Many B2B company owners and leaders ask us to share one “social media” activity that they can use to encourage traffic to their websites and more interest from their target market. Our answer is usually the same; write interesting and helpful articles, place them on your website and share the articles with your social networks and opted-in email lists. Although not necessarily easy, this one activity can bring interested and engaged visitors to your website on a regular basis as well as help you focus on your target market.
Article writing can be a marketing gift that keeps on giving for the following reasons:
1. Article writing forces you to listen and find out what information might appeal to your target market. In order to plan out a series of articles, you might, for instance, ask your salespeople and customer service staff about the common questions and concerns they hear from prospects and customers. Sharing thoughtful content and listening to what your target market finds interesting and useful is at the heart of good social media. If people like what you post, they’ll be more likely to remember you when they need your products and services. And if you’re always thinking about what THEY like, well, so much the better.
2. If you place your articles on your website, people can access them at any time, even months (or years) after they were published. And if you give your articles interesting titles and add relevant, meaningful keywords to the content, your articles may be found when your prospects do a Google search on the topic. We have many articles on our own website that are listed on the first page of Google for certain phrases and keywords. The same can be said for our clients who take the time to write and publish articles (or have the articles written for them). Even small businesses can, and do, build significant traffic to their websites using this tactic.
Adding a WordPress blog (an excellent place to post your articles) with a subscription option to your existing website is not usually a huge undertaking; most web developers can do this for a fairly small fee.
3. Article writing allows you to showcase your expertise and the core values of your company. You may get a few visitors to your “About Us” page every now and then, but those pages on most websites are usually pretty dry and static. Adding periodic articles to your site, however, allows you to become the “go-to” expert for your target market. Occasionally, you can also use the opportunity to talk about what’s happening in your company, such as your involvement with a non-profit organization or a successful project. It’s surprising how many people will subscribe to your articles if you provide them with relevant and meaningful information. And the beauty of it is, if you build into your website the tools to allow readers to share your articles with THEIR networks, many people will.
If you have a B2B company and you’ve been struggling with what to share in social media, start writing or get someone to write for you. You’ll start to see results after just a few articles, and you’ll keep on reaping the benefits.
Recently during a SXSW (South by Southwest) panel, Matt Cutts, who is the head of Google’s search spam team (now there’s a one-of-a-kind job), spoke about Google’s new focus on websites that are “too optimized” for SEO. He explained that Google is working on an algorithm update that will penalize websites that “throw too many keywords on the page, exchange way too many links, whatever they’re doing to go beyond what a normal person would expect”. Cutts also said that those sites site owners who will be penalized are “all those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site(s). We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it…”
For small business owners, the next quote by Cutts speaks to the frustration of many who are trying to get our websites found. ”Are you pretty much out of luck if you’re not optimizing your site but it has relevant content? If I’m a mom or pop and I’m trying to optimize a site by myself, I’m going to get beat by people paying thousands of dollars.”
“Make a site that’s useful. Make a site that’s interesting.”
As an antidote, Cutts also said something that we business owners and leaders should note: “Make a compelling site. Make a site that’s useful. Make a site that’s interesting. Make a site that’s relevant to people’s interests… We’re always trying to best approximate if a user lands on a page if they are going to be annoyed… All of the changes we make are designed to approximate, if a user lands on your page, just how happy they are going to be with what they’re going to get.”
If you’re working with an SEO company and you’re not exactly sure what tactics they are using, ask them. What you don’t want is an SEO company that is stuffing your pages with keywords, building back-links aggressively and doing other “black hat” sorts of activities. SEO is still useful for making sure that your website is easily “crawlable” and that you do have good and targeted keywords on your site, among other things. However, for most SMBs, I believe that an important takeaway from Mr. Cutts’ statements is that we need to create and post good content that we know our readers will want.
If your strategy lately has been to add interesting and relevant content to your site on a regular basis, then you’re probably ahead of a lot of your competitors. If that hasn’t been your strategy, now is the time to start.
