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How Blogs Can Help A Business

The Internet has become an increasingly pivotal element in society. The Web has brought email, instant messaging, online shopping, and various other sites that provide instant access to information. The Internet has also simplified global communications; therefore, expanding the possibilities of marketing strategies. Most recently, blogging has become a growing component of the Internet. There are many types of blogs on the Internet centering on photos, videos, and audio just to name a few. People write or maintain blogs about almost every topic. People blog about business or products when it becomes a very useful tool in marketing a business. For business, blogging encourages conversational communication with its customers, which provides a personalized relationship and customer loyalty.

A blog is a blend of the term “web log” and refers to adding logs; more commonly know today, as posts to a Web site. Posts are short articles made of text and may contain images and video as well, and can be found on any topic. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular input of entries. Blog posts are normally displayed in a reverse chronological order; this provides the most recent entries on top of the list of posts in front of the visitor’s eyes. Blogs are commonly interactive with its visitors, allowing people to leave comments and interact with the site. This interactivity is what distinguishes blogs from other static Web sites. Blogs can be stand alone sites or an integral part of a Web site. The term blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to add information or posts to a blog.

Blogs originated with simple updates to components and articles on Web sites. The evolution of tools to facilitate the production and maintenance of Web articles and posts made the publishing process easier to a larger, less technical, population. This resulted in the online publishing of applications that produce blogs that are easily recognized today. The use of Web browser based software is now a typical application for producing and maintaining blogs. This software principle allows people with no programming skills to contribute and maintain a blog. Almost anyone with basic computer skills can add content to a blog, giving small business owners the ability to communicate information about the products or services they offer. Blogs function in the same manner as a standard Web site, the files and graphics reside on a Web server computer provided by a hosting company. There are companies that provide free services to start a blog, as with free Web hosting, free has its limitations and any company serious about its Web presence should have premium Web hosting services.

Marketing methods and strategies have changed since the introduction of the Internet. With the use of high speed Internet, now common to almost every household, businesses have the opportunity to reach many more potential clients. The traditional methods of advertising consisting of print ads, radio broadcasts, and mailers which usually blanket an entire geographic area. The traditional methods may be preferred to Internet advertising because the technology is relatively new to most business owners. The owner of a small business usually does not have the time to learn a new technology to implement into a marketing campaign and hiring an Internet marketing company is normally out of the budget for a small to mid-sized company. These methods, however, are not without problems. They are more harmful to the environment by producing an excess waste of materials needed in the production of the print advertisements. A large percentage of print advertisements are considered junk mail and end up in the garbage or become litter in society. Print advertising also requires the use of chemicals and ink which further adds to the negative effect of this marketing strategy on the environment.

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blog like WordPress

There is a saying which goes something like this ‘Communication is all about understanding’. Although many may not agree, this certainly is the case when it comes to your customers.

The prospect of running a business blog makes some business owners nervous. They either think that blogging will be a lot of hard work, or they think that it will cost too much. However, a business blog can be a valuable marketing tool. A blog can also open a valuable line of communication between you and your customer, fostering trust and relationship.

What is a blog?
A blog – short for web log is when you add posts to a website in the style of journal entries in reverse chronological order. Blogs give information on a particular subject and allow readers to leave comments. A typical blog will combine text, images and links to other blogs, web pages and related media.

Why use a blog?
Blogs are not just for use as a personal journal as there is no limit to what topics may be covered. A blog gives you a voice to the world and raises your profile to a broad market. By having a blog you can become an expert in your industry by posting relevant and useful information. By giving something that is useful, people will keep reading. There are many reasons businesses should blog but three good ones are:

Reason #1 – Marketing
If you want to get a marketing message across to your customers then blogging is a great way to do this. Blogging reaches out to people in a way that no other medium can achieve as it is more personal. If someone makes the effort to contact you through your blog either by leaving a comment, sending an email or directly contacting you, it shows they are interested in the products you are offering. If your business blog is a good blog then it will reinforce and enhance your company’s brand and image. The blog entries posted by you will help your clients and perspective clients to understand who you are. Search engines will help you convey that understanding to more people, who you may not otherwise reach.

