Strictly Business: To Blog or not to Blog?
Posted Jun 13, 2007

Blogs are the hot thing right now and frankly, until recently, I just couldn’t figure out why. Sure, it’s kind of fun to read my stepdaughters’ blogs on MySpace and LiveJournal. But it seemed to me that a lot of videographers are blogging simply because their videographer buddies are blogging, with- out much thought to how their blogs can be used to generate new business. As a result, there’s a lot of “Gee, your blog is great! How’s mine?” happening on the public videography forums.

I could see where a blog might be good for stroking the ego, catching up with friends, or chatting away the hours while editing a wedding video, but I certainly didn’t see where it could really work very well as a valid addition to one’s marketing toolbox. And that’s my business, after all—to help video producers become more successful in their businesses.

Many of you younger producers are probably wondering what the big deal is. You have active blogs and participate in the blogging community. Maybe you already appreciate the benefits.

But for me, and others of my generation, there’s a tendency to drag our feet when something new comes along. Sure, we might have recognized that rock and roll was here to stay—but blogs?

What would be the benefit to having a blog in addition to a website? It seemed to me that the goal when creating content for a blog is the same as it would be when creating a website: getting the search engines to read it, getting your prospects to read it, and getting them to start a sales dialogue with you.

Maybe there is a benefit to having visitors post comments about your thoughts or your articles. It could be argued that by posting their comments and having you reply, they get to know that you’re a real person. The ability to have a give and take with your visitors is an extremely powerful tool, and one that could prove beneficial to your business if you’re attracting potential clients to your blog.

On the other hand, what’s likely is that for the most part you’ll be trading expertise with others in the business, and there are plenty of forums in which to do this. I preferred the electronic newsletter and web articles; both offer feedback and the chance for a dialogue with my readers.

So why bother with a blog, other than because you can post as the spirit moves you? This frankly seems to be what a lot of bloggers are doing—and it’s not always a pretty sight. I decided to pose the question “To blog or not to blog?” in some online forums earlier this year. I wanted to hear if (and how) blogging was benefiting business. I found much of what I thought earlier to be true—there are a lot of blogs out there, but not much useful content. For example, Chattanooga-based video producer Kris Simmons said, “I read a few every now and then, but even the blogs that supposedly have the targeted information I’m looking for often fall short.”

Videographer Case Marsh commented, “The blogs I’ve read have mainly been running commentaries on somebody’s world. Lots of opinions. Relatively little real meat.”

Bob McCroskey of Mousetown Video Productions responded that he indeed had a blog which he started about a year ago, but “it still has the same 20 words as when I started it. Probably due to a couple reasons—I didn’t really know what else to put there, and, with all the stuff I do and directions I go in, blogging is the last thing on my mind.” Sound familiar? That could have been me speaking!

And then John Easton of Eastonsweb Media proposed that the key to making a blog work for you is to create one that’s of value to your clients and prospects. John wasn’t talking about discussing today’s politics or your dog’s new trick with your family or friends, or the relative merits of the Thunderbolt XV-7 digital camcorder with your videographer buddies. Nope. One that’s of value to your clients and prospects.

He had recently videotaped a conference and, with the client’s permission, published a recap of the conference on his blog. The client pointed anyone interested in a recap to that blog.“ I had five companies call my office this afternoon [in response to] the post,” John wrote. “This response rate blows direct mail away and the economics are equally compelling. Even without the response rate, I am getting visitation from 80 to 150 people per day to the post, and all are in my target group. That is great exposure by anyone’s definition. It takes multiple contacts to convert a customer and I am beginning a relationship with a lot of people.”

Duane Weed of DW Video and Multimedia told me he was working with customers who wanted to keep their information updated on their website but didn’t have the technical skills to do so. He set them up with a blog that would work within their website for easy updating. Always a good idea—supplying your clients with value-added services.

Next, I read an article written by Jenni Goldman and Jessica Gordon for PDN Photosource, wherein wedding photographer Christopher Becker states that posting images on his blog after a wedding shoot generates excitement from both his clients and vendors. The bride and groom may go on their way but the vendors remain, and consistent vendor interaction is, of course, the key to generating referrals. No reason why wedding videographers couldn't do the same thing, eh?

consensus among Web 2.0 Now that's the kind of marketing tool I can get behind. I wanted to hear more. Here's what I found that successful bloggers are saying:

Blogs are much easier to set up than websites; they are (for the most part) free, and they have a large and strong community network. Not only do they give a platform to the kid who wants to talk about spring break antics (and the preponderance of such blogs is what causes so many people to downplay their business potential), but they offer a very efficient way for experts (like you) to engage an audience of people who want and can use your expertise. But in order to make blogs work for you as a business tool, there are certain things you need to keep in mind. The first thing to do before starting a blog is to answer the question, “What do my prospective and existing customers want?” The blog should reflect that in everything you post there and all types of content you include. Remember, the blog is not about you, it’s about the customer.

Position yourself as the expert—which, as we’ve discussed in this column before, is what you are. Consider this an opportunity to educate potential customers. Interview local industry experts—wedding planners, venue managers, DJs—or bring in people who will talk about the value of video as a marketing tool. It’s always an effective strategy to bring in other credible voices to convey your message.

You know the value of video, but do your clients and prospects understand all the ways in which video can be used? Take this opportunity to tell them.

Your blog should be keyword-rich. It has huge potential to attract search engines to your web site.

Update your blog two or three times a week. Doing this during the time you set aside for marketing (you do set time aside for marketing, right?). Don’t think you have nothing to say—share articles, instructional sites, whatever is relevant. Again, you’re the expert, and your blog should convey that.

Remember, when you post an update to your blog, search engines are automatically pinged. The more “ping,” the more visibility. Plus, if your blog offers RSS feeds--and the general consensus among Web 2.0 pundits (if not most bloggers themselves) is that it's not an according-to-Hoyle blog if it doesn't--your frequent visitors can get automatic and direct notification when you've posted something new.

There is a huge and growing network of established bloggers that no website or forum community comes close to matching. Once you tap into this network, your posts, work samples, and company are put in front of a mass of targeted prospects.

To be a successful blogger, you must zero in on your customers’ wants, write great copy, write frequently, post on other blogs to build relationships, and keep it about them, not about you. It’s not really that difficult. Like any other marketing tool or strategy, it just takes time and perseverance.

Used effectively, a good blog could bring in great business results, and you really won’t know its potential until you invest some time in it and start stocking it with useful content. As one of my readers stated, “Not having a blog certainly hasn’t hurt the growth of my business, but who’s to say that I couldn’t grow faster if I did have one that my target market cared about reading?”

As Ron and Tasra Dawson stated in their April cover story, Building Your Business with Video Blogging—which discusses not just the value of blogging for event videographers but how to go about building a blog and what to put there— “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 … 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.”

So—am I sold on blogging as a valuable marketing tool? I’m not sure yet, but, after updating my own blog, I’m willing to give it a try. Long live rock and roll!

Steve Yankee<.strong> has more than 35 years of video production and marketing experience and is the founder of The Video Business Advisor in East Lansing, Michigan.