Websites are considered the cornerstone of a successful business. This is your virtual storefront, the first place you want people to find when they come looking for you.
But what do you put on your website? Should you have a blog? How do you leave a trail of digital cookie crumbs so that your ideal audience can find you in the deep, dark, forest of the Internet?
If you’ve read my last Creative Business 101 post, Optimization Hacks to Get Your Platforms Working Together, Part One: Social Media then you’re already on the right track.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at:
- how to get the most out of your website,
- why, YES, you should have a blog, and;
- what kind of creative content is best for your website/blog.
No matter what kind of creative product you produce, you should have a website. Your website is your “home base” where interested people are going to come to find out more about you and your work. It will take a little bit of work to set it up, but after that initial effort, website maintenance is pretty simple and straightforward.
Deciding what to put on your website in the first place can be more challenging. What does your website need?
The landing page of your website should have:
- A description of you and your creative work
- Your business contact info
- Purchase Links: either your own store or the online stores where customers can purchase your work
- Reading Links: to your own blogs, and any other places you’ve been published online
How you design your website will be largely dependent on the kind of creative work you produce. A graphic designer might want to have an interactive landing page that showcases their talents, a writer might want to display their latest release, an actor or model will want to have a professional headshot front and centre.
Less is more unless you are a professional website designer. Start simple and expand as you get more comfortable and as your needs grow. If your needs exceed the basic tools you get with your website provider, consider hiring someone to design it for you. Nothing is more frustrating for your (future) customer than a poorly designed website. You don’t want them to come looking for you and then turn right back around and walk out the virtual door because your storefront is a mess.
To Blog or Not to Blog…
It’s not really a question. The answer is, Yes! Start a blog!
What Is a Blog?
Blogging began as a kind of online, public journaling. In fact, many people still use it this way and that’s great. There are rich communities of casual bloggers on pretty much every platform out there. Like on other kinds of social media, bloggers follow and interact with one another, sharing their stories and experiences with the world.
The difference is, the blog is a long form communication. People who read blogs are prepared to spend some time with you. And this is what makes it an ideal form of communication for small business owners.
Types of Blogs
I’m going to draw some lines in the sand here and say there are three main types of blogs:
- Personal Blogs: These are a series of journal-like articles about a person’s personal life experiences. They may include anecdotes, lessons, personal updates with pictures, and are usually written in a casual style.
- Professional Blogs: These are themed blogs that provide a series of articles written to inform and entertain, on a particular subject. Food and travel blogs, book review blogs, parenting and lifestyle blogs, for example. Professional blogs are usually monetized via advertising and affiliate links. Professional Bloggers make their living by blogging.
- Business Blogs: These blogs are designed to provide additional value to a business’s customers, beyond the product or service that they offer. These blog articles demonstrate the business owner’s expertise in their field, but usually are not selling anything directly.
Creative Business owners can draw from all three “types” of blog styles in order to build their online brand. If you are feeling resistant to the idea of starting your own blog, don’t worry. There are lots of ways to use blogging as a tool to enhance your creative business and transform followers into customers. We’ll find something that works for you.
Blogging for Creative Businesses
Business blogging is different from personal and professional blogging. While there is some cross-over–you can certainly entertain your readers with personal anecdotes and recommend products you love–the difference is in the purpose of the blog itself.
Your business blog should:
- Reflect who you are
- Showcase your work
- Provide value to your audience (If you need help check out Creative Business 101: Tips on How to Identify Your Audience, and Creative Business 101: The Best Way to Create Valuable Content for Your Audience)
Your business blog should not:
- Be too personal or unprofessional
- Attempt to “sell” anything
The ultimate purpose of a blog for the creative business entrepreneur is to produce creative content that draws in your audience and makes them curious about your work.
How To Use Blogging to Build Your Audience
In the last post, Creative Business 101: Optimization Hacks to Get Your Platforms Working Together – Part One – Social Media, we discussed how you can use your social media platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, to seek out and engage directly with your audience.
Your social media feeds should be a curated collection of bite-sized creative content that makes people want to “follow” you for more: Quotes you love, interesting photos, infographics, and strong captions. Each platform has a different feel, and you have to work with what works for you.
These little bits and pieces are the cookie crumbs you use to lure in future customers and get them to take the next step in building a relationship with you.
Social media moves quickly, so if something you post doesn’t get a lot of traction, that’s okay. Try again with something new tomorrow. When you DO find something that seems to click with your audience, you have a blog idea.
Think of your blog as a place to expand upon the ideas that your audience is interested in:
- Ideas for Writers: books you love, either in reviews or top ten lists; artists, artwork, or music you use for inspiration; discussion of real-world topics that apply to your writing, or themes that you explore; character interviews, short stories, and trivia about your books; detailed posts about your writing process; progress updates
- Ideas for Artists: local gallery reviews; behind the scenes in your studio; how-to articles for people who want to learn how to do what you do; a start-to-finish look at your artistic process; work and shows by other artists similar to you; an interview with one of your mentors; the story behind one of your favourite pieces
Once someone decides to visit your blog, they have already committed to spending a certain amount of time to learning about you and what you have to say. Use this moment to let your followers to get to know you in more depth than they get from your social media posts.
This is the next step in your relationship. Now you are starting to build intimacy. You blog is where you begin to convert followers into fans.
Each step in your platform is designed to filter in your ideal audience members. Many people who visit your social media feeds are just there for a quick like or comment and never take the relationship any further. That’s just fine. Keep interacting with them. Some people are slower to warm up than others.
People who visit your blog are naturally going to be more invested in you and your work. Open up about yourself and your process here. Show your work. Share the things you love and which your ideal audience will love too. The key is to be purposeful with what you share. You might really love true-crime documentaries but if you write sweet romance, the blog isn’t the right place to dig into this passion. A list of your favourite places to go on a first date, though, would be great!
Your blog and your social media accounts will work together. You can see which tidbits and cookie crumbs generate the most engagement and expand on those ideas on the blog. You can also share your blog posts on social media to create two way traffic.
Sharing your blog posts to social media gives more opportunities for others to like, share, and engage with your ideas. If you share your latest blog post to Facebook and one of your followers shares your post to their personal feed or a group, you automatically expand your reach. This allows more likeminded people to find your blog, and to become a part of your audience.
Remember that you can recycle content when you are too busy to write a new post. Use Instagram to highlight a past post that was really popular, just update the your smart link in your bio to put the featured link up top. You can repurpose popular Instagram posts into blog articles without having to do a deep dive into researching a totally new topic.
Optimizing your platforms and getting them working together is all about how to “work smarter not harder.” When your platforms are in sync it’s actually easier to keep all of them updated with fresh content than if you are trying to create unique content for each individual platform.
When people visit your blog, you can invite them in to the next stage of your business relationship: signing up for your mailing list.
The newsletter is where the real magic happens.
We’ll break it down in Part Three of the Platform Optimization series, next week!
I hope this helps clear up the purpose of blogging for creative business owners. Have you resisted blogging up until now? Or do you already have a blog? What have been your biggest successes and your biggest flops? What do you need help with?
Ask your questions below, and drop a link to your blog in the comments!