The advantages of blogging for business

Blogging is still not recognised as a tool for businesses in Ireland – outside of the tech sphere, I can’t think of a single company who are blogging.

Why should companies blog?

Blogging is advantageous for companies on many fronts:

  • Blogs are extremely cheap to setup and run
  • Search engines love blogs
  • Blogs convey Authority
  • Knowledge management
  • Feedback – good and bad!
  • Openness

Blogs are extremely cheap to setup and run
If I am honest this is only partly true! In terms of the capital costs involved, they are negligible. WordPress, the blogging platform of preference for me is free so your only cost is hosting space on a server – the cost of this is generally less than €100 per annum including a domain name. However, you will need to budget spending at least an hour or two a week on your blog researching, writing postsand tweaking the blog. Any less than this and you might as well not be blogging. So, depending on whether you count this time as an expense, blogging can be extremely cheap. Remember if you are in a company with a number of people, this load can be shared and the expertise from a number of people can be exposed through the blog. DeCare Systems blog is a good example of this – they have 9 contributing authors (although there hasn’t been a new article posted these last two weeks!).

Search engines love blogs
Blogs punch waaaay beyond their weight when it comes to search engines – I have given entire presentations on this topic alone. There are many reasons for this – two of the main ones are 1) search engines love text – blogging, by definition, promotes the continual addition of text to a site and 2) search engines love links – blogging also promotes linkage. As any good blogger knows – you always link to your sources in your post – this adds to the post’s credibility and it means that you are more likely to receive links from other posters when they post. Blogrolls and blog aggregators also increase linkage and thus blogs’ search engine friendliness.

Blogs convey Authority
This one is a no-brainer! If you (or several authors in your company) are writing articles on a topic regularly, you quickly establish your blog as an authority on that area and with authority comes trust. The more niche the topic, the more easy it is to establish your blog as an authority in that arena. Obviously this only holds true as long as the content on the blog is interesting! Through authority and trust come referrals.

Knowledge management
Blogs are an extremely effective knowledge management tool – particularly internal company blogs. Set up your service department with a blog and let them blog the resolutions to customer queries in the blog – these resolutions are then documented and easily findable by new customer service employees. Furthermore, blogs add another dimension to your knowledge management arsenal – they promote internal company communications. Blogs are easy to use so uptake of this new tool will be high and interaction will happen between employees who might never have interacted in the ‘real world’. An employee can post a query saying “we’re currently having this issue” and another employee on another floor/in another city/country may read that entry and respond with an answer.

Feedback – good and bad!
One of the most feared and underrated aspects of blogs is their ability to provide feedback to the blogger through the comments systems built into blogs. Feedback can be both positive or negative (“your product sucks…”) but this is a good thing. If you have a half-decent blog you will have built up a readership. If someone posts a comment saying your widget sucks, it is for one of two reasons 1) your product sucks or 2) your commenter is baiting you. If the issue is related to your product, you should be delighted to hear back that there is a problem with your product – this gives you the opportunity to respond to the issue, by fixing your product and by communicating this intent to the complainant. If it is simply someone baiting you, this will be obvious and is often handled for you by regular readers of the blog who have come to trust you.

Feedback can also be an incredibly useful tool in the product development cycle. You have to realise that your blog’s readers are collectively far more intelligent than you will ever be. You can use this by asking questions of your readership – “If we were to add this to our product, would you pay extra for it?”, “What are the extra features you would like to see in our product?” “What price point/feature mix would work best for our next release?” etc.

Of course, not all blogs are external, many companies run internal blogs and the feedback mechanism in an internal blog can often highlight issues within a company which you didn’t previously know exist.

Openness
Having a company blog demonstrates a willingness to be open – especially if the blog allows comments. It indicates a desire to interact in the most open of environments with customers, potential customers and critics.

There’s far more I could say on these topics but I figure there’s enough here to stimulate discussion!

