Should I blog?!

I received a few emails over the holidays pondering the social networking phenomena, blogging and web 2.0 technologies. Thank you for all your comments and your questions!

Although I diligently responded to each email, I thought a blog entry may be in order to discuss some of the questions and general issues raised by your emails.

First, yes, blogging is web 2.0 technology and no, your business is not likely to go under for lack of a blog.

There may be a number of reasons why you may wish to blog, including, among other things:

  • to build your profile within your industry generally or with your clients;
  • to engage, and interact with, your peers and share your experiences; or
  • as part of your client communications and/or service delivery strategy.

The above are all good and valid reasons to blog and there are many more possible reasons that may justify the time and effort that you will need to invest in order to maintain a blog.

If you wish to build your profile in a particular field or if you wish to engage your peers, blogging is a great ‘no fuss’ and low risk strategy and you are likely to get good mileage from the experience.

However, if you are planning to use a blog as part of your client communications and/or service delivery platform, you have a lot more thinking and preparation to do before you plunge into the world of blogging.

Perhaps the most important consideration, as many of you rightly asked, is whether you need to blog. This brings to mind that old query raised by most parents to their teenager at some point in time: ‘if all your friends jumped of a bridge, would you?!’

It seems to me that having a blog should not be an exercise in keeping up with the world, but rather a considered decision answering the question: ‘would having a blog benefit my clients and therefore my business?’

If by maintaining a blog you can add genuine value to your clients (or a specific client), having a blog may be a smart business decision.

Some types of businesses appear a natural fit for utilising a blog (or blogs) to add value to clients, especially those providing professional services such as law firms and consultancies. A blog can enable busy partners, directors or principals to engage with clients directly in a manner that is time efficient for the professional yet provides significant benefits and added value for the client, by providing valued commentary, opinions and updates on issues relevant to the client’s business.

Of course blogs in some respect can be blunt instruments and this must be recognised when planning the type of commentary, opinions or updates you are considering to deliver through this medium, especially if the blog will reach a mass audience.

But keep in mind that online technologies tend to be flexible and are generally limited only by our own imagination. This also means that a ‘blog’ can mean different things in different contexts.

‘Blogs’ can be:

  • public or ‘private’ (e.g. protected by user ID and password);
  • a one-way communication or an interactive tool (e.g. by allowing readers to leave comments and responses, whether moderated or not); and
  • designed to reach a mass audience or just a single client.

One issue that is often overlooked and under-appreciated, is the time and effort that is required to maintain a ‘professional’ blog. Although blogs by their nature are a somewhat ‘informal’ communication tool, when it is used as an extension of your business, it must conform with the professional standards and reputation of your organisation and appropriate editorial policies and oversight will need to be in place.

There are also legal considerations for organisations delivering commentary or opinions via a blog to their clientele, especially if the relevant organisation is usually in the business of providing professional advice.

Legal considerations also come to the front if you are proposing to maintain a public and interactive blog, allowing your readers to leave comments (the risk of which can of course be reduced by moderating the responses/comments).

Other considerations include whether your ‘blog’ should be free or whether it offers such value that a price tag should (and can be) attached (e.g. whether should it be a subscription based service rather than a ‘free blog’) and that a public blog will be available to your competitors …

The above are just a few examples of the issues a business should consider and address to ensure that it will have a happy foray into the world of blogging, which illustrates further that blogging should not be merely an attempt to keep up with the world (and your competition) but a considered business decision.

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