Does your business have a blog? If you’re like most businesses, the answer is no. The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s research on blogging found that 23% of Fortune 500 companies and 37% of Inc. 500 companies had a blog in 2011, a decrease from 2010.

Examine the research, and you’ll find that 92% of businesses found blogs one of the most successful forms of social media, up from 86% in 2010. This should make you wonder the reason companies are cutting back on blogging. The answer is they didn’t. Rather, Inc. 500’s industrial composition changed in 2010 and 2011 toward more firms providing government services, a segment that blogs at 15%, compared with an overall average of 37%.

If you want to increase your business’ social media marketing effectiveness, persuade management to add a blog to your marketing mix with these seven reasons every business should blog, regardless of whether your firm is a business-to-consumer, business-to-business, nonprofit or solopreneur organization. (Need help starting? Here are 42 business-blog tips.)

  1. Provides visual eye candy. Think beyond text. Blogs distribute photographs, video and PDFs. Leverage the power of visual by using photos of your products, business, employees and customers. Actionable marketing tip: Optimize your images for search. Also, make images sharable so readers use them on photo-friendly social media websites, such as Pinterest.
  2. Answers customer questions. Face it: Prospects don’t buy until all of their questions are answered. Blogs remove sales objections and hurdles. Marcus Sheridan went one step further by blogging about price — his prospects’ biggest question — which enabled his pool company to expand during the economic downturn. Actionable marketing tip: Source questions from your customer-service department, and include a way for prospects to submit questions to your blog. (It’ll help you develop effective content.)
  3. Aids sales by putting products in context. Write blog posts about how to use your product or supply instructions, recipes or patterns that show and tell customers, rather than sell them. Actionable marketing tip: Incorporate links to a specific product page or a tailored landing page with a contextually relevant call to action. Optimize your purchase process to close the sale.
  4. Helps customers post-purchase. Many companies focus on answering customer questions to overcome purchase hurdles. They overlook the importance of making sure buyers can use their product effectively, whether it’s showing them in more detail how to put together a child’s toy or wear the latest fashion top. Actionable marketing tip: Use this opportunity to upsell customers to buy additional, related products. Alternatively, take advantage of this opportunity to engage as fans by showcasing their work. (Note: Many marketers overlook the potential to use social media for customer retention and upselling.)
  5. Supports social media with owned media. Social media feed on content marketing, creating an ever-increasing need. Blogs provide content to support the sales process. Use your blog as the hub of your social media strategy. Distribute the content to your social media presence. Actionable marketing tip: Consider the timing of your social sharing to maximize results. Enlist readers to share content through social-sharing buttons.
  6. Improves search-optimization cost effectively. By their structure, blogs support search optimization if integrated into your website. They contain keyword-rich content. Further, they include links to other parts of your blog and website, particularly product, and external links to other websites and blogs. Actionable marketing tip: Make sure each post is focused on a specific keyword phrase or two. This should be coordinated with your overall search strategy. (For more blogging SEO help, here’s what 15 experts say.)
  7. Provides owned 24/7 media option to distribute content. Blogs distribute your content more broadly through RSS and e-mail. Additionally, they build your e-mail house file and social media following so you’re prepared for a public relations flare-up. Actionable marketing tip: Build your blogging presence before you need it. It takes time for a business to get a sizable blog following.

Business blogging is an effective way to increase your social media marketing success. Even better, by integrating with the rest of your marketing initiatives, you can increase the efficiency of the rest of your marketing mix, including search optimization and e-mail marketing.

What hurdles does your business face when it comes to blogging? Let me know in the comments.

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24 Responses to “7 ways business blogs build social media success”

  1. Great post, Heidi! – you've covered a lot of ground while still making your points easy to digest. I especially like your characterization of blog content as "owned media" that supports and is supported by social media.

    The only thing that I would add is the importance of having a relatively high percentage of evergreen content, as this content becomes a permanent asset to an organization.

  2. heidicohen says:

    Steve– I totally agree. Business blogs create a combination of evergreen and short-lived content. As part of your organization's branding, it's useful to plan how you want to integrate these two needs. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  3. Nice points! I totally agree, and I like the first tip on adding images. That's too often overlooked! Blogs are such an asset to so many companies, as you said.

    I find a barrier for our clients is often the time to blog; but then again, many organizations don't value blogging in the same way they do other forms of marketing. When it's raised to that level, often there's time, or there's a budget for someone else to help as needed.

  4. heidicohen says:

    Amber–

    Photos are definitely eye candy!

    Your point about companies having time to blog is an important one. One way to get writers is to broaden the pool by allowing everyone in a firm to blog. This means taking away the fear factor with a copyeditor. It can open new ideas for content.

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi Cohen

  5. I have a hard time working blogging into my schedule. I really like to blog, although I have not done it very often. This article has some really good points that we can create a checklist to go from. THANKS!

    • heidicohen says:

      Tessa–Understand blogging is writing and if you find it difficult to write, you'll find it difficult to blog. If blogging is important to you and your business, it's critical to cut the work into small chunks. Then reward yourself for each accomplishment. Work at building the blogging habit.l It's worth the investment. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  6. I totally love the insights that you have shared. Specially point 2. I do adhere to the fact that we should always
    listen to our customers, because by doing so, we are able to really understand their needs and wants.

    • heidicohen says:

      Melonie – Thank you. Many bloggers have trouble find topics to write about. Answering your customers' questions ensures that you have useful content and provides information for those prospects who don't take the time to ask the question. BTW, it doesn't require special social media listening. Just ask your customer service and put a link for questions on your blog and website. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen.

  7. Tim Shaw says:

    Excellent discussion on the value of business blogging and great tips for getting started (or continuing the journey). I especially like your suggestion in the comments about broadening the pool of bloggers by allowing everyone in the company to be a blogger – especially valuable that customer facing individuals have an opportunity to blog and not just the "marketing team" – imagine the new content, stories and ideas that flow when the front line is engaged. Thanks again for the inspiration!

    • heidicohen says:

      Tim–To expand your base of bloggers, include all of your employees. Every employee has their perspective that can be useful for your company's blog. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  8. Our company doesn't provide "products", per se, rather we provide custom design and fabrication work that is, for lack of a better term, "art". It's hard to define the value of art, and many customers try to do so by equating our custom art to a commodity – as if they're buying ice scrapers. So we have made a conscious decision to us our blog not as a second layer of PR, but as more personal insight into our corporate culture, so that potential customers can glimpse "behind the curtains" and get a better understanding of who we are, what we do, and how and why we do it. This starts to support the value of a project that they previously had difficulty justifying.

    • heidicohen says:

      Brian–Thank you for sharing your insights. Showing how your firm approaches work is one way to help prospects better understand your firm. Another option is to get customers to discuss their decision process. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  9. markkolier says:

    Nice post Heidi and hope you are well. Good advice for all and a reminder for those that think they cover all bases.

  10. Heidi,

    You're welcome. And I forgot to thank you for your efforts as well. I think your message is very thoughtful and concise. (Isn't that what a blog should be?? :)) To clarify, our blog isn't so much about how we approach our work, but more about who we are as people. I think this is especially important with larger companies, particularly when it's easy to "hide" behind a website, without letting people know the types of human beings you are. Our most recent blog is about our estimator eating a live hissing cockroach. Seriously. I feel it puts a more personal touch on what can often be a cold corporate presentation. I think it helps people want to do business with us – because we're real.

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    I really appreciate the time you have taken out to share this with us. Business blogs are making a good impact.

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  20. You should also distribute the content to your social media presence