Blogging for Business - Part Two

Last week I began a series of articles on why blogs are often a better solution for businesses than static websites.

A few of the reasons for this are:
  1. A blog can be set up faster and cheaper than most static websites. Blogs are usually set up using a template from sources like Blogger or Wordpress, which are free and come with a great deal of applications that can be used to customize the blog.
  2. The biggest delay and headache many businesses face when setting up their new site is creating and uploading content. With a blog, the content is added a bit at a time. (Note: This is also the drawback of a blog, new content must be added regularly in order to keep the site current).
  3. Because active blogs are updated regularly, search engines like Google LOVE them and reward them with higher rankings.
  4. As a result, business blogs get an average of 55% more traffic than sites without blogs.

To illustrate some of these points, below is a reprint of an article I wrote last year about a small business that gets most of its business from its blog:

A Sign Company Uses Storytelling to Build Their Brand

I just read a really great article by John Jantsch in his "Duct Tape Marketing" blog that shows how storytelling can be used to promote even the most unlikely of products.

The article, which is called Blogging Customer Stories, is about a New Hampshire Sign Making company named Lincoln Sign Company.

What Lincoln Signs does that is unique is they blog about the process of creating custom signs for their customers. As they put it, "we are using our blog to sell the EXPERIENCE of getting a sign.” As they blog about a customer's sign, they are, of course, giving the customer additional exposure, but they are also creating a case study about the sign and the details of making it.

For Lincoln Sign Company, they benefit because they create web content, get traffic from search engines, and enhance to value of their signs. Here are some more quotes from Lincoln Sign Company's blog:

"It has been said that the best marketing one can have is for a customer to want to tell your story to someone else. We want to provide a tool to help people tell a story about your business."

“At the end , you get more than a sign, you get a sign, AND the story of how that sign was made.”

"Telling the story of these signs being made educates a potential customer about the process and care that is taken in presenting their "brand" to the world. There are days we wish we could give anyone thinking about purchasing a sign a tour of our shop, and this weblog is our opportunity to do just that."

What this story demonstrates is just how versatile a blog can be. Lincoln Signs not only tells the story of how it creates its signs, it also humanizes the business.

Moreover, Lincoln Signs uses its blog to demonstrate a creative process and its quality control standards.

If your business has a commitment to quality, a blog, with pictures or videos, may be the ideal way to spotlight it. Customers enjoy peaking behind the curtain to see how the magic is performed. When you show them how you do what you do, how you are unyielding when it comes to quality, a blog allows them to look over your shoulder.

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Blogs vs. Static Web Sites: Which is the Right Solution For You?

Note: This is the first of a series of occasional articles on ideas for blogging for businesses.

Earlier this week I talked to yet another small business owner who is extremely frustrated by the process of having a website built.

The site he has now uses a flash drive which makes it unreadable to many visitors. Not to mention the fact that flash drives are unreadable to Google and other search engines (which means this site will never get ranked on a search engine).

The problem is that most small businesses must do things on the cheap. This results in many businesses using part-time web developers who often put more emphasis on making the site "pretty" than they do in making it a functional selling tool.

It also means that these small business owners experience long delays (as was the person I spoke with this week) in getting a new site up and running.

Why not choose a blog instead of a static site?

My standard response to most of these frustrated business people is that they should consider a blog instead of a static site. A blog is merely a template, which means it can take less than an hour to create. Initially, the template may not look terribly "pretty" but at least it is live online in a short time.

To make it look more appealing, there are thousands of more sophisticated "skins," or designs, available for Blogger and Wordpress blogs that can be used after the blog has been created.

Content? No One Said I Had to Create Content!

The basic difference between a blog and a static site is the fact that a blog is meant to be easily updated and changed. New content in the form of articles, videos, pictures, audio recordings (also known as podcasts), links and slideshows, can be added with the push of a button.

With a static site, adding new content can be an ordeal, often involving the very same web developer who took so long to get the site created in the first place.

This is why creating a static site involves so much pressure to "get it right" before it goes live. Quite often the business owner will get a call from the developer who says, "Your site is all done, all I need now is content from you before we load it onto the internet."

