It may seem daunting for small business owners to attempt to create, produce and publish a blog with original, localized content. However, I have been able to create a fairly inexpensive, simple, and easy process to do just this as the head of marketing at a Jacksonville real estate brokerage EXIT 1 Stop Realty, with my company’s blog, Top of the Coast.
I have been able to utilize my rich background in journalism to create Top of the Coast, a branded media outlet that has been incredibly successful in the three years since it was created. I have outlined the process, tools, and advice I have learned below which can easily be recreated by any small or medium-sized business.
First, you need to begin the research process in which you assess what other similar types of content in your industry are already out there. In order to do this, I suggest that you do an analysis of influencers in your industry. I did this when I created Top of the Coast.
My company is in the real estate industry and therefore I looked at dozens of industry blogs. I knew I wanted to keep our content focused on hyper-localized subjects. I found my inspiration by looking at the websites and blogs put out by city magazines.
I leaned on my background in journalism which gave me an instinct of what constitutes a good feature story. I realized these city magazines had sections on local art, culture, shopping, and neighborhoods. Also, almost all of them had a comprehensive home and garden section, which was the key to tying everything together for my industry.
I was inspired by one city magazine, in particular, Maine’s Down East magazine, which had a large home section on their website called Main Homes. I saw this section already featured a lot of content that was sponsored by local real estate brokerages but that type of marketing can be expensive for a smaller business. Therefore I then decided to cut out the middle man, in this case, the city magazine publisher, and create our own media outlet with content and design inspired by these sites.
I had found that the content published on our blog could be crafted to attract our target audience which is local home buyers and sellers and anyone thinking of moving to the Northeast Florida area. Once I decided to do this, I began the process of designing an original brand.
The key to developing your media outlet brand is to create a brand centered around addressing subject matter and content that is relevant to your industry. First, you have to choose a great name. I chose Top of the Coast which references Northeast Florida, also known as the First Coast.
After your brand is designed it is time to create your media accounts. I began Top of the Coast by creating a WordPress Blog. I suggest that you upgrade to a paid premium or business version of WordPress so you can have access to advanced templates and a better domain name for your blog.
Once you create your WordPress blog it is important to create other social media accounts for your media brand as well, these social media accounts will be the main way in which you promote your published content. I created a Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook account for Top of the Coast and connected them to the WordPress blog.
WordPress allows users to embed buttons that drive traffic to their main site or sell products directly through their blog. We did this with Top of the Coast. I designed a button and embedded it on the blog that would attract viewers who were interested in real estate. The button simply says “Northeast Florida Real Estate: Ask the Experts,” and it directs those who click it to the main brokerage website.
Do not be discouraged if you do not have a background in journalism. I have found that the careful planning and creative packaging of your content are much more important than your interviewing and writing skills. It is easy to stay organized and on task if you create a content plan and calendar. After you do this you can input dates and times for which you schedule interviews, photo, and video shoots. Make sure to give yourself time to gather research for future articles and content as well.
One of the many benefits of generating your own localized content is that you will develop relationships with the other local businesses you feature and establish your brand in your local community. This is where your customers are. I began doing this with Top of the Coast immediately and have had success with it. I have incorporated a feature video or article on a local attraction, business, or person into our blog at least monthly, sometimes more so. I make sure to show preference to other small to medium-sized locally owned businesses such as ours.
There are a lot of surprising benefits of doing this, such as reciprocated mentions, likes, and shares from the business accounts you feature. This has happened countless times with Top of the Coast. For example, on a feature story for the blog on Valentine’s Day dates in St. Augustine, the St. Augustine Lighthouse shared our post with their 60,000 Facebook followers after I highlighted them in our piece.
This type of free publicity is highly valuable. Also, through my effort to promote these types of local businesses I have gained access to the social media audiences of a multitude of local companies, all of whom fall into our desired target audience. It is a win-win situation for the business involved.
After you have been successful in operating your blog and social media accounts you can expand your media brand in the future by adding a YouTube channel like I did with Top of the Coast. A YouTube channel allows your media brand yet another platform in which to publish and promote your content and is compatible with WordPress blogs.
You can also integrate an email marketing effort into your media plan using my system. I did this for Top of the Coast using the email marketing platform Mail Chimp. It is easy to integrate a subscriber button onto your WordPress site. This gives you the ability to gain subscribers who visit your blog. A regular newsletter with a simple recap and repost of content you have already created for the blog can be another easy way to stay top of mind with your audience. The possibilities are endless in what you can do once you have established your blog. There are a variety of online media platforms which are compatible with WordPress in which you can cross-promote and repurpose your content.
Finally, it is easy to measure the success of your marketing campaigns with this plan. You can use the built in WordPress analytics to measure traffic to your site or add Google analytics to it. The integration of Google analytics onto a WordPress site is fairly simple. Also remember that your content is going to be published, promoted, and repurposed through many channels online, each of these will give you different tools to run analytics.
I encourage any small to medium-sized business to try the system I have outlined above. It is truly an effective way to incorporate your local market into your content marketing and produce content that is localized, creative and unique.