This week, my Monday blues were forgotten about for two hours when I attended the Blogging for Business event organised by Belfast City Council. Hosted by the living embodiment of #girlboss, Cathy Martin, she was joined by NI’s best known makeup artist Paddy McGurgan, digital content expert Leanne Gannon, and local solicitor defying stereotypes of her profession, Dorcas Crawford, who created the hugely popular #BelfastHour community on Twitter.
As part of the council’s Enterprise Week 2019, the event was aimed at businesses using blogging, social media and other forms of content creation to further their brand and sales.
First up was a fascinating insight into how Paddy runs his business and maintains his personal brand. He owns two brick and mortar stores and offers a range of professional makeup courses, as well as being an established authority on all things makeup.
The nature of his business lends particularly well to visual platforms like Instagram, but he stresses that you should make use of the free inbuilt analytics that often come with such platforms to research your target audiences and know which channels are best to reach them. This doesn’t mean that you should just stick to one platform however, as each one has their own benefits. For example, Facebook tends to be more suited to longer, informational posts.
As consumers become much more aware of selling tactics, they look towards authenticity, honesty and transparency in the brands they purchase from. Paddy stressed the importance of building a relationship with your customer base and encouraging a sense of community among them.
Particularly refreshing is his approach to influencer marketing- it’s a two-way relationship with his brand ambassadors that allows them to review the products they are genuinely interested in rather than pushing the same product on everyone at once.
He also makes a real effort to champion his employees and followers, featuring them and the beauty looks they create, helping them to build their own followings. And well, since this was a business-oriented event, he highlighted how these activities can also generate a lot of usable content for the brand.
When it comes to your own business, Paddy says to have fun, be relevant, authentic and find your own identity. Great advice as people increasingly want to buy into a brand or personality before your products.
As Cathy points out, the traditional long-form blog still plays a big part in your business strategy. It’s a great tool for organically boosting your SEO and ‘findability’, especially useful for smaller companies with limited budget for paid search.
A blog can be a great extension of your brand, connecting with not just your customers but also your business stakeholders and keeping them informed. When you’re writing, it’s important to remember the tone of voice of your business and the audiences you are targeting.
Of course, not everyone has the time or skills needed to blog consistently. Thankfully this is where people like Leanne come in. Her business, She & Co Digital, offers a range of copywriting, digital content creation and other marketing services for brands online.
One handy tip that she highlights is something that many bloggers may not have considered- repurposing your content. This could be taking an old post and putting a new spin on it, updating it with more recent information or simply changing the headline.
Having a bank of evergreen content takes the pressure off when you don’t always have the time to write from scratch and is a great idea for seasonal or holiday-specific content.
Finally, if you’re a Belfast based business of any size, you should be on Twitter on a Thursday night between 9-10pm. This is when the #BelfastHour community started by Dorcas is active. What began as a resourceful marketing tactic to drive business to the Edwards & Co. Solicitors website has grown over the past 5 years into an uplifting platform for local businesses to engage in some powerful online networking.
With 600-700 weekly participants and a reach of 2 million, what better way to get your brand out there. With tales of solid friendships forming and regular shout outs on U105 radio, it’s an invaluable resource. Dorcas emphasizes that you need to be honest and engage in such situations if you want to make the most of it.
It’s important to remember that if your business is on social media then it is a two-way conversation and you should be prepared to engage with those who reach out to you, even if their comments are on the negative side.
Whilst there was a lot of technical talk during the evening, the biggest takeaway I got from the event was that your blog and social media can be a valuable extension of your brand, but it is important to be authentic and honest. And don’t forget to have fun!