Reason #2 – Cost
Having a blog is one of the most cost effective forms of marketing for any business and it can be set up with very little cost and effort. You can create a blog for free on sites like Google Blogger and WordPress.com, or you can chose to buy a domain name and hosting to set up your very own branded blog. Try and use a domain name related to your business and download a free / open source blog like WordPress where there is no cost for the software.

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Market Your Product Or Service

A blog is really a useful tool to communicate with your customers and users. It allows you to transmit vital information via a web based interface. In just a few minutes you can have a personalized blog up and running, you can make it look professional, aesthetically pleasing and functionally outstanding.

Blogs are quick and easy to create

In fact, creating a blog is little more than child’s play. There’s no need for a script or expensive software to create a blog. Using wordpress, you can install a blog in under 5 minutes. You just need to sign up with any blog providers such as Blogger, Godaddy, typepad, etc. Once you sign on, you have just three main steps to have your blog;

1. Come up with a name for your blog,

2. Chose a design template (blog providers have a variety of templates) and;

3. Start posting text and images.

Once it’s up, the world will see your information, Google will index your information, your customers will see what you post, and information flow from you to the rest of the world.

Blogs are simple to maintain

Just as easy as it was to create your blog, it is easy it is to maintain your blog. All you have to do is go online to make all the updates. Some blog scripts even offer updating services via email. After you have created your blog, just sign in to your account and begin to customize, create or edit a post. You can replace your current blog template, and customize your blog settings easily. No matter where you are – whether at home or across the world, all you need is an internet connection then you can access your blog and update your blog with content. Your blog may already be able to automatically move newer posts to the top, while archiving posts either by topic or date so you don’t have to bother with moving your content around.

Search Engines will give you importance

Blogs are not so different from traditional websites so search engines will index your site. The biggest advantage of having a blog with regularly updated content is that search engines give significant priority to newer content that users find relevant and recent. A blog is very unique from a search engine perspective for you, since each post of the blog is assigned a different URL addresses. The search engines will give you more importance for the extensive content, given that each blog post would be treated as fresh and relevant content. Creating good posts to focus on a specific topic will give you the power to chose your keywords while describing your posts. The search engines will give you important power to chose which keywords you want to rank for in search engines, and rank for those keywords. This will enable your site to having greater chances of ranking well within the search engines. Since blogs tend to be updated regularly, search engines can “crawl” through them quickly and easily to index them accordingly, because search engines notice the newest posts first.

Blogs give you the ability to interact with your customer

One of the main ideas behind the blog is interacting with your customer. This is done by enabling a comment field to your posts which allows readers to offer their comments. This encourages the visitors to come back which allows you to get a better understanding of your customer’s needs.

Most blog hosts inexpensive

Web hosting for your blog can be very cheap if all you need is a blog. Anyone can start a blog within a few minutes. A blog gives you all the features provided in the blog site, and this can sometimes rival some full-blown websites. Blogs can also allow you to earn money as a blogger. This is done by displaying advertisements, sometimes you can earn up to $10 per click!

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13 Steps to Successful Blogging

Blogs can be a very marketable and very profitable tool if used correctly. Profiting from blogs is just a matter of grabbing the attention of an audience and not doing any actual salesmen selling. In this article you will learn the 13 most essential steps to successful blogging.

1) Where to start?

You should begin your blog with a free blog hosting service such as Journal Home or Blogger. Starting with a free blog hosting service allows you to begin blogging instantly without having any advance knowledge of scripts, hosting, or programming. It allows you to focus on your content and not the internal maintenance of the blog. The best benefit of starting with a free service is, in the case your blog doesn’t become successful you do not lose any money or are you left holding the bill. The great thing about a blog is that they are organized in chronological order, your latest entry is displayed first. When your blog traffic grows greatly and you are ready to upgrade to your own domain then you can simply make your last blog entry the announcement of your “move”. Simply add a last entry stating that your blog has “moved” and type the new blog URL address. Which directs visitors to your new blog site, keeping your following, without a major inconvenience to anyone. Upgrade as you need to…but only when you need to!

