A Step by Step Guide For SMEs to Set Up a Professional Blog
A blog can be the cornerstone of an SME’s social media strategy. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and My Space all play their part, but the blog is often what the other social media outlets are pointing towards.
So why does your SME need a blog, where can you get one, and how do you go about creating it?
This step-by-step guide takes you through the stages of setting up a blog before you get to write any content.
Having a blog allows you to communicate clearly and quickly with your customers in your own style. If you’ve got new offers to make people aware of, if you’re changing part of your business, or you just want to keep people up-to-date then a blog is the best way to do it.
Newsletters are costly, infrequent and cannot keep up with breaking news. Blogs are free, you can post as often as you like and with a blog your company becomes immediately open and accessible to its customers.
Your blog needs to occupy some space on the internet and there are a few ways to get your hosting space.
• Include a blog in your existing website. It may be necessary to buy a little extra space to set up the blog if you are taking this option and you will definitely need to speak to your web designer.
• Use a free hosting service such as WordPress or Blogger.
• Pay for a service like Go Daddy who have tailored blog packages, aimed towards those who are looking for a more bespoke blog.
Before deciding on the right option for you, do some research. What are your competitors doing? What will make you stand out? What fits your budget?
3-Who to use?
If you decide to use a blog hosting service, shop around to see what fits well and what you can work with. There is a lot of competition, so choose wisely and take your time.
WordPress is the most popular blogging software, used by over 200 million sites worldwide and the basic packages are free to use. You get a wide variety of themes to choose from with a WordPress blog, with the freedom to add and remove features (more of this in step 7).
Other popular blog hosts include Blogger, which is Google owned, one of the oldest blog publishing services and has several useful features including the ability to publish from Google Docs; and LiveJournal, which combines blogging and social networking.
The drawbacks of a free service are that you will be limited in what you can do with your blog.
These companies offer blog packages that are compatible with blog software but give more freedom in terms of design. This option is best if you want personalised design as well as the ability to control your posts through WordPress or Blogger.
Once you have chosen your hosting site you will need to take a domain name. This may be easy if your company’s name is quite unique, however if it isn’t, be prepared with some back-up domain names. Adding something to the end of the company name may solve your problem. For example, if ‘hertsbusiness’ is taken, try:
When buying a domain name you will be able to choose between.org.uk,.com,.co.uk etc. Lots of companies buy a domain name and simply redirect it to their blog as any free domain name will be followed by.wordpress.com, or similar.
Now you’ve decided to blog, chosen your hosting service and taken a domain name, it’s time to start building your blog.
If you’ve decided to go with free hosting then you will be limited in what you can do design wise, though that’s not to say that there is no choice. You can pick from a range of themes and try them for size by previewing what your blog would look like with each.
Another option is to use a professional to design your blog. This way you can get a bespoke site that is in keeping with your company’s existing design package and core colours (this is where you would use a company like Go Daddy for hosting).
It is almost up to you how many pages you decide to include in your blog. So look around other sites that you like and admire to see what they have gone for.
It is always worth having an About section to tell people who you are, but beyond that be as creative as you like. When you make a page keep in mind why your readers are visiting your blog and make sure that you have everything you need catered for.
A helpful hint when creating pages is to put it all down on paper first. Map out your blog, get some feedback and then go and put it all online.
7-Plug Ins and Widgets.
Plug ins and Widgets allow you to personalise your blog in a variety of ways. You can include a Twitter feed, category cloud, RSS feed, subscriptions and so on. The plug ins available to you will differ depending on your provider and theme, however you can download extras if you feel that they will add to your blog.
Try not to get over-awed by the options and add too much. Your blog will look cluttered and confusing if you go overboard with Widgets.
8-Reading and Writing Settings.
You’re almost there.
The reading and writing settings will determine what your readers see first when they visit your blog, how they comment and how you write. Pay special attention to the default settings if you have two or more categories for links and posts (for instance ‘Business News’ and ‘Market News’ might be categories under which you post). You don’t want posts to end up under the wrong headings as it could affect the layout of your site and the information your readers get from you.
9-Check Your Work.
Before you write your first post ask a colleague or associate who blogs to look over what you have done. You will have seen the layout so much whilst setting up that you might have missed something crucial. It’s also good to get the benefit of someone else’s experience.
Your blog is set up and ready to go. So get researching and write that first post.
For advice on posting, follow this link to a Social Nation UK article about blogging. If you get stuck setting up, Google the name of the hosting service you are using and the theme (for instance ‘WordPress Freshy’) and you will find lots of help and advice on how to manipulate the page to suit your needs.