Volume 43, Issue 8 - August 2008

OnlineBylines

To Blog or Not to Blog?
Navigating Blogging and Other Social Media

b y S c o t t O r t h

For many, a blog (short for web log) is simply an online diary—a place to share personal beliefs, feelings and opinions with those you know. Put up pictures of your family, your new puppy or your crazy halfnaked neighbor and show them off to family, friends and anyone else who happens upon your blog.

Before long, large corporations began to see the use of internal blogs for employees to communicate with one another and to bridge the communication gap between executive management and the employee masses.

With that came a simultaneous benefit and threat. Businesses saw a chance to use blogs to bolster their own brand by opening a new channel of communication with customers. Some realized they could also use anonymous bloggers to bash and defame competitors, spreading rumors and flat out lies, in hopes of destroying competition.

Don’t get any ideas! Blog-based defamation lawsuits are making lawyers rich. It’s just not worth it.

So, should you start your own business blog? First consider:

• Do you have time to write articles or blog posts at least once a week?

• Do you have an audience that will benefit from your content?

• Will your business benefit from the time and energy you put forth?

• Do you have tools in place for reputation management, ensuring your brand does not end up on the bashing end of a blogger’s tirade?

I recommend you join several other blogs before starting your own. Look for blogs that interest you, become a member or a contributor and get engaged with discussions on each blog. This will help familiarize you with the blog world, as well as give you ideas for your own blog.

If you choose to create your own blog, I recommend starting with blogger.com or wordpress.com, each of which has free or low-cost offers to get started.

BLOGGING VS. SOCIALMEDIA
A blog is actually one of many social media channels. However, where a blog is essentially an interactive diary or journal, social media is more synonymous with local networking, small business gatherings or Chamber of Commerce meetings. Both are forms of PR, networking and word-of-mouth self-promoting, but social media as a marketing channel is more outwardly focused on getting a message out to the masses. Social media can be fun and engaging, and may gain great exposure for your business. But a word of warning: like blogging, it can be quite time consuming and, if done wrong, it can backfire, sending a negative impression of your business to the consumer masses.


Social media comes in many forms. Message boards, wiki’s, podcasts and the like are all forms of social media. Groups like those found on MySpace, LinkedIn, FaceBook and YouTube are also considered social media.

Wikis and podcasts may take the form of tools you offer on your website in order to get consumers engaged with your brand. For instance, you can create podcasts with recent news or industry trends, and offer them up as free downloads to interested customers.

Sites like LinkedIn allow you to set up profiles and set parameters around what information about yourself you want displayed. A great example of LinkedIn use is to communicate personal-, business- or career-related updates with your peers. If you are connected to numerous people on this type of site, updating or distributing your profile will build exposure for you and your business.

A site like FaceBook also allows profile creation, but the site is much more interactive. I see it more like a professionally focused MySpace. Sites like this allow you to become part of a social group that shares personal and professional information with one another, helps each other with questions and answers, job posts or connecting you to a critical business contact.

Each of these sites has a use and a purpose if you spend the time needed to utilize them wisely. But as with anything “social,” they can quickly become personally focused, diluting their benefit of building business. Keep it business- focused as much as possible.

Is social media worth the effort? Yes, if you make an effective plan, keep it focused, monitor your personal and professional online reputation and genuinely get engaged with social groups.

I mentioned some of the warnings of blogging and social media earlier. We’ll discuss these and how to protect your online reputation in a future column.
 

USG
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