Tuesday, August 9, 2011

So, you want to be a blogger... 15 Steps to Success!

By Krista Chapman

Truthfully, I never set out to be a blogger.  Just like you, my trek down the arduous Blogger Way started because someone determined if you had a business... you had a blog.  With my job responsibilities, fully consuming a non-stop schedule, writing for my company blog inevitably happened on my personal time.  Pounding keys with demonic haste blogging occur during commercials breaks of The Good Wife and I was lucky to post twice a month.  During busier months (a.k.a. wedding season), I was lucky to post at all.  However, I would come to realize that I looked forward to my alone time... just me, a computer screen and my expert ramblings. 

After leaving my previous post, I thought to take up my long-ignored and recently reinvigorated passion for the written word.  Fred Jacob would present a rare opportunity of creative freedom providing real wedding solutions, advice and inspiration to the bridal masses, one day at a time.  I quickly learned blogging is so much more that crafty hooks, proper punctuation and past experience.  Learning to hone my ramblings, I amassed a list of do's and don'ts related to successful blogging from the more seasoned Blog Gods.   I offer them here for your easy reference.  Ready, set... Blog! 

Lay the Groundwork... Who, what, why and when.

1. Why are you starting blog?  Increasingly, clients want to connect with the business they buy goods and services from and a company blog can be the ticket to just that.  But only if it has a clear purpose for existence.  Like all your other marketing choices, you need to hone in the purpose and goals you hope to achieve as well as understand the investment expected.  With our Pink bridal blog, I strive to create honest and genuine content that would educate couples on how to more efficiently plan their wedding, work with vendors and maximize their budget.  With a dash of pretty things... just for fun.

Insider Bonus Tip:  Blogging helps with your company SEO but only drives traffic to your website if your blog is captured within your own website.   Using a free resource like Blogspot or Wordpress is a good place to start but ultimately the goal should be to host your blog on your own website. 

2. Who is your target audience?  Successful wedding bloggers long ago realized the sun does not rotate towards their gravitational pull and write to serve a target audience.  Enlightened to the stark reality that Bride A cares only about Bride A's wedding day, one must write to suit her needs.  This means a lot less about you and your company and a lot more about her and her wedding day.  Additionally, the more targeted you can make your audience, the more likely you'll entice loyal followers.  Rather than speaking to the average blushing bride, use your blog to speak to your Ideal Bride.

3. About the author.   Readers want to connect with a blogger and the best way to do so is with a clear point of view.   Readers need to forge the human connections for long-term dedication and this happens when they feel like they know you.  Different from my purpose, I write in a witty, conversational tone that offers serious advice while still recognizing there are more important things than planning a party.  And yes, I do slip in occasional vague personal references for context.  My readers know I have a long-term boyfriend (i.e.  I have/can commit to a serious relationship) but they don't know his name.  Keep in mind your POV should be likeable to your target audience (see above).

4. Can you commit?  Occasional and haphazard posting will do you no good when trying to secure an avid following.  Unwilling to wait in pins and needles for your next blog to drop, readers move on to other authors able to instantly gratify.   Most company blogs require bi-weekly posting, increasingly moving towards daily posts.  Does your schedule honestly have room for such a time suck or could (and should) it be spent elsewhere?   My biggest pet peeve?  A blog happily displaying a welcome-to-my-blog message... posted more than 6 months ago.  Dead on arrival, readers are writing you (and your company) off before opening the door.  If you're serious about being a tour-de-force in the bloggers sphere, you need to contribute consistently.  If you can't do that, you can't have a blog.

Now your need Readers... Tricks to attract brides.

5. Content is King.   Good blogs have good content.  Amazing blogs have amazing content.  Amazing wedding blogs, solve problems, inspire brides and share clever trends and tips.  While you need to have a reasonable level of expertise, beyond that a bride cares about her problems, her wedding budget and how-to pull off a fabulous wedding while holding down a full-time job.  Be her problem solver with posts addressing solutions, tips to save and stress reduction techniques.  Such tactics will ensure a well-read place among wedding-information overload.

6. Clear Title With SEO.  I thought clever always triumphed, until I realized brides weren't typing my clever catch phrases into search engines.  Use basic, SEO-friendly, search words in your blog's title.  And don't be afraid to use numbers... Numerals are not only eye-catching; readers are much more likely to click through to a post with a number.  Consider the title of this post... I bet you noticed the number and quickly calculated if you could steal enough time for 15 tips or postponed reading until later.   

7. Write in bullet points.  Simply, this allows readers to skim your post and quickly determine if the information is applicable.  The best blogs are easy to skim, quick get to the point and have a title that communicates the topic being address and how much of my most precious resource - time, will be lost.  Limit yourself to 750 words, outlining the topic at hand, add a catchy introduction and conclude with a call to action (which can be as simple as asking for comments).  If you find you have too much to say on a topic, break the blogs into separate posts.  And yes, I am totally breaking this rule with the post at hand.  Realistically, I could have easily broken this into three sections but since I aim to interrupt once a month, I opted for a complete report.

