facebook google plus twitter
Webucator's Free Introduction to Social Media Tutorial

Lesson: Blogging

Welcome to our free Introduction to Social Media tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Introduction to Social Media Training course.

In this lesson, you will learn how blogging can be part of your overall marketing strategy.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn about blogging for branding purposes.
  • Learn about blogging for sales opportunities.
  • Learn about blogging for SEO benefits.
  • Learn about blogging for support and customer service functions.
  • Learn about setting up a blogging policy.
  • Learn about tools, services, and management.
  • Learn about tracking activity and results from blogging.

Blogging for Branding

Blogging provides your company an ideal opportunity to build your brand through sharing content related to your products and services. Users may find your blog posts through search engines, social media, blog aggregators, or a variety of other ways. If they stumble upon one of your posts and find it intriguing, there is a possibility they will navigate to your main blog portal and peruse through your other posts as well. They may even decide to become a regular subscriber to your blog.

A main goal of blogging is to become a content leader in your industry. Beyond reaping any SEO or promotional benefits, you want to be the go-to source for customers looking for content related to the products and services you offer.

A perfect use of blogging for branding is Sharpie. They've developed the Sharpie Blog, which highlights people's creative projects using Sharpies. The blog is an entertaining resource that undoubtedly brings back return visitors. Take a look at the screenshot below:

On the flip side, Google's official blog maintains a captive audience using a more serious tone. They invite employees from across the company to post product updates and company news, resulting in a unique voice and perspective for each post. Consider how you might engage your target audience within your blog(s).

Five Blogging Tips

  1. Write timely posts. Incorporate news, trends, and stats that relate to the product or service that you are writing about.
  2. Break up long posts. Divide a long post into smaller sections or create a list if you are making a lot of points in one article.
  3. Include multimedia. Use video, photos, infographics, or audio to present your content whenever possible.
  4. Don't oversell. Don't focus entirely on selling your products or services. If your blog feels like an advertisement, no one will want to read it! Make sure you are including lots of useful tips and resources.
  5. Diversify the voices on your blog. Interview experts, write question-answer style posts, and invite guest bloggers. Readers generally find new voices refreshing, but make sure that the overall mission of your blog is still being followed.

Handling a Tough Situation

Duration: 15 to 25 minutes.

Imagine one of your employees creates a scandal that results in a lot of somewhat embarrassing press coverage. You've been assigned with deciding if and how you should address the situation on your blog. Would you address it? If so, how? If not, why not?

Solution:

JetBlue was faced with such a situation after one of their flight attendants went a little nuts. According to the New York Times article:

"After a dispute with a passenger who stood to fetch luggage too soon on a full flight just in from Pittsburgh, Mr. Slater, 38 and a career flight attendant, got on the public-address intercom and let loose a string of invective."

"Then, the authorities said, he pulled the lever that activates the emergency-evacuation chute and slid down, making a dramatic exit not only from the plane but, one imagines, also from his airline career."

Below is a screenshot of a short article released by JetBlue after the incident:

Blogging for Sales

Let's consider sales opportunities that are available within your blogs. There are two main components we're going to cover:

  1. Providing the proper free content that your customers need with the thought that they will remember your content when making their next purchasing decision.
  2. Having sales promotional material and calls to action within your blog entries.

Free Content

First up, desired free content. This will be specific to your business, so throw on your customer hat and consider what content you might be searching for when you're looking for a product/service that your company might offer. For example, if you're an application developer and you've just designed the latest word processing app for iPads, why not offer your list of benefits, but as a review of your product? Of course, you'll want to start with a disclaimer clearly stating that you are reviewing an application you developed yourself, something like:

I love my iPad, but I didn't like any of the word processing apps that were available for it, so I decided to build my own: Polygon Word Processor. I am pretty proud of the app, so I thought I'd give it a nice review. Here it is.

Then you tout the benefits and end the article with:

Of course, you can't trust a review of someone's own work, so please try it yourself and then come back and let me know what you think.

Your blog title could be Polygon iPad Word Processing App Review. In this example, your goal is to reach potential customers who are either searching for your specific app, or for customers looking for reviews on any word processing app for the iPad.

Promotion and Calls to Action

Now, let's discuss how to add sales content directly in your blogs. Below are three recommended ways to drive sales from your blog posts:

Sales Content Opportunities
Opportunity Description
Blog Page Wrap Within your blog page, you have the ability to design a page template, and have some promotion on top, on the side panels, and/or on the bottom. What task might you want a blog reader to perfom? For example, maybe you simply want to get them into your email database. In this case, you could have a call-to-action along the right side panel encouraging them to sign up. The same concept could be applied to promoting your social media properties.
Banner Ads You have another opportunity directly within the actual content of your blog entry. You can embed a call-to-action in the form of a banner ad in the middle of your entry. For example, if your blog entry is promoting a new add-on for one of your products, you could embed an ad within your post encouraging the user to take action: "Buy now at a special rate," "Access the free trial," "Save time and money." "Get our new add-on."
Call-to-Action Links Similar to the above idea of banner ads, you could include the same call-to-action in a more discrete way, in the form of a link versus a banner ad. Possibly at the bottom of your post, you can offer some links to your product/service pages that are tied to the content of the blog.