To which the owner says, "Content? I need content?" and then begins a scramble to write product descriptions, articles, post pictures and other information.

This is why the content on many, many static sites is, to be as charitable as possible, mediocre. Poorly-written articles, random photos and bad links abound on many of these sites - all because more thought was put into the design of the site than on what the site would say to visitors.

With a blog, the owner merely has to create an initial article, video or bare bones information before going live. More content is added on an ongoing basis.

And this is the rub, a blog involves a commitment to add new content often. Nothing repels visitors more than a blog that has not been updated in months. Ideally you will want to post new content at least 2- 3 times a week (I know, I know, I haven't been keeping my own rule too well lately, but I already have lots of content on this blog).

If the thought of adding new content regularly seems daunting, think about whether you would rather choose to have to create lots of content all at once before your site can ever be seen, or whether it would be better to post new information in small pieces over time.

I liken it to a store owner who changes displays weekly. They know that they cannot keep the same displays up all the time. Customers buy when they see variety.

Reasons for Choosing a Blog:

The advantages of a blog over a static website are:
  • Build it fast and get it online in one day.
  • Blog content can be created and added on an ongoing basis, rather than upfront.
  • Because content is added piecemeal, active blogs usually have more content, and are therefore more informative to the visitor.
  • Search engines LOVE blogs. Because of the regularly posted new content, search engines will scan blogs more often and reward them with higher rankings.
  • Visitors tend to come back to blogs again and again because they find them informative and like to see what new content has been added. Blogs have the same appeal of magazines, they develop regular readers who want to learn more.
  • A blog can take the form of a newsletter or product catalogue. Just feature a new product in every post with a picture, description and product review.
  • Small businesses with blogs get 55% more traffic than their competitors' static sites.

Frankly, with all these advantages, I have a hard time understanding why most businesses don't choose a blog over a static site. With some exceptions, my own opinion is that a blog is by far the better choice for most businesses.

Look for future articles on why a blog may be the best solution for your business.

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Reach Your Goals Before 2009 Ends

I don't know about you, but I have several goals I want to accomplish before this year ends. There is that weight thing, the income thing, getting my book finished, etc.

To help me do all this, I have joined Gary Ryan Blair's 100 Day Challenge to help me finish 2009 strong.

Gary is known as the "Goals Guy" because he helps people successfully accomplish their goals using a system he calls "The Big Bang." Check out his site, watch his videos and download his free ebook on how to really achieve your goals.

A final note, if you've read ALL the books on goal setting and success manuals, you're probably thinking you already know all this stuff. Am I right?

The thing about the 100 Challenge is it helps you create a massive push to finish the year strong. Even if you already know "the facts" about goal setting, you need the help of a challenge to really achieve what you want.

Are You Up For a Challenge?

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An Easy Way to Create Blog Content

A lot of people who are considering creating a new blog are stopped in their tracks by the idea of creating new and original content. The notion of writing 4-5 new articles every week seems overwhelming (until you've done it).

Fortunately, like most new projects, what seems overwhelming at first, becomes a lot easier when you break it down into smaller steps.

Let's start with this idea of creating original content. It happens to all of us from time to time and sometimes we can pull it off very successfully. But more often than not, our best ideas are not 100% original, but are a synthesis of information we derive from other sources.

So let me let you in on a closely guarded secret amongst those of us who are experienced bloggers:
Only a small portion of most of our content consists entirely of new and original material.

Look at the diagram above and you will note that the second box talks about "gathered content." A lot of what most of us blog or tweet about is simply gathered from other blogs or sources.

Take YouTube for example. For most topics, you will NEVER run out of material even if all you do is find quality videos and embed them on your blog.

With permission, you can also re-print articles written by other blogs or websites. Just be sure to give that other blogger credit for their material.

Two additional sources for gathering content is Google Alerts and Again, you will never run out of material if you go back to these places each day to find quality content on your subject matter.

Interestingly, even though you are simply featuring content created by others, the mere fact that you have taken the time to gather this material and place it in one place (your blog), will help you position yourself as a trusted authority and resource on that topic. You will quickly become associated with the quality information you offer.

