By Jim Lauria
Just a decade or so old, blogging has become a powerful tool for marketing in the water industry—particularly the kind of content marketing that grows from thought leadership rather than flogging features and benefits. Water technology is particularly well-suited to blogging because it touches on some of the magic ingredients of a great blog: timely topics, big ideas and technology.
Describing the site he co-created, The Huffington Post, Kenneth Lerer said, “We’re at the intersection of content and technology.” So are those of us marketing water technology.
I’m a big believer in comprehensive content marketing programs, which engage a clearly defined audience with valuable, relevant and consistent content—ultimately, to drive an action. Blogs are a great tool for content marketing, so I got involved in blogging relatively early in the medium’s development. Since those first posts, I’ve become a frequent contributor to Water Online, The Huffington Post and LinkedIn Pulse. As a result, people sometimes ask me what the trick is to creating well-read blogs. There’s really no more of a trick to writing blogs than there is to sinking three-point baskets or performing stand-up comedy—it’s the product of practice and focus, followed by more practice.
Ideas Are Everywhere
Subjects for blogs come up constantly as I read books on water and business, or scan the news for headlines relevant to me or my customers. Some of my most-shared blogs were inspired by movies like The Creature from the Black Lagoon or The Big Short. (Another tip: song titles can be grabbers as long as they’re relevant, like the blog I titled “I’ve Looked at the Cloud from Both Sides Now.”) I constantly write notes as I encounter new information or angles that I can turn into a blog.
Playwright and poet Eve Ensler described blogs as “activist journalism.” I adapted that to our business context as “activist marketing.” My goal is to draw readers to the concepts that drive action in the water industry and creating a space for the water community—because we and our customers are indeed a very unique community—to explore the ideas behind what we do. It validates the point you’re trying to make and validates the reader for bringing his or her brain to the conversation.
One of the things that make blogs powerful is that they appear in context. People read them when they are thinking about water and work. My posts on LinkedIn Pulse are shared with my LinkedIn network, more than 3,000 followers, and the LinkedIn groups of which I’m a member. Links may also appear to new readers whom the software thinks could be interested in the subject—the immense power of the “if you liked that, you might like this” algorithms developed by LinkedIn, Huffington Post, Amazon and others that can connect you with untold numbers of prospective customers or partners. Some of my blogs have received hundreds of reads per day, and tallied up more than 2,600 views apiece.
It’s what Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, calls “the power of weak connections.” Of course, there are ways to strengthen those connections, and to strengthen your blogs.
First, make them relevant. Make them timely. That could mean hooking to events in the news, like a water main break or the release of important information on water-related topics. Holidays also make great hooks: one of my most successful blogs was a Valentine’s Day ode to women in water, which elicited a response from then-EPA chief Lisa Jackson.
Include a call to action. Ask for followers. Make your blog more than just a quick read—make it an invitation to a dialogue and an inspiration for action. The key to making that effective is to know your audience, deliver an idea (one idea per blog is a pretty good standard) that inspires them, and challenge them to do something relevant and achievable. It could be writing a congressman or reaching out to ratepayers or lobbying for important legislation. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something they can do.
Be yourself. If you’re funny, let your sense of humor show. If you like sports, run with sports metaphors; same could go for music, books and movies. Let go of the essay rules your 10th grade teacher drilled into you and listen for the sound of your own voice. Blogs are informal—even the word “blog” is a slangy contraction of “web log”—so let your hair down and encourage your ideas to drive your language.
Think about your brand. Not in terms of features and benefits (remember, features and benefits are for your website, not your blog), but in terms of the personality of your company, your products and yourself. Successful bloggers collect readers and elicit comments because they are seen as interesting and relevant and stimulating—thought leaders whose posts are likely to be worth clicking to and reading even on a busy day. Become that thought leader. A good deal of the success I have enjoyed with my blogs is built on the fact that the companies I have worked with are science-based, with leaders driven by issues and well aware of the context in which their products are used. That has given me license to use my interests in engineering, business, history and politics to develop a large and diverse body of blog content.
Last, don’t let a blog languish. Share it with your LinkedIn contacts and your email lists. Post links on your company’s website and Facebook page. Tweet a link and a key phrase from the blog. Then tweet another one. Share it with editors of water media who could find it useful in their coverage of the industry—and could find you to be a valuable resource when they’re looking for insight about your products or category.
Part of A Master Plan
That brings us to the most important thing about blogs: that they’re not the most important thing. They’re part of a comprehensive marketing program, a content marketing plan. They’re part of telling your brand’s story.
Think of blogs as the part of the story with a moral or a lesson to impart. When I am out telling Mazzei Injector Company’s story, it may start with a blog, but the plot then typically winds through radio appearances, articles in the trade media, and literature or web content. All together, they depict the various facets of our brand story.
Once you begin to see a blog as an opportunity for dialogue, thought leadership, and telling the juiciest part of your brand story, you’ll be on your way to mastering one of the most exciting and engaging tools in the social media toolbox and building a strong content marketing program.
Jim Lauria is Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Mazzei Injector Company, LLC, a fluid design company that manufactures mixing and contacting systems. He holds a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering degree from Manhattan College and has over twenty years of global water treatment experience in the agricultural, municipal, industrial and commercial markets. Jim can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.