Illustrated by Sarah Steenland
One of my favorite startup stories is of Scott Heiferman, co-founder and CEO of Meetup. He had carried fancy titles at companies like Sony and never thought he’d be getting into the game of a startup that fostered a local community. That is, until September 11 happened, and he found himself living in New York surrounded by neighbors whom he didn’t know and who didn’t have a good tool to assimilate.
And so, the idea for Meetup.com was born, to bring together solo hikers who might want to do a group hike, or photographers who want to meet up and do a photo shoot. There are groups for people who have anxiety and need support, and singles who want to mingle.
When I just looked, there were 156 meetups within five miles of me. In those groups, there are anywhere between five and 200 members. Heiferman created a startup to bring people together, to self-educate, and to collaborate. The community is tight and gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Then there’s the blog. Sure, we run business blogs, so it might seem like I’m biased, but I think every business should have a great blog, and Meetup is only a quarter of the way there. The benefits of a business blog:
Bring in search traffic and introduce people to your business who don’t already know about you.
If the only content on your site is on your homepage, nobody is going to find you in search unless they already know who you are and are looking for you specifically. You can hire an SEO firm to keyword-up your joint, but a blog does it better and more naturally. An interaction should look like this:
Oh, hey there, Google, just looking for some fun activities in Providence, Rhode Island. Oh, neat, a blog post about fun things to do in Providence … good ideas! Oh, wow, there are 25 different “Meetup” groups that do fun things in Providence. What’s a Meetup? Sounds fun! Sign me up!
Personalize your company so people like you.
Yes, it’s high school all over again, but let’s be honest: People want to buy things from, support, and sign up for companies that they like.
Wistia, our spectacular video host, publishes a great business blog. It’s full of videos and stories. When people comment, they address the writer by name and moreso than other blogs, they feel compelled to tell the writer when it’s good, rather than trying to pick a fight like you see on so many other blogs. It’s the one place where you can really show people who you are – your soapbox, so to speak. It’s also where you educate and establish yourself as a business that’s passionate about the market you’re in.
Turn web traffic into leads.
It’s all fun and games until you drop the ball. One of the most important elements of your blog is the architecture. Is it set up to capture an email address or a signup on the spot? Is there a simple text ad to sign up embedded in the middle or end of the post, perhaps?
No offense to Scott and his team, who are busy running a rockin’ cool business, but Meetup’s blog, like many startup blogs, is a bit of a snoozefest. It’s not odd or rare that their blog posts are mostly updates about the company; in fact, it’s completely normal. But as someone who manages company blogs for a living, all I see are lost opportunities. For example:
- Send a videographer out on a Meetup with some of the top twenty Meetup organizers. Create a video that illustrates what happens at a Meetup, and the type of people who join. Do this to inspire people to join similar groups in their area, just like how AirBnB interviews their hosts and inspires travelers to stay in new, interesting places with people whom they’ve never met.
- Ask top Meetup organizers to contribute to the blog. Ask them to pull together stories of recent Meetup adventures complete with photos and tips. When people visit the blog, they should be overwhelmed by the smiles, laughs, and happiness of members enjoying the site and the connection it offers.
- Answer simple questions, so that people in search engines will find the blog and instantly be inspired to join a new Meetup. There are 2,400 people per month searching for the “best things to do in Chicago,” according to Google. Write that post, then link to the top Chicago activity Meetup groups.
The goal of all of these things? Inspire people to use and sign up for Meetup.
Your blog is quite possibly one of the best tools for generating new customers, subscribers, and signups. We’ve found that it can generate 70% or more of new leads for businesses when done effectively.
Now, it’s your turn. You have a startup, so what are your goals? How can you use a blog to achieve them? I have lots of ideas – just ask!