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At this fall’s CONSTRUCT show in Nashville, I was flattered to be asked to join the Bloggers’ Panel and discuss the experience gained from my blog, along with Charles Hendricks, Dave Stutzman, Liz O’Sullivan, and Eric Lussier. The panelists shared our expertise with attendees who are interested in starting a blog, active in social media, or just wondering what all the buzz is about. For those of you who couldn’t be there, I’ve captured some of the highlights of our panel discussion.
Should you blog?
Would you like to be considered a thought leader? Would you or your company benefit if you became a trusted advisor in your industry? Do you have knowledge to share, and equally as important – passion for what you are going to blog about? Whether you’re passionate about specifications, design, a construction method or product category, or even piano-playing cats, by sharing that passion and knowledge you can connect with your audience and capture some of their highly-coveted “mindshare”.
What’s the ROI?
I’ve been asked this question MANY times. There are two parts of the equation…the return, and the investment. The return is the potential to share your message, network with others in your industry or area of interest, and be recognized as a valuable resource. How much is that worth to you? The investment can be as minimal as a few hours to get the blog set up using free software and then the time it takes each week to create your content. You could post once a week or every day. You may post less than once a week. The more time you invest, the more exposure you could gain. How many projects will you land or sales will you close because of your blog? I can’t answer that. But having multiple blog readers walk up to my boss in our booth at CONSTRUCT and tell him they were there to talk to me – priceless.
All of the bloggers on the panel use social media to amplify the content we post on our blogs. I think of it as the ripple effect. If I answer a question via email for one person, there isn’t much of a ripple. If I post the answer on my blog, it’s seen by hundreds of people. If I put a link to that blog post on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, there is a potential for hundreds more to see the post, or at least see me and my activity. If any of my connections retweet, like, or share my link, or if CSI Weekly includes a link to one of my posts, the ripples get wider. And if a print publication decides to include that blog post in an upcoming issue, it is seen by thousands. The content that I wrote once has been amplified exponentially.
Tools of the Trade
Wordpress.com or WordPress.org is currently used for all of the panelists’ blogs, and many of us have migrated there from another blogging platform. Wordpress has thousands of plugins available – little tools or apps which perform a function on the blog. One example is a plugin to prevent spam comments. Without the protection offered by the plugin, we would be inundated with thousands of spam comments each week, which we would also receive by email. As Liz mentioned during the discussion, it’s easy to miss important emails when your inbox is filled with spam. There are WordPress plugins for virtually any purpose – allowing a blog to be viewed on a mobile device, incorporating forms, creating a photo gallery, responding to comments – you name it.
Content is King
All of the panelists draw from our daily experiences for content. We may write about something we’ve seen and/or photographed, a question we have researched for a client, or a problem we’ve solved. We also find content in things we’ve read, events that became news, people we’ve met, or projects we’re working on. Some bloggers allow posts from guest bloggers, to vary the content and provide a different perspective. Photos are key to making a blog post more enticing…readers have a lot of choices for what to focus on, and a photo might get their attention. Blog content can also be educational to new people in your industry, so I occasionally post “Back-2-Basics” pieces which cover a certain aspect of the door hardware industry.
Most blogs allow readers to comment on what they’ve read, which allows for meaningful conversations between the blogger and the readers, and the readers with each other. Some blog posts include a poll or question for readers to answer. When I have a particularly difficult product application to solve, sometimes I post information and photos and ask the readers, “What would you do?” The readers respond by leaving a comment, and often we can agree on a good solution to the problem. Comments may inspire thought or action, and the networking facilitated by these discussions helps to strengthen the relationships between the blogger and the readers.
What’s the Point?
In addition to the opportunity to become a trusted advisor, the amplification of your message, and the chance to network with others in your industry, another benefit of blogging is website traffic. If you or your company have a static website with information about your products or services, a blog with links to your content can boost your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google loves the fresh content provided by blogs, and this will be reflected in the search results when someone searches for the keywords that appear on your blog. An additional benefit for me is that by putting my content where people can find it, I’m able to support and educate many more people than I have time to help one-on-one.
All of the panelists agreed that our blogs have evolved and changed over time. You can’t expect to plan out each detail and have it perfected on Day 1. That’s part of the beauty of a blog – the ability to make changes after a post is published makes for a more forgiving platform. Blogs tend to be written in a more conversational tone than typical corporate communications, which will make readers feel more personally connected. So if you’ve got the knowledge and passion, in the words of Dave Stutzman, “Just start!”