Yesterday, my friend and colleague, Jennifer (of KleanSpa), brought up the idea of doing another blog challenge and of course lots of people jumped in (self included).
Blog challenges are really difficult. But you CAN do this.
Why a blog challenge?
People say "Oh, I just don't know where to get started. I have nothing to write about."
The truth is, none of us know where to get started or have anything to write about.
But we have to do it anyway... why?
Because of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If you are interested in SEO, you can go read my article on it.
Search is how total strangers find your products. It's the difference between having to individually meet/talk to every customer at an in-person event or through social media and having strangers buy your products. Strangers come to our site looking for campfire soap, whiskey soap, and the sexiest soap ever. They find us because I work very hard at SEO.
SEO is nothing more than indicating to Google that your site is relevant to whatever people are searching for. Part of this is being an active site (not just some post graveyard), and part of being an active site is having regular content and product updates. The easiest way to do this is to have a really active blog.
And also, relationships.
Blogging also helps develop a relationship with your customers and your readers. It helps them see the you behind the business. One thing that small handmade businesses like ours have that other huge companies don't have is us: hardworking individuals passionate about what we do.
Big companies try to highlight individuals and how folksy they are as much as possible, but we are the real deal. They hire professional strategists to determine exactly the right message to trigger exactly the right empathy response.
But we don't have to do that, because we're just little people working as hard as we can for things we (hopefully) love.
My blogging tips...
Since we're going to start a new one on October 13, I thought I'd share my tips:
- Ask your customers, friends, and family what they want you to write about. It's so hard to come up with blog topics, and I think it's literally impossible to come up with 30 days worth of them. Don't do it yourself! Ask the people who will be reading your blog what they'd like to read about!
- Schedule your posts on a calendar. You don't have to stick with the calendar, but schedule a post for every single day of the month. That way, if you are staring at a blank page and are fully stuck, you have a starting place. And if you don't want to write about that day's topic, switch it out for another topic and reschedule that day's topic for later.
- Plan your time around the blog challenge. It takes me about an hour and a half to write a blog post (sometimes more, rarely less). The blog challenge is a HUGE time commitment, and I think people don't realize that. They think, "oh, I'll just settle down and do it," without realizing that some nights they're going to have to do it at 7:30 PM instead of sitting down to dinner with their family.
- Plan to blog during vacations, even if you have no cell service. This was a doozy. I went on vacation for the 4th of July weekend during the blog challenge, and I had to drive into town and stand in the rain waving my phone around like a lunatic trying to find a signal.
- Schedule some blogs in advance for when you really just can't. It's true, there are some days when you just can't. So keep a couple draft posts ready. Donna Maria always gives a week or so notice before you start the challenge, so use this time to get yourself organized.
- Have a reward. Last time, we got a free year of Indie Business Network membership. This time, I'm going to commission "completed the blog challenge" patches that people can only buy if they've blogged daily and shared their posts on social networks. It's not the same monetary value, but I think it's an important thing to have a pot of gold at the end of the (sometimes glass-filled) rainbow.
- Ask people to comment. There's nothing worse than talking into an echo chamber. In order for you to feel like you're getting any traction at all, you must ask people to comment. People don't think to comment once they get to the end of a blog... they think, "yep! read that, totally agree!" and then they leave the page. You have to ask them for comments.
If you want to join the blog challenge, I think it's open to everyone. Join this Facebook group and read the instructions there. We're not in an active blog challenge right now, but will be starting on the 13th. (ordinarily, that group has a weekly blog challenge where you post your blog entry on a single thread and we all go read and comment on each other's entries).
Most importantly, know that you can do this.