Would it surprise you to learn that during my initial year of business as a social media manager, the vast majority of clients I met with or worked with, were NOT interested in blogging as part of their social media strategy?
Only two actually blogged and only one did it as a way to speak with their professional audience. One. Out of more than 30 business owners.
Would it also surprise you to learn that the one that blogged was the most successful out of all of them?
Regardless of whether you offer a service, sell products, or feature a combination of the two, blogging as the foundation of your social media marketing plan is imperative. Having one without the other just doesn't make sense. So, why are there so few who actually follow through with this strategy? My experience has given me three main reasons:
First: There is a major misconception about the role of social media for business.
Contrary to popular belief, social media does NOT exist to serve your marketing needs - shocking, I know. Initially designed as platforms for people to connect and communicate, social media thrives because they have remained true to that very purpose. Each medium prides themselves on their unique "personalities" and are pretty strict about how you present yourself and engage with the overall audience featured on their turf - those are their people and they will protect them...especially from promotions-heavy marketers!
My point: as the population on each swells to the size of a small country, marketers have no choice but to respect each medium and learn how to play the game so we aren't considered spammers and promptly removed. To put this in perspective:
- According to worldometer, there are 7.4 billion people on our planet.
- Facebook, alone, has reported 1.6 billion active users, as of January 27, 2016, via techcrunch. Basically, Mark Zuckerberg has *almost* satisfied his goal of connecting the entire world.
The. Entire. World....on Facebook. Who could have ever imagined this?
And did you know that this is probably the main reason the FB algorithm exists - to filter the newsfeed so people aren't bombarded with annoying ads and promos all the time.
Don't get me wrong, social media isn't against marketers...they've just made it a priority to find a happy-medium between us having opportunities and access to their small countries, while also protecting their people and making sure they always have a pleasant experience on their platforms. It's all about balance.
So, now that you have more insight into social's agenda (and the potential that exists), here is the role of social media for business:
Think of the social mediums as channels. Your objective: to funnel your valuable information links into the channels and to filter your audience out, driving them to your landing page or website, where they will subsequently get their reward = access to your valuable info or resources. That's it.
For you? Congratulations. You have successfully driven the people most likely to buy from you, onto your little piece of virtual real estate, giving them the best opportunity to purchase your products and/or services.
Boom! Sounds easy enough, right? Except it isn't.
In order for you to grow and develop a core audience of loyal followers and for them to consistently visit your website (and potentially purchase from you), you need three key ingredients (see graphic):
The most widely accepted form of rich content is a BLOG and the best way to develop an emotional connection with your audience is through the combination of your social media efforts and BLOG (if seeing the word "blog" in all caps makes your anxiety spike, there are other options for you below...keep reading). Here's the kicker, though - your blog posts have to be planned and thought of in advance, they should be part of an overall strategy and should appeal to your audience. In other words, you don't determine what your value is, your audience does. Pay attention to what they engage with most and if you are having a hard time, just ask them!
FOR EXAMPLE: one of my previous clients, a jewelry boutique, was expanding her brand to become more of a "lifestyle brand" - to do that, we narrowed her brand elements into categories and began increasing her inventory of products accordingly. Even though the new stuff included trendy pieces like scarves, mugs with gold accents and tote bags, her audience wasn't feeling it - engagement and sales on these products were low. Since it was right before Christmas, I created a post on social media that asked her audience of over 100k what they would choose if they could only put ONE item from her shop on their wish list (with the incentive that we would be granting one lucky person's wish). The response was overwhelming - her audience preferred what her business was initially founded on: custom jewelry pieces, with their absolute favorite being designs from her handwriting collection. These pieces were what they valued most and they proved it through engagement and sales (see the graphic for specifics) - basically, they wanted the things that made her unique vs. the mugs, scarves and bags they could buy elsewhere. Lesson learned.
Using the example above, you can sense the emotional connection her audience already had with those particular designs but in order to expand into a lifestyle brand, while still remaining true to her roots, we knew we would have to communicate her brand's "lifestyle" to them through other methods - can you guess what that might have been? Yep. A BLOG!
