What are blogs?
Blogs are frequently updated web pages on which authors post articles about news items, interesting websites, and their thoughts and just about anything that interests the author. Blogs are the newest information age revolution that allows individuals to express themselves to the world.
Blogs operate using a content management system, where the blog owner can add, edit, and delete content from the blog to keep it updated as quickly and efficiently as possible.
They were originally used as online journals, or diaries, which were the mainstay of teenagers who love to write down their most private thoughts. However, given the Internet is a public information space and anyone with an Internet connecion can read your online journal it is not a good place to be posting those private thoughts.
Who should use blogs?
Blogging first came on the seen during the 2004 election, now has exploded as a marketing tool for companies, such as Sun Microsystems, StonyField Farms, and Kowabunga Technologies with the intent on bypassing traditional media of reaching customers. With more people finding companies by searching the Internet, and with 32 million Americans reading blogs, this makes blogging a cost effective tool for marketing.
Blogs would be perfect for college students. Many college professors require that their students keep a journal of their activities so that they can see how the student is progressing and if the student is learning the material. Some college professors even advise students to set time immediately after class to do their writing activity in their journal.
This journal activity can be done using blogs, where the professor can go to the website and view the blogs of his or her students. The professor can see first hand who is actively doing the activity, and contribute to a discussion with the student by posting a comment, thus creating a two-way dialogue.
Let’s assume that the student is taking a course on Organization Behavior and is reading an interesting chapter on Interpersonal Communications in Organizations. At the beginning of the lecture, the professor hands out the lecture notes, usually as PowerPoint slides so the student can follow along. The first slide lists the learning objectives that the professor expects the student to be able to do upon completion of the lecture. Here is an example of a learning objective:
Describe the process of communication and its role in organizations
After class, the student can go to the computer center on campus and login to his blog, and attempt to explain what the process of communication based on the lecture. Being able to write about something in your own words immediately after hearing it can help in the learning process.
The Downsides of Blogging
Fear of negative comments
Blogs invite negative comments because there are a lot of people out there that just love to trash people and don’t have anything nice to say. Companies should not be deterred. Blogs have a feature where you can moderate each and every comment that is made by a visitor, and the blog owner can choose to accept it or reject it at his discretion.
The comments made by visitors reading a blog creates a two-way dialogue between the writer and the readers creating an opportunity for acquiring new knowledge which can lead to learning. However, for learning to take place, action is required to be taken on that knowledge, for learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior produced by experience and the acquisition of knowledge.
Inappropriate content written by employees
Two employees were fired from their respective companies for what they posted on their blogs. Mark Jen was fired from Google for writing about the companies health care plan. A Delta Airlines flight attendant was also fired for writing about her escapades, some of which were sexual in nature.
There needs to be policies in place regulating what employees can and cannot write about in their blogs. However, the blog must be company owned, such as within a company website. If an employee of a company starts a blog on his own time for his own engagement, the company cannot regulate what that employee writes about in his blog. If the employer attempts to regulate that employee’s behavior, that would be a violation of his first amendment rights.
Employers need to thread carefully so that they do not intrude in their employees personal lives. What an employee does on his or her own time is the employee’s own business and not the employer.
What can a business use a blog for?
Implement a newsletter
Blogs come with an archiving function where posts that are published are archived on a monthly bases. This is about the same frequency as a regular email newsletter. Visitors to your blog can view past issues to see what was written in past months.
Newsletters are published documents describing information of interest to customers, employees, or anyone that is interested in learning more about that company regarding the array of business and nonbusiness issues. Blogs can be used as a delivery method for bringing these same news and announcements about a company, products/services and the online industry in general that the company is in. Whereas newsletters tend to be a one-way communication tool and are more impersonal, using blogs as newsletters can make it more personal by creating a two-way dialogue.
Blogs can be a huge opportunity for small businesses and be a very real threat for email newsletter companies, such as Vertical Response and Constant Contact. These companies help small businesses build their email lists, publish their newsletters, and manage their email marketing campaigns. Small business owners only pay for the number of email newsletters that they send. The cost can range from as low as $15 for 1,000 to &750 for as much as 100,000 email newsletters.
By using a blog to publish a newsletter, the small business owner can save this money. The money saved can then be allocated to investing in the training and development of their employees, another critical aspect of running a business.
Improve a web presence
Search engines want to provide high quality search results for their visitors. Search engines love blogs and favor sites that are updated frequently.
Websites can get indexed almost instantaneously. Everytime you publish an article to your blog, it pings other websites. Pinging lets dozens of services know your website has been updated, thus increases traffic to your blog.
Become a published author
Everyone has an area of expertise, or core competency. Usually this area of expertise is based on a strong interest of the owner. You could haved owned a web design company and handled all of the Human Resources activities for your company because you had a strong interest in that field. Perhaps within this field you developed a strong interest in attracting and selecting the best candidates for your company. Maybe you tweaked the employment interview and turned it into an oral examination for the job applicant.
By writing articles, you will become known as an expert on the topics you write about. This will give you and your business extra credibility which will help you compete against your competition as you demonstrate your expertise.
To get started blogging, small businesses can save money by purchasing a reseller webhosting account, such as that from HostGator. A reseller hosting account is a tad more pricey, but cheaper in the long term. You have the ability to host unlimited number of websites without having to contact your web hosting provider and set up new account. You have to pay for every new hosting account, which can be a strain on your budget. With a reseller hosting account you will be able to create a hosting account for no additional cost (except for the domain registration).
Blogs are here to stay. As more people continue to learn what a blog is, it will continue to evolve with many new uses.
Author: Nick Roy is an HR Researcher, Consultant, and freelance business writer