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    Start or set up a blog: Key question 1This is part of a 3 part mini-series looking at the planning phase of setting up and starting your business blog.

    Each post will focus on one of the 3 key questions that you should have clear answers for as you set up your blog before you start to write it.

    Question 2:
    Who are you writing for?

    Unless you are writing a personal blog, and thats really not what we are dealing with here, then you are writing your blog with a business purpose in mind just as we looked at in the 1st Key Question. This in turn means that you are writing for someone, for an audience, who you are hoping will not only read your blog but react well to its content and to you as the author.

    To achieve this, need to be clear about this audience – your readers – and what they are going to expect from you and from your blog. You’ll also need to know how best to go about getting those reactions and building on them. This knowledge needs to influence every aspect of your blog including:

    • what your blog looks like

    • the content of your blog

    • the style of how you write it

    • the length and frequency of the posts

    • how you elicit comments and feedback
    In fact, what you are looking for is to encourage your target audience to engage with you and your blog in what I term the 5Rs:
    • Read: first of all you need to create subject matter which will encourage people to visit your blog and then read what youre writing about.

    • Return: once they have visited for the first time, you have the opportunity to give your readers something theyll wish to read more of, hence encouraging then to return to your blog.

    • Reply: you are looking to encourage dialogue and communication so you must find subjects and a style which encourages them to express an opinion about it and reply to the post.

    • Refer: provide your readers with enough compelling, relevant and interesting content and they’ll want to recommend it to everyone.

    • RSS: encourage them to sign up and receive what you are writing as and when it appears using RSS either directly or via email.
    So just how do you find out what they want? Well, first and foremost, you are as much a part of the target audience as you are the author! Its your area of specialism, so bear in mind your own areas of interest as you write, but a also look at what you are doing and writing with a critical eye from time to time and check you are still on track. In addition, take the time to listen to your readers. Listen to what they are saying in the comments they post on your blog or in the emails you receive from them. When you are at conferences and exhibitions, note down what are the hot topics that everyone is talking about they are literally giving you your killer content posts on a plate!

    But do remember that different blogs have different aims and therefore very different audiences. An internal blog, for example, will be aimed at talking primarily at employees, while an external blog with a customer support focus will need to provide exact information and specific answers within tight timeframes. Of course, the more than you can prepare for this in advance of starting the blog, the better focused and (probably) more successful it will be.

    To take a look at how all elements of a blog come together to fit with the audience it is targeting, Id like to recommend that you take a look at Sony and the two blogs that they launched last year for different parts of their business and for very different audiences.

      1. The first was the Sony Playstation blog which is heavily branded with a very specific topic range and audience in mind which has been attracted in droves to the site. Everything about the blog caters to this audience, their interests and ultimately the games that they are being encouraged to find out about and buy. Language, content and imagery all support this beautifully.

      2. The second was the Sony Electronics blog dealing with a very different part of the business, a very different product range and therefore a very different audience in terms of both interests and priorities. The frequency and content were both targeted towards their expected readers and they responded in their own way which, of course, also needed to be handled correctly.

    In summary, you need to ensure that you are always encouraging your readers to act on an appropriate aspect of the 5Rs. So, make sure that your business blog has a well defined theme and, once you have decided that, write your posts with it firmly in mind (remember keeping your aims on your monitor). Dont forget to use your RSS reader to keep up to date with what is happening in the areas that your blog covers and keeping offering your opinions on relevant and interesting items in your posts. Finally, keep encouraging feedback from this target audience and make sure that you respond to the comments that your readers leave.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    This post is the 5th part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

    ReadReplyReturnRecommendRSS

    Let’s turn our attention to the fifth and final ‘R, which is:

    Communication and dissemination of information is key to achieving a successful blog and the RSS functionality is the way to achieve that. So as the 5th R, Im including is RSS.

    When someone subscribes to your RSS Feed, it means that they have shown a commitment to continuing the interaction they are interested in receiving more information from you and you are now able to provide them with immediate and unobtrusive updates from your blog.

    RSS is definitely “Opt-in”
    Being completely “opt-in”, it is also a totally safe method for readers to receive information, after all it is anonymous and they can opt out whenever they wish. This may sound unappealing from a writer’s perspective but all this in fact means is that the onus is on us to create content that people are going to want to read. RSS is the perfect way to deliver it safely.

    Make the RSS Feeds easy to find
    You want to make sure that the RSS feeds are prominent on your blog to make it as easy as possible for visitors to find. The generic orange logo is now becoming more and more commonplace although even more sites still retain the orange box with RSS or XML in it. You can also add a series of small logos which are set up with the names of the main RSS Readers to help make the process easier and more visible – this is great as it can help people feel more comfortable about subscribing.