Blogging Sales Opportunities

Duration: 15 to 25 minutes.

In this exercise, you will...

  1. Develop potential sales opportunities within blogs at your company.
  2. Develop blog ideas that align with your company brand.

Consider the two previous discussions on blogging sales opportunities. Think about your business and develop two blog article ideas for content your customers might need. Once you have developed your blog article ideas, consider:

  • Two ways you can involve sales pitches within those blog entries (e.g., banner ads or call-to-action links).
  • How you will ensure that the blog posts align with your branding strategy?

Blogging for SEO

The best thing you can do to improve your search engine placement is to get incoming links from respected external websites. But it's also helpful to embed links to your products and services within your own blog articles. The anchor text (the text the user clicks on) of these links is extremely important. It should contain the keywords that users are likely to search on when looking for the product or service promoted on the page being linked to. Here is an example from the bottom of Webucator's recent blog article on Google Analytics highlighting this tip:

The "Google Analytics training" link code looks like this:

<a href="http://www.webucator.com/socialmedia/google-analytics.cfm">Google Analytics training</a>

And the results of this kind of work? See below:

It is much better to get incoming links on external sites, so your bloggers should keep this in mind if they ever do guest blogging.

Blogging for Support

When we consider blogging for support and customer service, there's one main tip: Seek opportunities to solve your customers' problems by providing the solutions via a blog. You can then offer the blog posts as resources to other customers with the same issues.

Customer support teams should also be prepared to respond to questions/comments/complaints that are posted on your company blog.

When blogging for customer service and support, your posts should follow the same customer service rules that you would follow in all situations:

  1. Be attentive and responsive. Take ownership of your blog posts. Think of the comment section as a place for conversation.
  2. Smile. Yes, you can smile in a blog post. Don't be afraid to convey a positive tone in your posts. If the post addresses a problem or potentially negative situation, convey an empathetic and helpful tone in your messaging.
  3. Be honest. Customers appreciate honesty. Always let them know you are working hard on their behalf and are doing everything you can to support them.
  4. Appreciate feedback. People love having a voice, so give it to them. Encourage them to comment on your blogs. You can even include their thoughts and messages in a post (while protecting their identity).

Blogging Policy

When we look at creating a policy for blogging, there are a few main considerations:

  • Point-of-Contact: Your company should determine one person or a team internally that can handle all blog logistics. This is important so that your support and customer service teams have a contact to send over their suggestions for blog posts, since they know what topics are currently important to customers.
  • Blog Writers: Your company should also determine a policy stating which employees write on behalf of the company. This ensures that there is no confusion about who can represent the company's interests.
  • Comment Response: Your company should create a protocol outlining who responds to blog comments and how negative responses are handled. Some companies will not post negative comments; others see negative comments as opportunities to engage in a discussion that can change mindsets by posting and responding appropriately.

Tools, Services, and Management

There are numerous blogging sites/tools out there. WordPress is the most popular. It provides the option of hosting an external blog or using the WordPress software on your internal blog. It also has many plug-ins you can use to enhance your blog. Some other choices are Blogger, Weebly, Tumblr, and Drupal.

From a management perspective, here are some considerations:

  1. Make sure you have a specific policy related to who can blog on behalf of your company.
  2. Encourage employees to help provide content for blog articles. In many companies, this can be a difficult task.
  3. As part of marketing evaluations, make sure blog articles are consistently being added. Content is very important from a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective.

Tracking Activity and Results

Results from your blogs can vary from company to company and from category to category. There are two measurements you'll want to focus on:

  1. How much traffic are you getting to your blog pages? Which posts and topics are the most popular? Google Analytics will provide you this information, which we'll cover in more detail later on.
  2. How much traffic is moving from your blog posts to your product pages? Are your calls-to-action working? If they are not, what can you do to change the engagement levels?

Blog Development

Duration: 15 to 25 minutes.

In this exercise, you will develop one idea for a blog post that addresses a potential customer support issue.

Think about how you now might consider using blogging for your company's benefit. Considering the past discussions, write a brief outline for a blog article. In writing your outline, please include:

  • A title with keywords that might be used in a search on Google.
  • The tone you will want to convey in the article.
  • Methods for addressing the support issue in a positive and proactive way.