Blogs and Social Media
Inbound marketing is big! The very first page of the site, should immediately tell the visitor what the business does, and what the benefits are to me. Visitors should not have to click around to find out what you do. This negatively impacts your online marketing. So… What’s online marketing (à la website)…?
Online “inbound” marketing is somewhat different from traditional “outbound” marketing. Primarily outbound (offline) marketing results in you finding the client, in the online arena however, it’s primarily a matter of the client finding you. In other words:
Offline marketing philosophy is all about finding the right clients, who may be interested in reading your company’s message and then may actually want what you are offering.
However, online marketing:
Has the (primarily) OPPOSITE philosophy in that it’s “search based” and “social media based“. “INBOUND”! This means that the vast majority of potential clients actually make a conscious decision to go online to look for something that they want, then go to the search engine of their choice and participate in the social media surrounding their interest; in order to find it. Instead of you working hard trying to find them, they do all the work to find you, making them probably the most proactive and targeted lead a business could ever dream of having!
When a site autoposts to social media, it’s spam for those not interested, for people who are interested, it’s not! People who are not interested, should not be following your Twitter, Facebook, Amplify, Posterous, and so on. The point is, if you don’t use the feature, you’ll not reap as much of the benefits (such as visibility) – whereas your competitors are. I have and control several sites that autopost to social media, and the followers (twitter, etc.) like this as it alerts them to a new service, new content, news in general, presentations, seminars, and so on.
Traditional marketing – You find the client.
Online marketing – The client finds you.
As such, among the most beneficial tools that will assist getting you noticed is blogging. Why? A website used as a brochure, is simply not going to perform in today’s competitive market.
Inbound marketing is, also know as “content marketing” or “pull marketing”. The website is designed to pull potential clients in and facilitate multiway communication – A venue to engage your audience. (The longer they are on your site, the greater the opportunities to make a sale).
Inbound marketing provides content that draws your potential clients in, content that is in-demand and as unique as possible. It’s aimed at specific niches.
Also important is to write the content so that it’s client centred NOT self centred. What do I mean?
Company A and Company B – Both provide the identical service offering.
Here’s a self-centred example for Company A:
Business Resource Solutions is a professional business services company with over 25 years experience serving businesses in the Markham area. Our professional consultants are trained in the latest marketing solutions. You may be surprised to find we charge less than our competitors who have much less experience.
Here’s the contrast when the same content is client-centred for Company B:
If you need an effective solution to help bring more customers to your business, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ll create a marketing plan for you, which attracts your prospective customers, warms them up to you with valuable information, and is easy for you to update yourself. The best part is, you’ll get all this within your budget.
Think about that, which content is more appealing to a business owner or consumer.
Tools for inbound marketing? A few are blogs, newsletters, social networking sites, webinars, videos, and so on.
Speaking of social networking, it’s important to realize that not all venues work for all the players. Our business needs are often as unique as we are individuals. Additionally, different social media tools work better for some functions than others. What do I mean?
For management, use: Twitter, Plurk, etc.
Marketing? Use: Stumbleupon, Del.ici.ous, Flickr, etc.
Sales people, use: LinkedIn, Facebook, Hi5, Orkut, etc.
The PR people best use: GetSatisfaction, Backtype, Twitscoop, etc.
As I’m sure we can all appreciate, there are hundreds of social media tools, the above is just a brief glimpse.
Benefits of inbound marketing? I’d say they are something like:
- Builds credibility and loyalty
- Scalable (effective for any business size)
- Levels the playing field for all players
- Reaches targeted, interested buyers
- Can be coordinated by one (or more) individuals
- Relatively inexpensive compared to some marketing campaigns
And of course there are some caveats:
- Often slow to produce results
- Learning curve becomes apparent to “newbies”
- It can be a bit overwhelming
- Time consuming
- Can be difficult to measure results (needs time and tools in place)
I’ve digressed… and I suppose reiterated some things I might already have mentioned or alluded to (but below is my “nitty gritty” – Blogging as a huge driver to this end)…
Maintain a blog.
Most business owners are well aware of the role SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plays in promoting their website. That’s actually the number one issue raised by every single client I’ve ever had. They all want to rank high in Google. Some are so focused on SEO, to the exclusion of more effective site promotion tools, that they actually do their site harm! But they all want traffic…
Given the lure of increasing traffic to your website and the inherent increase in revenue that traffic can bring, it’s no wonder how this seems the priority focus when attempting to increase traffic (and revenue leads). SEO is but one aspect that can benefit any business, there are incredible tools to this effect, again… one of the most beneficial is to use a blog.
A website, in essence is like a multi-page brochure. While that’s good to describe services or products, it does relatively little in terms of interaction, rapport building, social networking, and so forth. There’s really no Call to Action as each visit shows the same old content. Blogs on the other hand, encourage interactivity, communication and repeat visits as content is added on a regular basis.
A website is one way communication. A blog is two way (actually it’s multiway communication). The blog owner (that’s the business) can talk to the visitor, who can respond AND visitors can communicate with each other as well.
For business owners, that content can include product or service updates, notifications, announcements, videos, personal introductions, contests, guest writers, seminar presentations, and the list goes on. Think of the scenario this way:
A potential client enters your business, you give them a brochure, they say nothing and leave. They may or may not return. That’s a website.
No let’s look at the same scenario, from a blogging framework:
A potential client enters your business, you provide them the specific content they require. If they need content you don’t have, it’s a snap to add. The client communicates with you, and you respond. Both of you respond to another client, who replies. That sounds much more like the way things are supposed to be in the tangiable world. Dynamic, interactive.