Whereas many B2C companies sell products and services that can inspire raving fans, B2B companies often struggle with inspiring that same type of interest and interaction. The key to staying in front of people is producing the kind of content that your target market will want to read or watch- and perhaps even share with others. People will notice and pay attention if you give them something that will pique their interest, help an issue or even make them chuckle. Also, when potential customers do take the opportunity to check out your company website or profile on Facebook or LinkedIn, for instance, they will see activity and recent content. After all, more and more of us do all of our research about a company online, regardless of the industry.
So, what type of content can offer the most value to your B2B company?
Articles/blog posts: As painful and daunting as it may seem (or actually be), writing articles and blogs can be really effective at gaining an audience, increasing website traffic and solidifying your expertise in your area. When you add a new blog post to your website on a regular basis and share it out on all of your social media accounts, you never know who might end up visiting your website and reading your post. Our clients who produce articles the most often also see the most return on their social media activity.
Videos: These days, videos don’t always need to be high-quality productions that cost thousands of dollars. With the popularity of YouTube, people are used to videos that have been made on the fly and have a human quality to them. You can set up a camera and do a video blog instead of a written blog, if you prefer. Keep them short and authentic, and share them out wherever you have a profile.
Questions and Polls: Posting questions and polls on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can be an effective way to start a conversation about a topic of interest to your target market. Questions beg for an answer, and usually someone will be compelled to give an answer if the question is thoughtful or provocative enough. Fred McMurray, one of our partners, has had great success with this strategy, especially on LinkedIn. He has made numerous valuable connections in the B2B space with people who have chosen to answer his questions.
Photos: On Facebook and even Twitter, photos draw a lot of attention. They are easy to share and don’t require a lot of thought. Not that photos should the sum total your content, but interspersing photos and images can be a way to continue your visibility on days that you don’t have more comprehensive content to share.
Share articles/blog posts of others: Don’t have time to write an article right now? Consider sharing the articles of others that you believe your target market will appreciate. Although the traffic won’t be coming to your site, at least your company name and logo will be associated with something that could be of value to someone. The idea is to keep your company name in front of people on a regular basis.
If you have a B2B business and are finding success with your own content, we’d love to hear about it!
You’ve started a blog for your small business, and you (or your designated writer) have been putting out some great content. However, no one seems to know that your blog even exists. How do you get the word out about your blog and get some people to read it?
Here are 7 fairly simple and practical ways to share your blog:
1. Start an account with StumbleUpon and submit your posts there. StumbleUpon is an excellent social bookmarking site that allows you to share content as well as discover some incredible websites, blog posts, and videos you would have never come across otherwise. One word of caution: If you “stumble” your own posts, you must “stumble” other people’s content as well. StumbleUpon frowns on people who only share their own content, and it looks really self-serving, anyway. Whenever I submit one of my own posts, I always spend a few minutes “stumbling” and “liking” other people’s content that I find truly engaging. I really enjoy StumbleUpon and know many other people who do as well.
Along with StumbleUpon, there are many other bookmarking sites that you can use to post your content, such as Digg, Delicious and Reddit. Take some time to explore at least one of them and try posting your links to it.
2. Make sure that you give readers the ability to share out your posts by adding share buttons to each post on your website. WordPress and other blogging platforms make this pretty easy to add. However, you can also check out addthis.com for a solution to including sharing buttons on your site.
3. Many of you do this already, but make sure you share your post on Facebook. Preface the link with a comment or question. Ask your social media power partners to share it out as well.
4. Share a link to your post on Twitter, more than once. Sure, you may already tweet your posts, but do you tweet them several times, spaced out over a couple of days, for maximum exposure? Posting once is not enough. Try using a tweet scheduler such as Twaitter, Tweetdeck or Buffer. Vary the tweets that you send out with the link. Experiment with catchy headlines, questions and hashtags in your tweets. Also, if you are going to use Twitter in this way, make sure that you are tweeting other content besides your post over and over again.