2) Niche

A niche is a targeted product, service, or topic. You should first decide on a product, service, or topic which interest you. Choose an area which you can enthusiastically write about on a daily basis. You can use keyword research services like Google Zeitgeist or Yahoo! Buzz Index to find popular searched topics. It does NOT matter if your topic is popular as long as there is a audience for your topic and the topic is precisely focused then your blog should be successful. Anything can be considered a niche as long as it has a target audience no matter how large or how small the audience is. A blog about your cat can be a niche or a blog about the species of the cat family can be a larger niche market, if there are people who are interested in hearing about your cat or the species of the cat family…you can even choose to build your audience for a market which an audience does not exist, but first you must build your blog.

3) Update Daily (nothing less)

This step is a must and not a suggestion. Updating your blog daily not only keeps your blog more interesting to readers, but it also gives your blog fresh content on a day to day making it more appealing to search engines. Not updating your blog on an occasional holiday or one day here and there is understandable to most, but missing days at a time or weeks is unacceptable and will most likely result in your blog being unsuccessful. To keep your blog traffic and retain your visitors interest it is a must to update your blog daily with multiple entries. You should try to update your blog everyday with at least 3 or more daily entries. The best way to accomplish this is to set aside 1-2 hours a day for tending to your blog and adding new entries. It may even be wise to schedule a set time which you dedicate to your blog each day. Give yourself work hours and treat your blog as a job, what happens if you don’t come to work for days or weeks…you lose money or worse you get fired! Same applies here…if you don’t update your blog for days or weeks you’ll lose visitors.

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Why Websites Score Over Print Media When You Look For the Latest Entertainment News

Forgive me for starting with a not-very-clever rewording of an old saying, but today “almost all news is good news” when you are trying to generate visibility for your company or organization. I’m going to tell you how to create valuable news releases from information that you might not think has value and get it published.

What do I mean by “almost all news is good news”? That just about any news can be turned into content for online and offline publications, gaining valuable visibility for your business or organization.

Traditional news releases — or press releases as they used to be called back when real presses were used by real news organizations to print news – had to vie for limited space on a printed page. Typically, that limited newsworthiness to stories about new products or services, new technologies, or major organizational news.

Today, however, the concept of “news” has changed dramatically. Publishing space is virtually unlimited and publishers hungry for content. The lines have blurred between so-called “real” news organizations such as newspapers, magazines, and broadcast news outlets and “new media” such as online citizen-journalism sites, blogs, e-letters, and news aggregator services. Today, many of the stumbling blocks have disappeared that were once between people generating news and the outlets that published it. It’s easier than ever now to get your news published in a variety of places. The trick is writing something that will be of enough interest for someone to pick it up and publish it.

Picking a topic

There are more things to write a news release about than you might think, starting with the obvious: a new product or service, openings and closings, restructurings (partnerships, mergers and acquisitions), and employee/staff news. These topics generally can be considered “hard” news and worthy of broad distribution, when possible.

There are a host of other topics, however, that many people don’t think to promote with a news release, but that make ideal “soft” news releases. These topics include trade show and conference appearances, awards, business anniversaries, new client wins, capital equipment purchases, and new capabilities. While a business publication editor may consider these topics too self-serving to warrant publication, there are still good reasons to write a release on them, as you will shortly see.

Creating your own news.

Don’t think you have enough news, hard or soft, to write about? Then think about creating your own news. Develop a simple industry or customer survey, publish the results on your website, and write a news release about it.

Write a report. Interview key personnel in your organization and your industry trade association about your market or industry and publish their insights. Then write a release about the key findings, announcing the availability of the report for download on your website. With a little thought, you should be able to come up with several ways to create your own news.

