Liana Spiegel, an IBN member at our FaceBook Page, asked an interesting question recently. She wondered whether she needs a blog if she already has a FaceBook Page. After all, if she can quickly engage people and generate sales on FaceBook, why invest the time to also maintain a blog? This is a very good question, especially since it was FaceBook and not blog interaction (I have never visited Liana's blog), that resulted in my purchase of some of her products last week.
If a FaceBook Page is fun, efficient and delivers new sales, does a small business owner need to maintain a blog too? Well, it depends on what your goals are. Here are some things to consider.
A Blog Gives You Control. Relying too heavily on technologies that are owned and controlled by third parties to market your business is risky. If FaceBook disappears, is purchased by a company that changes it in ways people don't like (which FaceBook does frequently already), or stops working (as it has done previously), and you have no way to quickly connect with people, you will be invisible.
A branded blog is the best low-cost, interactive online marketing tool (email newsletters are great too!) that you both own and control. This means you are never at the mercy of other people to stay in touch with your customers. It's a powerful marketing advantage you hope you will never need, but if you do, you'll be ready with a blog.
A Blog Strengthens Your Personal Brand. If you are famous or are a consultant or a coach by profession, then you are already connecting personally with people simply by being your famous self or offering your services to the public. But if the bulk of your income comes from product sales, you are most likely strengthening people's relationships with your products, and not with you personally. This is fine if you don't want to create new income opportunities that flow from your personal brand. But if you want to capitalize on the expertise you have garnered as the leader of your business, a blog can help you do that in ways that FaceBook cannot.
As people see consistency, expertise and focus at your blog, they will begin to see you as a trusted resource. As you define yourself in your niche, your sphere of personal influence in that niche will expand. This will result in new connections and recognition, both of which lead to new opportunities and new streams of income. There are fantastic examples (here's one) of people whose blogs led directly to book contracts, movie deals, speaking gigs and other unexpected income opportunities. If you'd like to get a piece of that pie, a blog can set you apart in ways that FaceBook cannot.
Blog Posts Are More Easily Shared Than FaceBook Updates. FaceBook status updates originate with you and pretty much stay at your FaceBook page. While Google and FaceBook recently formally agreed to display FaceBook status updates in Google search results, unless you are FaceBooking life-changing world news or someone is searching specifically for you, your FaceBook conversations will probably remain on FaceBook.
Conversely, blog posts are easily shared on Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, MySpace and elsewhere.
Look at the Twitter and FaceBook share links at the
topbottom of this post , just under the heading. With the click of a button, you can share this blog post on Twitter and FaceBook. Try it! Look at the social “Share & Enjoy!” icons at the bottom of this post. Pick your favorite social network and simply click and share.
Posting FaceBook status updates is great. But if it doesn't spread, it's dead. To give your ideas legs, you have to make them easily shareable. Try one of the share icons you see here and see how easy it is to empower your readers to spread the word about what you do.
Blog Posts Have An Infinite Shelf Life. Because of the way FaceBook Pages work, new information is quickly replaced by newer information. Once your status update is pushed down on your page, it's gone and most people aren't going to go searching for it. But with a blog, because of the search window that appears in the upper right corner, anyone in the world, anytime, can quickly and easily find what you said about something that interests them.
In my case, this means that if someone refers a friend to this blog for small business success tips, they can use the search box to find information that is helpful to them. On the other hand, if they go to my FaceBook Page, they may have a good time, but they cannot search for anything. Your customers use the Internet to search for information, and a blog makes it easy for you to share the information your customers are looking for.
You can categorize content at your blog, but not on a FaceBook Page. This provides people with another easy option to find the information they are looking for.
I am amazed at how frequently I get comments and retweets on blog posts I wrote months ago. For example, yesterday Peter Houck, a man I do not know, retweeted Tips For Single Moms In Business, an article I published way back in June. Because Peter has nearly 300 followers, my ideas and expertise were shared with that many people and I didn't have to do anything additional to make it happen. With a blog, your ideas enjoy potentially eternal life because they are so easy to share. That's not the case with FaceBook.
For example, let's say you are an aromatherapy expert who sells essential oils, aromatherapy books and other accessories. If you blog consistently about aromatherapy, your blog can become a mini-search engine on the topic. After a few years, you can have hundreds of relevant text articles, videos and audio recordings that people will turn to again and again for the information they need to successfully use essential oils and aromatherapy products to enhance their lives.
With a blog, you give your customers, prospects, industry colleagues and other stakeholders (like the media!) opportunities to discover you as a resource to help them solve a problem or accomplish a goal. And if your blog also makes it easy for people to purchase your products, they will be more inclined to do so because your blog has shown that you are committed and trustworthy.
The consistent sharing of your expertise leads inevitably to opportunities to sell your products. You can also use the columns on the side of a blog to link to your e-commerce site. With a PayPal link, you can even easily sell products right from your blog if you'd like!
Search Engine Benefits. As noted earlier, while FaceBook status updates can appear in Google, as a small business owner, your updates are not likely to appear at the top of Google's search results. Also, your FaceBook Page allows you to use FaceBook Markup Language (FBML) to customize tabs like this one containing content that is picked up by search engines.
While FBML pages make FaceBook amazingly valuable, they are time consuming to create and most busy business owners won't update them regularly. And since search engines prefer regularly updated pages to static ones, a well maintained blog does a far better job than a FaceBook page to keep you fresh in the search engines.
You can also make your FaceBook Page even more search engine friendly when you use a blog to cross-promote it. For example, my FaceBook Page contains a “Social Media Training” tab that links directly to one of my blogs. The blog of course links directly to my FaceBook Page. The whole truly is better than the sum of its parts!
Every business is different, and every business owner has different goals. If you cannot find another hour in the day to maintain a blog, then skip it. Even the most attractive blog is a waste of resources if it's a ghost town. But remember that a blog does not have to have page after page of articles and fancy videos. Even a post once a week engages your customers and helps them relate to you in ways that helps you be successful and sell more products.
Even if you pass up the blog option now, I don't recommend that you write it off entirely. Technology changes fast today, and small business owners must always be aware of the new strategies that are available to help them promote their products and services. Even if you reject the blog option today, keep your options open by reading articles about how blogging is helping other small business owners achieve their goals. (I blog about blogging a lot, so feel free to subscribe to my blog using the “Subscribe Via Email” link in the right column. You can also read the posts in the Social Media category here.)
If you want to have maximum control over the social technology you use to run your business, you want to grow your personal brand and you want to make it easy for people to find, spread and comment on your ideas, a blog will get you all of that practically for free.
Questions: What other things should be considered? Did I miss any good points? What has your experience been?