It is an indisputable fact that the world’s economy is moving more toward the online model of exchange. Amazon and Google stand as icons of companies that began as small projects, only to grow into massive successes, largely due to the successful marketing of their services. The question then arises, how can a small business take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Web in order to make a profit?
Same as it Ever Was
At its core, online marketing follows the same principles as any other means of marketing – a provider has a product or service they wish to sell, so they advertise in order to draw potential customers’ attention to the information they’ve put together. Just like television commercials, online marketing has to be creative and informative to truly catch the attention of the discerning customer. We’ve all heard of popup and banner ads that do nothing but hog resources and annoy potential customers rather than attract them to the product, and that result is hardly healthy for any business.
And Now for Something Completely Different
One method that sidesteps the click-away tendency is the use of a blog to market the product. Blog is a shorthand term for web log, and refers to a serial, online journal or record intended for regular viewing. Examples of blogs include noncommercial ventures such as personal diaries posted to Livejournal, the daily record of campaign events for the more tech-savvy politicians, and ‘hobby’ blogs that cover an activity such as cooking or model airplanes. However, they can also include outright commercial ventures, such as a blog intended to promote a new product, consisting solely of video posts explaining the various advantages to the new product.
It’s Easier Than Herding Cats
Some blogs strike a balance between these two extremes. Consider the highly successful LoLCats website. This site began solely as a hobby, posting humorous images of cats. However, due to effective word of mouth promotion among people with similar interests, the site grew quickly, spinning off additional sites and generating an extraordinary amount of advertising revenue. The site has grown so much that Time magazine reported the company was purchased for two million dollars in 2007.
Now, this result is obviously not the norm. For every cheezburger success story, there are thousands of blogs that toil on in obscurity, accomplishing nothing at all. The differences can be many, but they can be boiled down to concerns relating to effective marketing.
Give it the Old College Try
Let’s say that a user named Ron has a passion for low budget college cooking, and wishes to make money writing about it. Ron starts a small blog, using the popular WordPress blogging system, and begins posting two or three times a day. He posts recipes, money saving ideas, and ‘bet you didn’t know’ material, building a decent sized archive. To get an audience, Ron begins visiting and participating in cooking and college related forums, mentioning his blog and its goals to his audience, gathering new users with patient, active efforts.
Eventually, Ron takes two steps toward commercial success when he monetizes the blog through an advertising revenue program (such as Google’s AdSense), and by using the blog to promote his new eBook, ‘Collegiate Cuisine’. To hook readers, he promises not only recipes he’s already included on the site, but special tips on inexpensive ways to get cooking tools and a few new recipes he hasn’t shared yet.
Will this model work? Perhaps. If Ron is too pushy, he might turn people off to his product before they ever come to his site. If he’s too timid, his message will get lost in the tide of the Internet. If he chooses poorly in the ads he allows on his site, users won’t click and the ads will generate no money. So the second key is research and careful attention. Ron and other blogging marketers have to study the market, pay attention to peoples’ needs and input, and adjust their presentation accordingly.
But is There Any Money in it?
To return to the point that there is money to be made in blogging, one would be remiss not to pay attention to the successful Problogger. In the classic ‘make money teaching others to make money,’ tradition, this is a blog that makes its revenue by teaching users how to make money through professional blogging. Many other sites, such as FreelanceWritingGigs, swear to Problogger’s integrity and efficacy and the site does provide a great deal of information. So there clearly IS money to be made in the blogging-as-marketing world.
Back to the Basics
The key to blog marketing is the same key to any business venture, appropriateness. The savvy businessman will evaluate their entire business, and do the research to determine if blogging is a vital addition to what they’re trying to accomplish. Blogging allows for a wider audience than local advertising, which could lead to expanding into nearby cities, or shipping to distant locales. It is an option that should seriously be examined, and approached with the same degree of research and caution as any business venture or proposal.