There is a really interesting article on The Ledger about the growing importance of blogs to small businesses. An informal survey reported in that article revealed that small business owners regarded blogs as being an important part of their networking efforts, both as sources of information and as means of communication:
The beauty of networking sites and blogs is their ability to bring many business owners together from not only around the country, but around the world. So an owner in a small town or rural area isn’t isolated; the Internet can function as a sort of virtual chamber of commerce, continuing education resource and business-to-business matchmaker.
The article mentioned other services and products that give small businesses the edge with their customers. These are services and products which help reduce the costs involved in communicating with other businesses and with customers. While there were no services and products mentioned by name, a pretty innovative outfit known as 37signals came up. 37signals has created some straighforward and pretty effective tools for various forms of collaboration, organisation and communication and it is worthwhile checking their site out.
Regarding blogs as a key component in a small business’s communications toolbox makes a lot of sense. Blogs are particularly well know for their interactivity capability. As a visitor to a blog (and perhaps a blogger yourself), you can comment on posts, see what other people are saying about the post and leave trackbacks that link back to your blog. A fair amount of traffic to a blog can come through these trackbacks and comments. Even linking to a blog post can bring more interest in your blog through sites like Technorati and other search engines which factor in links to and from sites in their rankings.
I may have mentioned it before but I really recommend a book called "The Cluetrain Manifesto" to anyone interested in the evolving marketplace online.