The term has become so common that most people don’t know that “blog” is a condensed version of “weblog.” It is not a new form of communication, by any means. People have been blogging since man began painting on cave walls, really; it’s just that the tools have changed and the definitions of writing styles have evolved a bit (but just a bit). When the Internet was still without its graphic interface, the World Wide Web, there were the bulletin boards and file-sharing services that allowed the distribution of text files.
Even though the Internet traces its roots way back past Al Gore to the DARPANet (Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration) in 1969, not every article in that era was a description of biological weapons or a flight-simulator log. People would rant, discuss, argue and hold forth on any number of topics. The term weblog seems to have started, some folks say, with one Jorn Barger, who would “surf the net” (not his phrase) and keep a log of what he found interesting, then comment on some of it. As words have a way of doing, “weblog” became “blog” and now they’re everywhere, and everyone has one.
Why don’t you have a blog?
The fact that there are so many blogs is perhaps the most compelling reason that your company should have one. It is no longer noteworthy to have a blog; today people will wonder why you don’t have one. You probably know a lot of reasons why you should have one for your firm, whether your business is plastic extrusion, audio engineering, IT consulting, or anything really. What you need to focus on are all the benefits you are forgoing by not having a blog that represents your product, service or organization.
One immediate benefit is that you are validated as being up to date, a 21st century cybercitizen. If no one knows a thing about your firm except that you have a blog, there is a lot that can be surmised from that one fact. It signifies being computer literate, technology savvy, thorough, and communicative. As mentioned before, it seems odd now when companies don’t have a blog. It was well over a decade ago that having a Web site became an absolute must for businesses, and for a time it was de rigueur for individuals, as well. Now, folks can have a blog instead of a Web site and maintain just about the same level of “cool factor”—but you, as a businessperson, need both.
Quick connections, extended reach
Up-to-the-minute information is no longer good enough. Things change by the second, which is why texting and Twitter have become parts of the communications toolkit, too. A sense of immediacy, the need for updates on a continuous basis, has driven the development of these technologies. However, these are bandwidth-limited and one-dimensional. A blog, on the other hand, has most of the benefits of your Web site—it can carry text, display images, stream media and link to other destinations—but is easier to manage and update. You can make changes at any time without calling the IT department or waiting on your webmaster. This business benefit is immediacy—of contact, information delivery and feedback, all crucially important to any business.
Extending Your Network
Another big benefit is the same thing realtors talk about all the time—location, location, location. You’ve got another location that will be indexed, spidered, cataloged and listed in special blog directories. It can become a side door to your main Web site, or a completely separate site altogether. In any case, the network of links, in both directions, will both differ and grow independent from your business site’s links, too, so you’re capturing more (and more varied) visitors—a business benefit we’ll call “extended reach.” A blog increases the range for your corporate message: it allows greater flexibility of presentation, and has a “personal touch” that makes it friendlier, thus making your message more accessible and absorbable than a business site.
Dialogue with customers (and fans)
Regular, consistent and consistently high-quality blogs will attract a readership that will learn to trust you. As trust is established, your visitors will give you more than just brief feedback. They will engage you in discussions that could result in both of you (as well as your other readers) learning something quite valuable. There is no telling what might happen when you are out there in cyberspace meeting and greeting new people. A blog gives you the opportunity to teach and learn, another broad and valuable benefit.
Finally, because of the less formal look, feel and operation of a blog, you can take chances you might not take with your business and/or e-commerce site. You can try focused promotions, test new marketing ideas, gauge the effect of a new advertisement—and you can be right up-front about the fact you are doing these things. It’s a blog, after all, so you can ask things of visitors that you would not ask a Web site visitor that you’re trying to convert into a buyer. You can be more casual than you could at your business site.
Use common sense and go for it
None of the foregoing should be interpreted to mean that you can just cut loose and rant about politics, religion or your in-laws in any offhanded manner that you choose. If your business name is on that blog, you are still representing the firm and its interests. Yes, you can post personal photos and take the occasional tangent, just as you can commend an employee for a job well done or offer discount coupons for a spur-of-the-moment sale. If it’s a business blog, however, there is a reasonable standard of decorum expected of you and everything that carries the company name.
That said, remember what the benefits are—validation, immediacy, extended reach, flexibility, accessibility, dialogue, teaching and learning, experimentation and test marketing—and use your blog to benefit your business, its Web site and its future. Go forward with the desire to offer as much as possible, and you may be surprised at how much you receive in return.