Blogging is a fundamental part of content marketing for small businesses, but it’s not as easy as just sitting down at the keyboard
As a professional writer who is something of a geek and who works mainly with technology companies, I had to learn quickly that one of the worst things a business blogger can do is assume that their readers know as much as they do.
Most small businesses can’t afford to hire a professional writer, but the advice on every content marketing and SEO blog is that blogging is an essential component of a successful site. So people who are expert widget makers and brilliant developers take up the challenge, create a WordPress blog, and get down to the task of writing posts.
They figure that since they know their business inside and out, it can’t be all that hard to write 500 words every about it every week or so. And they’re right; coming up with topics isn’t difficult and most business owners can write well enough to produce grammatically correct and occasionally interesting prose.
What they don’t count on is their deep knowledge being more of a hindrance than a help. Psychologists have shown that it’s very difficult to put oneself in the place of someone who knows less than you do. The phenomenon has been called various things, but I like the term inferential distance, which has been defined as:
a gap between the background knowledge and epistemology of a person trying to explain an idea, and the background knowledge and epistemology of the person trying to understand it.
That’s just a more complicated way of saying what I’ve already said. It’s hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t know as much as you do.
The result is blog posts that fail to connect with an audience, because the concerns of the people buying a product or service are not those of the person making or selling it. You may have created the best web service in the world, but if all you can talk about are the difficulties you had scaling its databases or the genealogy of various UI decisions, you’re going to put your audience to sleep. People like you are interested in that. The people you want to use your service are interested in what it can do for them.
The bad news is that it’s incredibly difficult to think your way into the shoes of someone else; that’s why professional writers make the big bucks. But to make a success of your small business blog you’re going to have to work hard to understand how to give something of value to your readers.
There’s no easy trick, but customer personas are a useful tool. By creating an imagined customer, complete with the qualities of a fictional person, and writing as though you were addressing them directly, you can at least minimize the temptation to write at too high a level for your readership to understand.
You should also read as many blogs as possible in your niche and more widely. Consider the tone, the depth, and the language that’s used by these writers and try to emulate them in your own work.
Business blogging isn’t as easy as it looks, because most of the hard work is hidden, but being mindful about who you’re writing for is the first step to building a loyal audience.
Graeme Caldwell — Graeme works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess onTwitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, http://blog.nexcess.net/.
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