by Mike Bawden, President & CEO
I’m often asked what one thing a person can do to raise their visibility or the visibility of their brand. Usually, these questions are asked by people looking for free advice and I preface my comment by explaining my tip is worth everything they’re paying for it … but the tip is good and the advice valuable.
It’s just not always easy to follow.
That’s because the essence of good brand-building is engagement. And engagement takes work (a blend of time, patience, persistence and effort).
Engagement, on a brand level, requires those in charge of managing the brand to be informed, interested and willing to share their opinion (or take a stand) whenever the opportunity presents itself. Historically, those opportunities have been at trade events, community meetings and press tours. These were the places where you could build your professional network (and be seen doing so publicly), thereby enhancing both your personal and brand value in the process.
But now, more and more, those opportunities are online.
And here’s the crazy part … no matter your reputation in your respective field, you probably have not been invited to participate in those new conversations. You have to take matters into your own hands.
Battle of the Blogs
Journalists, experts, brands, policy makers, reviewers and just regular consumers, all write and publish online journals (blogs). Some folks are “citizen journalists” and publish on a regular basis. Most are not.
What are the “hot blogs” on a particular subject or in a particular industry? There are a few resources you can check (most notably Google, any one of about a dozen SEO/SEM databases and other sites, like Bloggeries).
Make a list of the names that seem to appear most often and then do yourself a favor: check out their relative web traffic (again, using a tool like Hypestat or SimilarWeb) and then identify a “prospect list” of blogs and bloggers to contact.
When we talk about “engagement” on blog posts, we’re talking about more than just leaving a brief, canned comment with a link to your brand’s website or online product page. That’s the kind of behavior that gets you banned from websites as a “spammer.”
No, instead you need to make sure your comment on a blog post is relevant to the topic of the post. Remember, keeping your message “on target” shows respect to the blogger hosting the conversation and positions your brand as worthy of consideration by all who want to participate.
This means you need to follow some simple steps for commenting on a blog post in order to make sure it’s effective:
1. First, take some time out to actually read the post.
2. Then consider where the stated opinions in that post sit in relation to your brand.
3. Then write your post and include a link to a relevant page in your post (ideally a post you’ve written about the same or related topic).
4. Then read your comment a second time to make sure you don’t sound “overtly promotional” (which could get your comment bounced and you blacklisted).
5. Then click “post” and, if possible, tick the box that will send you notices via email if anyone responds.
If you dedicate some time every day to this strategy, before long you will have posted hundreds of comments to dozens of blogs – all of which lead back to your website. Better yet, if you comments are relevant and thoughtful, it’s likely you’ll not only see an increase in traffic back to your site, you’ll start to see people trying to engage you there as well.
So why is all this worth the effort? Two reasons.
First, and foremost, sensible blog commenting can give you an opportunity to earn a little “shared spotlight” in places other than on your own website. By lending your voice to an active discussion – and possibly helping to inform that discussion in the process – you continue to build positive equity in your brand and enahnce your own reputation in the process.
Both of those things are good for business.
Secondly, after a month or two, you should see an impact in your website’s search results. The more backlinks that lead to your website from other websites, the more “authority” your website has in the eyes of earch engines like Google.
How Does this Benefit Creators and Small Businesses?
Large businesses and brands can afford to either build the talent to do this in-house or hire a marketing “expert” to handle it for them as a contractor. But small businesses, non-profit organizations and independent creators often don’t have the resources to do so.
That means serious consideration of the cost-benefit of this strategy needs to be given.
Blog commenting is an essential building block when it comes to estabishing a brand’s equity among those people who will matter most to its long-term survival and perceived value. Ignoring the importance of that can lead, in the long-term, to frustration and dozens of missed opportunities.
While regular blogging is an important part of the online marketing mix, sharing those thoughts and opinions through a regular, blog-commenting program is just as important. Brands and creators really shouldn’t consider taking up the former without making a decision to support the later.
Additional reading assignment
Finally, one last article I’d recommend reading is “How To Find Bloggers In Your Industry – And Interact With Them!” by Oren Smith on the Precision Marketing blog. It’s an older article, but very practical and breaks this strategy down into bite-sized chunks.