Blogging is the latest innovation to take the web by storm. According to blog tracking firm Technorati, there are currently 14 million blogs with 80,000 more being added every day. And 30 percent of all 50 million internet users are blog readers. In short, a lot of people are reading and writing blogs.
Yet despite their popularity, you may be one of those people who doesn't really know what a blog is or what relevance blogging has to your business. In this article, I hope to answer those questions and cover the basics of using blogging to deliver favorable business results.
So just what is a blog and why should you care? Basically, the word "blog" is short for web log, a frequently updated web-based journal that's intended for general public consumption. So what do people write about? Anything from personal stories (from the mundane to the bizarre) to theme-centered creations (finance, politics, parenthood) to businesses (philosophies; updates; branding methods) to...you name it!
And while writing a personal blog can be fun, business blogging can be a powerful tool, allowing you to communicate with a significant number of consumers and achieve many of your business objectives. And best of all, these results can be delivered in a very cost-effective manner.
Let me give you an example. Scobleizer is a blog written by Microsoft middle manager Robert Scoble. Scoble's openness and responsiveness to comments--both good and bad--have helped put a personal touch on a company that many previously saw as an evil empire. Not that the blog has changed everyone's perceptions, but it's certainly giving a human face to Microsoft and helping to soften its image a bit, something that will ultimately impact business results.
Here are some additional advantages for businesses that blog:
- Word-of-mouse. Because so many people have access to electronic forms of communication, it's easy for information to spread quickly. If you have a great new product, an innovative idea or an exciting marketing strategy, you can be sure your blog readers will pass it along via e-mail to others who will pass it along, too. Soon, your marketing message has reached hundreds if not thousands or millions of people.
- Speed. If something goes wrong or if you have quick-breaking news, a blog can get the word--or your response--out immediately, much faster than any other form of media.
- Awareness and loyalty. Purchasers of your product can read about it, post comments and engage in discussion. You can respond. Others can comment. This personal communication can create an open, honest, trust-building dialog that will make consumers more aware, more willing to try your products and more loyal to your brand.
- Feedback. Businesses can find out immediately what people think of their company, products and ideas. But be warned: This takes a thick skin, as all feedback is not positive. But if you're really willing to listen, this information can be invaluable. Better yet, feedback can be generated quickly--over days, if not hours. A blog can act like a never-ending focus group that gives a company great insights into their consumers' thoughts, likes and actions.
- Community halo-effect. Overall, most bloggers are friendly, helpful (by linking to each other's sites), and eager to cooperate to make the blogosphere--the collective group of blogs--a better place. By simply being an active part of the culture, you get the benefit of the doubt and your product becomes one that bloggers will consider purchasing.