Contagion on Purpose Through Blogging

In recent months, the word “contagious” has certainly taken on frightening meaning.  But in his book Contagious, Jonah Berger explores ways to create contagion around good ideas, products, and services. “Regardless of how plain or boring a product or idea may seem,” Berger says, “there are ways to make it contagious.”

Every one of Berger’s ideas for achieving contagion, I found, is directly applicable to blog marketing:

1.  Find inner remarkability (break from what people expect from the experience of using the product or service). For every fact about the company or about one of its products or services, a blog post addresses unspoken questions such as “So, is that different?”, “So, is that good for me?”  

2.  Leverage game mechanics (use elements of a game to keep people engaged, motivated and wanting more. A core mechanic is the essential play activity players perform again and again in a game. Each business blog post should impart one new idea or call for a single action. 

3.  Make people feel like insiders (scarcity and exclusivity drives desirability). Hitting precisely the right “advertorial” note is the big challenge in corporate blog writing. Exclusivity is one of the five “key copy drivers” which business content writers should use to enhance audience response.

4.  Use “triggers” to keep ideas and products fresh in the minds of consumers, associating your product or service with some familiar aspect of life. In your blog content, link your products and services to prevalent trends.

5.  Use emotional content to evoke feelings that drive people to share and to act. Evoking emotion creates a feeling in your audience of being connected with you and the people in your business or practice.

6.  Provide practical information that helps others save time, energy, and resources. Chunking, or breaking down information into bite-sized pieces , allows readers to digest and more easily use new information.
7.  Embed your ideas in stories that people want to hear and retell. Let stories about people tell the story of your company, your products, and of the services you provide.

When it comes to spreading ideas through blogging for business, the word contagious can be a very good thing indeed!

Business Blogging May Not Take a Village, But it Does Take a Team

Even after playing together for more than fifty years (I learned from Steve & Jack’s Home News), the Rolling Stones musicians still understand the value of practicing together, committing to two months of rehearsal before every tour. Why? Practicing together helps them reconnect with each other’s rhythm and understand each member’s distinctive roles.

Running a business blog takes commitment and teamwork as well. In fact, as we Say It For You blog content writers embark on our 13th year, one thing continues to become clear: Whenever things do not work out as planned, it almost always has to do with lack of coordination among the team members:

  • the blog writer
  • the webmaster
  • the business owner or practitioner
  • the staff of the client’s business or practice

As blog content writers, we are interpreters. Effective blog posts must go from information-dispensing to offering the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organizational executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

What that means is that owners and professional practitioners have got to be involved in the process of producing content, even after they’ve engaged our services; they can’t “go to sleep” and cede control of the creative process to us. The webmaster has to work together with the blog writer to provide the optimization and analysis that make the content “work”. The front-line employees who deal with the customers daily must be involved.

Hiring professional bloggers is not a “wake me up when it’s over” proposition – just as is true of the Rolling Stones, reconnecting with each other’s knowledge and rhythm is what makes the material come to life. Not only should there be periodic team meetings to discuss content, it is not a good idea for me and my team to take on writing assignments without insisting the business also invest in properly designed landing pages and website optimization. When blog writing is not coordinated with email and social media the results are simply not likely to be what the business owner expects.

Business blogging may not take a village, but it certainly does take a team!


The Memo Meme for Blogging

Memos are usually written for one of the following reasons, explains Tony Rossiter, author of Effective Business Writing in Easy Steps:

  • to provide a written record
  • to give the reader background information for a specific visit or event
  • to make a suggestion or proposal
  • to give advice or make recommendations about a particular issue or problem

Interesting – I couldn’t help reflecting: the key characteristics of a good memo which Rossiter lists are remarkably similar to the key characteristics of good blog posts:

  • they’re short
  • they’re clear and concise
  • they’re reliable, with information that is 100% accurate
  • they’re reader-friendly
  • they’re easy to read

To be effective, both blog posts and memos must clarify the issue (explain the need for action), provide “arguments” in favor of taking that action, based on essential facts surrounding the issue or topic.

