Over the past several years, blogs have emerged as an important communications tool for companies. As part of the suite of Web 2.0 technologies that have changed online communications from a one-way monologue to an interactive conversation, blogs were initially used primarily by individuals. A little history: the term “blog” (a shortening of “web log”) was coined in 1997 to describe sites that served as online journals for individuals. As software was developed to make it easier for people to create and maintain their own sites, the number of blogs exploded. While getting an accurate total of online blogs is difficult, several years ago Technorati, a blog monitoring company, pegged the number at 112.8 million.With all this activity, why should a company devote the energy and resources to contribute to this ever-growing pool of content? It matters for several reasons: if everyone is doing it, blogging has become table stakes for a company’s online presence. Most important, the relationship between consumers and the companies they like has changed. They now expect more open, collaborative interactions, as well as greater access to information. Effective blogs can deliver on both counts.
Other factors have increased the necessity of blogs. They offer an opportunity for a company to enhance its reputation by joining the conversation about its particular industry, providing a channel for a company’s experts to weigh in on emerging trends or to share their knowledge. In addition, since blog content registers in search engines such as Google, it can be a way to drive traffic to a company’s site and promote product launches or events.
But blogging presents companies with a major challenge: given the glut of content in this space, how can they create blogs that are distinctive and support their strategic objectives?
As to the first part of the question—making content stand out in a crowd—a blog should offer the reader some value by answering a question or providing insight and analysis of current trends. Online users have access to such a wide range of information that most won’t spend time reading something that doesn’t help them in their professional or personal pursuits.
The second part—ensuring that blogs support business strategy—can be a little more straightforward. Blogs should just be an extension of traditional marketing and communications activities, such as press releases, white papers, promotional events and conferences, and paid advertising. As with other social media such as Facebook or Twitter posts, blogs should be seen as a more immediate, interactive way of engaging with current and potential customers.
Once a company understands the potential of blogs as a communication tool, it must face another obstacle: how to get its employees to participate in ways that further its objectives. My next post will deal with a key myth that has developed around blogs.