Author: Yogi Schulz
Blogs are a comparatively recent phenomenon to gain prominence in the vast expanse of the Internet. A blog is a publicly-accessible online journal for an individual, a small community or an organization. The term blog is a contraction of the words web log.
Before you dismiss blogs as an ego-trip for those with too much time on their hands and an inflated view of their own opinions, consider that businesses are beginning to view blogs as an important communication channel for maintaining contact with customers and prospects.
What is a Blog?
Blogs consist of a series of web pages that contain the dialogue the author is keeping with other readers. Each reader is free to contribute, contradict or expand on the themes the author is writing about. The motivation to contribute is usually passionate excitement or frustrating annoyance.
Most blogs that generate high readership and an avid discussion are maintained by a small group of collaborating authors. Sharing the authorship keeps the effort manageable and broadens the range of opinions.
A big advantage of blogs over web sites is that blogs are more dynamic and up-to-the-minute than even well-maintained web sites. This interactivity aspect of blogs maintains interest and enhances communication.
For a quick look at personal blogs, surf to www.blog.ca. For a look at a blog discussion of the current Canadian political scene, launch www.canada.com, click on National Post and then the As I Please link.
What are the Benefits of a Blog?
For businesses, the benefits of a blog are increasing communication with customers and prospects. Blogs provide valuable insights into customer thinking that is difficult to achieve with interviews or even well-designed surveys. For example, blogs produce ideas for new products, provide early warning of product deficiencies and indicate if consumers are encountering difficulties using the product.
One of the more prominent blogs is authored by Mr. Bob Lutz, the Vice Chairman of General Motors. You can read the dialogue at fastlane.gmblogs.com. Feel free to contribute to the discussion. It’s extremely rare that a senior executive from a major company authors a blog. But then Bob Lutz is working hard to solve a major problem (turn around troubled GM) and appears determined to innovate in new ways.
For an overview of blogs with business topics, surf to www.allbusiness.com/blog/metablog.asp.
What are the Hazards associated with Blogs?
Most blogs contain harshly critical remarks. Some of these remarks border on slander and character assassination. Many blogs suffer from postings that exhibit poor wording along with grammar and spelling problems.
Businesses tend to view these free and sometimes irresponsible postings as hazards that can tarnish their carefully burnished image and to their vigilantly managed brands.
Critical postings should not be viewed as annoying irritants. Rather, they offer an opportunity for the business to challenge the viewpoint and state its case with carefully crafted responses. Such responses confront the critics, clear up misinformation and refute rumors better than any advertising campaign or press release.
A tempting but devastating action a business can take is to remove offending postings. Such removals (blatant censorship in the view of some) undermine the free and open exchange that attracts bloggers.
What is the Commitment associated with Operating a Blog?
Starting a blog brings with it a commitment to respond to the dialogue appropriately and quickly. The commitment costs staff resources. Not responding to the postings turns a blog into a pulpit for your critics. Abandoning a blog is worse than not having a blog.
A good way to kill a blog is to ignore postings. Another way to kill a blog is for the web site to be unavailable due to poor technical management. Letting the marketing department mangle the blog with an inane gimmick such as a contest or a survey can kill interest in a blog.
To build interest in your blog, post appealing, useful and insightful comments. Posting a little humor sprinkled with opinion and a touch of sarcasm builds buzz. Above all stick to truth and minimize spin.
If you want to add a blog to your existing web site, contact your web content manager. If you don’t operate a web site, surf to www.squarespace.com for a good example of a service provider. The pricing page includes an excellent list of technical features that ensure a successful launch of your blog. Let the blogging begin.