Thursday, April 28, 2005

Why blogs will change your business - and why they may not

There is an odd quixotic character to blogging. On the one hand, it seems to have revolutionized the very idea of publishing - think easy, accessible self-publishing anytime and anywhere. Think about a world in which every competitor, every customer or every partner could publish whatever he or she wants about your business and more importantly reach a general audience at the click of a button.

On the other hand, most blogs seem to be just little more than updated personal home pages, as this Business Week article wryly notes. That article contains a wonderful image of blogs as "heat maps" of millions of different conversations about something. That something could be X's latest greatest product, Y's lunch with a Famous Person (she did what?) or Z's unfriendly customer service.

Blogging is a new form of interactive media that pushes and pulls a highly personalized blend of content through individualized, interactive channels to an audience. To me, this is the key disruptive idea - each conversation becomes its own channel. It's about creating your own inexpensive, multichannel customer experience.

By sharing some aspect of your professional or personal life, combined deftly and honestly with a commercial intent, you can reap free buzz, PR and awareness. At their best, blogs create fresh opportunities for you to get a first (or second) look by potential customers, partners, sponsors, investors, pundits and influencers (and, of course, competitors and enemies).

The great thing about blogging is that it lowers the cost of one-to-one marketing to almost zero, which can be a godsend for certain low-profile, low exposure, hard to understand markets such as bespoke tailoring.

It's important to understand that there is a conversational aspect to blogging, which puts you in direct contact with the "blogosphere" of ardent, opinionated individuals. If you need to remember just one thing about blogs, always remember that your blog is like a conversation or chat with someone. Be honest and you'll avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.

Before taking the plunge, it's worthwhile to do a little planning. Check tips 5 and 6 in a recent Business Week article "Six tips for corporate bloggers". I'll post my own tips in the near future.

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