How to promote your business on blogs

[This is intended for suppliers and businesses who post here but can be adapted to be used by any commercial interest.] Are you confused with social media stuff? Not sure how to jump in? Commenting on commercial sites can improve your bottom line because visitors are favorably disposed to businesses that leave appropriate comments. There is no better way to show their interests matter to you quite so directly. Best of all, you control your message.  However, to position yourself with authority and credibility, there are some practices you should avoid. Here is what not-to-do, what to do (even anonymously) and lastly, I include a cheat sheet on how to post a comment.

What not to do:
The two worst things you can do on a blog are to astroturf or post a business card or blurb entry. Of these, astroturfing is worse. It means one who pretends to be an impartial observer. Some businesses pretend to be customers and write glowing reviews of themselves. It’s really easy to pick these out. Here’s a recent example that was posted to my last entry on the Design Piracy Protection Prohibition Act:

Author: sewing scott (IP: 216.46.89.93, smtp.cfda.com)
E-mail: sewing.scott@[deleted]
URL:
Whois: http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=216.46.89.93
Comment:
As someone who sews at home for my friends and family I am not worried about this bill. I have read it and it only prevents the commerical reproduction and those who benefit from selling others work. It won’t effect us do it yourselfers… As a young designer I spend too much time and resource for others to steal from me. I am too small a company to fight the big guys which are represented by the AAFA. I used to work for a big company and was shocked that instead of asking us designers to design they would send us out shopping. We would bring clothes back to the studio and decosntruct them… I couldn’t do that so i left… This law is good for american designers and is not about an elitist group at all.

As this comment was posted from CFDA offices (the most strident lobbyists of this bill), you can see why this is considered to be astroturfing. It was also cause for a good laugh among kindred. Normally astroturf comments are deleted. It’s best to be honest about where your interests lie, making your points from a position of integrity. Besides, dishonesty reduces respect for your organization or position; “Scott” has only undermined CFDA’s credibility.

Posting business card entries:
These are rarely posted with anything but the best intentions. I really hate to delete these because these are often valuable resources for my visitors meaning my site becomes more valuable too. Here’s an example from Mike Benjamin who posted to A Fabric Sales Rep. I couldn’t publish his entry (below) but I really wanted to help him so I passed his information along to people I know in private:

I’m looking for sales rep in any area. We are a Los Angeles based wholesale fabric company. We have been in business for more than 20 years and we already established business locally and internationally. We are carrying a wide variety of fabrics in wide range of colors in stock; just to mention a few, we carry woven fabrics such as double georgettes, tricot lining, pebble georgette, high multi chiffon, poly rayon spandex, etc. We also carry laces, different kinds of silks, satins, fleece, charmeuse and many many more and in wide variety of colors. Please don’t hesitate to call me at the number below or email me at this address. We hope that you will give us a chance to do business with your company. Thank you and I am looking forward to talk to you soon.

Mike Benjamin (email)
Textile City, Inc.
741 E. 8th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Ph: 213 892 0585
fax: 213 488 4933

On blogs, it’s frowned upon to post your info without contributing to the conversation. If you’re a business, it is OKAY to have an agenda, just provide some advice (read others comments) or your opinion of the problem and what to do about it. At close, there’s nothing wrong with saying “I know this because…” or “In my experience at ….”. People will click on your information based on how useful you’ve been. It is best you don’t leave addresses, phone numbers etc in the comment field (the box where you compose your entry) because it gets cluttered and too commercial. People can contact you if you put your URL in the top part of the form, your name becomes a hyperlink. If you don’t have a web page, then by all means leave a phone number or email address. Returning to Mike’s example, he could have said something like this and it would have been posted:

Becoming an independent sales rep for fabrics involves XYZ (the more details the better). An ideal candidate has _________ experience but it depends on several factors like _________. As a matter of fact, I have an opening now for an independent sales rep in any territory. Our product line consists of ___________________. Feel free to call me (telephone) or email me (email) if you or someone you know is interested in this opportunity.

This will get Mike two things: possible job candidates and customers who want to buy his fabrics. As I said, visitors are thrilled with businesses that go the extra mile to participate on their turf. Robert Kahn at Reliable is good at posting comments. He used the medium to answer questions posted by others and to correct some inconsistencies in my entry. Posting good comments is a great way to get a blogger to feature you in an entry (as I have him) or to invite you to write a post (ditto). [As an aside, I’m glad I was able to find a way to post Mike’s information. He also took the time to thank me for the referrals I sent his way.]

Misc: Posting on old entries
Don’t hesitate to post a comment on a blog entry that is several years old for at least three reasons. First, your comment (and URL) will be indexed by search engines. Second, on this site, any new comment is posted to the front page so more people than you imagine will read it right away. Third, your comment may be sufficiently interesting that the blog owner will create a new post featuring your insights.