Writing a news release

Now you need to write about your topic. Remember that this is news, not advertising, and an editor is going to judge whether it’s worth publishing. Avoid jargon and using phrases such as “industry leading”, “number one”, “unique”, and any other terms that smack of self-serving advertising.

Lead with all the important information in the first paragraph, starting with the topic, the company, and why your news is important. Traditionally, this is known as the “five W’s and the H” – who, what, where, when, why, and how. Keep sentences simple and paragraphs short.

Add the details to the middle portion, or body, of your release and finish with what’s called the “boilerplate” – the standard information about your company or organization, including basic description, locations, and web address. If your company is big enough it can even include the number of employees, subsidiary information, and stock ticker symbol if it’s publicly traded.

 

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Operational in the Worst of Snow Falls

As a business owner you rely on everyday operations and sometimes that “every” is double or even triple underlined because business is slow. You cannot risk shutting your business down for a day or two when it snows during the winter months. You need to keep your operations going and one of the worst things is when your potential consumers cannot get to your place of business because, well, there simply is no way to get there. You need to keep you business going even when it seems as if the clouds are coming down on the earth. To assure that you are operational you need to call the snow removal services.

The snow plow truck will plow the parking lot of your business every night when there’s snow to assure that your employees and your customers alike can get to your place of operations. Don’t let weather be an obstacle any time of year. Of course, there are times it is necessary to shut down your business for safety’s sake. Such instances are hurricanes’, tornadoes, and sever snow fall.

The first two instances are not very likely in Chicago. Tornadoes do happen, but they are usually south of Chicago land area and generally die down before they get to most populated areas. Heavy snow fall is more frequent than the other aforementioned storms, but still rare. When it snows for a week on end, the snow plow trucks are still out there doing their job so the snow does not accumulate too much. Salt is poured onto the ground in order to melt the snow upon its contact with the ground. This allows the roads to be kept clean even when there’s a lot of snow.

Salt is a bit limited as well, however. There have been instances when there is simply too much snow coming down. Cars are snowed in, and it simply does not make sense to clean up the snow as it starts falling because the trucks will have to do another run on the same stretch 20 minutes later. There is a system for the snow plowing services to cleaning up the snow efficiently and with the least cost to your business. Hence, this is why snow removal generally happens during the night.

Snow removal truckers are notorious for putting all of their energy into keeping your business snow free and operational. Apex M know that if your business does not operate because of their lousy job, next time you will not call upon them to do snow removal or Christmas lights installation work. It is not only a monetary things, it is also a matter of pride. Snow plowing truckers take pride in their work. Their goal is to get all of the snow out without delay to your business and it is a matter of hard work for them. If you are not satisfied, they blame themselves – they know that they simply did not do a good job.

 

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Social Media Marketing & Automation

I had a conversation with a client this morning that triggered this piece.

To his credit, he is what I call an ‘atypical’ client, in that he fully understands both the power of social media (when used correctly), and how much WORK one has to put in to gain any kind of traction in this marketing space.

Until you’ve done it, you don’t get it, and he’s done it.

On more than a few occasions, celebcrunch I’ve heard small business owners complain about the cost of hiring someone to strategize, build and run the chunk of their marketing that is social media (and let’s face it; isn’t it all social media by now?).

Because social media started out as something that only ‘teens took part in, it was purely ‘social’. So some business owners appear to be largely unaware of the impact that social media has now. They generally have no idea how muchwork it is to cut through all the white noise that’s already in front of their prospective customers on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

Ask that business owner about buying ad space in their quickly dying local paper, and they’re all about it. But talk to them about social media/digital marketing, and the objections come fast and furious.

As someone who lives in the social media space, I’m surprised by those who assume that what we do, is still purely ‘social’, like it’s some kind of ‘add on’ to their already existing (or non-existent) marketing. Some even ask, “why should we pay someone to do this for us, when the tools are free, and from what we understand, can be automated?”

The question always makes me smile. It’s not a good smile.

I think that the majority of those who manage social media for companies large and small would agree with me when I say that managing this marketing aspect for those companies is anything BUT free.