You might like to do several things in your memo, Rossiter suggests (every one of these, our Say It For You content writers know, can apply to effective blog posts):

  1. draw attention to a track record of successful involvement in similar actions or projects
  2. acknowledge the expertise of the people who will be heading up the project
  3. suggest next steps (perhaps a planning meeting or further information-gathering)

In the case of a marketing blog post, that next step might be signing up for a newsletter, subscribing to the blog, downloading a paper, or clicking on a link to a landing page showing various product or service options.

A printed or emailed memo typically begins with a “to” (“to: managing director”, “to: all technical staff”, “to: all regional managers”… While a blog post relies on incoming online traffic, it’s crucial for the content writers to direct their message to a specific target audience.

When composing a blog post, it helps to remember the memo “meme”!


Benchmark Blogging

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” legendary management consultant Peter Drucker was fond of saying. “How do we know if we’ve identified a result rather than an activity?” he asks. To achieve any goal, whether personal or business, explains local consultant Michael Hill, use the acronym SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Results-oriented
  • Time-phased

When blog content writers use SMART, that can greatly enhance the value of the information and advice they’re offering.

Start by asking yourself what you want the person to do as a result of reading this post.
Each business blog post should impart one new idea or call for a single action. Focused on one thing, your post has greater impact, since people are bombarded with many messages each day. Respecting readers’ time produces better results for your business.

Readers need to know how they will know that choosing a particular product or service has been a good idea. Offer tips on small, incremental positive changes they should begin to notice.

Describe realistic, achievable and easily identifiable signs that can signal that the client is on a trajectory leading towards the desired outcomes.

While time may have elapsed from the initial transaction, the content of the blog can serve as a reminder of the initial reason for beginning the regimen, purchasing the item, or continuing to take training.

Setting expectations based on time is a good idea for blog content writers. Imagine readers asking themselves “How will I use the product?  How much will I use? How often? Where? What will it look like?  How will I feel?”

Remember, if clients and customers can’t measure it, they will not even try to “manage it”.


Blog “As-Measured-By” Calls to Action

“Just Do It” worked for Nike. Let’s face it, though – readers of our marketing blogs aren’t going to convert to customers that easily.

True, as I stress in corporate blogging training sessions, blog content writing has an enormous advantage over traditional “push marketing” tactics, because, what blogging does best is deliver to corporate blog sites customers who are already interested in the product or service they’re providing!

In corporate blogging for business, the “ask” comes in the form of calls to action. Offering a reason for the requested action needless to say, greatly improves the chances of having your request fulfilled. At the City University of New York, I learned, experiment subjects were instructed to ask someone using a copy machine if they could go first.  When persons making that request offered a reason, they were given permission 94% of the time (versus only 60% of the time when they gave no explanation for why they deserved to go first).

There’s more, though, to improving the chances readers with fulfill your requests. Jason Buetler, who trains software design apprentices at Edusource, uses the “as-measured-by” principle. In doing what Buetler calls “predictive” planning, it’s crucial to establish sets of benchmarks by which progress towards the goal can be measured.

What-can-I-expect questions are implicit in every decision-making process:

  • “How will I know?”
  • “ How will I measure success?”
  • “ How can I tell it’s working?”

If our blogging Calls to Action are going to be effective, I realized, it’s up to us blog content writers to offer workable benchmarks, explaining the “as measured by”.

In “Say This, Not That”, Christine Georghiou advises salespeople to justify a request or statement with the word “because”.  That word immediately answers the question on every prospect’s (and every online reader’s) mind – “What’s in it for me?”

“As-measured-by” goes even further than that, setting up specific, time-based expectations. For reader/prospects to know what’s in it for them, they need the reassurance that certain signals will be there to tell them results are in the process of happening.

Use “as-measured-by” in your Calls to Action!