Blogs are getting a lot of attention these days, and as with any Next Big Thing on the web, it's good to study the trend closely and separate the reality from the hype. So, how big is blogging these days? Here are a few simple facts:
- 39% of American adults (57 million) are blog readers (as of July 2006)
- 11 million people, or one out of every 17 American citizens, have created a blog
- Every 7.4 seconds a new blog is created
- Blogs Will Change Your Business was a Business Week cover story.
Want to know more? You should. Blogs are revolutionizing the way consumers and small businesses communicate. Before we get into the why and how, let's begin with a brief definition.
A blog (or "weblog") is a frequently updated website with entries (or posts) listed in reverse chronological order. Because of the way sites are indexed, blogs show up higher in search engine rankings than non-blog sites. They are content-specific and keyword-rich, more personal and interactive than websites, and more accessible than email. Additionally, a blog can be linked to any other internet form, allowing the information to be discovered, tagged, indexed, and shared. Blogs can also use RSS feeds to notify readers whenever a new post has been added.
The power of blogs is in their connection, either business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C). Connection happens in the blogosphere (a network of blogs) through features such as a "blogroll" of recommended sites, a "permalink" identifying each new entry, comment features encouraging interactivity, and reciprocal links to related information. This interdependence creates a network that enhances the buzz around you and your business.
Another basic difference between a blog and a typical videographer website is that it's a bit more abstract. Instead of directly conveying your selling message or showcasing your work and offerings, it's advertising you. This raises the basic question: Why would anyone want to read what I might have to say in a blog, and what does that have to do with promoting my business?
As a videographer and small-business owner, you are an expert, due to the unique knowledge and experience you bring to your field. In order to grow your business and enjoy success, it's necessary to leverage that knowledge. We're living in a video-driven universe right now, with YouTube, MySpace, Google Video, and AOL bringing video to the center of the web and the vanguard of public consciousness. And as a professional videographer, you're both better at it and more knowledgeable about it than most of the people whose work is populating YouTube and MySpace.
Now is the time to take advantage of this opportunity to showcase your work and possibly even train others to do it too. Begin to brand yourself around a topic or idea, and you will reach your business goals. Blogging is one way to make that happen.
Five Goals of a Blog
The first thing you need to decide when you build your blog is what you want to accomplish with it, and what it can do if successful. Here are five things you can expect a good blog to build for you and your business:
- The Traffic: Every small business wants to increase traffic to its site and gain more qualified leads. Blogs build traffic through higher search-engine rankings and results.
- The List: The reason to generate traffic is to begin building a list of qualified clients or prospects. These leads are low-hanging fruit, and small businesses are much more successful when they cultivate their current client list.
- The Expert: A blog is your calling card. It showcases you as an expert and can help you achieve expert status in the eyes of your readers. In The Weblog Handbook, author Rebecca Blood writes, "Individuals whose weblogs focus on a particular topic become known as experts in their field. Providing a reliable resource for news about a certain topic is enough to gain you a dependable following among fellow professionals or aficionados."
- The Brand: The reputation-building blog is vastly more concerned with its audience than any other type. Celebrities and pro athletes, newspapers and mass media outlets are bloggers too. It's not about equipment; it's about personality.
- The Sales: Blogging builds connections—sponsorship from manufacturers, referrals from other vendors, and new clients. If you have loyal blog readers or fans, when they need your service, it will be a small step for them to choose you for the job.
In our fast-forward, wireless society, everyone is busy. We struggle to balance work and family or work and play. Adding one more task or responsibility to your already full calendar can feel overwhelming and nearly impossible. The truth is that if you view your blog as something ancillary or incidental and try to find the time, you never will. Once you recognize blogging as an integral, invaluable marketing tool that can differentiate you and set you apart from the competition, the next step is to prioritize and make the time.
The best strategy we have found in balancing blogging with our other marketing and business activities is to create a block schedule. By creating a block schedule each week, you assign specific tasks in different chunks of time. For example, Monday morning is your administration time, Tuesday and Wednesday are editing days, Thursday and Friday afternoons are marketing. Once you have your block schedule created, plan blogging during your marketing time.
Then, during that time (preferably three hours), you will write your two to three weekly posts. This should be plenty of time since you will most likely already have the video clip that you want to show ready and can simply add a bit of text to it. You may even want to establish a purpose or goal for each week or create daily themes: Montage Monday, Wednesday Reviews, Feature Friday.
Keep in mind that blogging is simply one more tool in your marketing mix. It will enhance what you are already doing and begin to build your brand and reputation for expertise in the industry.
Strategies and Style
Content is king, and nowhere is this clearer than in the blogosphere. You must provide value to your readers in order to keep them coming back. Whether your focus is on entertaining, informing, inspiring, or educating, be clear and give them something to talk about, link to, and share with their friends. Add sight, sound, and emotion so people remember you. "A blog with good information, links, and a memorable voice will draw attention and hold it," writes Biz Stone in Who Let the Blogs Out? That's your goal: draw attention and hold it.
