Blogging for Startups: Back to the basics

Blogging has become one more thing that bootstrapped startup teams must add to their “To Do” lists. Content creation drives marketing these days, and insightful, informative thought leadership is required of any business that wants to attract a following of potential clients.

We’ve previously discussed WHY your startup should blog – now let’s dive into actually making this happen.

When blogging is added to a team without an editorial department (or an editorial person, for that matter) the responsibility often touches everyone. This can include founders, coders, designers, and the barista who serves you free refills all day and doesn’t charge you rent – in other words, ANYONE who is willing to write a post.

One thing that people often forget about blogging, is that blogging is writing, and writing isn’t easy – especially if you aren’t a writer.

If you want your team to produce quality content and create a successful, shareable blog, then it might be time for a refresher course on writing and blogging. I’ve spent 3 years developing an adventure travel blog, and now run the blog for Skaled. For those of us who are trained and experienced online writers, it’s easy to forget that some of the skills we’ve developed are not obvious or accessible to those who have never published a blog post.

So let’s get back to the basics, and cover some tips for helping your whole team start writing kick-ass content for your startup.

 Start with an outline

Remember creating those boring, bulleted plans for your English papers in high school? Outlining your blog posts doesn’t have to be that painful, but it can be equally helpful in mapping out the arguments you’d like to make.

The biggest writing flaw I see in inexperienced bloggers is creating a post that winds and turns and runs on tangents like a stress-infused daydream. They set themselves up to make one argument in the beginning, present a story that follows another argument in the middle, and conclude with something that doesn’t acknowledge the intro or the body.

Clearly defining your intro, your conclusion, and the points you’ll make in the body of your post will help you avoid this.

I find it helpful to write the conclusion first, so I can return to it while creating the meat of the piece to ensure that everything remains cohesive. I write the introduction last, after I’m familiar with the path I’d like to send my readers  on.

 Write a GREAT headline

 

Upworthy headlines have become all too easy to replicate and make fun of, but considering the fact that their articles average 75,000 likes on Facebook – they’re obviously doing something right.

That something is their curiosity inducing catchiness that pulls you straight out of work mode into a raving activist for neglected puppies.

Don’t create a hyped up headline that you can’t deliver on, but do take the time to craft a headline that inspires curiosity and get those click-throughs! The best way to do this is to make a list of every possible headline you can think of, and keep going past the sensible ones. Consider keywords you’d like your piece to be searchable for, but if something beautifully wacky comes to mind that will pull readers in — forget the keywords and go for the gold!

 Show, Don’t Tell

Stating theories and making claims isn’t worth the time it takes to type them if you aren’t providing proof. Are you writing about social media and the benefits of including images in your Facebook posts and Tweets? Share a statistic about image shares and a screen shot of your own Facebook posts to compare, side by side.

You may be an expert in social media, or sales for startups, or Texas Holed ‘Em – but that doesn’t give you a pass to serve up your knowledge without a side of evidence. Look at your blog posts as an opportunity to brag (in a helpful, informative fashion). Provide case studies, testimonials, and always consider what type of details would make your piece more engaging, more convincing, and more informative.

Also remember to refer to outside sources in backing up your arguments. Tying in reputable sources will serve to help your own reputation, and show that you’re willing to put in the research in providing the best content possible.

Don’t Force It

A strict blogging schedule can be deadly to anyone who struggles with writing — and even sometimes to those who don’t. Forcing content when inspiration hasn’t struck can lead to the type of bland, pointless posts that float through our Twitter feeds like dead leaves down a stream — no one notices a ripple, and no one cares.

Wait until you have a rock to throw into that stream and make a splash. (And try not to use too many metaphors unless you really can’t help yourself, like me.)

That being said, a schedule can be really helpful in attracting a dedicated following. People like routine — they want to know that they can rely on new content and aren’t visiting your site to find the same stuff, again and again.

Uphold a schedule without forcing it by keeping a brainstorm board of topics to choose from. Setting up a newsfeed of applicable content to your industry is also a great place to find inspiration. Visit your brainstorm board and your content feed regularly for inspiration, but when all else fails and the writing won’t come — wait it out instead of producing garbage.

Read More

You probably enjoy a little competition or you wouldn’t be working for a startup. You’re scrappy and innovative and you’ll fight to be the best.

So get out there and see what other people are writing. Reading blogs by startups and writers you admire is the best motivation for improving the quality your own.

Not only will you be motivated to improve, you’ll be soaking up all their writerly skills while you read. The more quality writing we absorb, the better our own becomes.

Stephen King said it best. “Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

One of my personal favorites for writerly motivation is Copyblogger. I love this site and I also hate it, and someone already wrote an article expressing that same sentiment — but I swear I felt it first. The writing on Copyyblogger is so insanely precise, entertaining, and effective, that I typically finish a piece feeling frustrated that my own sentences don’t pack the same punch. But then I put my fingers to the keys and make it happen, driven by the motivation to improve.

Find a source of writing that focuses on topics similar to your own, but does it better. Read them often and claw your way up to their level.

 

Creating a thoughtful, effective blog is a full time job that even professional writers struggle to excel with. Your startup team probably isn’t made up of writers — but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your heads together and produce great content for promoting your business.

The more you do it, the easier it will become. You’re already a startup founder, a coder, a designer, a salesperson… and with a little dedication, you can be a blogger, too.

What do you find to be the hardest part of blogging for your startup?

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