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25 thoughts on “The advantages of blogging for business

  1. Bernie Goldbach

    The “blogging for business” meme gets a stronger punch when audiences hearing it consider whether they believe they have an effective communications strategy in place. As Ben Edwards at IBM points out, business strategy and corporate communications are naturally linked. In most Irish businesses, the corporate communications function operates inside the marketing group. I don’t know if that’s the best cubicle for blogging. Some bloggers are techie, some are marketing. The companies who leverage their bloggers to best effect include Microsoft (Scoble in Redmond, Tom Murphy in Dublin), Oracle (Charles Philips) and Cisco (Dan Scheinman). Readers could probably point to several other bloggers from those companies–because those companies understand the critical nature of communications as corporate strategy.

    Too often we get bogged down in discussions about the tactical dimensions of blogging. Business seminars should spotlight the higher-level strategic imperatives of blogging and let the details unfold through follow-up training sessions or directed readings.

    Reply
  2. Ed Byrne

    TCI China, and Irish business, have a blog (/journal). Albeit irregularly updated.

    What’s interesting is that even though a few companies blog, and are shown statistics on web traffic, they often still don’t believe it’s having an impact, and as a result the blog is way down the list of priorities.

    Reply
  3. John Murphy

    DeCare Systems blog is a good example of this – they have 9 contributing authors (although there hasn’t been a new article posted these last two weeks!).

    Just waaay to busy at the moment :-)

    Reply
  4. Donagh Kiernan

    a year ago, i was a skeptic on whether blogging is applicable to my business development business.

    Tom convinced me. In the past 6 months, while still learning how to do this properly, i have noticed that when I meet new potential clients that they are familiar with my thinking on developing technology businesses.

    Blogging helps build a relationship with your potential market and existing clients. I think it develops and builds trust. They get to know you and are more comfortable in doing business with you.

    It does takes time to write the posts

    Reply
  5. Mary Gilmartin

    We dont sell just rubber gloves, just its our newest product :)

    We also sell static control devices and cleanroom consumables (think the bunny suits the csi’s wear and that they wear the in the questionable apple ad).

    Reply
  6. Larkin Cunningham

    Great post Tom. Follows on nicely from the Last Word interview.

    Posting is not an easy thing to do. It takes time to research, draft, re-draft, etc. You are always conscious of not just rehashing what others have already said. Corporate blog posts can turn into mini-magazine articles. And comments received are like gold-dust, an affirmation that someone out there is either listening or ‘gets’ what you do.

    On the knowledge management side of things, I agree with what you say to a certain extent, though I think wikis are better for general knowledge management and forums / bulletin boards are better for fact finding or idea forming / brainstorming. All three (blogs, wikis and forums) belong to a close knit family though.

    I think business blogs, while they may give a lowish return in the beginning, can become an archive for a company’s achievement and evolution. In years to come, prospective customers will see a depth and a history to the company via their blogs. If a blog only goes back a few months, customers may wonder if the company has been at the races over the years, whereas a large archive with growing numbers of comments, will reflect positively on the solidity and authority of the company (assuming the posts are of a sufficient quality and the feedback is reasonably positive).

    Reply
  7. Tom Raftery

    @Mary – I have seen your blog – well done on joining the conversation – one question I am curious about – why do you have your blog on a hosted blog – why not on your own company domain?

    @Larkin – thanks for the kind words. I agree absolutely with the wiki/bb points you made – I just didn’t want to bring them up in a post about blogs – I didn’t want to dilute the post and possibly confuse the issue.

    You are spot on as well with the archive point.

    The other point I forgot to address in the post was the whole “joining in the conversation” one – I think I’ll have to do a sequel!

    Reply
  8. Mary Gilmartin

    Well quite simple, since business blogging a new idea, it was easier to convince ATP to take a risk on a hosted blog rather than put money into it yet.

    So far all the blog has costed is some of my time while I work on redeveloping the website. I havent need to pay for software and any images on it are free.

    If the blog does really well we can get it a domain name or buy a blog software to move it to the same host as the website, while if it does badly the company hasn’t taken to big a risk.

    Also personally I like the communities that come with a hosted blog, even though bloghoster doesnt really have one yet. You are virtually sharing space with people talking about more and less important topics, and your readers can also stumble across other sites in the communty and maybe get more out of the experience.