Once you know you have solid content, make sure that you keep the quality high. Too often blogs begin with good intentions, but quickly lose momentum. Don't let this happen to you. Report accurately and regularly with concise, relevant, professional-quality posts. The vast majority of blogs are simply online journals or diaries describing mind-numbing events like eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or clipping toenails. If you keep your content and quality professional, you will immediately set yourself apart and begin to rise to the top.
The last two strategies to employ in blogging are consistency and focus. Minimally you should be posting two to three times a week. Some weeks this may be difficult, but on average you should strive to add new content in that range. New content should be tightly focused on a particular subject. Make sure you maintain a clear focus so that readers know what to expect when they visit your blog. Do not try to be all things to all people. That's the quickest way to lose your audience.
Know Your Audience
So, who exactly is the audience for your blog? When weddings and events comprise the bulk of your sales, brides and family members will be your audience. You will want to post your most recent wedding, biography, and bar/bat mitzvah work. If your clientele is primarily corporate clients, use your blog as a list of client case studies.
Each post can detail what you did for your client, then show the corresponding video. Your blog will be a natural extension of your website's portfolio. This is not a replacement of your website portfolio, but another resource to strengthen your online presence. You wouldn't want to upload all your videos to your website portfolio as that can be cumbersome and overwhelming. In contrast, blogs automatically archive old posts and naturally lend themselves to a larger representation of your work.
Second, the categorizing feature makes it easy for viewers to jump directly to the videos they want to see. On our blog aimed at brides, we have video categories for Same-Day Edits, Love Stories, and Reel Weddings. If we want to show a potential client all of our Same-Day Edits, we email them the permalink to the "Same-Day Edit" category of our blog. Then, only the Same-Day Edit posts appear.
With each blog post, it's valuable to add a write-up providing some background regarding the video and to give the audience context. Use the post to highlight vendors you worked with, then link back to their site. This is another area where your blog (vs. your portfolio) comes in handy. After you've finished the post, send the permalink to all the vendors you mentioned, as well as to the video clients. Viral marketing comes into play as vendors and clients share the link with friends and colleagues.
Getting Started with Video Blogging
The blogosphere is dominated by three main platforms: Blogger, TypePad, and WordPress. These are the standard and most widely used and recognized. They each have their benefits and drawbacks, but we recommend the latter two for business blogs due to their ease of use, cost, and customer service.
A "video blog" is a blog comprised primarily of video posts. You may not know it, but you are already familiar with video blogging. Ever been to YouTube? Then you've seen video blogs. The individual videos and corresponding comments and rankings are essentially vlog posts. As we mentioned earlier, video is immensely popular on the internet. As a producer and owner of video content, you are perfectly poised to create a video blog.
Embedding Video into Your Blog
We won't go into the details of how to get your videos on the internet; Jan Ozer's Dare to Stream, will give you the information you need to get your video online. We'll escort you into the blogosphere from there. Once you've uploaded your videos to your host provider, it's time to add it to your blog. Many video hosting providers understand the growing popularity and power of blogging, and have therefore made it very easy for the end user to add video content to their blogs.
Regarding the format of your embedded video, if you want the largest possible audience, Flash Video compressed for versions 5 or greater is your best choice. If the highest quality is more important to you, and you're confident that your audience is up to date with the latest video plug-ins, Apple's QuickTime 7 or greater is ideal (there's a reason all the studios post their trailers on Apple's website in QuickTime). This isn't a Mac vs. Windows thing either. QuickTime is readily accessible on both platforms.
Some of you may be reluctant to put many of your videos online for fear your ideas or work will be stolen. It's an understandable concern. However, in regard to stealing ideas, there's nothing new under the sun. Everyone is influenced in some way by someone else's work. If anyone did try to steal your "style," chances are they wouldn't be able to do it as well as you. With regards to someone actually stealing your video, you can add a logo bug, watermark, and/or URL to the video. That will hinder most thieves. Also, embedded Flash Video is nearly impossible to download, so that adds another level of safety.
Blogs are Here to Stay
Whether or not you are ready (or even have the desire) to enter the brave new world of blogging, you need to know that blogs are here to stay. Every day, they become more popular and more embedded (no pun intended) in our society. Particularly if you're in a socially oriented business like wedding and event videography, blogs will be both an invaluable and, dare we say, mandatory addition to your marketing repertoire.
Ron & Tasra Dawson are co-owners of Cinematic Studios, a 2005 Diamond Artistic Award winner for the concept video Bridal Boot Camp. Both were speakers at the 4EVER Group's Video 07 conference in Jacksonville, FL; Tasra's seminar addressed the marketing potential of blogging for videographers.