All The Best Firms Are Blogging ... Are You?
by Alf Nucifora
Do you blog? According to Entrepreneur Magazine, blogs are one of the hottest and coolest web-based communication strategies. Current estimates place the number of blogs at 4 million plus and growing every day.
What's a Blog?
Blog, short for weblog, is an Internet-based tool for delivering immediate and useful information. Blogs are a variation of a standard website complete with URL and can be identified by search engines. In their most basic form, they're online journals that are powered by user-friendly, self-publishing software tools. There is no need for a webmaster or a course in HTML for Dummies. Even non-geeks can quickly learn to blog. Authors can edit, update and maintain content without ever knowing an HTML code. This ease in adding content lends itself to more frequent commentary than websites. And because many basic blog software programs are still free (www.blogger.com), blogging becomes a low-risk entry for businesses that want to get in on the action.
It's Dynamic and Immediate
A major difference between a web site and a blog is that a web site is basically a static communication vehicle, while a blog is dynamic in nature, constantly changing and evolving. Although more sophisticated blogs appear to be similar in style and content to rich web sites (incorporating archives, "About Us" pages, "Contact Us" pages, photos, links to web sites), most blogs follow a particular format or footprint. Information is in reverse chronological order and postings are dated and often time-stamped, reinforcing the immediacy of the content. Users can easily continue where they left off from past visits and, since the freshest content is always at the top of the page, there's no scanning to determine the latest information. The most popular blogs are updated frequently, some several times daily, with posts ranging in length from a sentence or two to several paragraphs.
Links count in the blogosphere (the community of bloggers) both in linking to and from another blog or website. Multiple resource links add value to a blog resulting in increased visitors, longer visits and higher, more frequent search engine rankings. And, since blogs are not delivered by eMail, an added benefit is that there is no worry about spam, spam filters/blocks or accidental deletions.
Getting To Know You
Since blogs are usually written by one person/entity, a unique voice and tone emerges. Blog writing style is often edgy and opinioned, yet smart. The best bloggers are authentic and candid. Since most postings are written in a conversational tone, blogs convey a familiarity that does not exist in static web sites.
For the much of the business community, the verdict is still out as to whether or not blogs can support marketing and financial goals. While blogging is in vogue right now, there is still some question as to its ability to build stronger brands, increase customer interaction and add to the bottom line.
The value of blogs for the business community lies in their refreshing cut-to-the chase ability to create the type of association that the Internet has promised, developing one-to-one relationships with customers and prospects. When visitors read your business advice and learn more about your products and services, they become emotionally involved with your brand. Customers want to do business with the providers they know. Blogs offer the ability to facilitate a meaningful relationship and to encourage a dialogue with customers, an increased interaction that equates to stronger brand identification and loyalty.
Companies are using blogs for customer relationship development, public and media relations, and brand development. Macromedia, a pioneer in business-to-business blogs, uses the technology to update customers on product development. (radio.weblogs.com/0106884). Consulting or services sector blogs can reinforce the company's leadership position. For example, Jupiter Research produces a series of blogs written by its analysts, (complete with photos and bios) that track issues affecting the industries that Jupiter monitors. (www.weblogs.jupiterresearch.com )
In addition, many blogs are two-way communication vehicles providing "trackbacks" - the ability to respond to a post. Visitors not only get to know your brand but you get to know your customers as well.
Some organizations are also adopting blogs for internal communications. Used as a collaborative blog, or a wiki, employees can be kept up-to-date on business happenings within the company.
Paid advertising on blogs is still in its infancy, but a few are beginning to attract ad dollars (sbblog.com/sbbloghome). And what's next on the blog horizon? How about audio blogs (www.bizstone.com).
Who's Doing It?
According to Toby Bloomberg, Principal of Bloomberg Marketing, a web marketing consultancy, companies both large and small are now getting into the blog space. The list includes Microsoft, Nokia, Sega, ESPN, Home Depot, Dr. Pepper, Mattel, The WB, as well as businesses that cover the gamut including travel agencies, restaurants, construction firms, realtors, consultants, retailers and advertising agencies.
Dynamism.com, a leading U.S. retailer of next-generation electronics is a perfect example of a company that is using blogging as a highly effective marketing tool. It's recently launched blog (www.akibalive.com) educates and entertains passionate technology users about the latest consumer electronics products, particularly those from Japan. Dynamism.com, which developed and edits its web log in-house (6 to 8 times a day), uses it to maintain contact with customers in a true relationship marketing role. Says CEO Douglas Krone, "It's an integral part of our marketing effort. Customers love its immediacy and it's definitely driving sales."
Additional examples of interesting blogs include:
Ovation Advertising www.ovationadvertising.com/Enews - updates on advertising industry news.
Trademark Blog - trademark.blog.us/blog/ - trademark case studies, news developments and legal issues.
Sales Technology - sfa.danavan.net/blog/ - sales force technology and automation.
Gartner Blogs - weblog.gartner.com/weblog/weblogIndex.php - blogs written by the consulting firm's analysts.
Seth Godin - sethgodin.typepad.com/ - marketing author, speaker, consultant and "permission marketing" guru.
Dr. Pepsi Raging Cow - blog.ragingcow.com/ - Promotes Dr.Pepper/7Up's flavored milk drinks.
Northfield Construction - www.northfieldconstruction.net/ - blog for a construction company in Minnesota.
Cheskin Expert Weblogs - www.cheskin.com/p/basic.asp?mlid=74 - employees' blogs from this strategic marketing research company.
The Eyes Have It - www.leepotts.com/blog.html - devoted (mainly) to visual communications in the pharmaceutical, biotech and healthcare sectors.
Virtual Book Tours - www.kevinsmokler.com/vbt.php - plans and schedules author stops at various blogs throughout the county.