    Offer RSS by email too
    To cover all options, you should also make use of the 3rd party services such as Feedblitzwhich give people the ability to subscribe to the RSS feed by email not quite the way that RSS was intended to be delivered but the main point is delivering the content it contains to those who want to receive it. In any case, the take up of RSS, which has been steady but still relatively slow, is likely to increase dramatically as it is incorporated directly into the main browsers this year.

    Explain RSS and how great it is to use
    To help the take up levels, create a page which explains what RSS is and what RSS Readers are available this may not seem necessary, but if it helps to break down the barriers to its use then it is worthwhile and both you and your readers will benefit from this additional effort because they will receive your content as and when you post it.

    Customise your RSS Feed
    You should look to customise your feed where possible to include branding elements such as your logo and have the feed appear as you would like it to. Differentiate yourself in your feed. However, if you are not proficient in XML, then don’t worry. If you use the tools available from a company such as Feedburner then you can easily do this at the click of a button – you may also find my post Feedburner: using your RSS feed more effectively useful in this context.

    Wider syndication
    Although RSS Feeds are generally read in individual’s browsers, the syndication of this information doesn’t need to stop there. RSS Feeds can also be taken and displayed on websites elsewhere using software which turns the feed into text which is visible in a browser – this allows you to syndicate and spread the information from your Blog even more widely.

    Target more with multiple RSS Feeds
    As your blog develops, you should consider creating a separate RSS Feed for individual topics, probably divided according to the categories you have set up. This will allow your readers even greater choice in terms of the information they receive from you and in terms of giving your readers what they want, more choice is going to be better.

    But whether you work from a single RSS feed or develop multiple feeds, it is important that you make RSS a central part of your blog promotion and reader retention program. It is something which underpins the other elements and allows the Business Blog to reach its full potential by making the information we produce as widely available as possible.

    Key elements: explain benefits of RSS, make RSS easy to subscribe to, customise your RSS feed, push the use of RSS, use multiple RSS Feeds where appropriate, syndication of information

    So remember, we are looking to cover these 5 elements:

    ReadReplyReturnRecommendRSS

    If we can achieve each of these 5Rs successfully in our Business Blogging, then we are well on the way to creating a Business Blog which will achieve the goals that we set for it, whether they are focused on creating a network, improving our reputation or positioning, developing a solid base of subscribers, increasing our Search Engine Rankings or simply generating new business.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    This post is the 4th part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

    ReadReplyReturn – Recommend – RSS

    Let’s turn our attention to the fourth ‘R, which is:

    This could also have been R for Refer, but I prefer the concept of recommending which has a more positive connotation and when someone recommends your Blog, that is a very positive thing!

    Online “Word of Mouth” recommendations
    Recommending can be done in many ways including simply telling people about the blog – and the simplest way is so often the best and most effective! Online, this type of ‘word of mouth’ is achieved through reference and linking the lifeblood of the blogosphere. The main difference, of course, is that rather than just telling one person, they are recommending your post to all the people who read their blog.

    References from posts
    Writing posts which reference another blog is the best way to recommend them in doing so, you are likely to refer directly to the original article and then develop the points it raises or give your own thoughts on them. A post can also be referred to in an article or indeed in a comment. In each case, the author is giving a clear indication that the content is valuable and acts as a personal recommendation that their readers should visit the blog to read the full post.

    Follow up with those who recommend you
    When you are referenced and thereby recommended from another blog, the likelihood is that the blogger will also use a trackback, and so you will be aware of the link that has been made. If possible, you should consider commenting on their new post and also thanking them for the reference. What does this achieve? It allows you to contribute additional information, to develop the conversation further and also to progress the relationship.

    Blogroll or Recommended List
    Perhaps the simplest way to be recommended in a Blog, and yet the one which will take the most time, is to be added to its Blogroll – the Blogroll is the term used to indicate Recommended Blogs and is a series of links which will be found on most serious blogs. On some these lists can seem never ending, however, this is only likely to happen once you have established a strong relationship with the owner of that blog.

    Contacting Bloggers
    You can always actively seek out other Bloggers to refer to one of your posts. This is not quite as unusual as it may seem, though it is important to go about it in the right way. You can contact bloggers who write in similar areas to yourself with details of one of your posts that they may find interesting if you have researched properly and your post is of good quality, there will be some who reference the post on their blog and hence link back to you. Not exactly active recommendation but certainly a way to spread the word and allow those who did not know you previously the opportunity to recommend you to their readers. It is only advisable to do this occasionally and on posts which really warrant it.

    Keep doing the right things well
    However, except for these unusual circumstances, in general how do we get someone to recommend us? Well, by continuing to do the other elements correctly in ensuring that we get people returning regularly to our Blog, making sure the content they read there is of consistently high quality and of relevance to them, which in turn will make sure that they feel confident in recommending it.