If you want to be anonymous:
My feeling is anonymity is to be respected but I request you make it obvious. It is traditional to put “anonymous coward” in the name field. The latter is a sort of joke, it says you have strong opinions but don’t care to be barbecued over a spit in expressing your views. Please be fair. You are free to disagree but personal attacks directed against others are deleted. You still need to leave a valid email address which no one but the blog owner can see.

Subscribe to comments:
When you leave a comment, there is a check box to indicate if you want to subscribe to the comment thread. This means the blog software will automatically email you if someone posts a comment after you, saving you the bother of having to remember to return. This will not expose you to spam; it’s no loss or gain to me which you choose but I recommend subscribing if it’s a topic you care about.

Moderation:
On my site, your first comment is held for moderation by default. This means I have to approve it. After that, your comments will go through automatically. If you include two or more links, it may be held for moderation. If you include more than four, the software (by default) has decided it is a spam comment and will display an error message. I find this very annoying, this site does it to me too. If this happens, you can email me and I will post it. By the way, you can find the blog owner by going to the top of the page and clicking “about”. All my contact information is there.

Last but not least, you can find the instructions on how to post a comment step by step at close. If you want to do fancy stuff like formating, this entry explains it step by step. Feel free to practice by leaving a comment in this entry and let me know if it was helpful or what needs more work.

In summary: blogging and business are entirely complimentary. Just give it a shot, you really have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

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28 comments

  1. Oh, excellent timing!

    My beloved and I are musing over this very problem right now. He has a cute animal product he wants to promote on pet-lover and cute-animal websites. He thinks it would be nice if I could spend some time helping him posting to fora about his cute animal product. (Not pretending to be an impartial user, being upfront about having made something cute that he thinks people who like cute animals will like.)

    We’re still trying to figure out how to go about this without being obnoxious (or if it’s not possible to do without being obnoxious, figure out how else to promote it). Since cute animal sites are not places it’s usually possible to be helpful, we’re a bit stymied. Yes, theoretically he could devote his days to becoming knowledgeable about pets and developing a reputation as a helpful person on pet-lover sites and using his signature to drive traffic, but his understanding of biology and behaviourism is limited enough that he would probably be unhelpful. Which is not desirable.

    Not looking for answers, but this is a great post. Thanks! (And anyone who has an iPhone should of course buy his cute animal iPhone app.

  2. Kathleen says:

    Great example Alison! Funny too. It’s harder to promote on social sites rather than commercial ones. Have you tried searching pet forum with the key word “lick” or “licking”? Marc (or you) could post this is so funny you developed an app for it. Or just leave funny comments and include a link in your sig file. I’ll always check somebody’s site if I like their comment.

  3. Ragga Katla says:

    Thats hilarious. How silly, dont these people know they should at least post out of hiding? Im not going to list the ways to hide for obvious reasons but one would think they would be a little more pro as undercover agents…

    I would love some more info on how to promote your line on blogs, if you are up for it Kathleen.

    Also – I was searching your forum for this – is there a specific name for a top-stitched front crease, that you know of? I mean like a bespoke/tailor term.

  4. Michele Q. says:

    This is really helpful –especially the part about commenting on old posts. I always wonder about that and in fact have been reading your archives and wanting to comment. Maybe now I will. . . providing I can remember which ones I wanted to comment on. :-/

  5. Jennifer says:

    Great post, Kathleen – really sums it up beautifully! And I’m glad to see you have the same rules for your comments that I have for mine – anyone can disagree, but it’s not okay to go on a personal attack.

    Hugs!

  6. Donna S says:

    I would like to see more on this topic, such as news letters vs. blogs vs. websites and how it all works together. My gut tells me that just putting up a website is not enough. It seems these are all powerful tools but misunderstood by many.

  7. Tammy says:

    I really love this site. I will give blogging another try with a little more influence on promotion.

    Ragga Katla? I think you may be referring to pin tucking. What you may see on bibbed tuxedo shirts or blouses. I hope that helps.

  8. Julian Hill says:

    Great post! I remember Microsoft getting some flap some time ago because they did a similar thing with employees posting anti-Linux stuff on forums but they also didn’t cover their tracks. I’m glad you had the nerve to call them out on their bad behaviour. I honestly don’t understand how PR people can afford to be so ignorant of social media.

  9. Sandra B says:

    I know that I should improve my blogging, but I overthink it and it takes me all day to write an entry. I also forget to keep up with it, so months go by. That’s why I never leave my website, I’m embarrassed :-) My best friend is involved with the association that’s been growing fabric from wine dregs, maybe they can grow me a thicker skin.
    That’s the first time I’ve ever used html code. Whoo hoo!

