What is a blog (Does the question look to simple)? Well, it depends on whom the question is asked. For millions of ordinary people with access to a computer and an Internet connection, it is easy way to self publish their thoughts, concerns, and feelings or a means of talking to each other and sharing joys, sorrow and accomplishments. Web logs (blogs) are outlet on so many levels for so many people. But for businesses and e-marketers blogs are quick tools for building their businesses and brands.
A rapidly evolving Web phenomenon, business blogs, as the term has already been coined, are a new corporate tool for communicating with customers or employees to share knowledge and expertise. In connected world, more and more businesses are successfully experimenting with the blogging milieu. A bit of web surfing and one can find out blogs on topics like entrepreneurship, business management and administration, legal issues, regulations, the media, e-commerce, the national and global economies and more. Trend watchers think that blogging will soon become the next mainstream application like newsletters and brochures, only easier and faster to disseminate?
Business blogs are highly focused, here to stay desktop tools. Those businesses that have websites, e-newsletter or brochures, can link them all to a blog, extending life and creating a substantial conversation. This may offer a multi directional forum to customers to get first hand information on products and services. Even small business can start a blog and become industry proficient and competitive, while involving customers in the process.
After the rise, fall and now sluggish existence of dotcoms, blogging is a low-cost alternative to having a web presence. Ownership of the blog rests with in the company as any one can maintain the blog. No HTML or DHTML knowledge, designer, developer or Webmaster is required. No deployment of costly infrastructure or software applications.
Blog fraternity is exponentially growing, and finding entirely new audience, much beyond geeks and techies. Readership now includes the mainstream media, various government, private and non-profit organisations, many businesses, and other interested people from outside conventional blogging community. The growth in the number of blogs, and those who read them, continues to attract attention from business leaders, as a means of enhancing companies’ communication more directly with employees, partners and customers. With readers gathering in the blogosphere, businesses find them useful for plugging not just their products but also their points of view.
Blogs have the tendency to promote each other. Therefore, if any business create a useful business blog that people find relevant and informative, company have a built in public relation mechanism that will help spread the word about the product or service.
Exploring blogosphere (part of the vast cyber space occupied by bloggers) one can notice that most major concerns are having their own blogs. Even Google with its “empire stretching into millions of computers” has its own official blog, forget the glut of unofficial Google blogs (Remember Google owns Blogger.com, one of the biggest used blogger platforms). Foreign universities, Anna University, India and University of California, USA to name just a few, are teaching blogging to their graduates. Researchers and sociologists are keenly watching the trend.
Businesses can start one blog for each project and have it run its course. As the project continues along, everybody can do status updates and be able to link to every other relevant resource, whether it is on the Web or in a Word document or in a company database. So for internal use, all concerned can have a lot of flexibility.
Blogs are fast, economical and interactive. Blog software is easy to use. They provide instant feedback. They are search engine friendly because they provide fresh contents all the time. “Blogging helps network, boost sales, and even lobby a very large audience — at a fraction of the cost of traditional media. Blogs can improve public image and make business appear World Wide Web wise,” says a brand manager Marya Khan.
But sadly, no progress has been made towards taking advantage of this facility in Pakistan. Local corporate people who know of blogs (most have no clue what to talk of maintaining one) still think of Weblogs as personal sites. Which is why the trend has yet to gain adoption in corporate Pakistan despite obvious advantages. Let me hasten to add that there are quite a number of non-corporate blogs in Pakistan.
Why not? Most business people, including those who have web presence in the form of Websites, are hesitant when it comes to taking any new initiatives that they have not seen done before. Larger companies inherently adopt a wait and see approach. Which is one of the reasons that business blogging is an untested frontier in Pakistan. Another excuse that I got from most business people I talked to is this: “there is a small users’ base at home so why bother.” Marya says, “The
tough thing is how to teach businesses to turn talking to their customers through blogging. If they start, interested people will follow.” Just because one cannot see local business blogs in action is not the reason to believe they do not exist, or to overlook the tremendous potential of intranet blogging.
Given the promising potentials, I believe time will show the business benefits of blogging, and that those starting now will have an advantage. But first local business have to start and create an environment. That has not started happening yet.
(This appeared in Political Economy, the News International)