The power of the blog

October 08, 2010
Written by By Amanda Ryder
Oct. 8, 2010 – With all the social media tools out there, it’s hard to decide where you want to devote your time (besides to the all-consuming task of just running your garden centre) to help promote your business. Should you be on Facebook? Should you be tweeting on Twitter, networking on LinkedIn and posting videos on YouTube? How do you find time to do all of this?

In June, I attended a seminar entitled “Establishing a Social Media Home Base” by Jennifer Laycock at the International Floriculture Expo in Miami and was hoping to find answers to these questions. While I did leave with some great social media tips, I was surprised by what else I learned. One thing Laycock constantly emphasized in the seminar was the power of the blog. As a retailer, if you only have time to do one thing online to promote your website, she advocated starting up a blog.

When it comes to Internet marketing, Laycock knows her stuff. She’s the editor for Search Engine Guide, the social media faculty chair for MarketMotive and also offers social media strategy training and consulting to small businesses through her own company, Sugar Spun Marketing.

   

Laycock says the blog acts as the perfect home
base for your customers. “Your blog needs to be
your foundation – everything else is secondary.”

   
Don’t get me wrong – I know the importance of having a blog and that it is an effective way to reach out to your customers. But, the blog is nothing new, especially when defined by Internet time where a great new website or marketing tool peaks within a year and is quickly forgotten (think MySpace). So I was surprised to hear that even though the blog took the web world by storm five years ago, it is still touted as the web tool to use.

Basically, Laycock says the blog acts as the perfect home base for your customers. “Your blog needs to be your foundation – everything else is secondary,” Laycock said. It’s here that you can tell clients about the beautiful new hydrangeas that just arrived or your upcoming sales promotion. You can share fun tidbits about your staff or educate them on container gardening or growing veggies. Your customers will go to your blog for information they can trust.

In addition to your blog, if you decide to jump into Facebook or Twitter, Laycock says any links you post should lead directly back to your blog. This way you’re directing people to your website, where you control the information they see. You can also post links on your blog to your online store (in case readers want to buy those fresh-off-the-truck plants).

If at some point you decide that Facebook or Twitter is no longer a good fit for your business and you shut down your account, your blog is your backup plan. You won’t lose all of the photos and all of the information you’ve posted to social media sites because it remains on your blog. Also, Internet users have short attention spans. Sure, they’ve read your tweet or your Facebook status update but if you don’t steer them to your website’s blog, they may get distracted and move onto another site. Your information can get lost in Twitter’s long list of tweets or buried in other status updates. On these sites, you’re competing for your customers attention but on your blog, these users are all yours.

Laycock revealed that when it comes to social media, blogs result in more interaction and people spend more time on your website. “People know what they are going to get with a blog. They have no idea what they’re going to get on Twitter,” Laycock told the audience in Miami. If you select a good blog host, then you’ll also be able to track how often people visit your site, what they read and how long they stay. For those just getting started, she recommended a Wordpress blog (www.wordpress.com), which is free, and advised retailers to host the blog and have it installed on their site’s server so that the links come directly to your site and not the Wordpress site.

As a social media expert, Laycock did not discount the power of channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr and encouraged those that have the time and resources to get online with these sites. When you work with several channels (i.e., a blog combined with Facebook and/or online video) your marketing efforts can be that much more effective. Laycock said that if you’re looking to get on these sites, then the first thing you need to do is develop a strategy and ask yourself, what is your goal? Are you looking for more traffic? Do you want to increase your presence or build your brand? Each social media channel can lead to specific results and you need to plan ahead to make sure you’re not wasting your time.

The last point she left the audience with was not to jump on social media just because everyone says you should be using these tools. She encouraged people to find the right site for your business, create a strategy, link it to a blog, monitor the results, and remember to have a little fun.

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