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Business blogging a tech tool of growing importance

Tupelo — Paul Chaney is a self-professed business blogging evangelist.

“I believe in it,” says the owner of Radiant Marketing Group, who is promoting business blogging for everyone from representatives of major corporations to the owners of the flower shop down the street. “It is a whole other world, a separate niché, its own unique room in blogging house.”

“Blog” is short for Web log. Bloggers are people who publish comments on the Web known not as articles, but as posts. Bloggers are credited with being the first to challenge the authenticity of the documents used by Dan Rather to question the military service record of President George W. Bush during the fall campaign.

“Bloggers tend to be people who are upset about a particular thing — the thing with Dan Rather, for example,” Chaney said. “Blogs can be one sentence or an entire 500-word commentary. Blogging typically is done by one person expressing a point of view, which can be a strong, controversial point of view. With blogging for business, that is not necessarily the case.”

Business blogging is different from a 17-year-old raving online about his favorite rock group. For businesses, a Web blog is an easily, frequently and instantly updated Web site.

“The thing that makes a blog different than other content management systems is that it is very tightly focused around a particular niché, personality or industry,” Chaney said. “It has very much a laser-type focus. A Web blog has dated entries, coming in reverse chronological order. What posts last is at the top. From a technical standpoint, a Web log is a content management system that is easy to use.”

Chaney said a blog really is not only content management, but knowledge management. Everything is archived and categorized. You can search by category. It is a great tool for businesses to use for internal purposes for projects that need some platform to share information and ideas.
What separates a blog from a message board or an article for a Web site is that it is done by someone who is generally very passionate on the subject about which they write. It tends to collect around people who share similar passions. Chaney’s personal blog deals with business blogging, so the people around his blog are interested in learning about how to use blogging for business purposes.

“Blogs help build up an audience with the same interests,” Chaney said. “There are a lot of reasons for businesses to use blogs. The primary reason is it helps humanize your business. Corporate America, let’s face it, is very impersonal. Think of McDonald’s Corp. The only person you think of is Ronald McDonald. So if you have a CEO of a corporation who is posting and responding to blogs, it helps humanize your organization. It gives a personal face to your business. Blogging helps you develop your own voice and personality.”

Blogs are also great feedback mechanisms, giving opportunity for people to make comments and suggestions in response to the original post.

Chaney said with a component called Trackback, when you send in a post responding to someone else’s blog, a “ping” is sent to the place where the original blog you are responding to was posted.

“Say I write something today,” Chaney said. “Someone reads my blog. You do a post. You want to let me know you have responded. You can include a little bit of code when uploading the post that sends what is known as a ping to the server where my blog is hosted. It actually adds some of the text you have written below my post. What can happen is you can see a thought stream, also known as ‘meme’ by bloggers.”

Perhaps one of the best reasons to use business blogging is that it can attract traffic to your company’s Web site. Chaney gives a personal example: He responded to a blogging post from Mark Cuban, a prominent businessman who is the owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks. Chaney’s blog was in response to what Cuban had written about sweat equity being one of the rules for success. For months afterwards if someone typed in Mark Cuban’s rules of success in the Google search engine, the number two hit was Chaney’s post.

“That is the power of blogging,” Chaney said. “Because of blogging, my company, Radiant Marketing Group, owns the first two pages on Google when you type in the key words ‘Radiant Marketing.’ It is amazing how that works. Blogging is a great way to get your name out there and credential yourself. People will look to you as an authority, the expert. If you become the place where people go to get information, if you are smart you can turn that into leads or sales.”

Another thing blogs can do is help facilitate the spread of buzz. You have a thought-provoking idea, and want it to spread. Blogs are great tools for helping ideas spread.

“If I post something thought provoking or controversial, all of a sudden you will see one blog after another picking it up,” Chaney said. “It will begin to spread across the Web. No other technology can facilitate the spread of a message better than blogging.”

Chaney depicts search engines as the Yellow Pages of the 21st Century. It is estimated that 77% of all traffic to Web sites comes from search engines. Blogging is one tool that can be used to make a Web site a search engine magnet.

“One way Google determines rank is by the number of links to your site, and the quality of the link,” Chaney said. “What search engines like is words, not flash animation or any of those other things. Blogging is words. For solo entrepreneurs or consultants, blogs have become their Web site. If you write consistently and clearly about any given topic, you are going to see traffic from the search engines. Blogs are a link in a strategy to attract traffic to your Web site. You reference what I said, and I link to you, and Google is spidering all that.”

Blogging is almost something you have to experience to understand. If you are on the outside looking in, you might question how it is different from a Web site. There are technical aspects that are unusual, but perhaps even more important is the fact there is a real spirit to blogging.

“Bloggers are very passionate people, and you might even say they are obsessive about what they write about,” Chaney said. “If you are passionate about your business, and you really want to evangelize about your business, product or service, a blog is an excellent way to do that. The knowledge management aspect of it is another way blogs can be very useful tools.”

Chaney suggests that businesses using blogging need to be very authentic, speaking from the heart. While many types of businesses might not be very controversial, the blogs can be used as great tools for sharing information and helping consumers find out about a product or service.

“Also, professional associations are beginning to adapt blog technology to their marketing communications,” Chaney said. “For industry-related associations, this can be a great tool.”

Chaney believes some of the best people to take advantage of business blog are owners of small business.

“Number one, they don’t have a big advertising budget,” he said. “Setting up a blog is cheap and in some cases even free. But you have to understand how to approach a blog, how it is different from other online marketing communications. It is like writing to a personal friend. Blog is like an e-mail to whoever wants to read it. It has the very personal tone about it that I don’t think any other Internet communication form has.

“What I would say to any CEO is that a Web blog that talks about your business, written by someone who knows what they are talking about, is an invaluable tool to help you grow your business. It is cheap. You don’t have to spend thousands having some IT department create a content management system.

“You can go to typepad.com, and for as little as $4.95 per month, have a great platform. I really like it for business purposes. If people just want to get their feet wet, blogger.com is a free service. A third blogging platform I would really recommend if you want to develop a Web site is www.squarespace.com. If you have a company with your own servers and IT people, I would recommend www.moveabletype.com. A lot of people are using that platform.”

Business blogging has become Chaney passion.

“I see huge advantages to using blogging in business communications for PR, as well as internal business management,” he said. “That is where I am transitioning my company to, helping businesses strategize how to use business blogging.”

Ocean Springs-based freelance journalist Becky Gillette writers regularly for the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact her via e-mail at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

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