Blogging for Businesses: Planning to Succeed
Last week I introduced the five things every good business blog needs. This week we're covering the boring one (or so they say): Planning. To remind you of what you need, the five crucial pieces to blogging for business success:
- Good Planning
- Extraordinary Content
- A Human Behind It
After reading that list, you might ask yourself how you'll know whether you have succeeded at, for example good planning, or extraordinary content? The answer is simple:
- Measure… you get the idea.
At each step of the way, you do your best, see what happens (carefully and analytically) revise your ideas and try again. You keep doing this, and lo & behold, one day you wake up successful. Yes, you can actually apply these steps to pretty much any endeavour you attempt. We'll focus on blogging for business for this series, however.
Measuring, then revising, are both hugely important pieces
And Custom Fit are experts at this. Roy's recent blog post on the three levels of analytics is a perfect example of the kind of care and attention we give to measurement and analytics. Explore our blog further for more great information about measurement if you're curious about this important step in blogging success. For this week, however, let's focus on planning.
Plan to Succeed
It takes time. It does. And it seems so, well, boring and perhaps obvious, that I think many of us skip this vital step and just jump into a juicy article we want to write. Fair enough. For business bloggers, you already have a business you need to attend to. Do you really have time for thinking about your blog?
Well, first of all, a little analysis. Many are saying that 2014 will be the Year of Content Marketing. 93% of you are already blogging. The majority of businesses who blog regularly see quite a jump in sales. It works. However, they key word is regularly. Consistent blogging works, ideally 2 times per week.
Get Out Your Calendar
This does not need to be complicated. Some of the most professional bloggers use good old fashioned black agenda and pen. Whatever you are most comfortable with, get it out. Grab a pencil. Look at your days. Do this in a quiet, contemplative moment, at a time you will most likely be honest with yourself: Neither overly optimistic nor defeatist. Ask yourself:
- How much time you want to devote to blogging. Honest!
- How fast you write. It's a key component.
- How comfortable you are publishing what you write.
- If you have an ideal reader in mind. (We'll get to this in a future post if you answer, "No.")
- If you have a trusted person to edit your work.
Advice on blog word count:
When you know those answers, it's time to start planning. If you don't know how fast you write, by the way, you can perform a simple test. Chose a subject you are comfortable with. Time yourself for 10 minutes, then do a word count. Go from that number of words. You should be publishing between 350 to 500 words per post; never less and occasionally more.
Choose themes for days you will blog
Try to fit in a twice a week schedule, but do be honest with yourself. Consistency is more important than frequency, and quality trumps both. To make things simple, create themes for days you will blog. A popular one is "Wordless Wednesday" -- You may have seen these posts, which typically use images to create a storyline for that post.
Ideas for themes include:
- Business Tip Tuesday
- Inspirational Quotes - Share a quote that inspires you and then write about why it is important to you.
- A Day in the Life - As long as your days are fairly interesting, this can be a great post.
- One Thing I Learned Today
- Customer Appreciation
- How To -- Any time you can help a client or customer learn how to do something related to your business, this is a wonderful opportunity.
Fill In the Blanks
Now for the important part. The part nearly everyone skips. Fill in the blogging days with a topic you will write about. Think broad themes. Five (or more) part series on a topic you think is valuable. You can always change your mind. In fact, being open to changing is an important part of your eventual success: Step 2, "Revise". But you need something to revise, and this editorial calendar is the first step.
Which calendar to choose?
You should choose a system that works for you. It is really that simple. It can be as simple as a black agenda, or Google Calendar and Spreadsheet. Social Media Today has a very comprehensive suite you can download for free. This set of tools will take you through the planning stage to the tracking stage.
Ideas for topics
Really, why reinvent the wheel? Take a look at Molly Greene's 101 fabulous blog topics if you'd like some quick ideas. And since coming up with topics is such an important stumbling block for many beginning bloggers, make sure you use that list and any others you come across. But as you are doing that, also begin a list of your own. When you are reading industry news each morning, keep your list handy. Whenever you are reading an article and find yourself immersed, or telling yourself you could say a thing or two on that topic, or you find yourself having an imaginary discussion with the author, pause, bookmark the article, and jot down a topic idea. It'll become second nature to you. And, if you really do want to have a conversation with that author, what better excuse than to contact him or her for an interview for a future blog article. It's possible.
It is crucial to put on your visionary hat while filling in the blanks for future topics. Think about your sales cycle. Think about upcoming promotions. Think about Christmas and other holidays. Christmas is December 25th: count back six weeks. This is when you should be planning for Christmas editorial, ideally.
Think about a balance of promoting your brand with sharing knowledge and information, both useful and fun. Mix it up. You don't want to overwhelm you readers with promotion after promotion, but you also want to remind them of the usefulness/awesomeness of your brand. They are on your page because they like you, after all. Tell them (a little bit) about what you do & why it's great. A good ratio to remember is Cohen's 10:4:1ratio for social media. The idea here is that for every 15 social media posts, 10 should be other people's content, 4 should be promoting your blog, and only one should be an actual landing page. Now, for your blog, you can use that as a rough guideline, and remember to promote your brand in an aggressive way fairly rarely, while using your blog to teach useful information, inform about your company, entertain, and enlighten most of the time.
Add In call-to-actions
Do not forget, however, to add an explicit call to action to every post. This can be to sign up for your newsletter, click through to a deeper page on your website, or learn more about an aspect of what you do. Rarely, your call to action will be an explicit click through to a landing page to an offer to buy from you.
Tracking Elements of Blog Articles
Organizing your blogging life is an important part of this process. But making sure that what you are doing has worked is just as important. How can you revise and get better and better if you have not tracked your work?
An important piece of the editorial calendar is tracking what you have done. This is especially important for teams, but even if you are working alone, seeing, in black and white, the status of your posts, the interaction each post received (how many tweets, likes, or comments) and the links it's gotten is important for future posts. Who could have predicted, for example, that your puppy was such popular link bait? Time to share pictures and cute stories about your kitten perhaps? You'll never know unless you track.
Tracking is the subject of next week's post. Until then, start planning to succeed!