When she writes about her life, her business, her family, her designs, etc. - her people devour it! The blog allows her to communicate with her audience in a way she can't on social media. Ultimately, she recognized the value of this tool and as a part of her overall business plan, is reaping the rewards!
Second: "I run a business, I don't have time to blog!"
You have no idea how often I've heard this statement. I feel your pain. I really do. I, too, am a business owner. I'm also a wife, mom to 4-year-old twins (those cuties in the picture), a daughter, friend, student, etc., & having enough time to juggle it all seems to elude me most of the time, too.
But here's the deal, friends: if you aren't going to put the time and effort into marketing your business the right way, you might as well not do it at all. That might sound harsh but it's true. It's not enough to simply have a presence on social media anymore - you're wasting your time if that's all that you are willing to put into it. And we're all about working smarter, not harder, right?!
(Oh, and I to hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you're daydreaming of hiring yourself a social media manager, you might want to think again - I wrote about why that's not such a good idea HERE)
Lucky for you, I have some suggestions as to how you can make time to include blogging as part of your already-busy schedule:
1. Decide on a manageable amount of blog posts per week - preferably 3-4, but if that isn't possible, at least 2 is fine. Just make sure that you consistently post every week. You need to provide your value on a regular basis and keep them coming back!
2. Brainstorm valuable topics for your audience and your business endeavors - again, if you aren't sure what might be valuable, think of what you would ask yourself if you hired you...what things would you want to know and how can you be a helpful resource for them. Try and find ways to take it up a notch and provide actual resources they can use (a list of vendors, templates, etc.). Check out my own example below:
3. Schedule blocks of time for writing every week - as a writer, take it from me, once you find your groove and start laying out a killer draft, you don't want to have to stop 45 times...this fractures your creative flow and could lead to incomplete ideas. So, take an hour (or two, if you can spare it) out of your day, a few days a week, and turn off that phone and email so you can focus on knocking out your chock-full-of-value-and-awesome-resources blog posts! Your business will ultimately thank you.
4. A great resource for blog organization is Trello - you can use this as you progress through each phase of a blog post, keeping you on track and publishing regularly. If you want more details related to how I do this, let me know in the comments below and I will dedicate a post to it ;)
Basically, not having the time is not a very good excuse. Ultimately, it comes down to what you're willing to make time for. And for those of you that are cringing at the thought of a blog, read on...
Third: Podcasts, Blab, Periscope, Twitter - oh my!
Ok. So, some of you would rather set fire to your own business than have to maintain a blog, right? I've got you, friend - there are other options that exist! In terms of building an audience and establishing "all the feels" I was talking about up there, you're going to need to incorporate one of the following on a consistent basis: a podcast, Blab, Periscope or Twitter.
*Keep in mind that any of these can be in add-ons or "in addition to" your blog but since they are being presented as an option for those that detest blogging, I am discussing them as stand-alone options (in place of a blog).
If you asked me which ones were my favorites or which I would suggest investing the most time in, I would tell you that all of them are valuable, in their own way, and it depends on your audience. But in terms of meeting the key criteria for building a core group of loyal followers, I would pick Blab (Blab.im) as my top choice. Here's why:
Blab has the most options. It allows you to schedule an upcoming session & this is important for planning purposes (topics) and for promotion prior to the session (you can share the link on other social media sites). People that are interested in it and want to be reminded, can simply subscribe to it. The platform was designed so you can be seen AND heard (basically, your people will get to fall in love with your contagious wit, while also swooning over that dimple in your cheek - remember: all the feelings).
But why is Blab the best? Because you can feature others, whether influencers in your industry or followers from your social media, this platform lets you set up interviews, Q&A's or even a spontaneous discussion about a hot topic. Up to four people can be live at once (with you as the moderator) and there is the added bonus of a chat feature - those that are in the session, but not live, can share their thoughts or even talk to each other.
Other notable features: Blab is not private so even if someone stumbles upon your session and wants to join (but didn't subscribe), can! And EVERYONE is urged to tweet that they are taking part in your Blab - this gets the attention of others who might want to jump in the conversation.
