Straight Talk About Blogs - Do You Really Need One?

Talk of blogs is everywhere. Corporations, authors, and experts of every stripe are finding that blogs can be valuable marketing and PR tools. But blogs aren't for everyone. So before you join the blogosphere, consider both the advantages and the caveats.

The major advantage of blogs is that they are interactive and require no knowledge of coding by the content creators. The major disadvantage is that maintaining a successful blog requires skillful research, professional writing skills and a huge commitment of time and effort. There simply is no such thing as a perfect marketing tool, or an effortless way to build traffic to any site, including blogs.

The 2004 Presidential race inaugurated the blog into the realm of serious marketing tool. From in-house communication, file sharing, and sheer speed of creation to interactivity with an audience, blogs are the cheapest, most effective content management tool yet created.

There are more advantages than disadvantages to blogging, but the disadvantages will definitely cause your blog's failure and could even put you in the midst of controversy or see you mocked by other bloggers.

Blogging caveats:

  • Blogs are writing intensive. Most people would rather have root canal than write something coherent, pithy and provocative every day. It takes talent, skill and training to write down ideas clearly and make them interesting to read.

  • Maintaining a blog is hard work. Searching and writing is a complex and extremely time-consuming task. A blog that isn't kept up to date quickly loses its luster and its audience.

  • Blog software is cheap and easily configured. However, you need to have a designer customize the appearance and navigation of your blog and set up templates to make using it easy for you.

  • It takes time, effort, and skillful promotion to build an audience for a blog. Just like a newsletter, report, Website or e-book, driving traffic to a blog requires marketing.

  • You have to register your blog in blog search engines, and use subtle PR to push traffic to your blog. Blogs are no more of a "build it and they will come" medium than Web sites. Beyond time and consistently good content, you need to think about sending out press releases and media alerts about your blog's scoops. (And of course you need to have scoops to do that.)

  • A blog that isn't well-written and frequently updated will simply be ignored.

  • A blog that is an obvious attempt at self promotion may be mocked by other bloggers. You could be a laughing stock of the blogosphere.

    The Dr. Pepper Raging Cow blog has become a classic example of what not to do. To launch a new milk flavored drink called "Raging Cow," Dr. Pepper/Seven Up's PR firm launched a blog called "Pasteurize This," following the adventures of a fictitious cow.

    The PR firm, Richards Interactive, offered money and gifts to a half-dozen influential 18 to 24 year-old bloggers if they'd push the drink in their blogs. Instead, the bloggers wrote about what they viewed as a scam and pretty soon many bloggers were ridiculing Dr Pepper and calling for a product boycott.

    Good news about blogs

  • Blogs can help you get better search engine placements. Search engines like blogs because they are frequently updated, have lots of incoming and outgoing links, and they are made up of words. Search engines like words.

    If you know how to search engine optimize content, you can take advantage of the good placement being afforded to blogs by Google, Yahoo and others. I can write about a topic on Monday and see it in the top 10 ranking on that subject a couple of days later.

  • A blog can be seamlessly integrated into your site's e-commerce. That means you can sell products and services by pointing blog visitors to your site's sales sections. I sell a huge number of my special reports as a result of my blog.

  • Blog software is so user friendly that it frees you from the tyranny of the IT department. Even a technical clunkhead like me can post content, images, photos, articles and more to the Internet instantly. In fact, my newsletter and several pages of whatsnextonline.com are produced with Moveable Type templates that are integrated into my Dreamweaver site.

  • If you're willing to be controversial, you can build up a substantial audience for your blog in a short time.

  • Journalists troll blogs for source material because bloggers often break stories before traditional media. Posts in your blog can lead to coverage in mainstream, traditional media.

  • Blogs can bring in business. Blogs bring you closer to prospects and customers alike, who gets to know you through your writing and is therefore one step closer to doing business with you.

    I have gotten major accounts as a result of my blog. They know I am reliable, dedicated and a facile writer when they read my posts.

  • Blogs are great for Intranets that allow sharing of information within a company.

  • Blogs are a perfect way to organize large amounts of information because posts are automatically archived and searchable.

    Despite the challenges, I highly recommend that you consider a blog as a way of establishing your identity and reputation on the Internet.

    Scores of companies from giants like Microsoft to associations, authors and consultants are bypassing newspapers, magazines, billboards and other traditional media to take their message directly to their publics through blogs.

    B.L. Ochman BL@whatsnextonline.com of http://www.whatsnextonline.com is a blogging expert, Internet marketing strategist and journalist. She conducts Bloginars for companies interested in adding blogs to their marketing mix. She publishes What's Next Blog http://www.whatsnextblog.com and What's Next marketing tactics newsletter http://whatsnextonline.com/wno/current.html.


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