There’s Nothing Different About Your Blog, Except This 1 Thing
There are a billion blogs out there. Well, 152 million, to be exact. It may seem easy to get lost in the noise, but the truth is, it’s not that difficult to set yourself apart from the pack.
Your blog is a powerful content marketing channel. A recent study indicates that small businesses that blog have 126% higher lead growth. Marketers who prioritize blogging are 13 times more like to generate ROI. You don’t need to be a small business to benefit from the impact of blogging - one in three Fortune 500 companies maintain active blogs.
There are countless other benefits to blogging, as well. One of the more obvious is improved search engine optimization (SEO), as fresh content comes up first on searches, driving more content to your website. The process of blogging can also be beneficial to your startup: it helps your company define its voice and position in the marketplace, crafting an identity that may appeal to both investors and customers.
Blogging also helps you build your network and establish community. This takes a little time and patience, but as your network and traffic builds, a regular readership will emerge. As this entrepreneur says, it’s difficult to quantify or evaluate community via analytics. It’s a feeling of participation and inclusion, which come across through the topics that you write about and the discussions generated in the comments section. Blogging is also a way to give back to your community, by directing attention towards worthy causes or events that your startup supports.
So blogging works. But this also means that with the noise of 152 million blogs, your blog may just be part of the endless echo reverberating around the Internet. Your blog needs to stand out.
The right keywords won’t make your blog stand out. Nor will inbound links or “authoritative” writing. If you really want your blog to rise above the noise of the internet, harness the power of storytelling. This is what we were getting at when we mentioned “voice” and “identity,” earlier. This may sound fluffy on the surface, but actually can have a huge impact on your business.
Storytelling may bring up images of your parents reading bedtime stories to you, or story hour in elementary school. Our childhood was full of tales that taught us how to be good people and interact with the world around us. But storytelling is more than child’s play. The National Storytelling Network defines storytelling as “the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination.”
Stories aren’t only transmitted through the written word. Films, video games, television series and even our favourite brands are powered by stories. Similarly, your startup blog doesn’t need to be text – you can share your story through images, video and audio.
Here’s how you can use storytelling to set your startup blog apart from the others:
- The most basic way is to use storytelling elements- You might remember some of these from high school English class.
- Narration – tell what happened. For a blog post, this would turn up in the form of an interview, bio, or case study.
- Description – appeal to the senses by describing sounds, tastes, and colours.
- Explanation – provide definitions, facts and statistics to explain what your business is about.
- Argument – use the power of persuasion to convince readers to purchase your product or service.
- Create a persona - Find an identity and voice for your startup, then base your blog posts on this. “Voice” is one of those vague and elusive things that people are always talking about, but few can define. Copyblogger has four simple ways to find a voice that readers (and potential buyers) will relate to.
- Identify your main “characters” - Once you’ve created your persona, ask “Who is the hero?” Well, your business is, obviously! And the antagonist? This is whatever problem your business solves. Just like in a good story, this tension will give your blog content a “wow” factor.
- Be consistent and authentic - Despite all this talk about crafting stories, we can’t underestimate how important it is to be yourself (or, let your startup be itself). Be authentic all of the time, not just when you feel like it. Seth Godin, a master storyteller and marketer, and reminds us that ”a great story is true” because people can sniff out inconsistencies. He means “true” not as in factual, but as in believable. You want people to believe what you’re promising.
- Insert yourself into your story- As Hubspot notes, “Great brand stories are not objective. In fact, the most successful ones are highly subjective.”You’re not a journalist, so there’s no need to be objective. It’s easy to confuse “yourself” with your voice or persona, but there is a slight difference. Here, we’re talking about likes and dislikes, biases, opinions. These are the details that reflect your startup’s worldview and position.
- Be vulnerable - This is a tricky one, and an element that you want to use in moderation. While keeping an air of professionalism, don’t be afraid to let your startup’s sensitive side come out now and then. It is, after all, part of your story. Divulge your failures and setbacks to connect with your audience, but be prepared for potential backlash. Honesty and transparency can create trust, but do be careful about oversharing and driving people away if you are too negative or open.
- Stop talking AT your customers, start having conversations - Even though it’s called storyTELLING, it’s a good habit to listen and ask for feedback from your customers. This can be as simple as including a call to action in your blog posts or encouraging comments.
You can apply any of the above suggestions to visual content such as photo galleries or infographics, and create the kind of emotional bond that will make your startup unforgettable. ZAOZAO tells its story through visuals of far-away places that spark a sense of wanderlust. At first glance, a visitor may not even realize that this is an e-commerce site for independent jewelry and accessory designers - but they might find themselves drawn into a journey of discovery.
Your blog is one of 152 million voices on the internet. While the benefits of blogging can be demonstrated, the best way to reap those benefits is to be different. Allow yourself to tell it, not sell it, and use the art of storytelling to help you stand out from the crowd.
Does your startup have a blog? What have you learned from blogging? Who are your favourite startup, entrepreneur or business bloggers?
Photo Credit: Gratisography