Cons: Blab is still very new and widely misunderstood, so, the majority of peeps currently present on this platform are in the social media marketing or coaching industries. You will have to keep this in mind when urging your audience to sign up and join you on this platform - make it worth their while and explain what you would like for them to do so they are more confident in navigating this new medium.
PODCAST / TWITTER
My second favorite platform for consistent presence and rich content is...a tie between a podcast and a Twitter chat! Initially, the podcast was my favorite, since this platform allows for your audience to hear your voice (making it easier to connect with you since they can hear inflections in your voice). The problem with a podcast is that this method doesn't let your audience engage with you (or anyone else that might be listening), while participating. It does let you schedule and promote ahead of time, provide great content on a regular basis, and to add some sugar or spice with featured guests or interviews.
Twitter, on the other hand, does not let your audience see or hear you (only read your tweets) but this method allows for a back-and-forth exchange between you and the participants in the chat and they can connect with each other as well - win-win! You can schedule a chat ahead of time, promote across channels, host the chat with a unifying hashtag and drive the conversation with topic-related tweets; using visuals to make the posts noticeable and appealing. See the example screenshot of a Twitter post, announcing an upcoming Twitter chat, by Lauren Hooker with Elle & Company. (*Please see update below)
Here is the breakdown of how Lauren is dominating this method of engagement with her followers - she hosts a weekly Twitter chat with her audience using the unifying hashtag: #ellechat. As you can see from the screenshot, she announces the topic and details of her upcoming chat using a large graphic with easy-to-read and aesthetically-pleasing colors and fonts (she uses the same type of brand-specific graphics during her chat, as she guides the discussion about the topic); which is not only informative and pretty but also increases the likelihood that people will share the tweet.
She has taken the usual set-up of a chat (with one host and participants) a step further and creatively invited a special guest to join them - this increases interest, builds excitement and even multiplies the potential audience of participants since Jamie's followers will most certainly be made aware of the #ellechat as well (did you catch that one?). Finally, Lauren deserves props for giving us the option to "grab our spot" using the link she has provided: easy-peasy!
Just FYI: Lauren's chats have become wildly popular (hence the reason she is my example to follow) but it is worth noting she became known for her blog first. The chats serve as a more direct communication method with her audience and also as another way to present or discuss valuable info.
(UPDATE: When this post was originally written, I was under the impression that Lauren was still hosting weekly Twitter chats. I found out after publishing that she has, in fact, switched to a weekly live webinar, instead. The screenshot featured in this post was used in promoting her webinar for that week. The success of her Twitter chats are what led to her upgrade & her audience has followed and are loving the new format!)
So, now you see my dilemma in rating the podcast and the Twitter chat - hence the tie! You would have to decide which one is most enjoyable for you to utilize and which one serves the most needs for your specific audience.
Now...you might be surprised to learn that Pericope, a live-streaming app that lets your people see and hear you (it wins lots of brownie points for that one capability), would be last on my list of favorites. Can you guess? The very premise with which it was created, led to it's lowest ranking: spontaneous live-streaming.
Not that you couldn't try and schedule a Periscope session (if you knew, for example, that you would be at the Super Bowl & let your peeps know in advance) but it wasn't designed for this & in case you've already forgotten, we must respect the medium! In staying true to the platform's personality, you would want to present your valuable information in a fun and spontaneous way. This very trait limits your potential audience to only those that are available when you jump on.
So, if you really love the idea of Periscope and know your audience would flip for it, too; use it in addition to something else. For example: podcast + Pericope OR Twitter chat + Periscope...see what I'm saying?
There it is. Cue the choir of angels...
Are you feeling enlightened? Does knowing the role of social media in marketing your business help you to identify and narrow your professional goals?
If you are still uncertain or have questions, post them in the comments below - I always welcome constructive feedback or intelligent conversations about the topic at hand. Even better? Let me know if you decide to incorporate one of these suggested content sources! I would love to hear about your experiences!