Should Your Business be Blogging?

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With all the benefits of why business should be blogging I was flabbergasted when I came across a post over at the Lorelle on WordPress blog. Doug Carr says:

Blogging requires transparency. I believe the basic question of whether or not your corporation should blog (I call that ‘clogging’), is whether or not you wish to be transparent in your relationships with your clients and also to your competition.What I know to be true is that, if you do not blog transparently, you will be ignored and destroyed by the blogosphere. Insincerity is easy to observe. It’s most obvious during periods of poor performance with your company. The blog will amplify any behavior by your company. If you try to cover it up with some nice PR, be ready for the backlash. If you’re honest, be ready for the customer appreciation.

In short, if you can not blog transparently, you’re better off not doing it at all! Source.

That’s kinda like saying it’s not worth leaving your house today because of the risk crossing the street. (I think the shrinks have a name for that).

There is of course risk in everything.

There is even risk in just starting up a business. Crikey, I’d better not try to be an entrepreneur because I might fail and that could really be disastrous to my self esteem. Give me a break.

After Enron and their ilk, today consumers are demanding “transparency” from companies, and hiding your head in the sand is counterproductive and going against the trend.

Consumers are fed up with sermons from the mount and want to have their say. Web 2.0 is all about interactivity and old static websites are going the way of the dinosaur. Business must either join the revolution or die.

He goes on to say:

There are two issues. Firstly, small businesses tend to have few marketing skills, little time but oodles of passion. So, if a small business does limited marketing, does investing time and effort in an emerging technology give them the best return? Unlikely.

…My advice is, don’t ignore the opportunity but don’t get sucked in. If blogs can’t support an existing communications strategy, don’t complicate things with an unproven tactic.

Really? And what investure in “time and effort” in “emerging technology” might that be? Is the investure any more difficult than with static websites?

The fact is blogs can be easier to set up and maintain than old school websites.

That is the beauty of blogs. They are completely template driven. It is a set and forget technology.

Once your site has been coded (or just choose an off-the-shelf template from the thousands that are available) your printing press is ready to go. Unlike standard websites that require constant geek support for even the smallest of changes.

I don’t believe the author really understands the technology. Case in point: A company has a new product they want to introduce to their website. They call up their webmaster and ask him or her to add some new text or graphics to the website.

Hence, they have to muck around with the code (HTML, XHTML, CSS, you name it) to add even the smallest amount of information. (Can you hear $$$ costs adding up)?

Alternatively, the boss tells his secretary to type a short blurb (i.e post) for the company blog. With the ease of using a word processor he or she can write it, hit the publish button and boom… it’s on the internet! Now what can be easier (and less costly) than that?

Please. Let’s keep our perspective about this.

Every business (big or small) has to do marketing. It is a necessary evil and what can be cheaper than a free or relatively inexpensive hosted blog. An entire year’s worth of hosting can cost less than the printing of just a few brochures or business cards.

Lorelle goes on to say:

Carr’s opinion is that small businesses face two issues. The lack of marketing skills but tons of passion, and the fact that “Web 2.0? online social networking and blogging is still new technology. These are very important points to consider when making the decision on whether or not your small business blogs.If you have the people who can blog, sharing their passion and talent for writing about your business and industry, then have a blog. If you don’t have the staff, expertise, or the money to hire them, then don’t blog. Get yourself a website with information on what you do, how you do it, why you do it, and why we should care, because that is part of today’s core marketing and advertising plan, but skip the blog.

Huh! Am I the only one that sees a contradiction here? In this day and age most everyone in an office can write and use a word processor. And if they can’t you might want to consider replacing them.

Don’t let just anyone within your organization have access to your company blog.

You don’t allow anyone to fiddle with your company website do you? You wouldn’t allow just anybody be your Public Relations spokesman would you?

Of course not. You would hire a pro like Steve Rubel to do it for you. So why should your company blog be any different?

Why not replace your webmaster and hire a professional blogger/consultant? (So call me ;-).

Accordingly, don’t allow just any employee have access to the company blog (that’s why it’s password protected). Hire somebody who is specifically trained for the job, and make certain they are fully apprised of the company blog policy (more about this later).

The bottom line is every business has (or should have) someone responsible for their marketing and PR. So if you don’t want to hire a professional blogger then utilize the talent that is already within your organization.

They can also take a lot of time. Blogs are consumers, taking energy away you may need to give to your growing business. They require food in the way of frequent posts and information. They also require some expertise on web standards and technology, though a simple blog can be produced without it, it sure helps to have it.

If you say so. Any marketing method takes effort and blogs are no exception.

Benefits of Blogs over Static Websites:

1. Blogs build regular readership traffic by linking together and forming their own web networks.

2. Free publicity and promotion for your blog from other bloggers that link to you.

3. RSS technology — instant publishing to the internet.

4. Blogs humanise the face of business. Consumers appreciate having a name behind the information they read and the ability to interact with your company.

5. Blogs get better pageranking with the search engines. Because blogs can be posted to so easily they have a tendency to be updated more often and are therefore given a higher pagerank over old school websites.

6. Blogs allow customers to provide input. Would you like to have a focus group/test audience for a new product idea but can’t afford to outsource it? Then just ask your readers.

You can communicate with your customers directly and faster.

And it’s not just a one-way conversation either. Think of it as your online billboard, customer relations and communications technology all wrapped into one package that you have complete control over.

There is only one drawback to blogging that I can see. There is always the possibility that some disgruntled employee could say something dumb or reveal a company secret.

Of course that could also happen just as easily via a quick telephone call to the local newspaper or by any other communications device, so it is not just specific to blogging technology.

There are always ways to mitigate your damages, and that goes for blogging as well.

It’s called damage control and being prepared with a plan of action.

Create a company policy manual stating unequivocally the do’s and don’ts of what can and cannot be said on the blog, and make your employees sign an agreement to abide by it. Don’t be a cowboy and let anything goes, especially in today’s environment where bloggers are being sued for online defamation.

So don’t poo-poo on a technology just because it is new or makes it easier to publish. Setting up a blogging policy for employees is the responsible thing to do to mitigate damages.

Alternatively, just as a company can easily make a mistake, blogs make it even easier (and faster) to correct that mistake. It’s called the edit button, and/or posting a quick response from the organization.

One more thing.

Newer blogs like Blogger Beta now offer a way of making your blog private. Think of it as a cheap company intranet on the internet. Now that is cool.

Need I say anymore? There is no reason for a business not to blog and everything to gain. So what are you waiting for? Get blogging.