5. Comment on other people’s posts and include the link to your own post when you are asked to enter in your website URL for validation. In other words, instead of entering in your general website address, enter in the URL for your specific post. Don’t talk about your post in the comment, however- that is not cool. Be thoughtful and give an authentic comment; if you do, people are apt to take a closer look and check out your link. This tactic is more effective if you comment on a blog post in the same industry as yours.
6. Share you post as a status update on your LinkedIn profile. Also, post it as a discussion item in any of the relevant LinkedIn groups that you have joined. Each group has its own rules for posting, so check with the Group Rules for their guidelines (if a group has guidelines, they show up under “Group Rules” on the right-hand corner of the group’s home page above the “Manager’s Choice” box).
7. Give your readers an opportunity to subscribe to your blog so that they receive an email each time you post something. There are several services out there that allow you to add a subscription function to your website. Aweber.com is one of the better known services, and they do charge a monthly fee, but they keep a database of your subscribers and give you many options for including an attractive subscription form to your website.
These are just some of the things you can do to get more pairs of eyes across your blog. Please share your own ideas.
By now most of us have heard that blogging is one of the best things we can do to drive traffic to our small business websites and increase the awareness of our brands. In fact, here’s a great post from Phil Mershon (Social Media Examiner) that gives statistics on the impact that frequent blogging can make on website traffic as well as customer leads.
However, we speak and work with many small businesses in industries that, on the surface, don’t seem to be very “bloggable”. Plumbing companies, for instance. After giving tips about leaky faucets or the best temperature setting for a hot water heater, what is there to write about? That’s a great question, but it’s also taking a narrow approach.
When a small business begins to blog, the primary goals for having the blog are usually increased awareness, website traffic and, hopefully, leads. The content that a small business posts on a blog needs to be something that people are likely to read. If nothing else, it needs to be something that people will “skim” and associate with your company name and brand. Many small business owners believe that any blog posts from the company have to be very industry-specific. However, this is not the case. If you’re a plumbing company, you can post content about a wide range of helpful topics, with the operative word being “helpful”. As an example of what can be done with a seemingly “unbloggable” industry, here are some interesting ideas I found while perusing plumbing company blogs:
Oldest water heater contest: Radiant Plumbing in Austin, Texas gave away two free water heaters to homeowners with the oldest water heaters in town. They found one that was 47 years old! The company got two posts out of the contest- one announcing the contest and one reporting on the winners- complete with pictures.
What would you do if you didn’t have a toilet? Benjamin Franklin Plumbers of Arizona posted an article about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s challenge to reinvent the toilet to bring better sanitation to the 3 billion people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet.
Choose the potty of your dreams: Yes, you read that right. Moon Valley Plumbing of Phoenix, AZ invited everyone to ask about their June special on Toto brand toilets and find the toilet of their dreams. Moon Valley Plumbing also posted articles about the local home show, the truth about hard water, and the importance of supporting local companies.
How much it would cost to remodel a bathroom? Click’s Plumbing in Spring, Texas wrote an article about many of the questions a homeowner needs to take into consideration when planning a bathroom remodel. Plumbing is only one part of a bathroom remodel, but Click’s Plumbing provided some helpful information about the entire process.
New energy efficient household products: Raymond Plumbing of Lorain, Ohio, posted an article about some new household products that are designed with green technology and can provide savings to homeowners.
Blogs should be written with the target market in mind. Good questions to ask when blogging for a business are:
-What questions do we get asked the most on a regular basis, and can we answer them in a series of posts?
-What type of information will be helpful to my customers and potential customers?
-What content will help them feel as if we are looking out for their best interests?
-Is there anything humorous or attention-getting that we can post in order to increase our awareness and bring a little personality into our industry and company?
-Could we create and include some simple videos into our blogs?
-Where else will we be sharing the blog posts to gain maximum exposure?
Even if you are not a writer, you don’t have time to write and/or you don’t have a writer on staff, there are many people out there who would be happy to create great content for you.