As of today, this is my best advice on how to get started with a business blog where the focus will be on a local audience.
First, what so I mean by a business blog with a local focus? I’m talking about businesses that work with people who live in close proximity to themselves, such as restaurants, real estate agents, auto dealers, movie theaters, and hardware stores. Businesses who could benefit from using the web to get and keep in better touch with people in their community.
Okay, the advice.
2. Subscribe. Sign up with Google Reader and subscribe to the blogs.
3. Check links. Local bloggers will talk about other local bloggers. And they may also link to other local bloggers from a column of their site. Use this to repeat steps 1 & 2.
4. Read the blogs. You’ll learn things you didn’t already know about your community and figure out who sounds like they know what they’re talking about.
5. Contact a blogger. Once you’ve found someone who you identify with on some level, send them an email and ask them out for coffee, beer, or Irish coffee. Tell them that you’ve been reading their blog for a while and are interested in learning more about blogging.
6. Blogger Conversation. Ask the blogger about how they got started, what motivates them to blog, and what advice they can offer you about getting started blogging (do’s and don’t’s). And ask them who else you should meet locally (other people who share similar interests, technical people who may be able to help you set up a blog, etc.)
7. Comment on blogs. Now that you understand the landscape a bit better, start leaving comments on blogs you read. Try to ad comments that add value to the site by expanding on what the author wrote, something funny, etc. Don’t be self-promotional.
8. Set up your blog. Choose a memorable name and a topic that will be relevant to prospective customers. Keep in mind that people won’t read your blog if you’re simply being self-promotional.
9. Start writing. Start slow, but on a set schedule. Provide something of value and see business returns over time from people who grow to like you through your writing.
10. Inform your blogging friends. Let your new local blogging friends know about your site. They may be willing to link to you from a future blog post, which will help you build your local readership.
At that point, you should be up and running and on your way to creating a great online relationship with your local community which should, over time, lead to new business with little to no hard-dollar costs (just time well spent).