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Business blogging proves addictive

A few months ago, I announced to my husband, “I’m blogging.” His reply? “That’s nice, honey.” A moment of silence then, “What’s blogging?”

Blogging is the latest craze on the Internet. A blog, short for Web log, is an online diary. It is free speech in its purest form, and it’s threatening to change the communication business and the marketing business. I had heard about this strange idea, but I didn’t really think it was for me until I read a column from BusinessWeek entitled “Blogs Will Change Your Business.” I quote from the article: “Blogs are not a business elective. They’re a prerequisite.” You can bet that caught my eye.

So, I went to www.blogger.com and I set up a free site, www.newper.blogspot.com. Within minutes, I was blogging, writing my thoughts in a free-wheeling fashion, not knowing if anyone would actually care what I had to say.

This craze took off during the last presidential campaign. It was a way for each side to market their candidate and dispel rumors, as they occurred. Of course, it was also a way to start rumors. No one edits these blogs or checks their content for accuracy. The reader must beware. You’ll find blogs from famous columnists, like Dave Barry, and from ordinary people, like Jenny, 16, a Gemini. Bloggers post their unedited and uncensored thoughts, as well as pictures to complement their diaries. Blogs are usually peppered with links to other sites. They often have a pithy headline, followed by a posting day and time.

Anyone can blog. ANYONE. There are about nine million blogs right now, and the numbers are growing daily. There is a blog for every demographic and every taste. You’re a sports fan? Go to www.fanblogs.com and find a listing for your favorite team. You’re a political nut? Try “The Ole Miss Conservative” for one viewpoint. Into Harry Potter? How about “The Leaky Cauldron?” If you want to read about religion, go to www.standfirminfaith.com. Like cars? AutomoBear.com may be the ticket.

Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can set up a blog. Blogger is Google’s offering. Yahoo allows users to start blogs. Teenagers prefer Xanga.com, and college students go to Facebook.com. MySpace.com is beating out everyone now, and AOL is jumping into the fray with its own version of the “social Internet.” If you’re technologically challenged, find a fourteen year old to help you get started.

There are many options, so you can have several blogs on several different services. Going into the world of blogs is like stepping into a very noisy café. Everyone is talking a mile a minute, and you’re eavesdropping on the conversation. Some bits are useful. Some are pure fluff. And some are downright obscene.

A whole new language has sprung up around this activity. Dooced is when your blog costs you your job. Blog about your boss and intimate secrets, and you could get fired. Moblogging is blogging on the go, or blogging on your mobile device. I’m not that sophisticated yet. Some companies are using blogs to market their products, trying to sound like the guy next door who just came across this great idea. The blogging world quickly identifies these as flogs, fake blogs.

Some parents are discovering the perils of blogging, as their teenagers try to live down rumors posted on sites like Xanga.com. Get mad at somebody at school? Start a rumor about her on your blog. You have a certain degree of anonymity and no one to dispute your claims. Within minutes, the damage is done. Free speech has its downside.

You can search for blogs in your area. When I did a search for Mississippi blogs, I came up with a ton of them. Most were from young people, using the Internet to air their thoughts. I found one extolling the virtues of Hattiesburg. It’s called Hattie’s Blog. Another caught my eye. It was written from the viewpoint of a cute, black dog named Reilly. When I went to the site, I found that Reilly was more like an alley cat! Bad dog. Bad blog.

One thing you need to know about blogging… once you start, you can’t stop. In order to be effective, you have to blog regularly and build a following. My business lends itself well to the practice, since I am reporting on the stock market and business news of the day, so I blog five days a week. I have been surprised at the clients who look at my blog. If I miss a day, they let me know about it!

Blogging is an inexpensive, yet powerful, tool which can be used to cultivate business, but use it carefully. Make sure your site is interesting and informative. Put in several links to other sites to increase your effectiveness. Don’t get too opinionated. It could cost you business. Free speech loses its appeal when there’s a price to pay.

Nancy Lottridge Anderson, CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Clinton. Her e-mail address is nanderson@newper.com, and she’s online at www.newper.com. Her column appears monthly in the Mississippi Business Journal.

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