But simply scraping other people's information is not a lasting way to build a solid reputation, business or career. You still have to add your own insights in order to create value.

The next box above is about, "Gathered information PLUS commentary." Once you have embedded a great video or re-printed a great article on your blog, add your own thoughts to what the other author has said.
  • What points did you feel were most helpful?
  • What points did you disagree with and why?
  • What new applications can you think of for these ideas?
  • What other resources and links support or further these ideas?
  • Did some of these ideas help you come up with new insights of your own?

When you add your own commentary to the content of others, you are beginning to create your own original content.

Of course you want to invite comments from your own readers. What thoughts do they have?

As you receive comments, you should respond to them. Each person's thoughts will likely trigger new ideas of your own. So your responses the their comments will enhance the blog post and add even more value to your readers.

Finally, there is the synthesis process. Look at the gathered content, possibly additional gathered content you find from other sources, your commentary, comments from your readers and your own responses back, and see what you come up with.

The input from all these other people and resources are what will help you create your own original content, new blog posts and new ideas of your own.

Hopefully when you reach this stage, you will find yourself posting other people's content less and less. More often, you will quote from or cite these other articles, and build your own article entirely out of your own commentary.

You will also find yourself referencing and quoting from more than one article in your blog post and building new content from synthesizing the ideas found in these multiple sources, plus your own ideas and insights.

And that is really the lesson of the internet. Creativity is not simply sitting alone in a dark room thinking new and original thoughts. It is more often a result of finding good information and interacting with that information to come up with your own take on the subject.

Look back at some of the best books you've ever read on your field of study, or some of your favorite blogs. You will most likely find that their "original content" is not entirely original at all. More often it is the result of a process that begins with the ideas of others that have impacted these writers.

So, if you have been delaying your own blog because the task seems overwhelming, get started simply by gathering content and adding your own commentary. See how far that takes you.

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Twitter Account Reinstated

I'm happy to say that my Twitter account was reinstated yesterday after being "Suspended for suspicious activity," for about six hours. The reinstatement was as mysterious as the suspension.

I have yet to receive a response from Twitter for any of the three service requests I submitted, so I am still in the dark about why this happened or what (if anything) I did to trigger this event.

One thing that I've learned as a result is to pay careful attention to "Terms of Service" (TOS) agreements. Twitter recently revised their TOS and I confess that I had not read them carefully before. But yesterday, I read it with a fine-toothed comb, looking for anything I may have inadvertently violated.

For those of us who have built our businesses upon social media tools and platforms, these kinds of events can be devastating. My hat is off to Twitter for their prompt action, but I have heard other social media sites are much less responsive.

The lesson here is to be careful. Stay as far from any grey areas as you can, know TOS agreements and conduct your business as ethically as you can. And finally, obey not just the letter of the rules, but the spirit as well.

This all comes back to having the right philosophy toward social networking. Be generous, be helpful, look for ways to add value and contribute to the community.

I would like to think that the Twitter folks took a look at my activities and decided that is what I strive to do. But it is still a mystery, so for all I know I am being unnecesarily philosophical.

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My Twitter Account Has Been Suspended

As some of you already know, my Twitter account has been suspended for some reason. I woke up this morning at around 6am Central time and tried to log into my account and got the bad news.

I have never spammed or used Twitter to send anything questionable in nature. Nor have I ever, to my knowledge, violated their Terms of Service. So I am confident this has been a mistake and will be corrected soon.

This happened to me once before, in May of this year, when a hacker attack prompted Twitter to suspend a large number of accounts. Fortunately, the problem was corrected and my account was restored that same day.

That said, it is frustrating. Especially since I have two workshops scheduled for next week on Twitter. It is obviously embarrassing to be a supposed expert on Twitter and have your own account suspended.

Oh well, I probably needed a dose of humility, so I'll get over it.

Again, I am confident that my account will be restored soon.

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Don't get bogged down with the technology of social media - focus on relationships

I talk to business people every day that are intrigued, confused and overwhelmed by social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, LinkedIn and their ilk.

To them, I say "Don't sweat the small stuff."

