blogs

Your Business Needs a Blog

One Blog to Rule Them AllBlogging – the buzzword of… what, 2007? That thing people used to say was the, “next big thing?” It’s been years since anyone made a big deal out of blogging, right?

The truth is if you’re a small business owner, you need a blog. It’s more than some online chore you do because Business Week Magazine told you to, like text message or Facebook ads. Blogging can become the core of your business online, and convince visitors to become customers.

Three great reasons to start a blog:

Search engines love blogs
When Google and Bing go looking for pages to display in searches, they don’t just want pages that happen to have those search phrases in them. To them, searchers are their customers. They want to give their customers the freshest, most engaging content they can find. A blog post you write today about your industry stands a much better chance of getting found in search than that single paragraph on your, “About Us” page, written four years ago.

Blogs become the hub for your social media marketing
It’s likely you’ve already aware of the business value of social media to attract new customers and retain current ones. It’s more than just fashionable, it’s where all the people you want to reach are. A link to your latest post, complete with snappy title and/or engaging photograph, gives you something to offer them.

Granted, you could go on Twitter shouting, “Hey everybody! I sell stuff! Come see!” You could, but of course, you shouldn’t. Social media is full of people using posts like shotguns, hoping to splatter enough users with messages that someone clicks a link and buys from them. The truth is very few people ever click on these people’s links. The majority of people these businesses “message” to write them off, and forever go out of their way to avoid them.

If on the other hand you take the approach of saying, “I have information you might find interesting, come take a look,” you get a lot more people through the door – more receptive people at that.

Blogs can make you an authority
Take a second right now to think about what your business does. Think about what that involves, the misconceptions people might have, the different kinds of products… You absolutely know more about this than the average person.

You could teach them.

If someone wants to know more about why cell phones scratch so easily in dry weather, people will come from all around for the witty, insightful, well thought out explanation you posted to your site. If that site is for your cell phone repair shop, you become the expert people can hire.

Blogs are easy to set up, and there are a number of great providers to choose from. With enough discipline, and persistence, you’ll become a valued fount information. And your business will love you for it.

Responding to Negative Blog Posts

I have a secret to let you in on: I am not very charming.

I’m cynical, which to some sounds pessimistic – though to me it’s just critical thinking at work. At times it comes out sounding harsher than it should, which often bothers me, because I have such distaste for people who slag others and then defend themselves with a weak, “I’m just telling it like it is.” So when I get feedback about posts that come from this, I take it fairly seriously.

Last week I wrote a review of 12seconds.tv, a site that, I feel, has great potential, but has not realized it yet. I laid out some of my observations about why I felt the site was not as big as it could be – and most of those observations were negative.

I received responses from two of the people at 12seconds, and I think they exemplify how one should react to a negative post when it is about their company. If you find that someone is talking about your product or company in a similar manner, you could learn a lot from how they reacted.

The short version: Listen to what others are saying about you, respond to negative press quickly and personably, and be open to hearing from anyone who might read it later on. This is what 12seconds did, and I applaud them for it.

First, they found the post about themselves. This is a great example of the power of listening to social media. Anyone at any time of day could be talking about your company. How would you find out about it? Would you wait until someone told you their kid, who’s big on all this Internet stuff, found an article about you saying you rip people off, or make faulty products, or worse?

That could be weeks too late. In the meantime thousands of people could have come across that post and made permanent decisions about you. For example, I am a huge fan of the Fresh and Easy stores. I told my Mother about them, but she had read a negative review about them and decided to stay away. With her help I found the review, and it was a blog post that was three years old, and actually about their British parent company, Tesco. Despite all of the other positive press they may have gotten in that time, this one post made her mind up for her.

Second, getting back to 12seconds, neither response was an angry retort. Instead they were eager to share with me their differing opinions, and more importantly correct me where I was wrong. (Where I had said it wasn’t possible to embed their video, it turned out it simply didn’t work well with WordPress.) As a result I did append the post.

If someone blogged about your company and said something that wasn’t just negative but wrong, do you think you would get the same response by posting an angry comment on their blog? In most cases venting on the author will only make matters worse. They could keep your comment from getting posted at all, or worse, they could get their cockles up and just spew back at you. Then you’d be in a flame war with someone who’s only important because they created a blog account.

Also it leaves a far worse impression of your company to slam people than it does to calmly correct them when they misstep, and respectfully disagree with their differing opinions. Remember, when you print something on the Internet, it can last a good long time. While it may feel satisfying to lash out at a critic, doing so could follow you and your company indefinitely.

Finally, both responses posted an e-mail address where I – or anyone who reads the post – can get in touch with them directly. Rather than simply offer their side of the story, they went that further step to offer their time to anyone with similar comments or complaints.

Certainly responding to negative blog comments is important to show your side of the story. Asking people to contact you directly shows you are equally interested in helping people have the best experience possible with your product. The people at 12seconds did not need to offer this to me or the people who found (and will find) that post. I definitely commend them for their openness.

So always listen for mentions of your brand, and be ready to react when you find something negative or incorrect.

When you do, remember that you are not going to battle. Your job is not to change the author’s mind, but to get your side of the story out. Most bloggers are reasonable people and will be more than willing to let you respond to their readers. Posts like that can be turned into opportunities for you, if you play it right.