need subtitles to make clear what the article is about.
2. The “Oh!’” titles are self-explanatory.

Whether in a book or a blog post, the title serves as a “tease” to get a browser to become a reader. Since an important purpose of business blogging is attracting online shoppers, blog post titles are a crucial element in the process. Titles have to be catchy and engaging, but they won’t serve the purpose if the words don’t match up with the reason the searcher landed there in the first place. The combo title hits both bases.

For example, at first glance, Measure what Matters, by John Doerr could be about marketing, weight loss, or parental advice on children’s growth rates. That’s a “teaser”.  I needed the subtitle to clarify: How Google, Bono, and the Google Foundation Rock the World with ODRs.

Other “Huh?”/”Oh!” combo titles included:

  • Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win
  • Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World
  • Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
  • The Human Advantage: The Future of American Work in an Age of Smart Machines

Sleeping Giant: The Untapped Economic and Political Power of America’s New Working Class

Why do titles matter even more in blogs than on book covers? There are two basic reasons:

  1. For search – key words and phrases, especially when used in blog post titles, help search engines make the match between online searchers’ needs and what your business or professional practice has to offer.
  2. For reader engagement – after you’ve been “found”, you still need to “get read”.

The question title, based on the idea of asking readers if they’re grappling with an issue or a need (one you not only know about, but which you’re accustomed to helping solve) can be perfect for the headline of a business blog post. But, there’s a right and wrong way to use question headlines, Amy Foote points out in “The Dos and Don’ts of Question Headlines”. Don’t:

  1. ask obvious questions that address questions to which most people already know the answer
  2. use question headlines as a fear tactic

In well-constructed blog posts, I teach at Say It For You, the title should be a tease!

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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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