The real key is not the social media tools, or the technologies, it is the social networking behaviors that smart business people have been engaging in since Grog started his stone wheel dealership and offered to arrange financing.

Nevertheless, time-challenged business people can hardly be blamed for viewing social networking as involving a lot of time in front of a computer. Is this time really worth it?

First, let me repeat: Don't get bogged down with the technology of social media.

You can set up a blog, a Twitter account, upload a video to YouTube, start a Facebook page, or download Tweetdeck to your computer in about the time it takes to microwave a frozen dinner.

Here's a tip to help make getting started on social media easier: Go to YouTube and you can find tutorials on ANY topic. Want to learn how to set up a blog? There's a video for that. Want to upload a video? There are videos for that too.

YouTube can teach you almost anything you want to learn.

But I can hear you asking, "Okay I'm on Twitter (or Facebook, or LinkedIn, etc.), now what?"

Social media platforms are merely tools, but the real emphasis should be on Social Networking.

Social Networking refers to human behaviors. These are the same behaviors smart business people have been engaging in for generations. Things like:
  • Making business contacts,
  • Turning these contacts into relationships (or even friendships),
  • Focusing on building trust and credibility instead of jumping in and hawking your services,
  • Listening (REALLY listening) to clients and potential clients,
  • Building a brand by educating and informing people (regardless of whether they are potential customers or not),
  • Helping people solve problems or achieve their goals,
  • Getting noticed by potential clients before competitors even know an opportunity exists,
  • Enlisting "evangelists" who will tell your story via word of mouth communication.

Let me put this another way: Suppose you had an opportunity to meet with a group of your ideal potential clients for lunch every day. Would you consider it time well spent if all you did during these lunches meetings was listen, educate, help them solve their problems or achieve their objectives - but was never able to pitch your own products or services?

I'm guessing a lot of you would say "yes," this would be time very well spent.

And that is why social networking is so valuable. Social networking is simply a virtual version of this daily business lunch with your ideal prospective clients.

So, repeating myself once again, don't get bogged down with the technology of social media. Learn the basics and then focus on building relationships.

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Twitter For Business Workshop

Can Twitter help your business grow? Are you looking for new leads or new business contacts?

Are you interesting in establishing trust and credibility with potential clients BEFORE you attempt to sell to them?

On September 22, I will be teaching a workshop called "Twitter For Business" at the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center, from 7pm to 9pm.

At this workshop, you will learn:
  • How to use Twitter to drive targeted visitors to your website, and how to get this traffic months faster than traditional search engine optimization techniques.
  • How to bypass gatekeepers and make business connections directly with individuals you might never connect with in the offline world.
  • How to find prospects that are interested in buying your type of product or service now.
  • How to become a recognized expert in your field.
  • How to use Twitter as a real-time market research tool.

The cost of the workshop is $100, payable to Charles Brown. As a bonus for paying early, I am giving two free ebooks that I sell for $27 each to attendees who pay on or before September 18.

It is strongly recommended that you set up a Twitter account and download Tweetdeck to your computer before the class.

The Fort Worth Business Assistance Center is located just South of Rosedale and I35 (on the West service road) in Fort Worth, Texas. Click here for a map and directions.

If you would like more information, click here or call me at 817-501-6892.

Charles Brown

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What Businesses Can Learn From The 2008 Obama Campaign

Don't get alarmed, I'm not going to get all political on you. But I would like to explore the business applications of learning how the Barack Obama team used social media to put their man in the White House,

As I write this in September 2009, think back to September 2007, just two years ago.

Assuming you had even heard of Barack Obama, did you honestly think that he had even a remote chance of beating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination - let alone becoming President of the United States?

Come on, tell the truth.

At that time, Clinton looked unbeatable, at least for their party's nomination. She had name recognition, lots of money, a superb organization in place, connections, and experience. Not to mention a Campaigner-In-Chief by her side who understood the process of running for top office better than anyone in their party.

Bill Clinton alone was a formidable asset. He was beloved by the party faithful and was a one man money-raising machine.

But, at the same time, there was a relatively unknown senator from Illinois who was quietly making use of this thing called social media.

