So you've decided that it makes sense to start blogging as a way to boost your company's online presence. Now what?
There are two routes one can take when it comes to finding bloggers in your industry. One, seek out blogs written and managed by the major social influencers and thought leaders in your industry. Two, find a freelancer, blog ghostwriter who can create content despite not being directly involved in your industry. In this article, we'll look at each option and how to make each type of approach valuable for your company.
Working with Industry Influencers: 5 Steps for Success
Before you start writing your business blog, it's powerful to know what's trending and what's not – and to know how to find bloggers worth monitoring and engaging. Use these four steps for diving into the blogging conversation and giving your own following a kick-start!
Step 1: Select 5-10 relevant bloggers.
Okay, sounds great! But again, how do you go about selecting these bloggers? Your first step should be to consult relevant trade publications for well-known authors in your industry. Next, check out who is speaking at industry conferences and events – and subscribe to their blogs or follow them on social media. You may even receive suggestions from Twitter etc., for related accounts you might be interested in pursuing. And of course, you could always try Googling a phrase like "top bloggers in XYZ industry" and see what pops up! There may even be publications or articles that conveniently rank the most influential bloggers in your field.
Another excellent resource for finding popular bloggers is tools like Fiver or Writers Access. These websites review and track the most influential blogs by industry/category and allow users to publicly rate the blogs, giving others more information about the value the writing provides.
Once you've subscribed to some industry blogs and their respective social media channels, you should be able to determine which ones appeal to you and are most relevant to your business. Choose 5-10 bloggers to follow actively and regularly check out their conversations with their followers.
Step 2: Monitor blog interactions.
Once you've narrowed down your target blogs, it's essential to recognize what makes them exciting and successful. Why is their readership high? And what are people saying about them? Digging into what makes these blogs tick will help you when building your strategy. We recommend reading from their blogs once per week (depending on how often they publish) and checking in on their social media channels 1-2 times per week for new posts.
Consider these questions when monitoring blogs:
- Which topics generate the most buzz/commentary?
- Which topics are shared the most in social media channels?
- Are the bloggers responding to the comments and social messaging? If so, what are they saying?
- Do these bloggers link to specific sources or other bloggers in their posts?
- On what days do they publish – and do you find this timing effective?
- How are these blogs formatted?
- Do shorter or longer posts work better for the blog?
Step 3: Participate in the conversation.
By participating in a business blogging conversation, you have the chance to increase your social reach and reliability and present yourself as a thought leader. If you feel you can offer credible feedback about a particular topic, go for it!
Do you agree with the author? Do you disagree? Why? Make use of the available comments section on the author's blog. If you are presenting a counterargument, always be sure to use a respectful tone. It's best to follow the Golden Rule here – Comment on blogs in a way you'd appreciate others commenting on your blog. And be sure to steer clear of outright self-promotion via comments sections. Remember that at this point, your goal is not to sell your products or services; it is merely to introduce yourself to the blogger's audience and to hopefully accrue some visits to your own business blog.
Besides, most blogging platforms offer the author the option to block your comment if they deem it inappropriate.
Step 4: Give back to the bloggers.
After contributing some comments, it's great to share these fellow bloggers' posts via social media and write a new post of your own, taking into account the information you've learned from them. Did you find out something cool? Give credit where credit is due. Do you have another perspective on this topic? Take a side and write your blog post with a link back to theirs. You can compile a few articles relevant to a particular topic in a curated blog post and summarize the most essential points.
Don't be nervous about engaging with your blogging peers. You'll gradually see positive changes in your traffic, conversions, and social media exchanges by putting forth a consistent effort.
Working with a Freelancer: 5 Tips for Success
If you're thinking about the role freelancing or blog ghostwriting can play in your business, it's most likely because you realize the value of business blogging but don't have the time or resources to do it in-house. While it may seem scary to stake your company's reputation on a stranger's writing, knowing how to optimize your relationship with a ghostwriter beforehand can calm the nerves and help you ensure that your ghostwriter acts as an extension of your company.
