Once upon a time, there were two blog authors who were well-respected in their industries. Equally smart and versed on a subject area, they each wrote posts about important stuff.
Author A wanted to tell others about the flaws in some conventional thinking and disprove claims made by competitors in his field. He always laid out the science, supporting his position very thoroughly with lots of detailed documentation. Point by point, he explained things from all angles. There was no way a reader could click away without agreeing with his perspective or leave unimpressed with his proofreading standards.
Author B had some strong opinions himself. He covered issues in a similar industry but took an alternative approach to encourage his readers to think differently. He keenly knew that even when learning people like to be entertained. With knowledge of the issues and a goal to persuade, he wrote funny, witty posts that favored subtle substance. He dared use his business blog to target purchase decision makers, not with lofty theory or hard, dry science, but instead with a genuine, disarming style.
Which blog do you think drew more readers? Stimulated more business inquiries?
Get the point? Your business blog can offer substance with style when you approach content writing creatively.
Having a deft hand with the AP Style Guide doesn’t necessarily mean a writer can’t be funny. When nurturing a business blog, you can have big, important things to say — and say them well — without coming off like stodgy old Mr. Finkle, the professor from your college advanced economic theory course.
Don’t let your blog be the “Finkle” of your industry.
Business blogging success is about tapping into human motivations in a way that’s appropriate for your brand and image. Here are some suggestions to planning and writing blog content that people will really want to read.
Identify your targets’ pain points
Use your content as a way to fix the things that are hurting them and their business. Look into whatever it is that causes readers to waste valuable time, complicates their decision-making process, or keeps them awake at night. Then write about ways to help them become more efficient, more productive, or more confident.
For example: Lowe’s publishes a site that’s educational, informative, and inspirational. Lowe’s Creative Ideas explains how to tackle home improvement and décor projects to people who are interested in exploring their creative side but have a hard time imagining a craft concept or finding the right materials for the job. The before/ after and step-by-step instructions help readers visualize their goals and break down the steps to achieve them.
Give your readers a stage
Let them tell their stories in their own words. One of the best ways to learn information is through exposure to practical, real-world examples, and nothing relieves the pressure one feels when facing a difficult challenge more than discovering how other professionals have worked their way out of similar situations. Feelings of kinship — being understood — can increase the community-mindedness of your readers, thereby encouraging more sharing and exploration. Encourage readers to become involved by creating a page specifically inviting guest posts and why they’re a valuable part of serving the community. Incorporate the invitation message into other outbound communications like e-newsletters and tweets to extend its reach. Sidebar widgets and Facebook can also be ways to say “We want to hear from you.”
Also, be sure your blog has comments enabled, and consider allowing new commentators to add their insights without moderation. If these avenues are closed, you risk sending a “no outside voices welcome here” messages to readers. And as part of your blog governance, be sure it is someone’s job to review comments and make timely replies. Orphan comments are kind of like a phone call that was dropped – dissatisfying and potentially frustrating those that take the time to comment. Many times there’s gold in the reader comments, so be sure to promote contributors in social media (they’ll appreciate it), and consider approaching them to expand on their ideas in a separate guest post.
Other tactics can, over time, work to draw readers in. Weekly themed posts can be part of your overall content plan and become an attraction point based on the angle you develop.
For example: SEOmoz produces a companion blog to its corporate blog: YOUmoz, which features posts written by members of the SEOmoz community. The guest posts cover a wide variety of search engine optimization tactics, from paid search to social search, technical SEO, and on-page optimization. Readers identify with the from-the-trenches perspectives and tactical advice the blog provides. SEOmoz also allows posts to be voted on, and it promotes the most popular posts to a feature spot on the SEOmoz blog, giving their authors additional recognition.
Express your point of view
Oven mittens. Many companies write blogs that are stripped of all their personality and devoid of clear opinion. If yours is two miles west into the neutral territory, ask yourself – why would anyone read anything so boring? You can’t be so concerned with potentially causing a single eyebrow to raise that your posts make most chins drop to chests. Just like we want friends that stand for something, we want to interact with companies that reflect our values and interests.
For example: Ian Lurie, CEO of Portent Interactive in Seattle, Wash., writes a blog called Conversation Marketing. In his writing, he makes it clear that he feels strongly about black hat SEO, agency puffery, and clients who want stuff for free, but somehow his posts don’t polarize. They’re funny and self-deprecating and, OK, a little sarcastic. But because Ian can poke fun at himself (and writes so intelligently about his business), his posts don’t come off as high-handed in the least.
These are three examples of blogs I think attract readers. What would you add? What style have you experimented with or re-imagined?