Got a real social media stumper on your hands? Just ask Emily! Our resident social media expert is on hand to answer questions, no matter how big or small. This time around: how to find blogging success and whether or not to use internet slang in business communications.
Working with social media is practically mandatory if you’re an online entrepreneur. It can be really fun once you get the swing of it, but you’re bound to hit some bumps in the road. That’s where I come in.
Volusion social media expert Emily (that’s me!) is here to answer a couple of reader-submitted questions each month. Got a social media problem you need help solving? Feel free to submit your questions in the blog comments below and I’ll tackle them in future editions of the column.
Now, onto today’s questions:
1. I need some ideas to drive traffic to my site. Would you recommend a blog? If so, how often should it be posted?
I would always recommend a blog! Well, almost always. Here are a few indicators that you aren’t ready to launch a blog on your company’s website:
- You have no interest in writing or creating new content – without this enthusiasm, your blog posts will fall flat
- You’re so busy that you know you won’t have time to update more than once every few months.
- Your online store isn’t up and running yet (you might be putting the cart before the horse in that case).
Assuming none of those things apply to you (and I’m sure they don’t, since it sounds like you’re interested in blogging), then yes! I think blogging is a great idea. A blog will offer a space for you to share your news and thoughts in a long-form way, something social media really can’t provide. (You’ll be able to spread your blog content through your social channels and drive readers back to your site, though, so really it’s a win-win all the way around.)
The first thing you’ll need to do is select a platform. If you’re a blogging novice, I would recommend signing up for a WordPress.com account – it’s free and very easy to use, plus I like their designs and interface better than Blogger or other similar services.
As far as posting frequency goes, as my colleague Nathan mentioned in the comments of my last column, a couple times a week is a good goal to shoot for. If you haven’t read the blog post he linked to, check it out – Matt McGee has some very useful opinions on the twice per week rule.
Now that we’ve gotten the frequency question out of the way, here are a couple more of my tips to help you reach blogging success:
- Stay on-topic. There’s a difference between a personal blog and a business blog. It’s fantastic to have a little personality and perhaps include a humorous anecdote from the day-to-day life of an entrepreneur, but your company’s blog is not the place to vent about your relationship issues or to gush over cat memes.
- Don’t post if you have nothing to say. Twice a week is great, but if you’re strapped for time or ideas for things to write about, it’s better to hold off until you have something to write about rather than just churning out something boring because you feel like you “should” be posting. Give it time to marinate, then share something worthwhile when you have the time.
- Proofread your posts.There’s nothing I hate more than reading a business blog littered with typos and grammatical errors. Nobody is a perfect writer one hundred percent of the time, but do your very best. WordPress has a spell check function. Don’t be afraid to use it.
- Include images when appropriate. The internet has become such a visual medium, so spice up your blog posts with some relevant product photos or videos. Trust me, it will grab your readers’ attention much more than just a thick brick of text.
- As I mentioned before, share your posts on all your social networks to drive traffic back to your blog. This is especially important when you’re just starting out – how will your customers know you’ve launched a new blog if you don’t share it with them?
If you follow those pointers, your blog will be a great asset to your online store. Want some extra inspiration? Check out this article from a Volusion merchant whose blog has boosted her business to a whole new level.
2. How professional do I need to be on social media? Can I use internet slang like LOL or IMO? What about shortening words? I don’t think it looks that great to say “u” instead of “you” but it saves characters on Twitter. Is this okay?
Well, when I see businesses and brands using shorthand like “u” and “ur” on their social media, IMO it looks unprofessional. I usually end up just SMH.
Did everyone get that? In my opinion it looks unprofessional. I usually end up just shaking my head.
See? There’s one problem with using internet shorthand and acronyms right there – not everyone is going to understand them. Sure, by this point, LOL and BRB are almost universal, but some of the more obscure terms are going to be foreign to a segment of your customers and followers.
Regardless of the commonality of acronyms or shorthand you want to use, I say: don’t do it. Full words are much more professional. I’m not saying I never ever drop an “lol” in a chat or possibly shorten “though” to “tho” on my personal Twitter, but I wouldn’t do it on any social channel where I’m representing my company or business. It might be easy and quick to do (and trust me, I totally understand wanting to save as many characters as you can, especially on Twitter) but it comes off as unprofessional. Rule of thumb: if you could imagine a teenager on a soft drink commercial saying or texting it, it probably shouldn’t be part of your company’s communications plan.
Work towards brevity without resorting to these shorthand shortcuts. The more you practice, the better you’ll be. Although it may seem impossible to cut down at first, there’s always a way. Asking a friend or coworker to look over your writing can often be a valuable editing tool; other people are much better at cutting the extraneous stuff when it comes to your own writing!
Here are a few exceptions to the rule:
- Shortening numbers to “1″ instead of “one,” “3″ instead of “three,” etc. It’s not as formal, but that’s okay. Just don’t type “2″ instead of “too” or “to.”
- I find myself saying “Thx!” instead of “Thank you!” in my responses on social media sometimes. I prefer not to, but if I want to thank someone and that’s the only way to fit in, I’ll do it.
- You didn’t ask about emoticons, but I’ll address them for a second anyway. Too many smileys and you start to look a little crazy, but I think that as long as you’re using them sparingly, a basic J is okay, especially if you’re using it to clarify tone. For example “I didn’t realize you were doing that, but thanks” can come off as a little brusque, but “I didn’t realize you were doing that, but thanks! J” has a bit more cheer and friendliness to it. I see no problem with that. The basic smiley is the only thing I can endorse, though; let’s keep the frowny and winky faces out of professional communications.
Thanks for reading, and if you have a social media related question you’d like me to help you with, please drop it in the blog comments below! I’ll be answering 2-3 questions per month.
- Emily Teachout, Volusion