The online diary, also known as a blog, or Web log, has become a ubiquitous feature of the Internet. On a daily basis, Web surfers can find blogs that cover any topic imaginable.
Why are blogs so popular? How can you use them to get the word out to prospective patients and educate them about aesthetic procedures? Readers keep coming back to blogs due to the nearly real-time “call-and-response” format that they invite. Readers can Google practically any topic under the sun and find a blog that covers it.
The blog is quickly becoming one of the key marketing tools for Internet-savvy businesses.
Publishing a blog can help you to establish effective “thought leadership” and position yourself as an expert. In addition, blogs can do the following:
- Create strong customer relations with current and potential clients;
- Improve branding;
- Develop and test new service and/or product lines;
- Enhance search engine marketing;
- Differentiate yourself from your competitors;
- Introduce yourself to a certain niche;
- Market successful media and public relations campaigns, in which it is easy for media to see what you have to say rather than wait for you to send a press release; and
- Recruit high-quality employees.
Want to learn more about blogging?
Try these resources:
Blog Marketing by Jeremy Wright
Includes sections on The Power of Blogs for Business, How Blogs Can Help Your Business, and Creating Great Ideas
25 Tips for Marketing Your Blog by Lee Odden; www.toprankblog.com
Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff; www.forrester.com/Groundswell
INTERACTIVITY IS KEY
Ideally, a blog should be an interactive forum in which your main objective is to provide tips and insights, and offer open communication with your clients and target market.
It is not a channel for just selling your services or products.
Ultimately, with competition heating up in the aesthetic services industry, you must set yourself apart from the pack. A blog is a good way to do that.
“The blog is becoming an essential marketing element for almost all businesses as it is eye-catching, efficient, and easy to navigate,” says Sivan Fraser, an online journalist. “Blogging provides access to ‘citizen journalism’ (a personal way for individuals to relate their interests and knowledge on a variety of subjects), and helps clients and potential clients identify with a brand. This generation is rapidly advancing to the point that most marketing tactics will be handled via blogs and other interactive forums. “
WHERE DO YOU START?
You can have a blog up and running in around 5 minutes, according to www.Mahalo.com, an online news and trend clearinghouse that uses an interactive question/answer format. The information published on this Web site may help clarify each step of starting a blog, as well as provide links to blog templates, design ideas, and potential blog-hosting services.
First, define your niche and identify your target market. Most likely, you already have this information in your business and marketing plans.
Why Do I Need a Blog?
By Sivan Fraser
As we move further into 2009, it is important to recognize how media is changing and growing due to new technologies—especially the blog.
The newspaper industry is seriously declining and many people prefer to access information on the Internet, which is why a blog is the hippest way to connect with your clients.
Clients always want to feel good about their business interactions with a company. Thus, the blog is the most personal, interactive way to capture customer needs, comments, or concerns, or just prompt discussion. Blogs allow you to sound off on any topic you choose for your company or personal use. You can even invite guest writers to contribute to your blog, but the most crucial aspect—once again—is the involvement of the clients.
A blog gives your business a fresh angle: citizen journalism—a public process that allows anyone, typically your clients or potential clients, to openly discuss issues and exercise their right to speak freely and their right to have access to information. Not only are you creating a more personalized, interactive approach for your business with a blog, but you are giving individuals and your company the opportunity to utilize their First Amendment rights.
Eventually, fewer and fewer people will turn to print media—including press releases, media kits, and other sources—due to the advent of the blog and other currently growing media forums, such as social networking Web sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Plaxo). This is definitely the time to get involved in the next online revolution.
Sivan Fraser is a freelance journalist and journalism major at Florida Atlantic University.
Choose a name for your blog that is memorable, short, and easy to spell. Your name or the name of your practice come to mind, but it is OK to use a catchy phrase or descriptive title as long as it does not conflict with your image. Remember that this is part of branding your practice, so keep it consistent and recognizable. Be sure to check the blog name’s availability.
