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Sharpen your blogging skills with easy tactics

Sharpen your blogging skills with easy tactics

Although a great deal of attention is directed toward social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others, even the newest tools have a tough time matching up to a now-classic online strategy: the blog.

“Blogs are still very relevant for small businesses,” says Martha McCarthy, co-founder of the Social Lights, a Minneapolis-based firm specializing in social media and digital marketing. “Blogs act as the voice of the brand. They’re more personal than Web copy and tend to be much more up-to-date.”

Some law firms feature several blogs, so that clients and others can get a glimpse of attorney personalities, the type of expertise they offer and the issues in a particular field of practice.

Facing that blinking cursor on a blank page can sometimes be daunting, though. Here are some tips for sharing thoughts online and boosting an enterprise’s profile:

Make a content plan

When it comes to any kind of online content, structure is crucial, believes Holly Matson, director of experience planning at Minneapolis-based Bolin Marketing, an agency that provides business consulting, social media and Web design.

“Particularly on blogs,” she says, “it’s very easy for someone to blog for a month and then quit because they don’t know what to write anymore.” She suggests doing a regular planning session in which blog topics are identified and scheduled, including self-imposed deadlines.

Set time aside

Unlike the fast pace of Twitter or Facebook, blogs are more about careful consideration of specific issues within an industry or on topics that are appealing to online readers. They take effort to write (as opposed to a quick tweet), and because of that, bloggers need to set aside blocks of time to gather thoughts, research and write, says Kyle Meehan at PH Digital Labs, a Minneapolis-based digital marketing agency. “Blogging takes commitment, and companies that have really made that commitment tend to see a great deal of success from it,” he says. “But it takes time to be thoughtful and to write, so schedule for that.”

Don’t be afraid to get personal

Everyone likes a good story. Blogs allow you to share a snippet of experience and then extrapolate that into a larger commentary. Mike Frommelt at Minneapolis-based executive search firm KeyStone Search is a strong example of this approach. In his blog, he often writes as if engaged in conversation, and sometimes even details a recent discussion with someone else. This approach allows readers to feel as if they’re getting to know him on a personal level, without loss of professional perspective. Not every blog has to follow this approach — there are scores of great blogs that don’t — but if you’re able to incorporate a personal perspective in a way that feels natural, it becomes a strong draw for readers.

Think about SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a highly valued skill in the Web content realm. The strategy involves improving the visibility of a blog or a Web page by writing content in a certain way and tweaking the underlying code so that the page ranks higher on natural search engine results. You don’t need to be an expert in SEO to take advantage of the tactic, but it’s harder than it sounds. Fortunately, the Web is awash in advice: Simply do a Google search on “SEO tips” and the results will lead you to tutorials, simple techniques and first steps.

Link to other social media tools

Once you’ve written a stellar blog posting, promote it through Twitter, LinkedIn or other sites. McCarthy says, “Connecting blogs to social media tools can amplify the audience and increase readership. We highly recommend keeping the website a central hub of small business social media marketing strategy. The blog is an important element for tying everything together.”

Understand your audience

Blogs written for other legal experts work best when they focus on a particular practice area. One good example is the Kuhn Law Firm, which specializes in business law. Recent blog entries have included thoughts on voluntary payment defense, vacating a default judgment and noncompete agreements. If a firm wants to appeal to clients, however, it will likely have to take a more conversational, big-picture approach.

David Gee, principal at G-Force Communications, regularly writes and edits blog posts for clients, and he notes that he reads too many blogs that aren’t interesting or relevant. “Most companies use social media channels, including blogs, simply as a new way to engage in old-fashioned telling and selling,” he says. “It just doesn’t work. Blogs are meant to be used as conversation starters, as ways to create community around you and your brand. They should always be written with the reader in mind, thinking about what’s in it for them, not what’s in it for you.”

– By Elizabeth Millard. Millard has been writing about technology for 16 years. Her work has appeared in Business 2.0, eWeek, Linux Magazine and TechNewsWorld. She attended Harvard University and formerly served as senior editor at ComputerUser.


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