Blogs and Forums - Creating your own business network
Brochure web sites are largely static sites that get updated with new content every few weeks and they are extremely effictive marketing tools. Blogs are similar, but they're designed to be very easily updated on a daily, or even more regular, basis from anywhere in the world. They are ideal for posting information for public consumption immediately. Linked to social networks, your blog becomes an immensly powerful marketing tool. Many organisations run a web site and blog as they compliment each other perfectly.
Forums (also known as on-line discussion areas and bulletin boards) are designed for group communication - members of forums can send messages to and ask questions of each other, share files and images. Forums can be public, or secure and for members only. They are great for communicating with your clients, staff, or special interest groups.
Blogs attract visitors
There are millions of blog addicts
There are millions of people actively searching for blogs that contain useful, free and authoratative information. When they find a blog they like, they will come back, time and time again, to consume the latest nuggets.
A popular blog can have hundreds, or even thousands, of dedicated followers and they will recommend your blog to their friends and colleagues. If you could convert just one percent of those visitors in to clients the benefits of blogging are clear to see.
Google likes well visited sites
Google likes web sites that are visited often and by large numbers of people. The more people that visit your web site, the higher Google might rank your main web site.
Blogs establish credibility
Credibility - a valuable asset
If you blog regularly, and the content you post is good quality, your blog will establish a wide following. What you are actually doing is establishing credibility that you know what you're talking about and that you are an expert in your field.
Credibility is a most valuable asset and people are more likely to deal with someone who has established credibility than someone who hasn't.
Google rewards credibility
Google likes credibility too. The more visitors your blog attracts the more authoratative Google thinks your web site is, and it can help your search engine ranking.
Blogs build relationships
As well as enabling you to post information for others to read, your blog can be set up to allow visitors to register and post comments back to you.
This information exchange can prove most profitable as visitors can ask you questions, back up your posts with their own experiences and even expand on the knowledge you've imparted. All this communication is moderated, so won't appear on the blog, if you do not approve it, but it makes for a much more interesting blog.
Make your visitors part of a community
Contributing visitors start to feel part of your on-line community - you're building relationships. If these contributors don't deal with you, they may very well pass on your details to someone who will.
Blogs are effective libraries
Keep your web site lean and mean
Your web site is a great marketing tool that works for you 24/7. However, it should provide just enough information to get the visitor hooked in to your products and services. The more information it holds, the more confused the visitor gets and this can be counter-productive.
Turn your blog into a library of knowledge
Your blog, however, is an excellent place to store vast amounts of valuable information. They are:
- Database driven
- Easy to add information to
- Easy to update
- Easy to search and find exactly what you want
- Highly organised information stores
- Perfect for your vast library of knowledge.
You can always link to your blog from your web site, but keeping the two seperate is a great idea.
Example of a knolwedge library
We have a blog, Spin a Web, that contains a large amount of information that is of great benefit to budding web designers and those who want to set up a web site for their business. We're more than happy to share this information with you all for free, but not on our web site - that's our brochure and the two should be kept seperate.
Are your competitors blogging?
You need an edge
Every business needs an edge over the competition - it's what marks you out from the rest and might just be the selling point that prospect requires to choose you.
Are you missing out?
If your competitors are blogging and you're not - they have the edge over you. They're providing their clients with lots of free, regularly updated, information and you're not. Who's the client going to pick when it's between the two of you?
Keep up the good work
If you're blogging and your competitors aren't, well done - keep it up. Hopefully your blog will be so established when they set theirs up that you'll already have an established following. Don't forget though, your content needs to be better than the competition and it needs to be delivered regulalry.
An example of a profitable blog
One of the blogs we follow religiously is updated with one posting a day - we're on their site every day because the content is excellent, saves us lots of searching the Internet and saves us a lot money - we do buy their books though as their published so they still get our business.
It's a great blog that works really well for them - and us!
Forums link people together
Forums are user centred
A blog is great for publishing your information to the world, but it is just that - centred around you.
A forum is similar but is centered around it's users. It's a place for the users to share and obtain knowledge with other like-minded people.
Forums are great for communicating with staff and we have clients who use them as a private information forum - it contains all staff related documents for downloading and also allows to staff communicate with each other. For example, the staff can post their sales and wants, whilst the business posts details of training courses and other events.
Client user groups
Forums are also great for communicating with clients; how about setting up a closed user group for your clients. Your clients can discuss related issues, you can post client-only special offers and maybe allow them to download files that you only want your clients to access.
Special Interest Groups
You might operate in a fairly unique field, such as Amateur Radio. You won't always hold the answers to people's questions - forums allow them to ask those questions in public and seek the help of other people with a similar interest.
Good and free marketing
Whilst forums won't always be about you, they are a great way to attract people with an interest in your area of expertise. They're free to the users and your name is always in their face whenever they use them. That's good and free marketing.
Creating a virtual business network