    These are PERSONAL recommendations
    At the end of the day, it is not something that you can force someone into. Nor should you want to. By linking to you, they are effectively giving you a personal recommendation to their own readers which reflects on themselves. In essence, when you recommend a blog to someone it is like inviting them to join a network or a community, just as if you are sharing something important with them.

    And remember that these types of recommendations come from the most important source: from your readers – from people and not from computer generated links.

    Key Elements: write posts which warrant recommendations, follow up trackbacks, continue quality content, develop relationships into communities, treat personal recommendations with gratitude

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    5. 5 ‘R’s of Business Blogging – a Summary

    This post is the 3rd part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

    ReadReply – Return – RecommendRSS>

    Let’s turn our attention to the third of the 5 Rs, which is:

    If people are interested in what you are writing about and find value in it then the likelihood is that they will return to read more. By maintaining the quality of your posts and demonstrating your expertise on a consistent basis, you will develop not only a loyal readership but you will also be developing a level of trust and a bond between yourself and those reading your Blog.

    Targeted, quality content
    In planning a Business Blog, one of the key elements to decide is who is the intended audience of the blog. If we have managed to maintain this focus with posts whose content is directly relevant to our target group and of high quality, then we are on the way to exceeding their expectations and encouraging regular readers. They will not come back just to read excerpts from your product portfolio which are nothing more than classified ads. They will, however, return to hear more of the same original, interesting and information based opinion that drew them in the first place.

    An inviting “Look & Feel”
    You should also make your Blog look inviting you need to make a good first impression to turn visitors into regular readers so let your graphics and the format of your Blog help you. Two things that you definitely want to avoid:

    • using a default template which then puts you in the same category as thousands of others. You need to differentiate yourself and so let the look and feel of your Blog help to display the quality of its content;

    • and, secondly, just having long pages of text. Break up the text perhaps using images or graphs, include bulleted lists where appropriate and use other formatting to keep the look interesting.

    Make it easy to return
    As you have persuaded them to return, make it easy for them to do so. RSS [the 5th R] is the ideal way to achieve this for blogs which we will examine later, either directly or even via email. But dont forget about the inclusion of a newsletter on your Blog if that is appropriate which can also direct readers back to you RSS and newsletters can work well hand in hand. If nothing else, at least suggest that they put your Blog in their Favourites on their browser, and then show them how to do that.

    Entice them with a series
    You can also encourage them back by the way you structure what you are writing. For example, if you write a series of posts on a single subject which attracts attention, then you are encouraging your readers back again to read the rest of the articles in the series. In the same way, you can pre-announce certain topics ahead of posting them so that people are eager to return to check for them.

    Be THE place for information
    Develop your Blog as THE place to go to for information on your niche area. In addition to demonstrating your own ideas and thoughts, make sure you reference and provide links to other relevant articles and also invite in other people to write a post or a short series. These guest bloggers will give an additional dimension to your Blog, assuming the subject matter remains focused, and will add kudos to what you are doing. Readers will return because you will be providing all the information they require on your chosen subject area – it may be available elsewhere on the web, but they KNOW they can find it on your Blog so that’s where they go.

    Easy Navigation especially to Key posts
    Once they have returned to your Blog, make sure that it is easy to navigate and make sure that all of the information can easily be found and the posts are categorised sensibly. It is also a good idea to highlight your key articles so that they can easily be found just create a page with links to all your main articles and then create a special link to it in your sidebar.

    Finally, remember that getting your current readers to return is easier than attracting new readers, just as it has been proven time and time again in business that it costs more to find a new customer than to keep the ones that you have. So make as much effort to get current readers to return as you do attracting new ones.

    Key elements: maintain focus on your readers, make posts easy to find, make your Blog look appealing, develop trust and a bond, become THE information source in your niche, make it easy to return

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    5. 5 ‘R’s of Business Blogging – a Summary

    This post is the 2nd part of the series which looks at the 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog. These elements are:

    Read – Reply – ReturnRecommendRSS

    Let’s turn our attention to the second of the 5 Rs, which is:

    In general, most of us like to be given the chance to express our views and opinions on subjects we are interested in we also like to have them listened to. This is excellent news because it is exactly what we want to happen on our Business Blog we need people to voice their opinions, thoughts, ideas and concerns because of the interaction they bring.

    Listen and Reply
    When these opinions are directed at your business, then you need to be able to both listen to them and respond to them. A key function of a Blog is that it gives us exactly this ability, with readers able to express their opinions on the posts through the Comments feature. Your Business Blog therefore serves the dual purpose of allowing readers to voice their opinions and at the same time providing you with the facility to reply to them, perhaps respond to their concerns and, in the process, start a dialogue.