Whether you're working with a freelance writer or an outsourced marketing company, the process that needs to happen should be pretty similar. Here are a few steps you can take to make it work:
1. Find a suitable writer.
The writer should provide samples of their past work—or even better—work that lets you know they have experience writing for your specific industry. Writing for a manufacturing audience composed of engineers is not the same as writing for an audience of gym-goers looking for tips on fitness and nutrition; therefore, selecting a writer or agency with field experience will add that little extra something to content production.
2. Introduce them to your company voice.
After you've picked your writer, help them understand your company's writing style and tone. Show them samples of past content—good and bad. This will help your writer know what's acceptable and what to steer clear of. Just as you wouldn't speak to your grandmother the same way as your best friend, the same tone is inappropriate for all topics and readers.
It's a good idea to provide your writer with an example of a blog post you've recently read that demonstrates the tone or style you're looking to emulate. Then let your trusty sidekick know you'd like your articles written similarly.
More often than not, you'll also want to advise the freelancer or agency to write conversationally. Even if your audience is super "techy" and highly informed, no one wants to read a staid, boring blog.
A good writer should find a comfortable middle ground, maintaining a conversational style without coming off as too casual. Above all, the writing should be credible, confident, and clear.
3. Collaborate on an editorial calendar.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you've been thinking about hiring a ghostwriter, you probably already have some blog article ideas in mind. Share those ideas with your writer and plan by creating a keyword-optimized blog editorial calendar. Assigning a keyword to each blog topic will increase your chances of people finding your blog on the internet.
Determine how often you would like to blog (we recommend a minimum of once per month) and outline exactly which blog will go out each week. See a snippet of HubSpot's example below.
4. Provide Resources When Necessary
Clients often wonder how a ghost blogger can produce posts that are smart and informative when they aren't "in the business." Sure, some of your more technical how-to pieces may require a ghost blogger who has a good deal of experience writing in your particular industry. But with the right writer, this shouldn't matter; it's more about communicating effectively and making the most of the partnership.
That's where you come in. You are the subject matter expert, and your input is absolutely invaluable to the writer. If you are not the subject matter expert, get your writer in touch with someone who is.
Have the writer interview a subject matter expert at your company for each blog topic. Depending on the company's size, that can be one person who knows it all or different people from different departments. Work ahead by interviewing for a batch of blog topics at a time.
Pass on your expertise by providing a few reliable sources on the assigned blog topic. Also, try giving the writer a brief outline for the post, including any essential topics or subheads they should hit on, and then take the time to exchange ideas and angles during a planning session.
When you receive a first draft of the article from the writer, it'll be your turn to make sure the blog is written credibly and authentically. You may end up wanting to add in some additional points, expertise, or statistics that take the blog post to the next level.
Read More: How to Work Well with SMEs (and Solve Your Biggest Content Challenge)
5. Refine the first drafts.
The ghostwriter will submit a draft of the blogs after soaking in all of the information provided, and you may realize that a couple of changes are needed. Maybe the tone is slightly off, or the writer took an unexpected turn on the pre-discussed topic.
Take this opportunity to point out the misalignment and provide detailed edits. A good writer will take these edits into consideration and remember them for next time.
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Remember that working with a freelancer or a marketing agency is a partnership. The goal is to eventually have a writer whose work you can trust to the point where significant edits are not required. It may take some time, but developing your blog to make fundamental contributions to your business will be worth it in the long run.
If you want to learn more about how outsourcing can help achieve the business results you're looking for, check out our guide: The Essential Outsourced Marketing Handbook: Growing Your Business with an Agency Partner.
This post has been updated since its initial publication in 2015 to reflect best practices and updated information. Additional information in this article comes from guest poster Abby Kaufman, a freelance writer in Massachusetts.