  10. Paul Wallend says:

    Hi Kathleen…great post! We’ve just begun building two blogs on blogger.com; one to inform potential investors of our fundraising activities/events and the other to inform our former and prospective customers of our business development efforts. We’ve also tested feedblitz and are now testing feedburner for email subscriptions and RSS feeds.

    I know you use feedblitz for your subscription management, but what are you using for your blog. It looks like the blog may just be one component of a more robust website framework…yes?

  11. Mark C. says:

    Good post, Kathleen.

    @Alison,
    My girl friend is a dog/animal *LOVER*, and while she doesn’t own an I-Phone, she would LOVE your product–ha ha! Good stuff! I’m gonna show it to her; she’s gonna get a kick out of that.

    Furthermore, I think that your post here is a prime example of how it should be done. It illustrates the importance of two crucial factors:

    !) having a cool/interesting product and,
    2) leaving a *sincere* comment.

    My having investigated your link is due solely to the sincerity of your post. I’m not particularly into animals. Having said that, I think it’s safe to assume that it’s not about *where* you post, but *how* you post: you could perhaps post anywhere and yield similar results. However, if you’re looking specifically for “cute animal sites”, try searching for “house pets” (for example) on WordPress.com.

    In any case, good luck!

  12. Kathleen says:

    Various people posted about promoting their lines on blogs. I’m the last person to know. But.

    I wish every designer had a blog. It provides a connection. Talk about everything from the mundane and frustrating to the exciting such as getting a featured write up somewhere. Do talk about your process. Take pictures of your sample maker. Introduce your stitchers and talk about them, their stories become part of your own. Let people see how hard you work. Post photos of your fiascos (makes you human). Always include your blog url in your email signature. Let people find you and they’ll tell their friends. Other bloggers will write about you and it just spreads.

    Caution: you’ll be bombarded with questions from others who want to get into it. You should probably establish a policy at the outset or create a one time post of useful resources. Hopefully you’ll include a link to Fashion-Incubator :)

    For a review of websites and blogging, see:
    Designer’s website design
    Designer’s website design pt.2 (includes blogging tips)

    Please, I beg you. No music, no myspace pages, no flash. Flash is the single best way to guarantee your content won’t be indexed by Google. For a blogging platform, search engines like Word Press best.

    Paul: Blogger’s not a bad choice to start with, I used that way back when. Didn’t want to invest in something better if I didn’t stick with it. I’m using Word Press now, previously Movable Type. Mine is a custom design, built with the most requested features from visitors. The site was designed and coded by Ashweb Studio. It was not inexpensive but it was a great investment. I’d hired another firm first but they were lousy. They put pictures of models in the masthead and froo-froo fairy fronds and doopty do fancy fonts that made me want to hurl. Didn’t even bother to read a few entries on the site even tho I told them it was tech heavy. AND they missed every deadline by weeks. Like I said, Derek isn’t the least expensive option but if you want someone who will do it right when they say they will, there’s a lot to be said for hiring a pro. And, he’s been great at fixing bugs that crop up.

  13. Ragga Katla says:

    Tammy:

    Thanks for the tip. Its not a tuck though as I would define a tuck as having a space (even if its only 1/16″). I just started an Etsy shop and Im trying to find a name to describe one of my products. So far Ive settled for “top stitched crease”. Not very impressive I know :-)

    Since this thread is about shamelessly promoting your products on other peoples blog I’m just going to go ahead and plug this in here:

    Kathleen:

    I think you are totally right on, I think people nowadays want to get a glimpse of the process. It makes the shopping experience more personal and Im guessing maybe it gives a feel of the item being special in a way. However I must say that I would be mad if someone took a picture of me (the sample maker) at work. But thats just a little side note, I dont think everyone is as camera shy as me.

  14. Megan H. says:

    My friend e-mailed me a link to this article this morning. We both work for a fire fighter clothing manufacturer. Because she’s the designer, she keeps more abreast of production and designerly information. :) I’m glad she sent this to me because I’ve been wondering about this topic a bit myself.

    I have started a little crafty/handmade business on the side, and have been juggling the creating, market research, and marketing in my spare time. It’s still very much under the radar (no sale as of yet), but it’s a good experience so far. Blogging is a bit new to me, but my instinct from the outset has been to be authentic. I’ve never really liked those who seem fake, and I can’t see that others would want that from me.

    I know I’m going to need to get into my “sales pitch” mode at some point (which scares me, frankly), but I wouldn’t dream of doing it on another’s blog.

    Regarding search engines and Word Press- what is it about that platform that search engines prefer?

  15. Megan H. says:

    Ragga Katla-
    What about “an embellished crease”, or a “defined crimp”?