    Get to love comments
    Therefore, unless there are very specific reasons why not, you should always allow people to comment on your blog and also make sure that you have the ability to deal with them. Whether the comments you receive contain information, praise or criticism, you need to deal with them openly and correctly. You can achieve a huge amount by doing this, gaining respect in the process, especially when responding to negative comments. You will also encourage additional comments by the way that you have dealt with previous ones.

    Create the desire to reply
    To get people to reply and voice their opinion, we need to have interested the reader enough for them to want to post a comment and ideally have either challenged or inspired them as well. While a controversial post can attract a higher number of responses, it may not be wise to take this route unless it fits with your overall plan for your blog. What is more appropriate is creating subject matter which elicits interest and positive reaction rather than controversy.

    Aim for group interaction
    As we get multiple replies, the communication moves past a simple single interaction and starts to develop more of a community or network feel, with your blog at the very heart of it. The interaction may start as a one-to-one between you and one other but, as the community expands, it will develop into one to many and then many to many conversations. All of this will start to create relationships at a number of levels.

    Actively encourage comments
    As you can see, getting responses is vital to taking a Blog to the next stage so dont sit back and wait for comments help to initiate them, either on your own blog or those of others. Dont be afraid to openly and candidly ask for comments you should feel comfortable to encourage or challenge people to reply, or ask them for information. Start that conversation!

    Do as you would be done
    You will also tend to encourage comments on your own posts by commenting on other peoples. As you leave constructive comments on other blogs which add to their posts, you will encourage a dialogue which will no doubt also follow you back to your own blog. Once you show that you are prepared to take the time and effort on others blogs, they will reciprocate on yours.

    Finally, remember that although the comments feature will be the main way for people to reply to you, there is also your profile which should contain your contact details. People may be more comfortable using this method, so make sure that it is easily accessible and contains all of the relevant information.

    Key elements: make your posts worthy of replies, allow readers to comment, encourage and ask for replies, respond to the comments, post relevant comments on other blogs, help to develop a network

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    5. 5 ‘R’s of Business Blogging – a Summary

    Just as many of us were brought up on the 4 Ps of traditional marketing, in Business Blogging, I believe that there are 5 Rs on which we need to focus our attention if we are going to create a successful and sustainable Business Blog.

    These 5 key elements of creating a successful Business Blog are:

    Simply put, we need to create and maintain a Blog which in the first instance will attract visitors and then encourage them to particpate by replying to our posts. Following on from that, we need to ensure it provides sufficient value or creates enough interest to make these visitors return and become regular readers as well as recommend our Blog to others. The 5th ‘R’ of RSS underpins all of the others.

    Our goal should be to put all the necessary elements in place on our Blog to allow these 5 Rs to happen as smoothly and as automatically as possible. In doing so, we will have created a Blog which fulfils both our readers requirements and our own business needs.

    Let’s look at the first of the 5 Rs, which is:

    Our first challenge is to get someone to read our blog. Here, the quality of what we write in the posts will obviously be important but, before that, we have to attract the readers to our Blog so that they can find out what we are writing about and how good it is!

    In many cases, the only elements that they have to make the decision on will be the name of the Blog and the title of the post. These are effectively the headlines which should capture the attention of the readers and, as any good copywriter knows, the headline is crucial in getting people to read the rest of the article. In blogs, doubly so, because these elements may be the only thing that they see when they find you in Search Engines, for example. So spend time on these first when you set up your blog and then each time that you write it.

    You also need to make sure that you promote your Blog well you need to let potential readers know what you are writing about and where they can find you. In fact, you need to let them know that your blog exists at all! So use all of the tools that are at your disposal: clear links on your website, make as much use of Search Engines as you can with search engine friendly structure and posts; make sure that you submit your Blog to Blog directories, RSS directories and general online directories; get your RSS feeds found by them as well. Ping after every post ideally automatically! Promote your blog on your business cards, stationery, email signature and wherever someone comes in contact with you or your business. You want to ensure that you spread the word as widely as possible, so make the best of all the opportunities.

    Search Engines are also an excellent source of new readers so give your Blog every chance to be found. While a well written, focussed Blog is excellent Search Engine material in itself, it you are able to increase its attractiveness further through additional Search Engine Optimisation, then you should do so. You need to build these elements on top of a solid base of quality content though remember who you are aiming this at.

    There are some blogs which can get readership levels up very quickly by being contentious, by provoking or attacking in the posts. This is particularly effective if the target is a well known figure or idea. However, for most business blogs, we are looking to attract readers with positive ideas rather than negative ones, so this approach should only be considered in certain special circumstances.

    Key elements: consistent quality content, attractive title, optimised posts, good blog promotion

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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