What’s Your Move?
Back in January, we asked entrepreneurs whether social media was important to the success of their business. The results were decidedly split, so we asked Dave Wurzer, CI’s chief investment officer, to weigh in. “For certain products, social media plays a major role, but for B2B it plays less of a role than people think it does,” he says. “It’s better to focus on your website.”
It seems that the fastest-growing companies in the country agree. While the use of social media among the Inc. 500 (Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing privately held small companies in the United States) remains high, it is starting to decline, according to a recent report from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, which tracks companies’ social media use annually. The study found that:
- 94 percent of the Inc. 500 use at least one social media platform, vs. 96 percent in 2017
- LinkedIn and Facebook both experienced double-digit declines in use in 2018 compared with 2016 and 2017, but were ranked as the most effective platforms.
- Twitter and YouTube were ranked as the least effective platforms.
- Instagram adoption declined from 49 percent to 47 percent in the past year—the first decline for the photo- and video-sharing social networking service since 2013.
- Companies’ top two concerns regarding their use of social media are return on investment and privacy issues.
- Nearly half of the companies reported that the value of free social media has leveled off and that they’re seeking alternatives.
- Half of the Inc. 500 use blogs to engage their audience.
Should you go whole-hog on a blog?
If you want to widen your reach and you’re concerned about your social media return on investment, starting a blog may be a good idea. Weblogs, or blogs for short, offer startups a fairly easy way to build and engage an audience—and they don’t require any investment other than time. (You do need a platform, though, such as WordPress, which you probably already have for your website.)
Unlike social media, which is a “shared media,” your blog is “owned media,” meaning that you own the content and the audience (your readers and subscribers). By contrast, when you share a post with your “friends” and followers on sites like Facebook, for example, you may create the content, but Facebook can use that content—and it owns the audience. Sites like these can also shut down any time (think Google+). For marketing purposes, a mix of shared and owned content makes sense. You’ll want to keep your readers—your list, after all, is marketing gold—but promote your blog via social media, which has a wider reach.
Do blogs help you grow your business? In a word: yes. Hubspot, a growth platform, found that businesses that use blogs as part of their content marketing mix get 67 percent more leads than those that don’t. It’s also been reported that websites with a blog have 434 percent more indexed pages—an important factor for getting found by your prospects online.
Other advantages of blogs are that you can update them quickly, easily mine customer insights (provided you enable the comments section) and measure the results of your effort by tracking metrics against your business goals.
Before you start blogging
Blogging is fairly easy—you are, after all, an expert in [insert your company’s niche here] and you probably have plenty to say. Before you begin, it’s a good idea to do some homework to guide your strategy. Ask yourself:
- Who is my audience? In other words, who, specifically, am I writing this for?
- What keeps them up at night? What are their pain points that I can solve?
- What keywords do they search for online? (If you don’t know, do some research using Google or a site like Answer the Public.)
- How will my business grow as a result of the blog?
- Do I have time to blog at least once a week?
This last point is important. “The worst thing you can do as a business is start a consistent dialogue with your customers and then stop,” writes Joe Pulizzi in his book Epic Content Marketing (worth a read).
Today, the average blog post takes nearly three and a half hours to write, according to new research of 1,000 bloggers by Orbit Media. (In 2014, the average blog post took about 2.5 hours to write.) And the number of bloggers who spend more than six hours on a post doubled in a year.
Does all this effort pay off? Orbit Media’s research says yes: Bloggers who spent the most time reported the strongest results.
This make sense.
“Consumers want to trust their information sources and are increasingly expecting that content to be rigorously researched, factually accurate, and worthy of their time and attention—meaning that it helps them make better decisions and confidently complete the tasks they need to get done,” writes Jodi Harris.
Just like time spent writing a blog post, the typical length of a post has increased every year since 2014. In 2014, the average post was slightly more than 800 words. Today, the average post is 1,151 words. The correlation between length and success is even stronger here, according to Orbitz’s report: “More than half of the bloggers who write 2,000+ word articles report ‘strong results.’”
Expert blogging tips—blast your blog into the stratosphere
- Aim to blog at least once a week. Research shows that greater blogging frequency correlates to stronger results.
- Spend some time crafting your titles, because they’re what entice people to read. “How-to” titles as well as those with numbers—“How to Reduce Surgery Times in Five Easy Steps,” for example, perform well. So do “Mistakes Made” and “Secrets of.”
- Write in a conversational tone, as if you were advising a friend. And be sure to break up your copy with subheads, images and bullets where you can.
- Focus on your customers and their problems—it’s a can’t-lose strategy
- Include images, but be sure you have permission to use them.
- Promote the blog via social media, your website and your email list.
- Include a call to action telling your readers what you want them to do—ask us a question, download our e-book, sign up for our webinar, etc.
- Measure subscriptions, visits, unique visits, pageviews, time on site, search rankings, inbound links, etc. to see if your strategy is working. (Blogs are a long game.)
- Make a list of the top five or 10 blogs in your industry. Read them, comment on them, and offer to guest blog. This is a great way to build awareness for your site while building trust and credibility in your industry. (You’ll want to ask for a link back to your own blog.)
- Got writer’s block? Dissolve it easily by thinking about a question your prospects or customers have asked you or your team more than once. Then, start writing the answer. You can also take a contrary position to a news article, expand on a topic your competitors didn’t explain well enough, create a list (“The Top 10 Websites on Fintech You Should Visit,” for example), or interview industry leaders. The latter tactic has the added bonus of helping you spread awareness…one expert we interviewed at CI has over a million Twitter followers and continues to share our post years after it was published.
Have a question about blogging or anything else? Contact us any time.