From Fortune 500 companies to that mom and pop flower shop just up the road, just about every business is throwing its hat into the blogging ring these days. And it’s no wonder. Business blogging drives search engine traffic to business websites, helps business owners develop intimate relationships with customers, establishes expertise and helps create a distinct and compelling sense of personality and voice. But in order to achieve these branding benefits, business owners need to treat their blogging efforts like a business unto itself. Here are our top tips for doing just that. Develop an Authoritative Platform Read any good guide to business blogging and the first thing it will emphasize is the importance of establishing expertise. That can mean a few things, including: Writing expert “how to” or opinion articles on industry trends. Giving customers an up close look at your approach and the results you’ve achieved for others through case studies and reportage on company activities. Linking to the most cutting edge expert articles, and having authoritative guest bloggers write posts for your page. Doing all of this in a unique, authentic and personable voice, avoiding jargon altogether. Together, these techniques will work to establish your site as a go-to place for the best information in the industry. Create a Content Strategy In order to keep content consistently interesting, relevant and on theme, creating a content strategy is key. But where to start? Get to know your audience. Who is your demographic? What are their interests? What’s your own story, and how does your business fit into the lives of your ideal customers? Research (and use!) keywords. Google’s Keyword Tool is your friend. Start with any keywords you personally associate with your industry or business, and scour the results for commonly searched keywords with low or medium competition rates, which you can then use to brainstorm topics that answer customers’ burning questions. Set and measure specific goals. Do you want to dominate a certain keyword? Increase comments on each post? Be as specific in your content goals as possible. Create a content calendar. Brush up on all of the most important dates within your industry, load them onto a calendar, and plan to post relevant content around those specific dates, leaving breathing room for breaking news. Better yet, pick regular weekly publication dates so customers know when to expect more great content. Identify your market’s form gaps. Do your competitors rely mostly on written content? Add a few videos to your site. Do your competitors rely mostly on videos? Try a photo slideshow for a top ten countdown. The more varied your content style, the more likely your customers will be to comment, enter the sales funnel, and generally be engaged with your distinctive brand. Incorporate Social Media Just as you wouldn’t create a thousand advertising leaflets and leave them in your warehouse, you can’t create content with a “build it and they will come” mentality. Consider social media to be your go-to distribution channel, and also your best way for developing intimate relationships with your customers. Use social media to: Let customers and fans know about your newest blog content and products. But remember, branding in this hyper-social day and age means sounding as human and as accessible as possible, not like an advertisement. Keep it casual, personable and in voice. Develop relationships with key influencers. Share other industry articles you love, and reach out directly to influential bloggers both by commenting on their blogs and proposing guest posts. Nurture relationships with potential and current customers. Monitor your social media feeds carefully, and start meaningful conversations with customers, responding to tweets and directing them to your content only when it’s relevant. Try to avoid that annoying and meaningless direct message after you receive a follow, “Thanks for the follow! Check out my blog!” which reads only as an advertisement. The rumors about blogging are true; there’s simply no better and more cost efficient way to build your brand than with a good blogging strategy. But to make the most of your efforts, it’s important to actively work on building your platform, get social, keep it consistent and, most of all, be yourself.