A Publication of WTVP

One of the major problems for business blogs is “What kind of content should be on it?” Many business owners stop right there.

They’ve never created much content on the web. They don’t know the major ways writing for the web differs from writing for print media. They may have read a few blogs, skimmed over some comments or followed a debate in an online forum. Perhaps they’ve even posted some remarks here and there, on someone else’s blog.

However, writing blog posts is a big leap.

To start writing candid, authentic articles, and letting others post criticism, questions and complaints, right there for all to see, can seem a bit intimidating. Blogs give you the opportunity to express your point of view and benefit others with your expertise. Comments enable you to get feedback from your audience, similar to a focus group or brainstorming session. Let’s put that aside now, and focus on content.

Once you appreciate the communication value of blogging, how do you even guess what to talk about in a blog post? What if you say something that upsets a customer? Nobody wants to look dumb or get into a big argument. Also, people don’t want a blogger to be constantly pushing products in a high-pressure manner. Relentless sales hype or self-promotion in social media is considered spam.

So how do you blog about your business in a way that will be interesting and valuable to others without offending or boring anybody? In other words, how can one be altruistic and relevant in social media, while accomplishing business objectives?

Here are 12 tips for creating content on a business blog:

1. Focus on benefits to others. Have a clear goal: to benefit others with your unique insights, expertise, product knowledge, industry experience, customer service enthusiasm and personal style. This goal will guide all your blogging, from information shared and tone of voice to sidebar widgets and blog design.

2. Be friendly and sincere. Consider a blog to be an “email to the world,” says technology expert Doc Searls. Write the article as if you were composing an email to someone who looks to you as a mentor, a customer who just asked you a great question, a student learning about your industry, a news reporter who asked you to clarify a policy, or a colleague who challenged you to think deeply about some aspect of your business.

Communicate in your own words, in a warm and human manner, as though you were discussing a topic with a person who was physically present with you.

3. Solve a problem. If you’ve been in business a while, you have a wealth of information about specific customer needs and interests. What’s a common problem your customers encounter? Explain how to solve it, even if it doesn’t necessarily involve buying your product. Be altruistic, eager to serve, happy to help others.

Customers are always looking for ways to do things better, faster, more economically. Do you have a solution you wish they knew about? That would be an excellent blog topic. Make your explanation short, simple, step-by-step, and inject a little humor if you can.

4. Answer questions. What questions do customers ask you constantly? What concerns related to your field are the mainstream media all fired up about? What are some facts your sales literature or website weren’t able to expand upon as much as you wish they could? Is there some important, newsworthy aspect of your industry that your competitors are silent about? Here’s your chance to differentiate yourself from them. Shine the light of your wisdom on the issue to educate your blog audience.

5. Challenge a mantra. Is there some phrase that people repeat without thinking, like a mantra or proverb? Like “Content is king” or “Location is everything” or “Privacy is old-fashioned”? Is the statement always valid? In what context is it false or misleading? Is it self-serving or exploiting? What are the exceptions? Can you come up with a more accurate phrase?

Is the truth more like “Content is important, but without good presentation and audience relevance, it won’t be effective”? Think of some idea or saying that has been abused, misinterpreted or is outdated, and write a blog post that explains your insight regarding the topic.

6. Explain a new or neglected product. Do you have a new product that’s unfamiliar to customers? How about an old product that remains fantastic but is underutilized? Which of your products or services contains a special benefit that people don’t appreciate? A new way of using the product that’s not immediately obvious? Is there a product that would sell better if people had some background information about it? Provide this clarification as a blog post, or a series of posts.

7. Spark controversy. Do you have a strong feeling or opinion that might surprise people? Do you have an opinion that runs contrary to the prevailing point of view? Is there a commonly held misunderstanding concerning your industry that has gained traction in the media?

Do battle with this false concept. Proclaim your contrarian idea, be assertive and confident without any arrogance or ill will, and back up your claim with credible quotes and links to substantiating reference material online.

8. Share new discoveries. As a professional, you have to keep up with trends and developments in your field. Your customers look to you as an expert—someone they can trust to keep them up-to-date, separating the wheat from the chaff. Teach your audience what you’ve learned recently. Pay attention to what the news media is reporting on, do some research, then set the record straight or deliver the information in a more complete or simplified presentation.

9. Tell a story. People love narratives. Do you have a favorite anecdote related to your business? Something funny that happened when you first started out? A mistake you made and a lesson learned? A bizarre customer request? An unexpected way your product was used? A customer request that caused you to improve your business or reposition your product? A customer service dilemma you figured out how to solve? A tale about why and how you got into this business?

10. Respond to another blog. You should be reading other blogs relevant to your industry and posting comments on them once in a while. As you do this, you’ll stumble upon a post that shakes you up, inspires you or makes you angry, or cause you to rethink something. Maybe a brilliant blogger in your field wrote something that you bookmarked as a favorite web page. Perhaps it was so good that you twittered a link to it. Why not quote some of that post, linking to it in your citation of the post’s title, and add your own remarks or amplifications to it? That’s a really great way to honor other bloggers and add rich content to your own blog.

11. Tie in with a viral news story. Here’s a way to please your readers and generate more traffic to your blog. It’s an SEO (search engine optimization) technique that can work wonders. You ride on the coattails of an already super-popular topic.

Think of some current news item that everybody’s talking about. How can you merge that topic with your own business, your industry or the products you sell? How could you deal with this news item in a way that relates to your own expertise? A creative mind can link any two events or concepts. Just build a bridge from the news item to your products or business field.

Let’s say the big buzz is a sports hero who was caught illegally using steroids. You sell sports equipment. You know a lot of athletes and have formed your own opinion about performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports. State your opinion in a blog post, with links to the story as it’s presented on the big online media, like ESPN, Huffington Post, Fox News, MSNBC or WebMD. This will keep your blog timely, and it will drive traffic from web surfers who are doing searches related to a hot news topic.

12. Make a list. Similar to the above suggestion, you could make a list of favorite books, especially those that deal with your industry or field of expertise. Even a personal list of favorite things can be interesting to people.

People like to feel they know a business owner as a person, not a vending machine that simply wants to sell products and make money. By sharing things you care about personally as a non-commercial individual, you make yourself more accessible to regular folk.

Lists are fun to read and can inspire others. Lists also convey the sense that a methodical approach is being taken, rather than a rambling rant or heated expression of emotion. Be sure to include the number in your blog post title: “8 Ways to Improve Your Memory,” “15 Tips on Search Engine Optimization,” “7 Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe Online,” “5 Dangers of Location-Based Status Updating,” or “Top 10 Books for Sales Professionals.”

When the driving force behind your business blog is caring and sharing—the core values of social media participation—you’ll naturally tend to compose articles that people will look forward to reading. Even better, you’ll generate goodwill and a deeper understanding of your business, which will result in increased sales and business success.

See for a real-world example of how to implement these blogging ideas for a local business. iBi

Steven Streight is a web content developer and social media strategist
who specializes in ecommerce sites, blogs and online video.