Judging by the sheer number of single post blogs and abandoned Twitter accounts currently littering the internet, I think it suffices to say that business owners as a whole are feeling a little overwhelmed by the concept of social media. And why wouldn’t they? With experts screeching from all directions about optimization and customer engagement, the message about the importance of web presence is coming through loud and clear. It’s time to start a blog.
But how? The majority of small business owners can’t afford to hire a dedicated blogger, but they also aren’t necessarily comfortable with writing anything more epic than an inter-office email. Just when you thought you were done writing 5 paragraph essays for good, the social media monster waltzes in and demands to be fed regular content. And content is scary.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is no rule that states you have to bust onto the social media scene with guns ablaze (and by guns I mean Facebook to Flickr and all points in between). And if you’re not really ready, that’s probably a really bad idea anyway. Maybe it’s time to slow thing things down a little and start small- 140 characters small. Maybe it’s time to tote your social media anxiety on over to Twitter.
What’s great about Twitter is that it’s the perfect neutral training ground to develop the skills/build the resources necessary to make yourself into a really great blogger, without the immediate and terrifying commitment of having to generate large volumes of content. Think of it like business blogger training camp.
Step 1: Listen.
Before you start manically sending tweets about your business out into the universe, try to take a few days to a few weeks just to look around. Find and follow people in your industry, your geographic area, or who share your interests, and just listen to what they’re saying. Social media is successful, because it’s interactive. As it turns out, people want to be heard and responded to, not bombarded with advertisements, and this rings true for all social media outlets. So for now, put your business agenda on the back burner, and learn how to be a really good listener.
Step 2: Take Notes.
As you’re practicing your listening skills, you’re going to come across a lot of inside jokes, private conversations, and random banter, but you’re also going to see a ton of link sharing, news and current events. Pay attention! One of the most daunting things about generating blog content is coming up with post ideas, and Twitter is the perfect place to mine for inspiration. If you’re following the right people, you can get a pretty serious inside look at what’s really happening in your industry. Start bookmarking compelling articles and jotting down topics that are generating buzz. When the time comes to start writing for your own blog, you’ll have months worth of inspiration at the ready.
Step 3: Make Friends.
Once you have found a group of people worth listening to, it’s time to start responding. Whether you’re joining conversations, answering questions, or retweeting useful content, people will start to notice you. This can be a slow process, but as you build a reputation as someone who is thoughtful and engaged (see step one), your meaningful follower count will start to grow. And when you do finally start your blog, you will already have a group of people open to listening to what you have to say.
Step 4: Start Writing.
You’ve lurked for long enough! It’s time to start generating your own content. Lots of people have anxiety about writing, and the stress of a big fat blog entry is enough to crush many a would-be business blogger before their first post is ever written. But no pressure, this is Twitter, and you’re not allowed to exceed 140 characters even if you want to. Start slow by adding comments to your retweets, or posing a general question to your follower group. Over time, you’ll see what kinds of content generate the most discussion or most thoughtful responses, and you’ll start to feel more comfortable putting your ideas into words.
Step 5: Get it.
At some point in your Twitter travels, you’re going to have that big “AH HA!” moment that people are always talking about. You’ve become an industry insider, you’ve forged relationships, initiated discussions… and all of the sudden, you are going to “get” the value of social media, and it will be glorious. You’re ready, it’s time to blog. So just take a deep breath, and try to remember everything that you’ve learned. A blog entry isn’t a master’s thesis or corporate whitepaper, it’s just a place to start a conversation. And once you’ve figured that out, all the rest should fall into place.
Alexandra Munier is a commercial real estate office manager by day, and manic blogger and Twitter geek by night. She can be found chronicling her monetary misadventures over at Broke207, and has recently become a contributing writer at Part Time Vagabond. You can also feel free to harass her on Twitter or Facebook.
Photo Credit: WeLiveFast