I’ve been writing Small Business Tip of the Week posts for the PaySimple blog for well over five years. During that time, the tips have covered a wide variety of topics ranging from cool free software, to current small business events, to useful whitepaper downloads, to strategies and tactics for making your small business more successful.
Coming up with a new idea each week can be challenging, but I am constantly amazed at all the great advice and useful tools that I come across each and every day. So, rather than lamenting a lack of sources I typically find myself struggling to choose between several that I would like to share. A large part of that decision is based on what I think will be most useful to you small business owners, but another portion is based on the amount of traffic I think each post can generate. After all, the most useful tip isn’t really useful at all if no one reads it.
If you write a blog, or engage in social media posting on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or any other social media outlet as part of your small business marketing and brand-building programs, then I’m sure you share these challenges and know exactly what I mean. (If you don’t have an active social media strategy, you really should. Check out the Tip of the Week archive for a number of posts to get you started.)
There is no dearth of “experts” out there willing to take on management of your blog and social media program. However, the following 7 tips are things you can easily do yourself to both identify topics to write about and to craft posts that will generate traffic for your small business website.
1. Read, Read, Read!
A great way to write about something that will resonate with your target audience is to read what they are reading. When you find a hot topic you can add your unique perspective, or you can act as a curator and link your audience to the best posts on the topic. When you join a popular conversation and link to reputable sources, there is a better chance that your post will be found, linked-to, and associated with other higher profile sites.
You can do this by subscribing to industry newsletters, setting up email alerts on a topic, creating a custom Google News page (or a similar page from another provider), checking Reddit for trending topics, or setting up a personal homepage that includes feeds from sites and blogs that cover your market-space, such as ig Home. This lets you easily scan multiple sources at once to identify popular or timely topics on which to join the conversation. Additionally, one post may jump out at you and prompt you to deeply explore the topic.
2. Set aside time to explore.
Running a small business can seem like a 24/7 job, and the thought of spending your precious time simply “surfing” the web probably seems like a luxury you can no longer afford. However, a little directed browsing can yield a huge bounty of post ideas. Start with a web search for a topic related to your industry and a current date range, such as the past month. Then pick a result. If the result contains an interesting link, follow it (if it doesn’t, go back and pick a different one), follow a link from that post, and so on. Chances are that within a few clicks you’ll find an appealing topic that you can then research further, expand upon, and write about.
3. Share a discovery.
When you find something that surprises or delights you, share it. Chances are your target audience will enjoy it as well. Your discovery can be a software tool that provides real value to your business, an industry conference with a great speaker line-up, an innovative or unique way a customer is using your product, or even a joke or cartoon that you think will resonate particularly well with your customer base.
4. Gauge reader interest before writing.
A recent post on the social media blog buffer, suggests testing your topic on Twitter or Facebook prior to investing time in writing a full blown blog post or article. If your Tweet generates significant re-tweets, or if your Facebook post gets a large number of “likes” and “shares,” then chances are it will make a great post. If not, try a new idea. (Read the full post, A Scientific Guide to Writing Great Headlines on Twitter, Facebook, and Your Blog, for other really good tips on crafting social media content.)
5. Create a killer headline.
The headline is the hook into your post, and if it falls flat you post likely will too—regardless of how great the content actually is. Iris Shoor of Takipi Marketing ran a specialized script to analyze 100 technology related blogs in a quest to identify the components of a great blog headline. Her findings are detailed here. For example, the study found that using words like ‘Kill’, ‘Fear’, ‘Dark’, ‘Bleeding’ and ‘War’ in post titles almost always resulted in a highly shared post; it also found that using numerals (the bigger the better) in post titles, using the term DIY, and including big brand names such as Twitter and Facebook in titles, are correlated with top ranking posts. If you’re reading this post due to getting pulled in by the title, then you’ve just confirmed Shoor’s findings.
6. Optimize your post for search engines and social media.
Content is definitely king, but there is more to creating a highly popular or viral post than simply picking a great topic and writing well about it. To get your post indexed and well-ranked by search engines you need to optimize your content for them; and to make your post rise in the social media popularity ranks you need to tailor links to it for each venue. For example, on Facebook pictures rule, but on Twitter you need to grab your audience in 140 characters or less. The minterist post, 18 Surefire Tips To Write A Perfectly Optimized Blog Post, provides a very useful framework for crafting posts that will be found and shared.
7. Auto-generate a title and let it lead the way.
While one typically starts with a post and then crafts a great title for it, sometimes turning this process on its head can cure writers’ block and spark truly unique and creative content. The Portent Content Idea Generator is a tool designed to do just that. You enter the general topic you would like to write about into the tool, and it spits out a headline. Then take that headline and craft a post around it.
One would think an automated tool couldn’t possibly provide truly useful post ideas, but it really does an amazing job of getting your creative juices flowing. For example, I entered “small business” and it suggested “9 Things About Small Businesses That Will Keep You Up at Night” and “11 Things You Can Steal from Small Businesses” as well as the very funny yet thought provoking “18 Surprising Ways Small Businesses are More Refreshing than New Socks” and “Why Small Businesses Are More Tempting than a Cinnabon. ” (You’ll notice a pattern in how the suggestions are constructed after you try it a few times—and you will, it’s addictive!—and the pattern follows the findings in Iris Shoor’s blog research.)
Whether you’re just starting to blog, or whether you’ve been at it for years, use these tips to help you generate new ideas and to make the most of your social media efforts. That’s what I’ll be doing for the PaySimple Small Business Tip of the Week. So, I hope you’ll continue reading…
See weekly Small Business Tips like this one by subscribing to our blog.