The Internet revolution is responsible for two of the dumbest names in business. The first is the “Web.” Try telling your grandmother what you do for a living with that name. The next is the “blog.” Most people have heard about blogs (short for Web logs). There are millions of them – most with little commercial value, but many with significant social, political or cultural merit.
However, that is changing. The business community is beginning to embrace blogs for their marketing and commercial potential. Business blogs that are well-written, focused on topics relevant to customers, employees, and interest groups are becoming the new company “voice.”
Blogs offer a new way to communicate with clients, potential clients, and any interested parties. Popular forms of business communication include press releases, newsletters and e-newsletters, Web sites and mailings. But these are all one-way communications. Blogs offer the opportunity to interact and create a dialogue about a product or service.
Recently, e-mail newsletters helped “push” a business message to an “opt-in” audience. But spam filters, which battle increased junk e-mailings, may prevent a message from reaching its intended target. Today, people come directly to blogs for information. There is a twist. They subscribe to RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds, which notify a subscriber’s news aggregator (like Bloglines) that the blog has new posts.
Business blogs can be simple, light-hearted stories, straightforward informational articles or brief commentaries about news and issues. Each opens an opportunity for discussion about your product or service.
Blogs also serve as sources for journalists who cover particular markets, such as insurance, the automotive industry, or consumer goods. Using blog aggregators, they can track your blog and quickly browse your posts for story ideas. Wouldn’t it be great to get a call from the Wall Street Journal for your expert opinion? More and more, journalists are finding the uninhibited, self-expression of blog writers as better sources than the hand-picked and prepped “experts” provided by public relations agencies.
I’ve become a blog “evangelist” at IdeaStar, encouraging the creation of two new blogs – IdeaStar: The Flipside and InsuraTech. The “voice” of a blog is very important – who is speaking and what is the message? We decided the “voice” for the IdeaStar blog should be in the third person reporting on the humorous, quirky and personal side of our company. Through the blog, our clients, prospects and business associates can get to know us personally. This is important for service companies like IdeaStar. We leave the more formal stuff for our Web site and e-newsletter.
The other blog, InsuraTech, is written in the first person. Mike Wise, IdeaStar Vice President of Insurance Technologies, presents his thoughts, real-world observations, and examples – good and bad – regarding the use of Internet technology in the insurance industry. IdeaStar built a national reputation in the insurance community for its excellence in Web-enabling services. The blog helps to establish Mike as an expert and opinion leader. As the number of posts grow, we expect a dialogue to begin within the market.
I began my own blog in earnest over a year ago. It is a personal blog. I post photography, reviews of music or gadgets, and some social commentary. But most important, my blog serves as a way for me to understand this new tool from a user’s perspective.
For example, I posted some pictures I took of the Cleveland Cavaliers. As usual, I captioned each shot, including one of Lebron James. That particular photo was captioned, “This would make a great wallpaper.” Within a couple days, my blog was in the top ten on Google for Lebron James wallpaper. That is fantastic from a marketer’s perspective. (But not from a personal one. I took the picture down the next day.)
Like the Internet itself 10 years ago, blogs are here to stay. Figuring out how to produce an effective blog takes practice. It is better to get your hands around this new technology now and see what it does rather than wait. If you don’t there will be the next climatic technology revolution with a silly name for us to learn.