    I’m not aware of a hard-and-fast sewing term for what you’re asking.

  16. Jennifer says:

    If anyone is looking for help setting things up on WordPress (which need not be expensive, even if you have a lot of custom features – mine works great and cost me nothing but a bit of time), I highly recommend Learn to Be Your Own VA.

    There you’ll find free tutorials on setting up a blog, some great and inexpensive e-books to help you along, plus extremely reasonable consulting.

    The best thing I did for my business – just opened this year – was start a blog. I don’t even call it my blog. It’s just my site – the products (I do more retail than wholesale) are on their own pages, but it’s the blog posts that get the search engine interested, and which grab readers’ attention. I highly recommend it – I have sold over two-thirds of my stock since April and am sure that wouldn’t have happened without the blog.

    And, BTW, no, I do not get any money from recommending that site. I just know him from his tutorials and from Twitter, and think he knows his stuff. Super approachable guy, too – which is a huge plus.

  17. barbmaslen says:

    Great article Kathleen, thanks. What does everyone think of all the other social network sites – seems to me that every business is appearing on facebook, for example, which I pretty much thought was originally more for a personal/friendship side of things. It’s going to take a lot of time for people to be on myspace, facebook, twitter, have a blog and have a website etc. – does anyone have advice on which of these are most effective? I can see the use in a blog and website, but wouldn’t be keen to go much further than that.

  18. Catherine McQ says:

    Ragga Katla:

    As a customer, I recommend that you describe Mister Pants (they’re adorable!) as pants with a stitched crease (or stitched-creased pants.) That’s how uniform and scrubs pants with this feature are generally described, so it’s a term that is likely to be clear to your customers.

    The term “top stitched crease” is confusing. It could mean that there is a line of topstitching along the crease purely for decoration, or there is a seam at the front of each pant leg which is reinforced with topstitching.

  19. Jesica says:

    Kathleen, I’m glad that you like the idea of designers having blogs. I just started one last week and I’m enjoying it a lot. I had considered creating one earlier, but I didn’t quite know where to start… as a designer who has no formal education in marketing sometimes I’m not always sure what is relevant or useful vs. what isn’t.

    I think using twitter has helped me to cozy up to the idea of social media in a slow and steady way. It’s nice to start off with just a sentence or two instead of whole posts. It’s a great way to make friends and learn the ropes a bit. When I got to the point where I felt like I had more to share, I knew that a blog was the next step. I don’t think anybody reads it right now but it’s nice to be able to make regular updates to my website and hopefully it will build a personal connection with customers.

  20. cdbehrle says:

    Just came across this and as a small independent designer with a blog. And must say blogging has entailed a long learning curve but has proven very helpful for my business. it’s great for keeping customers undated, showcasing new work, and as Jesica mentions building personal connections with both existing and potential customers. It inspires people to call, ask questions and often try something new, like having something custom made.

    It has also inspired me to take some excellent classes, at LVS online, (yes, this can be considered a plug) and they have proven to be a very valuable resource to uncover some of the mysteries of blogging, etc. for someone who never expected to have to do this kind of stuff!

    I am now in the process of getting up to some sort of speed with Twitter and Facebook, migrating all my blogs to WordPress, and onto my site and overall getting the whole shebang tied together to make even better use of all these valuable tools. & I heartily encourage any DE or aspiring DE to take the plunge.

    (And sorry, I have broken the music rule on my blog- I gave in to heavy bugging.)

  21. Migdalia says:

    thanks for the post. We all know that blogs are a great resource for information as well as a great source to drive business. As a newbie to blogging, this post has helped educate me on the right approach to give and gain. Thanks again.
    MIGDALIA

  22. Rotha says:

    Thank you all out there for all of your information and guides. I am so brand new to this blogging stuff. I never knew this world existed, I hated writing in school. Thank s to all of you out there for all of your help and information I didn’t know existed.for newbies. I never knew this side of a business. I just make pretty lingerie and get on a bus in San Francisco CA and go to store to lingerie store or strip clubs and sell it or at flea markets. I love what I do and that is creating beautiful undergarments and lounge around the or run around the city pieces. We as women get down on ourselves and we are very critical on ourselves. Weather it is the time of the month or life just gets us. I create beautiful pieces that make us feel good inside and that shines out. Now I know there is an easier way to get to the Masses.
    this is just like a big flea market.

    thank you all so much

    Ms. Rotha
    my company will be called
    Be In love with you.com

  23. Rotha says:

    OH YES I FOR GOT THANK YOU FASHION INCUBATOR YOUR ARE THE GREATEST THING NEXT TO FRESH AIR TO A ASTHMATIC.

    MUCH LOVE TO YOU ALL FOR THIS SITE

    Again Ms. Rotha of
    Be in love with you

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