Your blog-hosting service can help you create and maintain your blog. There are many options, so you can choose one that best fits your budget and technical capabilities. Popular hosting services include blogger.com, wordpress.com, vox.com, and typepad.com. When you create your blog, don’t try to re-create the wheel. Templates are available through many sources, including the hosting service that you choose.
You need to determine who will be in charge of writing your blog posts. You may want to write them yourself or designate a staffer with superior writing skills. You may also choose to invite guest bloggers occasionally for specific topics.
When writing, keep in mind the “Six B’s”—be passionate, be humorous, be consistent, be useful, be readable, and (above all) be responsible.
Once you’ve selected the right template and content ideas, and have decided to either write the blog entries yourself or delegate that task, the next step is to start publishing blog entries and build an audience.
Tell the world about your blog. Remind them to come back for more, and if they like a particular blog entry, ask them to forward it along to their friends and colleagues. Be relentlessly self-promoting.
In addition, link to other sites that complement yours. Visit other blogs, comment on what they have to say, and add advice. You want other bloggers to add your link to help drive Web traffic back to you.
Important: Reciprocal links build Web traffic. Be sure to cite sources for anything you use in your blog that you culled from another site or blogger. Add clickable links to your blog pages to make it easy for your readers to visit these other sites. Once you link to the original source, it can link back to you—and that helps to build your network.
Measure that Web traffic because, as with anything you do, you need to know if your blog is doing its job. Your hosting service may be able to help you measure unique visitors and other Web analytics you will need. In the meantime, though, you can measure your success by the comments you receive.
You can actually bring in some revenue if you are willing to provide ad space on your blog. Check with your blog-hosting service for help in adding advertisers that are relevant to your blog’s content. You will want to be sure that these ads are appropriate for your blog.
When it comes to blogs, common-sense legal issues apply, such as how to quote others without plagiarizing and fair use issues. Know your legal resources. Also, you may want to copyright your original work.
Many sources on the Web can give advice on how to blog. Take some time to explore the options. Also, visit as many different types of Web blogs as you can. See what others are doing. Don’t be afraid to join in the conversation with other bloggers—you never know how many ideas you might come up with for your own blog posts.
WHAT DO YOU WRITE ABOUT?
Don’t narrow your focus to each blog entry touting your own services and products exclusively. Instead, concentrate on customer issues and concerns.
Engage your readers; request responses and personal experiences; and ask them about the aesthetic services they most desire, as well as ideas they may have for improving products or services you are already providing. Then respond.
Your responses can grow organically, forming the content of your next blog entry. For example, reader response to a blog about microdermabrasion can lead to questions such as how to care for skin before and after treatments, what conditions are best served by it, how many treatments are needed for optimum results, and what products will enhance the results. Subsequently, your next blog could be titled, “What You Want to Know About Microdermabrasion.”
Just as you use (or should be using) client surveys to improve client experience and outcomes, your blog can also help to uncover areas that require improvement. You can not only address those areas quickly, but you can also give credit to your readers for their honest and thoughtful feedback.
See also “Canvassing the Cosmetic Blogosphere” by Jeffrey Frentzen in the June 2008 issue of PSP.
When a client believes her or his input is helpful in developing your services, products, and/or brand, that client will provide you with another important benefit—word-of-mouth marketing (or “keyboard marketing”).
Any changes you make based on client response will need to be carefully planned. Not all suggestions or requests for change will suit your practice. And that could lead to another blog topic: We appreciate your idea, but this is why it isn’t possible.
Your blog is an extension of your brand, so treat it with the utmost care and respect. Keep the content fresh. Though your readers may initially visit out of curiosity, they will continue to check in and even join the conversation only if you take the time to craft valuable and thoughtful posts.
Cheryl Whitman has been a consultant for more than 30 years. She is the founder and CEO of Beautiful Forever, a medical spa consulting firm. She can be reached at (877) SPA-MEDI or medicalspaconsultant.com.