How Do You Start a Blog?
Maybe because I am a marketing consultant and I have started and written for many blogs, many times entrepreneurs ask me: should I blog? How many times a week should I blog?
The answer to this question used to be more straightforward, believe it or not. Blogging was long dominated by platforms that you've heard of like WordPress and Blogger. Starting a blog was as simple as pressing a button.
Now there's a lot more competition and outlets for your blogging potential. So if you have a small business and you are considering starting a blog to market your efforts and win new customers, consider the following in order to set yourself up for success.
The Usual Suspects
A number of service platforms exist that can get you up and blogging in minutes—for free!
At Blogger you can set up a blog for free in less than five minutes without knowing a thing about web design, and Blogger even automates setting up Google AdSense so you can make money off your blog by displaying ads and getting paid when people click on the ads.
Tumblr is both a blogging platform and a social network. Users create their own blogs in order to post original content in the form of text, photos, and videos, or to "reblog" the posts of others. You can also "follow" blogs that you like, in a similar maneuver to following someone on Twitter or Facebook. Tumblr has risen to popularity so quickly because of its focus on the short-form, the visual and the fast-moving. "Tumblr" comes from "tumblelog" -- a form of "micro-blogging" that allows users to exchange quick updates. It's especially popular in certain niches, like fashion and music.
You can also set up a free blog on WordPress.com, though Scott Allen explains that WordPress.com has "a strict "non-commercial use" policy and enforce it, well, "rabidly" would be putting it nicely. I have known instances of several people having their blogs simply deleted, without warning, without recourse, without being sent a copy of the data backup, etc., just for having too many affiliate links in their posts."
Along with being a platform (WordPress.com), WordPress can also be used as software to power independent websites, and the blogs that are attached to those websites.
The problem? If you set up your own blog on your own site, how do you get readers? Audience-building can be time-consuming and there's no guarantee it will turn into an audience.
Billed as a place "to share ideas," the long-form publishing platform Medium has become the destination of choice for a number of entrepreneurs. It's no wonder -- the interface is gorgeous, the publishing tools simple and straightforward and a potentially large audience is already built in.
LinkedIn now allows members to publish long-form posts about their expertise and interests. It's a great way to establish your professional credentials through informative posts that will go out to a highly qualified audience.
Alternatives to Blogging
Email is a tactic that's often overlooked by many small businesses in favor of blogging -- and that's a shame. Why? First of all, because email is so effective as a sales tool -- in a recent DMA study (2012), 67% of respondents identified email as providing the best ROI of any tactic (more than twice the response of any other tactic).
Email is also incredibly simple to set up, free and can make a real difference in how you acquire and maintain your customer relationships. There are four simple steps to beginning your own email marketing program.