Ready, Set, Blog

by Marc Majers

There are Blogs to our right and Blogs to our left. It seems everywhere we turn, we keep hearing about Blogs and how they are impacting our society. In last years presidential election, we saw how powerful Blogs can be when websites like watchblog.com helped sway thousands voters. So what is a Blog? According to the Wikipedia, a web log or Blog for short is a web-based publication consisting primarily of periodic articles (normally in reverse chronological order). A Blog is traditionally a Web page that usually serves as a publicly accessible personal journal for an individual or organization. A Blog is a powerful medium because it can share timely information, function as an instant feedback mechanism, spread a buzz, gain higher search rankings, and ultimately create dialogue.

There are many styles of Blogs, however they all share one thing in common, which is fresh content that creates dialogue. Now just so you get your terminology right, the totality of weblogs or Blog-related websites is often called the Blogosphere. When a large amount of activity, information and opinion erupts around a particular subject or controversy in the Blogosphere, it is sometimes called a Blogstorm or Blog swarm. In my opinion, Blogs began like personal websites on Geocities did in the early 90s; every geek thought they should have one whether it was good or bad. It was just the thing to do because you could express yourself to the world. At this time, personal Blogs still out weigh corporate sponsored or cause-driven Blogs 5 to 1, however that is changing drastically. Below is a quick checklist of items to think about before you build a Blog for yourself or for your company.

Questions to ask before you build a Blog.
1. Who do you expect to read your Blog?
2. What do you expect them to get from it?
3. What topics are you going to discuss?

Here are some fundamentals of a good Blog.
1. Understand Your Audience.
2. Grammar is king! You don’t have to be Shakespeare to get started, however you should have good verbal and communication skills.
3. Get acquainted with how to write for the web.
4. You should have content that is both fresh and rich in topical relevance.
5. Your postings should not only be interesting but should instill interaction as well.
6. Establish consistency. You can do this by frequently posting to your site on a semi-daily basis and developing a strong personality in your writing.

Why Blog?
1. A Blog compels you to share more of your knowledge more often. A Blog is about sharing what you know, think and believe.
2. It can be the vehicle to spread a buzz. Honest, informative or thought-provoking posts about issues important to customers and prospects tend to be spread more often.
3. It allows you to have more simultaneous conversations. It’s more than you could ever do in person.
4. Blogging can help position you as a knowledgeable expert in your industry. You may gain higher search rankings on Goggle and other search engines. If done in good faith, you could give your website extra “inbound links”.
5. You can share timely information with your audience.
6. Its personal nature helps humanize you and your organization.
7. A Blog can function as an instant-feedback mechanism. Most Blogs allow readers to respond to your posts or link to them on their own Blogs. These features provide almost real-time feedback on ideas and issues that strike a chord, or highlight new or existing problems. A Blog can reveal a little problem before it grows into a bigger one.

Why not Blog?
1. They are a lot of work to maintain.
2. You could expose too much information about yourself or your organization.
3. Bogs are just like public records; they are around for a long time.
4. Be aware of anger and stalker Bloggers.
5. Lies and slander can tumble out of control.
6. Once again, your content is public so it could be stolen or subject to copyright violation.

Once you start Blogging, here are five Blogging don’ts:
1. Do not have someone else write your Blog. Write it yourself.
2. Do not have your Blogs managed by a PR department or ad agency. Blogs are best when they’re authentic, which may include run-on sentences, detailed analysis or critical opinions. Typically, those qualities run counter to the sensibilities of traditional public relations.
3. Do not have a thin skin. Comments to your posts may bite or sting, especially while other people watch. A benefit of Blogs is getting unwarranted criticism, which often causes others to spring to your defense. Trust-based relationships grow from taking the bad with the good.
4. Do not let your Blog go unattended for weeks at a time. Focus on several posts per week, even if they’re just a few paragraphs.
5. Do not make your Blog a branding exercise in self-centeredness. If you endlessly promote yourself and your services, no one will care.

Since you began reading this article, several Blogs have just been born. If we were to sing the children’s classic Old McDonald and insert “Blog”, it would be like “a Blog here and a Blog, Blog there. There a Blog, Here a Blog, Everywhere a Blog, Blog.” Do not be intimidated if you are thinking about getting into Blogging. If you have something you need to express to the world, then take these Blogging tips and start writing. A Blog is a powerful medium because it can share timely information, function as an instant feedback mechanism, spread a buzz, gain higher search rankings, and ultimately create dialogue. So are you ready to Blog?

If you are ready to start Blogging, you can either get up running quickly with a free template site from Blogger.com for example or you can purchase your own customizable program like Movable Type. Here are links to some tools to get you started.

Get your Blog up and quickly running for Free:
http://www.blogger.com
http://www.typepad.com
http://www.blogdrive.com

Purchase a customizable Blog engine:
http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/
http://www.wordpress.org
http://www.pmachine.com
http://www.uapplication.com/

Breakdown of Blog engines:
http://www.asymptomatic.net/blogbreakdown.htm

**Illustration: Ralph Solonitz
http://www.ralphstuff.com

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