The Way We Work
September 7, 2011 by Julia Camenisch

Have you tried to start a blog to promote your business and no one seems to read it? Or have you jumped into the world of video and/or audio podcasting and gotten frustrated because your audience has slowly tapered off? Well, don’t give up on your efforts quite yet. Maybe it’s time to take a second look at your blog or podcast's content and style.

While both podcasts and blogs are powerful tools, simply throwing random "blah blah" into one of these media tools is no guarantee of success. You’ve got to have a plan to provide compelling and interesting content that keep your audience coming back for more. Take a look at the following examples to find ways to improve your blog and podcast content:

1. Divergent content rules.

In all honesty, the blogging world has gotten quite crowded of late. There’s a blog in almost every genre for almost every audience. That’s why you’ve got to set yourself apart. Take a look at blogs that are covering similar information. Then take a second look. How could you set your blog apart?

A great example of this type of innovative blog can be found at Footnoted.com. There are quite a few blogs covering the financial world, but Michelle Leder discovered a niche. She began exploring the financial and legal minutia contained in SEC filings, then blogged about her discoveries. Because her information was unique and timely, she was able to transition from a free information portal into a site that offered both free and paid content. For more info on how she did it, read this Inc.com story on how to build a blog based off your personal brand.

2. Don’t sell to people. Teach people.

Because one of the purposes of your podcast is business promotion, it’s easy to get caught up in selling. Unfortunately, few listeners will tune in regularly to an infomercial podcast. Instead, make your goal to teach people. By presenting useful, relevant information, you will position yourself as an expert. And when your audience is convinced of your credibility and knowledge, they’ll be more likely to buy from you.

As an example of this, check out Wine Library TV. Gary Vanyerchuk’s goal with his highly successful podcast series was to educate consumers about all things wine related. In doing so, he’s also boosted his own wine company, Wine Library. But brand promotion hasn’t come from constantly hawking his store. Instead, it’s come naturally from customers that view Gary as a trusted expert and so choose to buy from him.

3. Give your audience a say in the content.

So you’ve figured out your niche and are providing your audience the information they want to know. Now take your blog or podcast a step farther: incorporate your readers and listeners into the very fabric of the presentation.

The first example of this is a Wired Magazine contest held several years ago. One of their writers went into hiding, and readers were offered a cash reward if they could find him within 30 days. Did it work? Without a doubt. A whole community sprang up around the search, daily checking the Wired website, talking incessantly on Twitter and connecting with each other through Facebook.

While you may not want a squadron of bounty hunters on your tail, you can still involve your audience by making them a part of problem solving. Don't just talk. Ask questions too. Then let them share their knowledge with you and the rest of your listeners.

The second example comes from the podcast produced by Greenfeet.com. The podcast producer, Valerie Reddemann, makes it a point to involve listeners by reading their letters and e-mails during the show, and even interviewing them on occasion. When your listeners help create your content, they’re automatically going to be invested in following you and in encouraging their friends and family to listen as well.

4. Have a guest, be a guest.

No matter how great your content is and how hard you work to engage your listeners, it's still important to do some guerrilla marketing of your blog or podcast. One especially effective means of generating new traffic is through guest blogging.

Guest blogging works one of two ways. First, you can invite other bloggers or business owners to write a post for you and then include a link to their site as part of the deal. They’ll usually return the favor and point people to your site in order to read their post. Not only does this technique increase your blog traffic, but it also allows you to cover subjects on your blog that while not your specialty, are still of value to your audience.  If you’re looking for talented guest bloggers, check out some of our oDesk freelance writers.

Second, you can guest post on other blogs. This is a great way to build your blog’s reputation as it’s no longer just you promoting your work. It’s another blogger that recognizes the value of your content and wants to share it with his or her readers. That type of recognition give you a new authority with both your existing readership and with the traffic generated from the guest blog post.

Some blogs, such as Problogger, issue an open invitation for guest post submissions. For other blogs, you might have to pitch them on the idea. But if you can provide well-written, relevant content for their readership, they’re likely to be open to the suggestion. Here’s a great article on Problogger about how to successfully guest post. And as for examples, check out the stats on this post about the results of guest blogging.

By focusing on uniqueness, involving your audience, sharing useful information and networking with other bloggers and podcasters, you’re going to create a media source that works. Check out the examples listed above for a more in-depth look at each technique. Then share your own! What methods have you discovered for growing and maintaining your audience?


Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to oDesk a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.