In our industry, we have the ability to reach consumers through a number of digital mediums on the internet – websites, photos, emails, mobile, etc. Blogging is one of the mediums that has become mainstream in recent years as there are currently 9 million blogs on the internet and 40,000 new ones popping up everyday. We recently watched a webinar called, “The State of Social Media” from Hubspot, and learned that 75% of businesses plan to increase blogging for 2011. You can definitely count us as part of that 75% because we like to think of a blog as another social outlet to reach consumers – minus the character limits. In other words, blogs are just as imperative as Facebook and Twitter when it comes to online marketing due to the extent of information you can provide readers.

If you want to start blogging or blog more, here are some tips that can help you get started:

Step 1: Find a place
For those who want to start a blog, you can either create your own web page from scratch; or use popular blog template sites which are customizable as well. You don’t need many resources to maintain a blog from a template site; Tumblr and WordPress have easy interfaces and plug-ins that make it almost effortless to customize and update without extensive coding knowledge. The best part: it’s all free! Alternatively, if maintaining a blog seems like too much time commitment, another option is to find and contribute to existing blogs that already have established readership and link back to your website.

Step 2: Have a business plan
Just like any marketing strategy, you need to define your audience, establish your message, research your competition and model after successful blogs in your industry. You will also need to develop a platform/theme that is relevant to your company where you can pose as an industry expert and resource. Basically, don’t just blog about anything.

Step 3: Make everything easy
To help reach more consumers and keep them, make everything easy. Easy to find, easy to navigate and easy to read. Link your blog from the company website as well as email signatures, business cards and social media. When they visit your blog, it should have a straight-forward, organized layout with categories and tags. Adding snippets of featured blogs on the home page helps entice people to read more. Lastly, make it easy for them to come back when you have new content through email subscriptions or RSS feeds.

Step 4: Update regularly
According to Pyra Labs Blogger, “A blog is a web page made up of usually short, frequently updated posts that are arranged chronologically – like a what’s new page or a journal.” This means that your blog needs to be updated regularly with quality content or else your readers won’t visit as frequently. At the same time, you don’t want to bombard them or they’ll stop reading altogether. Daily posts are more for hobbyists, while most businesses post on a weekly to monthly basis. So it is wise to brainstorm and write your posts ahead of time.

Step 5: Be patient
As with social media, gaining blog readers takes time. If you continually post content, it may take up to 6 months to a year to reach a significant amount of readers. One way to fasten the process on top of direct promotion, is using SEO within your titles and content. Bloggers aren’t going to be your only readers; the unique content, links and recency of your blog will boost its search rankings so others can find it.

Step 6: Be branded
Blogs were originally meant for personal expression, but from a business standpoint, you have to remember the integrity and branding of your company. This doesn’t mean you have to be entirely formal, just balance professionalism and personality. That being said, with great power, comes great responsibility. Blogs give you the freedom to pretty much say whatever you want which is great for personal use, but again, you have to be mindful of your brand and your community especially when it comes to controversial topics.

Step 7: Have a conversation
The number one mistake businesses make with blogging is treating their blog like a press center. “People read blogs because there is something in it for them and not as a marketing channel.” Blogs are a place to share your thoughts, insights, day-to-day work, tips and tricks, Q&A, reviews, case studies, etc. More so, a blog doesn’t have to be made up of words, throw some design in there along with videos, pictures, graphics, etc. for even more personality and variety. This is your chance to humanize your brand, engage, educate, entertain and inspire. Remember, your website is for the sale and therefore, should subtly tie into your blog content. Most importantly, encourage conversation with customers by responding to comments, posing questions and participating in other blogs to bring in new readers. You’d be amazed by the helpful feedback you can get.

And so concludes our blog about blogs. We hope to have given you some new insight on blogging and we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below (See what we just did there?). As a final word, if you’re unsure about starting a blog, or are having doubts about continuing your blog, you should think again because when used correctly, the power of blogging can ultimately help build your brand.