Social media has forever altered the marketing landscape, emerging as a digital gateway into social sectors previously untapped by traditional marketing methods.
Envision a virtual bridge connecting consumers to nearly any product or service they seek.
Now picture a tool in which businesses and brands can respond to those wants, needs and desires in real time.
That is social media.
Now envision a space in which you can extend that virtual bridge into a more intimate online community.
It is a space where brief social communications are transitioned into lengthier, more vibrant, enthusiastic and relevant conversations.
That is blogging.
While businesses actively look to shift an established reputation into viable online currency, finding a way to build thought leadership and a voice that stands out among the noise can be challenging.
So how can you differentiate your personal brand, distinguish yourself as an industry thought leader and effectively use the web to boost awareness and visibility?
The answer lies within the successful convergence of multiple platforms and a willingness to go beyond social.
Building a Successful 2014 Online Strategy
A recent study from BIA/Kelsey (www.bia.com and www.kelseygroup.com) shows just how relevant a powerful online presence is as ninety-seven percent of all consumers now search for local businesses online. That is an amazing statistic given the fact that nearly twenty percent of the adult United States population is still without internet.
The challenge for most businesses is a lack of understanding on how to use the Internet and reach their audience.
When businesses mistake social media marketing for a one-way conversation, the true value is overlooked.
What many fail to realize is that social media is not simply a dissemination tool, but rather a brand augmenter and community builder. In order to achieve community, one must actually be a part of it. Engaging, socializing, conversing and joining in the discussion.
However, while social media can foster awareness, it cannot elevate you to a thought leader on its own. In order to position yourself as an industry influencer, you must master the art of nurturing a valued community while providing irresistible content that encourages meaningful and convincing conversation.
Providing consistent content to your social endeavors produces a powerful mix of influence and intrigue; two qualities any thought leader must not only possess, but also command.
Creating an Extended Social Space
While a website is an essential component to building a personal brand online and offline, it cannot serve as a daily conduit between business and consumer. Moreover, even though a website functions as the equivalent of yesterday’s brick and mortar business, it does not allow businesses to connect with consumers on an intimate or personal level.
Adding a blog to your marketing mix can provide a more in-depth level of communicating/interacting with subscribers, fans and followers. It gives you a portal to disseminate frequent updates on products, services, opinions and events in real-time.
For those who are unable to manage a newsletter, blogging is an excellent alternative to engaging readers.
Blog Options and Tools to Get Started:
- WordPress.org (a self hosted WordPress blog) – Self-hosted blogs will require that you purchase a hosting account, install WordPress and either configure and design the site yourself or hire a web designer who can customize on your behalf. This may not be the direction you want to go if you are a first time blogger with little resources.
- WordPress.com – You can set up a free account at WordPress.com and choose from pre-designed themes. Unfortunately you will be limited when it comes to customization and personalization.
- Blogger – Similiar to WordPress.com, Blogger is a free online blog tool, but customization will be limited.
- Typepad – TypePad is a content and blogging tool that will allow anyone to quickly and easily set up a blog. If you don’t want the techy upkeep of a self-hosted blog, Typepad might be the right option for you.
Build Rapport through Relevant Content
Blogging about niche-specific topics is an excellent way to build rapport. Researching new trends and updates within your industry as well as community needs and market indicators is a way to build your reputation and keep your name top of mind.
Create a blogging strategy based on current content that can be re-purposed and distributed through your social channels.
For example, a blogging strategy to increase personal brand visibility while building an audience might include:
- A product (i.e., e-book) that you blog about and offer as a free download
- Holding a contest, blogging about it and encouraging existing subscribers to help spread the word
- Asking friends, family, past clients and colleagues to subscribe and provide constructive feedback
The goal is to grow an audience while retaining current subscribers as faithful followers and active participants. When readers find your content to be professionally written and highly informative, they are more receptive and trusting.
A blogging strategy to help build rapport while elevating your brand might include:
- 2 blog posts per week about the latest industry information (focus on solving a problem or challenge)
- A series of “how-to” posts that provide strategic ways to grow their business career field
- A tutorial on how to create an effective social media strategy to increase sales conversions
Combining Social Media and Blogging for Increased Expansion
Blogging combined with social media is perhaps the best way to elevate the exposure of your personal brand. Why? With billions of hits daily among Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms, the sky is the limit when it comes to reaching potential clients, networking and raising awareness around your personal brand.
Even if your aim is to target local consumers or businesses primarily for the sake of selling a product or service, your following could reach others far beyond where you reside.
Most blogging platforms now allow bloggers to automatically promote their content to social media/social bookmarking sites with just a push of a button. Fans/followers who find the information helpful can share your content with others if you simply embed social media icons on your blog.
An effective strategy for maximizing your potential as a thought leader with blogging and social media combined might include:
- Guest posting on blogs specific to your niche thereby tapping into a established community willing to share content to their social media sites
- Posting each of your blogs to multiple social media marketing, bookmarking and community based websites
- Frequenting niche-specific forums and submitting helpful information with links to your blog (when appropriate, not spammy)
Blogging with and in addition to social media is the ultimate way to promote a brand online and offline while establishing your role as thought leader.
While websites are stationary and provide static information regarding your business, blogs are far more interactive, providing a richer understanding of your brand on an ongoing basis.
Do you feel social media marketing and blogging are both key ingredients for your business success in 2014?
Written by Rebekah Radice and originally published on the Clean Slate blog.