SmartAdvice: Are Blogs The Next Internet Marketing Phenomenon?
Here are some factors to consider when your company ponders whether to blog or not, The Advisory Council says. Also, expand outsourcing's value by building ongoing relationships; and match your telecom requirements to your providers' products for savings and best performance.
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Question A: Are Weblogs of any value in a business context?
Our advice: While generally associated with personal Web sites and individual self-expression, Weblogs (also known as blogs) are gaining the attention of businesses and organizations around the world. Most of the attention is focused around the question "To Blog or Not to Blog", but as the use of blogs spreads, companies also are starting to question whether the opinions expressed on blog sites are likely to serve as the next marketing vehicle of the Internet. The question now arises whether, with so many people expressing their views and opinions on blog sites, these views and opinions are likely to sway consumers and other businesses?
A Blogging Primer
Blogs are informal, yet structured, Web sites where individuals and corporations can publish stories, opinions and links, often daily. Typically, these blogs are syndicated, which means that many users subscribe to a blog site where they post their views and opinions, and can create links to and from other blogs or Web sites.
Just as individuals are realizing the value of blogs in developing and sharing their personal expression, so are companies realizing that blogs can serve as a means of informing the public and prospective customers about new products and services. However, as with all marketing, the key to success with blogging lies in the honesty and the integrity of the communication. In some ways, blogs are similar to newsgroups and bulletin boards, except that instead of having to subscribe to them, they're always available for viewing by anyone who visits and registers at the blog site.
The two fundamental challenges in blogging are around the issues of feedback and storage.
In the first, while traditional advertising and Web sites (whether personal or business) were one-way communication paths, blogs enable and encourage multiway communications among the bloggers. This may come as a threat to some individuals, and especially to some companies whose reputation depends upon the bloggers' comments about their products and services.
Secondly, storage and retrieval is becoming an issue around data mining and data capture. Making sense of blogs may become challenging, as the volume of blog content continues to increase at an exponential pace. As the volume of content increases, blog sites will need to provide more effective storage and searching of blog information.
A Driver Of Business Value?
Employee feedback, customer input, and trouble tickets are some of the other emerging applications of blogs. Whether these and other applications have a long-term impact on companies remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that since content is king, and search engines rely on relevant content to make linking decisions, those with the most blogs will be likely to win in the long term. In the meantime, those with the most relevant content, well-presented and in comprehensible form, blog or non-blog, will be the sites which attract the most visitors.
While blogs are becoming more common, and PR departments are starting to look at them as a viable means of "getting the word out," many businesses are still stuck on the question of whether to blog or not. Our advice is to blog a bit, so as to claim some blog space, and then see the impact of blogging to make the decision that would work in the context of your own organization. Blogging is a cultural phenomenon, and what works in one company may or may not work in another.
-- Sanjay Anand
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