An Introduction to Blogging (part one)

When used in conversation, the term “blog” tends to elicit blanks stares and, occasionally, that looked reserved for someone believed to be a little nutty. The word “blog” is short for “weblog” and is a term used to describe a specific type of website. Blogs tend to share certain common characteristics which include a –

  • main content area that usually sets out new content, or “posts”, in chronological order;
  • section containing archived posts which can be accessed by category, date or other criteria;
  • means whereby visitors to the site may comment and/or links back to the blog from the visitor’s own blog (these are known as “trackbacks“);
  • lists of other blogs and/or websites the operator of the blog (known as a “blogger”) believes are worth referring you to; and
  • feed or feeds that visitors can subscribe to to receive updates in a similar fashion to email updates in an email program (we will post an introduction to feeds shortly).

Not all blogs are the same and some have more features that those described above while some may have less. For example, blogs like marketing guru Seth Godin’s blog don’t allow for visitors to leave comments but they can leave trackbacks.

The reason for a blog is to be able to connect more readily with visitors to the blog in a way that was previously not possible with such ease. Perhaps the best way of explaining why blogs are in use and can be so important is with reference to a book that was published at the beginning of this decade called ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto‘. Cluetrain presents a model of interacting with customers on the Internet that is the opposite of the traditional “command and control” model of corporate communications. The authors of Cluetrain advocate a return to a conversational marketplace where supplier and customer have conversations about things that matter to them. It is a process which empowers customers to express their thoughts to suppliers in ways that enable suppliers to deliver goods and services that the customer actually wants. This is an about face to more traditional “command and control” communications from companies that merely state the company’s message without any allowance for feedback or conversation.

Blogs are a tool which could have been developed using Cluetrain as a manual. Blogs are excellent tools for individuals in companies to post their thoughts about what their employer is doing in the market and to address feedback by their customers. One of the golden rules in blogging is that it must be the expression of an individual’s voice and not another channel for the official company line. A number of companies have attempted to subvert the power of blogs and use them merely as a disguised press release. Visitors to these blogs have quickly detected the lack of authenticity and have spread their discontent through their own blogs across the blogosphere (a term for the community of blogs). A good example of this was the attempted viral marketing campaign that Mazda launched a few years ago that fell flat on its face. In some instances this has had a devastating impact on the companies concerned. The blogosphere is a massive network of blogs linked to each other and which can serve as a very efficient and responsive platform for the distribution of content. At present Technorati (a search engine that tracks blogs) is tracking almost 49 millions blogs.

Examples of some well known corporate blogs are General Motor’s vice chairman, Bob Lutz’s GM FastLane blog and Jonathan Schwartz’s (Sun Microsystem) blog. These are two examples of where large companies use blogs they way they are meant to be used and generate tremendous amounts of goodwill in the process. Another blog that has been referred to frequently as an excellent example of a small business’s blog that did huge things is Thomas Mahon’s The English Cut. Mahon is a Saville Row tailor who rose to prominence after he started blogging about his trade. His blog became tremendously popular and is an excellent example of how it isn’t size that counts in the blogosphere but your passion for what you are blogging about.

The sheer size of the blogosphere gives an indication of the potential audience for a blog and market for the products and services marketed on that blog. Another powerful message from Cluetrain is the importance of word of mouth and this is another area where blogs are so valuable. They provide an excellent way to ‘get the word out’ so to speak.

You are probably beginning to see the power of a blog in today’s connected world. If you would like to see one of these blogs for yourself, look no further. If you are seeing this website, you are reading one right now.

In part two of “An Introduction to Blogging”, I’ll talk a little about the various ways you can start a blog of your own and become involved in this massive, global conversation going on around you.

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