Lately I have been reading a book called, Barack 2.0: Barack Obama's Social Media Lessons for Business by Brent Leary and David Bullock. This little book has become required reading for anyone wanting to learn how to use social networking for business.

It's hard to argue with the book's thesis: Without the masterful use of social media and social networking, Barack Obama would not be the President today.

Not only did the Obama team use social media to win votes, it also raised more money than any other campaign in history ($650 million), with the average donation being under $100.

But even more importantly, it used social media to create and energize a volunteer organization of people to knock on doors, make telephone calls and show up for events.

If ever there was an example of the kind of community-building Seth Godin talks about in his book Tribes, the Obama campaign was it.

Barack 2.0 is not a particularly well-written book stylistically, in fact it consists mostly of transcribed podcasts made by the authors as the campaign progressed. But it succeeds in accomplishing what it was intended to accomplish. It is a case study of a hugely successful social media campaign in action.

In addition, it also contains a lot of useful supplemental materials through out each chapter that can be found on the web. It provides links to a wealth of tools and resources that a business person can grab online and start using today.

What it does do very effectively is educate the reader on how to make use of social media for purposes other than running for office. It is, at its heart, a business book that just uses a political story as a case study.

Here are some of the telling facts Barack 2.0 contains:
  • About five months into the campaign, the authors got a snapshot of Obama's and Clinton's Twitter accounts and found that Obama had 44,596 followers and Clinton had 4,164. But more telling was the fact that Obama followed 46,252 people, whereas Clinton followed 0.

    In other words, Clinton viewed Twitter as a means of telling people her message, but demonstrated little interest in listening to, and having conversations with, other people.

  • Obama was also one of the first people to start using LinkedIn Answers. He posed the question, "What are you looking for in your next president?" and received over a thousand replies.

    This is another example of how he viewed social media as a platform to engage in two-way conversations, not just a means of shouting out a message.

  • As of the authors' July 9, 2008 podcast, Obama had 1145 short videos posted on YouTube. These were typically under 3 minutes each. But think of how effective these videos were. It was like he had over 1000 little salespeople online delivering his message day and night.

    This is a simple tactic that any business can do that will deliver significant results.

  • Obama didn't just focus on the high profile social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In the same week he reached 59,000 followers on Twitter, he also had almost 54,000 followers on, which caters to a Latino audience.

  • It wasn't just staffers who were using social media on his behalf. Remember Obama's ever-present Blackberry? He was doing a lot of his own tweeting, posting his own updates onto his Facebook page and sending out his own text messages.

    Many corporate execs make excuses that they are too busy to engage in these activities themselves, but it's hard to argue that they are any busier than a man running for president. Modern smart phones like Blackberries and iPhones make social networking a breeze.

The book goes on an on with examples of what Obama and his team were doing at the time. But more importantly, Barack 2.0 gives readers a lot of advice that they can use themselves to make things happen for them on social media.

It is, as I said earlier, a business book that uses the Obama campaign as a case study.

Let's face it, nearly every business faces a Hillary Clinton: A more established competitor with greater name recognition, more resources and a huge head start in the marketplace.

This book is for businesses that want to overtake their Hillary Clintons. Consider it a game plan that also comes with the tools, resources and actionable ideas needed to implement the strategies it talks about.

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"Mom Bloggers" Needed For a Market Research Project

I am working with a new client that makes a line of gourmet-flavored pecans, and need to find a group of "mom bloggers" who would be interested in taking part in an online focus group.

Participants will be given samples of the flavored pecans and asked to rank them by preference. We will also ask for their opinions on the various brand names we are considering.

We are particularly seeking bloggers who might blog about the pecans if they particularly enjoy the gourmet flavorings. Bloggers who are also on Twitter and Facebook would be a plus.

If you are interested in taking part, I need to get your response very quickly (my deadline is just five days away). Please contact me by email at, putting the word "pecans" in the subject line. You may also reach me by telephone at 817-501-6892.

Charles Brown

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Check Out My New "Web Marketing Library"

I just set up an Amazon Store called the "Web Marketing Library."

These are marketing books I have read and recommend. Some are new, some have been out for years. But all are worth reading and have my unwavering endorsement.

Charles Brown

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