Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Using Blogs for Social Media Optimization


Blogs are one of six broad types of social media. This post will discuss how PR and marketing professionals can use blogs (even if you don't write your own) to increase brand awareness and credibility; the next will discuss all of the other tools of social media.

Blogs are a big deal; they are mainstream and competing with traditional media. There are a lot of them—Technorati tracks more than 15 million active blogs, and although the rate of growth has slowed, there are still thousands of new blogs started each day. Blogs help with SEO, whether you have your own or are generating links to your website from others. More than 60% of U.S. Internet users, and more 70% globally, have read a blog within the past 12 months. And blogs have become a key source of information for executive decision makers.

The first step in developing a blog strategy is understanding the landscape of blogs in your industry. You can search for relevant blogs using keywords pertaining to your business as well as searching for competitor names. While regular search engines can be used, that's a tedious process; it's much more efficient to use blog-specific search tools such as Google blog search, Technorati, BlogMarks, Blogarama and/or Blog Catalog. In addition, check out the blogrolls of the most relevant blogs you find.

The next step is to monitor blogs to discover what's being written about your company, product or other specific topic of interest. You can set up Google Alerts for free, although these won't catch everything (they're likely to miss quite a bit actually). Bloglines is a helpful free tool for monitoring blogs you've already identified; you can add their RSS feeds and monitor posts from one spot. If you have a modest budget (hundreds of dollars per month) for monitoring, try a service like WebClipping or CyberAlert. If you've got a bigger budget (thousands of dollars per month), you can step up to a professional-strength PR monitoring and current awareness tool such as Vocus, Moreover or YellowBrix.

Once you have a feel for the blog ecosystem in your industry, you can begin blogger outreach:

Commenting is a great way to start. Make sure your comments add something to the conversation and aren't simply self-promotional.

Contact the blogger as the next step. Contact should be personal (use the blogger's name, refer to the blog directly, act like you've been there before), compelling (tell a great story) and of course relevant to topics the blogger normally writes about.

Provide assets the blogger can use to enhance the post, such as original research results, images, video, or the offer of an interview with a key executive or other expert.

Writing a guest post is an excellent next step once you have a relationship of trust established with a blogger.

Promote posts when you get coverage. Increasing their exposure (and traffic) is a key incentive in getting bloggers to write about your topic.

And finally, follow up with key bloggers on your list. If they write about you, THANK THEM. If not, ask if it's okay for you to send them an occasional update on your firm/product/service and any interesting developments.

If you have your own blog, you can use many of these tactics to increase your audience through exposure on and links from other blogs. But even if you don't have your own, you can use these practices to increase exposure and build credibility for your company or product in relevant industry blogs.

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Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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