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Should Your Business Blog?

by Eileen Parzek

In the last year or so, the concept of blogging has come to the business world - an interesting situation considering that the "phenomena" of blogging dates back to the mid to late 90's and suffered along with everyone else during the dot com collapse. In fact, in 2000, as I was traveling back and forth to Los Angeles, I blogged my consulting adventure. Like many first time bloggers, I also enjoyed the antics of the early blog celebrities in much the same way one might channel surf day time TV. What is fascinating about the blog revolution was how much it mirrors the early days of the web, when it was awash with the self published "home pages" of individuals. But much like the web soon evolved into a commercial environment, blogs are alive and well today, and becoming a channel of business communications. Let us look at what they are and why you might consider blogging in your business.

A blog is shortened version of the term "weB LOG." Most people think of blogs as online diaries because personal bloggers usually write whatever stream of consciousness they want in their blog. No doubt, there has certainly been an air of exhibitionism and voyeurism to blogging.

A blogger uses a service or software to maintain the blog - which makes it easy to write and add content. The user simply logs into the blog service account, types in a form field on the screen, hits publish - and so it is. Most blog services let the user use a template so the new published content is consistent with their web site. The blog service also makes it easy to add hyperlinks in the content, and images, as well. One main difference between a blog and a "guest book" is that the site owner publishes, and visitors can comment on the writing (if you let them or want them to) so a conversation of sorts can take place around your blog entry. Each entry is time stamped, archived and searchable.

Blogs are now being considered by businesses because the technology also lends itself to creating content on a business web site. It is essentially just a type of content management system which can easily be implemented into a site. Businesses are using them as a way of publishing info about their particular area of expertise, news about the company, and product updates. In some cases, this is done formally, perhaps coming out of the marketing or communications department - and in other cases, an employee maintains a blog on the company web site as an extra feature of the site. For some corporate cultures, blogging is banned altogether.

Blogs are just one more way of making a web site "sticky" or fresh with content that draws people back to it regularly. It is another communication tool for marketing to your audience. For example, a software development company might want to have one of its engineers maintain a blog to talk about plans for an application in development. A business coach might maintain a blog on her site with tips, quotes, and interesting nuggets of wisdom for her clients and prospects. A web developer could blog advice about managing a web site, new technologies, or search engine optimization techniques. The possibilities are as varied as the businesses we own.

The main downfall to blogging is that although it is good for adding content to your web site, it doesn't "pull" people into your site. Users have to make a conscious effort to come view your content - and it is your priority to make them want to, by providing good content. A newer technology called RSS, which is also gaining popularity amongst ezine publishers, may resolve aspects of this issue. Nowadays, as email newsletters suffer under spam, more and more people are combining their blogs with RSS - which allows people to subscribe to the blog which interest them. We'll look at that more next month.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in creating a blog for yourself or your business, two of the popular hosted services are Moveable Type and Blogger. There are also hundreds of blogging resources on the web to explore.

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About the Author:

Eileen Parzek is a graphic designer and writer providing marketing and web design services. Always found at the intersection of information, creativity and technology, her business, SOHO It Goes! specializes in helping big thinking small businesses market and grow with technology.

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