Blogging, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram

By Gail Z. Martin

Blogging is a way to provide content on your topic of expertise in a way that is consistent and easy to find. That's very different from sites like Facebook and Twitter where the primary goal is to be social. While blogs do allow for comments and a degree of interaction, the conversation is not the main focus.

Text, video and photos are the main forms of blogging. Some bloggers do all three and upload the pieces separately to specialty sites or compile them together for more general platforms. So for example, you might have a Wordpress blog where you can upload text-based posts, but you can easily embed a video or photos along with your text. Then depending on the audience you want to reach, you could upload just the photos to a photo sharing site, and just the video to a video blogging platform.

How you blog depends on your audience's preferences, your type of content, and the time commitment you are able to make on a consistent basis.

Blogging is an essential part of being successful on social media. Your blog gives you a piece of internet real estate that you “own" as much as that's possible online. While all blogs rely on some kind of blogging software, you own the domain name (URL), and the major blogging platforms have been remarkably stable over time considering the general volatility of social media sites.

Many small businesses find that using a Wordpress blog as the heart of their main website provides a dependable solution that combines the best of both types of sites. A real benefit to this set-up is the ability for you to update your content at any time, and the fact that WordPress, one of the most popular blogging platforms, is well-maintained and frequently updated.

Another reason that Wordpress tends to be the default platform for business is that its terms allow commercial use. Some other platforms, such as LiveJournal, are clear about wanting to remain non-commercial. Those sites are great if you're blogging about a hobby or passion, but don't try to use them for your business.

When most people talk about “blogging" they mean text-based posts. Your blog is a great way to share content, demonstrate your expertise and gather your tribe. It's best to keep posts short—under 1,000 words and preferably around 500-750 words. Today's readers like information in easy bite-sized formats. That doesn't mean you can't go over the suggested word count (there's nothing to stop you), but recognize that readers who are confronted with pages of content may give up and move on without finishing. Generations raised on TV sound bites have carried a preference for “short and concise" into the blogging realm as well.

What should you blog about? Ask yourself what your target audience, your tribe, most wants to learn from you. Your blog is a way for people to get more information about you, your specialty, and your approach. It builds the like-know-trust factor. Don't be afraid to blog about your upcoming events and new products, but realize that your blog shouldn't be primarily an online sales platform. Talk about trending topics that relate to your specialty. Comment on books, news items or events in a way that adds value for your readers. Tips, helpful information, insightful commentary and even well-informed contrarian views can all serve to attract an audience.

Realize that your tribe has a large variety of options to learn about your subject matter. What will keep them coming back to your site is your voice and the unique personality and perspective you offer. If you have ever had a favorite news columnist or product reviewer, think about what it was that attracted you. Something about that person's approach to the topic clicked with you better than other sources. That “click" is what you're looking to create to keep your tribe coming back for more.

Ideally, you want to blog with relatively short posts on a consistent basis. Consistency builds your audience, because people look forward to hearing from you on a predictable schedule. For most people, it's harder to be consistent than it is to come up with things to write about. One way to get around that is by writing blog posts in advance and using scheduling software like Hoot Suite or Social Oomph to automatically update your site.

Where do you get your source material? Start with the articles you've written for other uses, cut them into parts or shorten them, and recycle them on your blog. You can also use points from speeches you've given, comment on something in the headlines that affects your industry or illustrates the value you provide, or react to an article or trending topic with your own perspective. Build your brand by making sure your content stays on topic for your area of expertise.

Invite other experts to be a guest on your blog from time to time. Pick people whose expertise compliments yours without being competitive. Find people who can speak on related subjects to bring additional value. You gain credibility and influence by association when other notable experts share your platform (and the same is true when you are a guest on someone else's blog). Having interviews and guest bloggers also redirects some of the guest's audience and web traffic to your site, and a percentage of them may decide to remain a regular reader, helping you pick up followers.

Get the most value out of your blog posts by sharing them on your other social media sites. Share the links on Twitter and Facebook. Encourage your newsletter readers to follow your blog. If your blog and your website are not one and the same, set up a feed so that your blog either automatically posts somewhere on your site or a link can take people from your site to your blog (there's usually a button to click for this). Consider getting even more traction out of your blog posts by making it easy to share your links via sites like Social Buzz Club.

If you've created a body of original content for your blog, you may want to collect and organize related posts into a book. Or if you've already written a book, consider sharing excerpts on your blog and providing additional tangential material on your blog. Break up your text with photos and video. Photos catch the eye and relieve the monotony of a gray block of words. Video adds movement and sound, creating a personal, welcoming touch and bringing a new immediacy to the written word. You can use bold type to highlight key points, drawing the reader's eye down through the text, making scanning more efficient. If you link to related content, blogs make it easy to embed the URL so it doesn't spoil the flow of the text.

While blogs aren't primarily for conversation like Facebook, don't overlook the value of opening a dialog with readers. Many bloggers like to end their post with a discussion question to draw out readers. Check back over the next 24-36 hours after your post goes live to respond to comments and engage readers.

Excerpted from The Essential Social Media Marketing Handbook


Gail Z. Martin owns DreamSpinner Communications. Contact her at