I loved this very practical post by Gina Schreck that gives basic advice to new bloggers. The post seemed to be aimed more at people who blog for consumer products, so I thought I’d take a crack at tailoring this great post for folks who blog business-to-business for technical products and services. Also, I know lots of non-marketers blog..so I wrote this post with marketers and non-marketing bloggers in mind.
Gina’s opening advice is perfect, and applicable in all blogging situations:
Bloggers always want to know how to build a bigger, better social media following. Unfortunately, this is cart-before-the-horse thinking. The right question is who’s your audience? Who do you want to write for? Figure that out and you’ll know intuitively how to approach social media.
Meet your ideal reader
Her next advice is to have an actual person in mind when you are writing. She gives the example of “Sally the accountant”. I’ve always advised people to think about who they hope will read what they are writing…and write to them! When you first get started, imagine you have invited that person to lunch. How will you talk to them? Write the post exactly as you’d say it in a conversation, then go back and edit for clarity. I’ve found this helps get the words out as you’d actually say them, this is “blogging in your own voice” and it helps you sound authentic.
As you are writing blog posts, it is important to think about a real person that you know. In marketing, we do this for the different types of messaging we create. The specific people we think about are called “personnas”. Typically there will be a personna for C-level folks, one for architects, one for IT managers, one for IT generalists, and one for and admins (storage, virtual, backup, system, etc).
I know if I’m at lunch with a VP or a CIO or CEO, I’ll probably have a conversation on a different level than the conversation I have with the admins who are in the trenches. C level folks are busy, and getting to their business problems quickly is the only way to get them to open up. Y’all in the trenches are way harder – you don’t hold back on the questions (or criticism). Plus, you are usually way more up-to-date on emerging technologies.
Blogging is a way to share your ideas with the wider community. The community is made up people in the roles I mentioned, no matter the company. So keep in mind…competitors are probably part of your audience as well. How would your lunch conversation go with a competitor?
One last nudge to marketing folks, the personnas are fine for market segmentation, tracking, etc. But for blogging, anyone and everyone will read your posts if they are informative. Another thing to keep in mind is that folks in the C-suite in technology companies have come up through the tech ranks of admins, managers, and architects. If you segment too hard, your content won’t be technical enough and the C-level may pass it by because it is “fluffy”.
Build your following
Gina just nails this with four specific recommendations:
- Go where your customers are.
For our community, this really varies! If you want to get the people who are influencing the buying cycles for enterprise tech, you had better be on Twitter. There are other communities out there depending on the specific technology, figure that out before you try to build a brand new community. People don’t have tons of time, and at this point you had better build an incredible party if you’re hoping people to leave the one they’re at.
- Join in
Gina’s advice on “walking about” is perfect. Lurk. Figure out what’s going on. And as it makes sense, join in! Just don’t be that person that sets up a google alert for campaign keywords, and then start jumping in every post to tell why your product is better. Go to Spiceworks if you want to see what I mean.
- Post at optimal times, but most multiple times
Gina’s advice here is very good too. One way I’ve been experimenting with posting multiple platforms (and different times) is by cross-posting on LinkedIn. The idea is – people are active in different communities at different times. If you want people to read a post, you are going to have to get it out there in the places they look, at the time they are most likely to be looking.
- Always be testing
This is important. The tools change all the time, testing will help you fit into a groove that works for you and the blog posts you are writing.
It’s all about networking
I can’t put this better than Gina did:
Would you spend your time at a Toastmasters event handing out resumes? Of course not! You’d be engaged in conversations and sharing life experience in hopes of building a valuable relationship. Your social media followers deserve nothing less.
In fact, don’t even think of them as followers. Think of them as allies. Listen to them. Engage with them. And most of all, provide value to them. They’ll be happy to return the favor if you do.
This last point is probably more important to marketers: be part of the conversation! Get involved with the goofy stuff, connect with your technical customers. I am connected still to customers from EMC, Dell Storage, and now AppAssure, not for what I can they can do for me as an influencer or a potential customer, but because I see them as funny, smart, driven colleagues that I will stay involved with no matter where I land. That’s probably the best advice I could give you!