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How a Little Blogging Can Make a Big Difference for the Small Business

Whenever a new medium emerges and becomes the "it" thing. Everyone flocks to it until the next shiny thing comes around and then that becomes the new "it." Inevitably, those on the cutting edge of "it" always decry the downfall of the previous "it" which then becomes "that". "That" is obsolete. "That" doesn't have long-term value. You need to give "that" up and put your money in "it."
But "that" doesn't always go away no matter how much "it" gains in popularity.
Remember radio? Of course you do. We still listen to radio. Sometimes even listen to it on old fashioned radio tuners instead of over the internet or via satellite. But didn't you hear? Radio is dead. Radio "died" with the invention of the TV.
Ah, the memories of old fashioned TV. Television died when the Internet came along allowing us to download programs on demand. But the television is still there, piping in hours of entertainment into our homes every night.
And then there was SEO. That died around 1992. Google killed it remember? Or was it social media that killed SEO? Oh heck, I keep forgetting because, well, SEO dies every year with some new proclamation of the new "it". But then here we are, still helping people make their sites better so they deserve top placement in the search engine rankings.
Luckily the prophets of doom have been wrong more than they've been right. Heck, they are already onto their next death: the death of blogging. According to Wired Magazine, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook are the new "it" and blogging is on it's way out.
We'll file that right next to the death of SEO!
There is no doubt that Social media and micro-blogging platforms have diminished the need certain types of blogs and blogging. We no longer have to write long-involved posts about what we did last weekend, we can just twitter it as its happening. Pretty cool. But twitter and Facebook is hit and miss. If your followers are not there reading your updates when it happens, then as far as they are concerned, it didn't, unless they go out of their way to read your specific history.
Think of twitter as live TV and blogs as your DVR. If you miss the live broadcast on twitter you're SOL. But hey, if they blog about it, you can go back and get all the pertinent details on your own time.
Twitter, Facebook and even flickr updates only give you a small part of the story at any one time. It's like trying to watch an entire movie in 3 minute chunks. Sure, it can be done, but it'll take a long time and you lose a lot in the process.
I'm not against Twitter, Facebook or Flickr. I love them all. Each has their purpose and their place and they can certainly make it so you don't have to blog as much as you used to, which can be a good thing for everybody.

The power of the blog

But blogging isn't dead, nor do we want it to be. Especially for the small business. Blogs hold tremendous power that every small business needs to utilize.
Blogs bring traffic
Yes, people still read blogs. You're reading one right now, so there is no reason to think someone won't want read yours. It's just a matter of having something valuable to say.
There are two primary ways people will come to read your blog. The first is via search engines. If you're writing about your business's topic, you need to be sure you're doing keyword research. Find out what people are searching for that's related to your industry. Then use those keywords in your blog posts. The more you write using keyword phrases the more opportunity you'll have to bring in targeted traffic to your blog via search engines.
The second way people read your blog is through RSS readers. These are people who already found your blog, like your content and want to make sure they don't miss a thing. Each blog post is imported into their feed reader which shows them all the new posts from your blog as well as other blogs they are subscribed to. From the RSS feed you can drive these readers into your site, whether it be your blog or your main business content areas.
Blogs promote your knowledge
Blog posts are a great way to share your knowledge. In any industry those that are viewed as the most knowledgeable tend to be the most trusted. Whether you are in a competitive field or a shallow one, you can make yourself--and your business--stand out by promoting your in depth knowledge of your topic.
Sharing little known tips, tricks, strategies, helpful tidbits, detailed instructions and tutorials all lend to your own credibility. Put enough of those together and you have your own e-book, or a library of e-books.
Blogs help people
Not an egomaniac? Fine, don't think about blogging as a way to promote yourself or your knowledge. Just think of it as a way to help people. Because while you're promoting your knowledge you're also giving people valuable information that helps them in life, business or whatever. Your tips and tutorials are providing valuable information to people who otherwise may not have known. You are making people's lives better by giving them an education.
Blogs build links
The more helpful your blog posts are the more likely they'll be passed on or linked to. Twitter is great for passing around URLs. One good blog post can get a lot of distance through the social media platforms. As your resources get noticed you'll start to build links. People will link to you in their blogs or websites or pass your information on via Facebook or twitter to other who may link to it. You'll find your posts accessible from industry related websites and sometimes even direct competitors. People love sharing information and on the web, information is shared with links.
Blogs create customer and brand loyalty
The more you blog, and the more helpful your blog is, the more customer and brand loyalty you'll be creating. Not every blog post is designed to get customers, nor should it be. But the more people who come to read your valuable information, the more likely they'll be to become your customers when they need what you have.
But until your readers become your customers, you're building up your brand. Brand recognition is extremely important as it plays toward perceptions... which are also passed along. Brand loyalty builds word of mouth, which in turn, builds more customers
Blogs increase sales
Building customers means one thing... you are increasing sales. Yes, your blog will have a lower conversion rate than your main areas of the site, but again, it's primary function isn't to directly build sales. But in the long run, that's exactly what will happen. The more links you get, and the more your blog posts are passed around and/or read, the larger your reach becomes. As your reach grows, your sales grow.
There is no doubt that blogs are a lot of work. It takes time to decide what to write and then put your information together in a compelling way. In my next post I'll discuss ways that the small business can manage it's blogging schedule in order to maintain a healthy blog while not ignoring their business.
If you haven't started blogging for your business you need to start. If fact, if you're not blogging or twittering I'd say start twittering and work your way to blogging. If you are blogging, start twittering and promote your blog! But you need to get to blogging. A blog can be set up in a matter of hours and ready for your first blog post. Start building your audience today.