This seems to be the new question that is popping up in business and social circles around town, across the country and throughout the world. A year ago almost nobody, except those who were really hip, had heard of blogs, and now they are one of the hottest topics on the internet.
What is a blog? A blog is a reverse-chronological log that is hosted on the web, or also called a weblog (blog for short). It can be either formal presentation or a random connection of thoughts. It can have posts from one author or many. There can be open commenting from the general public, or strictly just snippets from the blog’s owner. Individuals, companies and political pendants now have blogs, as they are a very easy tool with which to communicate to a wide audience via the web.
Before the 2004 presidential campaign I had never heard of blogs (I guess I am admitting that I am just not terribly hip). During the campaign both Republican and Democrat supporters began to break news (and some fake or fabricated news) on blogs capsdoc.com . A lot of information on the Swift Boat Veterans issue and the CBS Memogate stories were put into the public domain, not by the established news media, but rather by the bloggers. For better or worse, these blogs on both sides of the political isle were widely read and they themselves were one of the big stories of the 2004 election.
Following the November elections, the term blog (or is it “blawg”?) has started to become a household term. I would regularly hear people talking about friends who were “blogging” their vacation, or corporate CEO’s who interacted daily with customers via the “company blog”. In March I attended a marketing seminar on blogging. At the start of the program they surveyed the audience about blogs, and most participants, like myself, had never read or written a blog.
That was when I decided I wanted to figure out why someone would blog in the first place. Since I am a frustrated want to-be writer, I decided to give blogging a try. I am releasing my first book this summer, Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships, and decided that if nothing else, a blog was a good way to help search engines, like Yahoo! and Google, find my website. With this in mind, I decide to make the topic of my book, networking and business development, the theme of my blog.
Thus Some Assembly Required – The Business Development / Networking Blog was born in March of 2005.
Since my book was not due out for another four months, and because the blog was just and experiment, I decided to keep it a secret. I wasn’t looking for any publicity, nor did I care if anyone read my posts. This was just an exercise in regularly writing articles on a topic that I know something about. The benefit was that linking my articles to my book’s website, it quickly succeeded in the goal of helping the search engines find the book’s main page.
But then it got interesting. The more I researched how the blogosphere operated (blogosphere being the cyber world of those who blog), the more I realized that there is a whole blogging community. I discovered that one of the things bloggers do is to create links from their page to the pages of other blogs that they respect and read. I had uncovered many other business, marketing and sales oriented blogs that I began visiting, and linked to these pages from my blog. I also installed a piece of software counted how many people visited my blog. At first there was just one per day, and that was me. But then I started noticing the count was rising. Through my participation in the blogosphere, people were finding my blog and reading my posts. A couple of bloggers would quote my posts and link to my page. I started to receive emails from people who praised my work and then people I did not know began to pre-order my book.
As a business owner who likes to stay up-to-date on the latest marketing methods and technology, you probably already know how blogging can help your business. There are many benefits of having a company blog, and a great many business owners have already discovered the advantages that are to be had. But if you aren’t sure how to use your blog for your business, here are some ways that your blog can be used.
Customer relations are one use for a company blog. Opening up the lines of communication with your customers is the first step to excellent customer service – and you can learn a great deal from your customers. Print the URL for your blog on receipts, business cards, and brochures to build interest. You can also use your company blog to get customer feedback about your products or services. Again, you can learn a lot from your customers, and use the feedback to improve your products or services and give customers more of what they want in the future.
Company blogs are great research and development tools. You can ask your customers questions about what they want or need. Tell them what you have in development, and what it will do, and ask them how you can make it better. You can even run contests for your customers through your blog, offering the product in development as a prize to the person who comes up with the best idea.
Once you have developed new products or services, you can use a company blog to introduce your new product lines. Keep your customers up-to-date on what is developing or changing at your company. Past customers should be your first customers for your new products and services – and this will happen if they have had a positive experience with you in the past. A blog adds to that positive experience.
You can also use your company blog to teach customers how to use products or services. You can use the blog to answer technical support issues as well. Many companies turn their blogs into a series of how-to articles that are to be used primarily by their current customers. This method has also been found to increase interest – and sales – for products as well. People always want to know how to improve something in their lives, and you should use this need to your advantage!
You can drastically improve employee relations with a company blog. Your employees have private lives, and often, they have happy news that they want to tell the world. Allow them to tell their fellow co-workers their happy news on the blog. Some companies hire a person to maintain and up-date the company blog. People within the company contact the blogger with their news, and the blogger blogs it. This is a great way to boost moral at your place of employment. You can also use the company blog to keep employees up to date on projects, new products, training sessions, or company policy.