Blogging has quickly become more than a simple method of engaging consumers – it’s now the most important way to engage them! Although social media is frequently touted as the key to digital marketing success, blogs actually hold more power to influence purchases.
Although the full effect has yet to be realized by more traditional organizations, there’s a growing recognition that blogging is one of the best ways to reach customers.
Image Source: Jeffbullas
Recognize That Blogging Influences Purchase Decisions
As you can see, blogging strongly impacts purchasing decisions, after retail sites and close behind brand sites. Part of this phenomenon appears to stem from the seemingly impartial parties of blogs and retail sites:
- Retail sites provide a wide range of products and offer buyers the opportunity to publicly review their purchases. These tools offer anonymity and a forum to discuss what was good or bad about the product.
- Bloggers will likewise discuss both positive and negative aspects of a product, giving a similar feel of impartiality.
Both also appeal to the buyer more directly. The reviews on a retail site come from people who bought and used the product, and therefore share some common ground with the potential buyer. Bloggers are even more personal, being directly identified as an individual instead of a business entity. It’s much easier to build a relationship with a person! In smaller communities, bloggers often have well-established identities that give their words greater weight.
Let’s look at five ways you can effectively use blogging to influence consumers.
Building trust is a key aspect of growing any business. Blogs have an advantage because they’re more personal than retail reviewers. And, in many cases, they’ve been a part of consumer communities for a long period of time. The customer has a lot in common with bloggers, and this identification is important in building trust.
Bloggers who have been long-time community members also come to the table from a position of authority. They have deep-rooted ties and experiences that an outside advertiser lacks.
Expand Your Reach
As seen in the fashion industry, an independent blogger can have almost as large an audience as a hundred-year-old fashion magazine. You can only influence those who you reach, so as a blogger it’s important to gain credibility and authority in your industry. As you do so, your reach will naturally expand.
Here are a few ways to expand your reach to better position yourself to influence purchases:
- Link to other reputable blogs in within your own blogs.
- Blog from live events.
- Write responses to other top bloggers’ recent posts
- Review new books on your blog
- Cover news stories on your blog
- Start guest blogging to reach a larger audience
Companies and bloggers tend to measure influence differently. Many companies use metrics that are no longer useful ways of gauging influence, such as comScore and Nielsen ratings.
Bloggers, by contrast, pay very little attention to these metrics. Considering the popularity of blogging, it’s clear that bloggers have a more accurate perspective on how to influence decisions.
As you work toward establishing influence, remember that smaller communities wield more influence than larger ones. Trust is far easier to build in smaller communities. Interactions are far more personal, which leads to small impacts that have the potential to bring large results. Discover your niche audience – your tribe of followers – and write for that audience. Interact with them frequently. Engage them in conversations.
At the same time, it’s wise to engage in some blogger outreach, or the practice of placing your content in front of the right people. You can do this by:
- Identifying influential bloggers in your industry
- Engaging them in online conversations
- Sharing their content
- Commenting on their blogs
- Complimenting their work
Promote Your Blogs on Social Media
Only a small part of the average advertising budget goes to social media, but the platforms are excellent for cross-promoting your blogs. Most bloggers post frequently on Facebook and Twitter:
- Facebook clearly influences many people in their purchasing decisions due to its unmatched popularity.
- Twitter is great for providing a snippet – no more than 140 characters to be exact – of information about your blog to entice your audience.
Once you make contact with other influential people in your industry, as well as your intended audience, you can stay connected with them on social media. It also provides a great way to remind people about your new posts in case they don’t make it a habit of checking your blog. (You should be emailing them, too!)
Image Source: Social Media Examiner
These statistics suggest that most bloggers use Facebook like they do Twitter, as a place to notify readers about new content and as a popularity metric, rather than a platform itself.
Know When to Hire Help
With business blogs, there’s always a question of whether to hire existing writers or author a blog personally. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.
Creating your own blog has a potentially great reward, although the foundation work is likely to be more difficult. Companies are perceived as looking out for themselves. When a company forms its own blog, readers are usually skeptical – at least at first – about whether or not the content is credible or helpful (and not overly promotional).
On the flip-side, by creating your own blog you’re establishing yourself as an individual. Rather than mediating your relationship with potential customers through an additional party, you can establish your own readership. While it’ll take time, people will come to recognize you as a trustworthy authority. You’ll develop personal relationships with your consumers that will enhance your influence.
Hiring an existing blogger means there’s already an existing audience who considers this person an authority. The main question here is whether to hire a blogger with a wider audience or a smaller one. The blogger with a wider audience can reach more people. Bloggers with smaller audiences often have greater influence. What’s more important to you? A possible solution is hiring several bloggers with smaller audiences, thereby reaching a wider audience than a single blogger.
Whichever option is right for your business, never forget: making relationships personal can have the greatest influence of all. A blog is meant to be a transparent way to connect directly with your audience, and it gives it the opportunity to share and comment on your published content. Use this opportunity to open lines of communication, and make sure your readers feel engaged by responding to comments and concerns.