8. Create a Posting Calendar.  Posting daily, I aim to have the day's discourse infiltrating the social media airwaves by 8:30am (CST).  Additionally (and more recently), I created a topical calendar of reference.  Prior to this, my blog posts were haphazard, based on whatever struck me as interesting or timely.  Since my switch (and subsequent OMG moment), I am better able to manage my blogging and accomplish more in less time.  Promotions and upcoming events will slightly disrupt my strategy but I am often able to push content to the following week, putting me ahead of the curve.  See my topical calendar below:

Monday - Real Wedding and Wedding Products, Ideas or Clever Things
Tuesday - Pretty Things: Decor, Wedding Day Style and Inspiration
Wednesday - Wedding Etiquette, Traditions or Commentary
Thursday - Real Wedding and How-To, Wedding Planning Advice
Friday - DIY Projects, How-To Advice

9. Be (a little) controversial.  If I know one thing about Homo sapiens, it's that we like controversy.  Without it, the train-wreck better known as Bridezillas, would not have become the reality TV juggernaut it is, literally consuming well-intended Sundays with repeat marathons.  Better judgment tells us to look away, but innate curiosity kills our productivity.  Guess what?  You too can take advantage of this intrinsically human tendency.  Air the wedding industry's dirty laundry, share secrets and have an opinion - even if you expect dissenters.  Nothing spikes blog traffic better than a strong, albeit careful dosed, opinion on a hot topic. 

10. Don't forget to promote your blog!  Seemingly obvious, if you lack the means to promote your blog to the information superhighway by way of a solid social media program, well... no one's going to read it.  This is where the additional time commitment can become daunting.  Not only am I asking you to come up with amazing content and write (as well as edit, upload, add pictures to) a bi-weekly post, I also want you to maintain a healthy band of merry facebook fans.   Realistically speaking, this takes time but so start with your small circle of connects, prospects and leads... growing to a more larger following over time.  Post new posts to your facebook wall, send a recap of your past blogs in a monthly newsletter to brides and submit guest blogging content to more highly traffic blogs.      

Not a writer?  Simple solutions for everyone.

11. Be the expert.  Just say no to timid writing.  Brides need to see you as the expert, otherwise what's the point spending time reading what you have to say.  If your writing stumbles over second-guessing by the author about their own advice... I'm done reading and done seeing you as any sort of expert.  Write with conviction and curtail personal self-doubt. 

12. Write in the present tense.  Readers will engage more with your writing when written in an active voice, rather than a passive voice.  For example:

  "The bride was stressed by her mother."  PASSIVE
   "Her mother stressed the bride."   ACTIVE
   "Her penny-pinching mother frazzled the bride with an absurd wedding budget."  ACTIVE with a better editor

13. Readability Statistics.  Yes, there is an app for that.  Turn on this helpful tool in your Microsoft Office (Office Button, Word Options, Proofing, Check Readability Statistics) to measure your writing's general readability.  Aim for 14-18 Words per Sentence, Reading Ease ranging from 60 -70 and Grade Level of around 8.  This also checks how much of your work uses passive writing (see above). 

14. Thwarting Writer's Block.  Some days I trip into a dizzying maze of topics and ideas, words flowing from my fingers, faster than I can type.  Other days, I stare longingly at a blinking cursor on a blank page, urging words that won't come.  How much can one repeat the same wedding advice?  I do have few tricks... I surf bridal boards for ideas, frustrations and trends (Weddingbee.com is my favorite).  I take inspiration from vendor rants - your aggravations allow me a vicarious look to current bridal behaviors (that may change with a post or two).  Finally, I use the comments, questions and feedback of my readers to keep the content pantry well stocked.  And when you are targeting renewing brides, consider revisiting old blog posts and reworking content from different angle.

15. Have another staffer manage your blog.  Just because you're the business owner, does not require you to be the voice or face of the company.  Our Pink leader, Fred Jacob, does not post to our blog.  When he has a clever idea or comes across something of interest, he does what every good business owner does... he delegates (but way of email at all hours of the night - and you're laughing because you know Fred).  Your blog needs a voice and established point of view that will best connect it to your target bride.  Your witty and clever assistant may be a better fit.

One last point... blogging is not for everyone.  Time-consuming, painfully slow to show results and requiring sense of purpose, failure is more likely than success.  Blogging may not be the best use of you time, company resources and expertise.  As with all you marketing efforts, find success by obsessively targeting the bride that most fit your company.  Use the tools that best work to convey your message to your ideal bride, rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the newest, latest and greatest.

Do you have additional questions about blogging? Contact Krista Chapman at Krista@thepinkbride.com
Questions about our Pink Program in general?  Contact Fred Jacob at Fred@thepinkbride.com