In the insatiable drive to tell your story as widely and thoroughly and persuasively as possible, it's natural to explore and exploit every conceivable communications channel.
That's why it won't be long before every self-respecting marketing department adds at least one blog to the company's overall marketing program.
A “blog,” as you probably know, is a simplified form of website that tends to be centered around a monologue from a single strong personality. Like a diary or a diatribe. But it's augmented, usually with lots of links to other resources, and nearly always with an easy-to-use “comments” button that allows those reading the blog to post their comments and reactions right alongside the original blog material. The result is a kind of “forum” or online conversation between the blogger, who's posting the original monologue material, and his or her readers. The monologue becomes a dialogue.
Because it's cheap, or even free, to put up a blog, there are already millions of them. And while you might think any individual blog would get lost in the all that noise, the fact is most of the good ones are heavily linked, widely indexed, and therefore easily found through most popular search engines.
Because of all this, blogging technology effectively creates a brand new communications channel that can be an invaluable part of your overall marketing program.
Among the most important strategies to pursue in using blogs as part of your overall marketing effort are these:
Blog to put a human face on the company
The more you spend on marketing, the more your messages often seem monolithic, corporate, impersonal, and one-way -- streaming out from the ad agency to the consumer with Niagara-like force. A blog is a wonderful counterpoint to this, because it's naturally small, personal, even quirky. Research shows that consumers get tired of the smoothly polished corporate message, and may even tune it out. Conversely, they tend to perk up their ears when they detect an individual's honest expression. It's the same phenomenon that causes hand-addressed direct mail pieces to earn a better response than identical but machine-addressed pieces. Somewhere in your company are one or more people who are passionate advocates of your products and services, who are good communicators, and who know exactly how to get the most from your products and services. These are born bloggers, and if you don't let them put their gifts to use, you're under-utilizing a major marketing asset.
Blog to obtain free market research
Because blogs are naturally a two-way street, they're a perfect forum for you to find out what your prospects and customers think, know and want. Where else can you put out information to literally thousands of your best customers, and have them give you their reactions, opinions and expertise -- basically for free? The benefits for better marketing strategies and product development alone are remarkable. Of course, blog readers also see these reactions, but that in itself can become a positive asset if your company is ready to take any criticisms to heart and sincerely try to remedy any problems the blog uncovers.
Blog to offer a "Buy In" that increases customer satisfaction
There's something subtle at work in the world of blogging. It's hidden in the fact that blog readers can comment on what they've read. As soon as they push that “comment” button, they've unconsciously bought into your world, your process, and -- let's face it -- your product line. In other words, people who read your blog and comment on it are far more likely to be satisfied with your company, your products and your services than they ever were before. This is one reason Microsoft has recently begun to make such headway in gaining support and admiration from the developer community. The company has assigned key people to actively blog on topics of interest to developers. The dialogue that results has driven Microsoft's approval rating among developers much, much higher than ever before. The company may or may not be giving developers more of what they want. But by blogging about it, they've increased the perception of how hard they're trying, and they've reaped the benefits that inevitably flow from there.
Blog to leverage opinion leaders' influence
The original concept of blogging was an outreach tool to the masses. But blogging has evolved toward a more subtle usage: blogging for opinion leaders. Companies can make sure their bloggers angle their remarks toward key customers, influential thought leaders, and well-respected industry experts. Marketers can then make an effort to introduce these people to the blogs, and encourage them to keep subscribing and participating. The net effect is to provide these key constituencies with an early warning system for changes, new developments, coming upgrades, and more sophisticated usage of your company's products and services. Over time, these people will not only help you fine tune these kinds of advancements, but will almost eagerly share what they are learning with their own circles of colleagues, co-workers and clients. The result is your targeted blogging effectively mobilizes these opinion leaders to make others aware of and excited about your offerings.
Blog to gain on the Big Dogs
One of the most exciting reasons to add blogging to your marketing program, though, is that it helps the little guy even more than it helps the bigger guy. Blogging tends to increase name recognition and boost traffic to your main website. Large corporations that start blogging will see relatively small improvements in these areas, while smaller companies are likely to notice far more significant upward trends. This makes blogging one of those rare phenomenons that lifts all boats, but lifts smaller boats faster than the big ones.
The "Long Tail" of the Blogosphere
Making Microsoft Human
Robert Moskowitz is a consultant and author who speaks and writes frequently in the U.S. and abroad on such topics as white collar productivity, knowledge management, practical use of the Internet, telecommuting, caring for aging parent, and business applications of information technologies. He has authored several books, including "How To Organize Your Work and Your Life," and "Parenting Your Aging Parents," and teaches several online courses.