It takes time, it takes patience, it requires strategic knowledge, and it definitely requires skill. Sure, the tools can befree, but even then, they’re only free to a certain level. Past that point, you’ve gotta “pay to play”. And if you’re paying, you’d better damn well know what you’re doing.

Learning how to apply strategy to the use of those “free” tools costs a lot more than money. It’s insane how time consuming it is, and you know how quickly those computer minutes can add up. That time, is time that the average business owner can’t afford to spend on social media marketing because he/she has a literal hundred ‘more important’ things to do, and think about.

He’s not interested in ‘getting his hands dirty’ with all of the testing and tweaking, and more testing and moretweaking of his marketing strategies. He thinks that he’s “spending good money” on someone who can simply put his marketing on autopilot, and forget about it.

Let me let you in on a secret; there’s been a ton of ‘chirping’ about automation when it comes to social media, but fully automating your social media marketing isn’t a good thing.

Social media for business is essentially meant to start a dialogue with your customers, past, present and potential. Period. Conversation leads to familiarity. Familiarity leads to trust. Trust leads to sales. It’s that simple.

With regard to automating your digital marketing, how does a customer ‘trust’ a robot?

So now you ask, “But Debbie, can’t I micro-target my automated social media messages, and set messages that ‘sound’ more human to those people?” Meaning, rather than automate all processes at random, you’re targeting to a specific type of market, and ‘programming’ a specific reaction to that market.

To which I’d say, “Sure you can! You can do whatever you want!” But the main problem with automation with regard to micro targeting is this;

Let’s say that you ‘follow’ me as a potential business lead/customer on Twitter, and, acknowledging that yours is a product/service that I could use, I follow you back. The act of following you back triggers an automated message on your part, thanking me for following, and/or asking a simple question by direct message or simple ‘tweet’.

The first problem with this is that if I know anything about social media, I’m going to take a peek at your own timeline to see if I’m one of dozens (or hundreds) who’re receiving the exact same message (in the email world, we call that ‘Spam’). You’d be surprised at how often that’s actually the case, which is a total turn-off.

The second problem is; if you’ve sent me an automated ‘direct message’, what happens afterwards when I send a ‘human’ response to your account?

I’ll tell you what happens; nothing. Radio silence. And as the human component, I’m thinking one of two things;

“Why’s this dude ignoring me?” or
“Crap. I just got sucked in by a robot.”
I usually assume it’s the latter.

So sure, your micro targeting paired with automation snared your ‘ideal customer’ and got her to respond, but you’ve chased her away by ignoring her or worse; making her feel like she’s been tricked into responding to your ‘robot’.

There was no ‘dialogue’. There was no interaction. And now your potential customer is chapped because she ‘spoke’ to your robot, thinking that it was human, or at the very least, that someone was monitoring it for interaction.

So with all this automation, who’s actually paying attention?

For some, the ‘social media game’ is about who can acquire the most followers in the shortest period of time. Targeted or not, they don’t really seem to care (just ask the CRM companies who’re auto-pitching their products to other CRM companies on Twitter).

They’ve got themselves an audience at whom they can ‘pitch’ their products or services. But when that audience actually responds, they get nothing back.

So essentially, you’ve sucked them in, so that you can ignore them. Or worse, now that they’re ‘following’ you, they get to see your ‘sales pitches’ in their feed, and you’re ignoring their messages.

That’s kinda crappy.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some social media tasks that can easily be automated, and in order to scale your marketing efforts, they should be.

But it takes time, patience and skill to set up and run a social media marketing strategy with automation that works in a way that doesn’t send your customers sprinting for your competition.

There’s no substitute for monitoring your automation processes. Period. And to that, I’m sure some would ask “then why bother with automation?” That’s another article.

From my client conversation about automation and micro targeting in social media; “If you aren’t gonna follow up when you get a response to someone that you targeted, then you are a total idiot and I’m curious as to why you would have a Twitter account at all, and try to get me to respond?”

I took the long way getting here, but he made made my point in a nutshell.