Over the years, I’ve seen time and again how blogs are able to better garner the traffic business owners are looking for. Why? That’s what they were designed for over the years – to be a social platform that allows people or businesses to communicate and build their connections. It’s one thing to read a book (or website), but much more beneficial to communicate with the authors and visa versa.
Expansion+ (an Internet Marketing PR site) reported on a Business Blogging Survey. Did you know that:
“…Almost 89 percent of U.S. respondents and nearly 83 percent of U.K. respondents believe blogs are an important digital communication…”
Also from their site:
“Ultimately, what this survey revealed was a need for communication professionals in both countries to step up to the plate and start integrating blogging practises into their strategic approach,” said Jacki Vause, managing director of Peppercom’s London office”.
While the survey they were discussing was specifically about “Business Blogging Survey Reveals Corporate Attitude to Social Media” and was intended to “…compare and contrast blogging communication practises in the U.S. and the U.K. and identify best practices…”, I couldn’t help but note some of the prevalent points.
I also looked at another site, which was more targeted to the subject of this blog post. Neville Hobson’s post “Blogs drive business opportunities: UK survey” ) where some of the key findings he noted included:
- 50% of companies undertake some form of blogging, either having a blog, or encouraging employees to comment on blogs.
- 80% of blog users visit blogs within work hours. Most blog users visit blogs at lunchtime (31%), or first thing in the morning (29%).
- 66% of businesses believe that blogs are becoming more influential as an information source.
Visit the link to his post (above) to see all his other noted findings (as they’re a good indicator of how business owners seem to deal with blogging).
Note: Even more updated stats! The 2011 Social Media Marketing Report indicates:
“…The top benefits of social media marketing: The number-one advantage of social media marketing (by a long shot) is generating more business exposure, as indicated by 88% of marketers. Increased traffic (72%) and improved search rankings (62%) were also major advantages…”
“…Nearly two-thirds of marketers indicated a rise in search engine rankings was a benefit of social media marketing…”
“…a significant percentage of participants strongly agreed that overall marketing costs dropped when social media marketing was implemented…”
Blog and social media statistics aside, blogging is a great way for any business to increase traffic. It’s an interesting point to note, that when I conduct training or informational seminars, a fair number of people had already visited both my blogs, already garnering some feel for my business and my professional background – And it makes communication much more effective when I meet with them!
Participate in Social Media
“I don’t get a lot of traffic to my website”. Is this statement familiar? If so, you might be unaware of the value of social media in promoting your blog or site! What is social media? It’s the use of other people (social) to promote your blog (or website), improving its traffic and therefore improving your business. Social media is a very powerful force in current online marketing strategies.
In my opinion, the lack of understanding the importance of social media is one of the biggest contributing factors to the lack in targeted web traffic, of any volume. All too often it seems, a website or blog is launched and there’s almost no effective growth plan or activities that capitalize on the benefits of social media. To be quite blunt, I’m not aware of any other low-cost effective blog promotional venues that has the capability and reach of social media.
If you’re not familiar, by social media venues, I’m referring to avenues such as Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Friendster, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the like. Sites and services that are able to connect large communities of people in any given niche. Remembering of course that the better you can cater to a focused niche, the more pre-qualified your traffic is going to be.
With regards to social media marketing (or the lack thereof), I think each of us falls into one of four categories:
- Fully aware and know how: Individuals who are fully aware of the value of social media and use it consistently to build their blog.
- Aware and don’t know how: Individuals who are aware, but do not know how to effectively take advantage of it.
- Unaware and don’t know how: Individuals who are unaware and do not understand how it works.
- Don’t care and not interested: Individuals that simply avoid social media or don’t realize the value of it.
As I’m sure you could appreciate, there are hundreds of social media tools available.
Managers/Blog owners can use tools like Plurk, Twitter, etc., so as to increase awareness of their information (as well as their visibility) within online communities.
Marketing however, can best capitalize on tools like Stumbleupon, Digg, Flickr, Reddit, Furl, Delicious, Youtube, Newsvine, Mixx, etc. to get the “word out” where communities can access it and visit the appropriate content on your site. Such tools provide a superior venue for increasing your blog traffic and at a cheaper cost, than traditional solutions.
The sales people need to maximize their contacts and find others contacts. Tools like LinkedIn, hi5, Bebo, MySpace, Orkut, Facebook, Freindster, etc. are best able to facilitate this. You can build your contacts much faster then via traditional methods.
Of course the PR people need to keep their fingers on the pulse. They need to be aware of what is being said and need to respond (which I’ll note in a moment). Some good tools to help monitor what’s being said about you and your business are Technorati, Backtype, GetSatisfaction, Twitscoop, etc. As I just mentioned, PR people need to respond to some of the things they find. Commonly, tools like Dig, Reddit, Flickr, GetSatisfaction, etc. provide the facility for effective responses to individuals and the community as a whole.
A few years ago, I had the chance to chat online with Lee LeFever, who owns Common Craft (with his wife if I recall correctly) in Seattle, I liked chatting with him, as at that time he was ahead of the pack (and in many ways I think Common Craft still is a leader). They put this great video together for those not familiar with social media or it’s impact. That video illustrates the forces that shape social media:
I could get into SEO, coding, etc. For that matter, the whole in-bound marketing game can be broken down into seven components (at least that’s how I see it):
Okay… enough of my chit chat. I hope one or two points at least add some value to your thoughts. Have a question? Want to add an opinion? Feel free to comment or contact me!