    Reply
  9. Donagh Kiernan

    hi Mary, I’m prone to this myself.

    I just had a discussion with Tom on typos and other errors in a blog and how it may affect the effectiveness of the blog.

    i need to more clinical on this myself..

    I’m sure this is just a once-off for you. I’m sure MS Word has messed us up.

    Donagh

    Reply
  10. annette

    Great post Tom..I’ve just started a business blog this week. It’s taken me a while to get going on it, primarily because I was spending too much time on the personal one http://www.thinkingoutloud.biz. There’s also the issue of finding the authorial “voice” on a business blog that’s different to a personal one but you seem to straddle it all effortlessly. I’m viewing the business blog as a way of talking about “how” I work as distinct from what I do, so we’ll see how it goes!

    Reply
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  12. Tom Raftery

    Hey Annette – congrats on winning the Blog Award the other week for your personal blog – obviously you weren’t spending too much time on it! Or if you think you were, at least you got some recognition for your fabulous work – well done.

    Talking about the “how” is a great way to straddle the personal and business. I rarely post anything personal so I dodge that issue!

    I’m looking forward to reading your new blog – you must send me on a link

    Reply
  13. annette

    Thanks Tom…well this is an interesting one because my “rule” for the personal blog is – don’t spend longer than 15 minutes composing a post….now that’s not going to work in the world of business is it…so I think this is the thing that’s put the stoppers on me before now…I’m a firm believer that personal blogging is a lot easier lol!

    by the way the link to my new blog is here

    Reply
  14. omaniblog

    Thanks for an interesting piece and for opening a stimulating exchange of views. I came to your blog via Annette’s business blog.

    I feel like adding a couple of extra reasons why companies might gain from blogging:

    (1) Building company culture
    (2) Humanising the organisation

    All organisations need to attend to their culture. Perhaps blogging, if it is done well, may help an organisation to (a) recognise and clarify its culture , (b) develop its sense of and attachment to its culture and (3) encourage people to buy into its aspirational culture.

    Business organisations are easily characterised as soul-less, profit-obsessed and ultimately empty. No matter whatever are the business objectives, all businesses are organisations of people. Blogging may facilitate the expression of complex emotional intelligence behind business decision making. A CEO who blogs about the things that matter to her or him is both sharing values and constructing a more humane organisation. Such an image may benefit the brand.

    But, as you know, there are not even enough business bloggers in Ireland to make up a quorum of early adopters… So we have the future for that.

    Reply
  15. annette

    Oh this is such an interesting idea and one I’ve been kicking around in my own head for a while *note to self, write a post about this*…

    Reply
  16. Tom Raftery

    Paul (omaniblog), thanks for adding to the discussion – you are, of course, absolutely correct with your points – there are many hard quantifiable reasons for companies to blog but there are almost more soft unquantifiable advantages that blogging can bring to a business.

    Reply
  17. omaniblog

    I’ve just been flicking back over my recent comments on blogs. (Something I’d love to be able to do efficiently.)

    It’s a pity this discussion didn’t go on for longer. Perhaps it is going on somewhere else?

    I’d like to join in discussion about blogging for business.

    Reply
  18. Tom Raftery

    Paul (omaniblog) – there is a very good book on this topic called Naked Conversations – it is by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. The guys wrote a lot of the book online through a blog so you can read early drafts of most of the chapters on the Red Couch blog – start reading it from about here.

    Reply
  19. omaniblog

    Tom,
    For some reason that escapes me, I have only now caught up with your last comment and the reference to that interesting book. It’s especially interesting to read about the gestation.

    I haven’t read much but I’ll read it all eventually.

    Meanwhile, I read Annette’s Thinking out loud business blog without fail.

    If you come across any more examples of Irish business blogs I’d be interested.

    You probably know this already but the CEO of Leclerc – the French hypermarket franchise – blogs. (I’m not sure I’ve spelt the company correctly.)

    I’ve thought of starting a business blog for my business but I’m most interested in the relationship between the “domestic” and the “public/business”, the way people live in the boundaries they create… so I’m holding off… consequently my blog is a bit of a mishmash…

    Thanks again.

    Reply
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