A warning in advance. I planned to stucture my reasearch and thoughts in a logical manner but once I started rambling it just went on an on so here it is as it fell out of my head. I hope to tidy it another time.
The web is full of personal blogs nd hundreds more are added daily. Although initial uptake was for personal fun blogs today it is rare to find a web professional without a business/professional blog.
But why is blogging so popular? Is it a practical medium for delivery of serious content/message? Is it for you? Is it for your business?
The key things that make Blogs such a great medium are:
1. Fast easy delivery
2. Has become well established and respected
3. Search Engine Friendly 4. Attracts large traffic (directed to business/ads) 5. A Respected Blog has great power to influence it's reader
6. Accessible across huge range of software and devices. From Webbrowsers, Live book marks, Google Personalised Home page, Newsreaders the PDAs, mobiles and even PSPs
7. There are even ways for others to have you content feed into their site and link back to you.
8. Can promote your business
9. Promote you as an individual
10. Generate revenue
11. Become a reference library of things you discovered.
12. Cheap or even free
13. Get feedback from your target audience
14. Increase name recognition and boost traffic to your main website
Ease of publication. As Blogs are built on a Content Management System they are extremely easy to update with new articles, or edit existing ones. Some Blogs even enable you to add new articles by sending an email (I hope ZDBlog will do this in future).
Understood to be regular brief articles. Blog readers understand that each artice will be brief so do not expect a masterpiece every time. They also expect regular updates as it is for the author(s) to put up new articles, for this reason people subscribe to a blog they like. This means repeat traffic.
RSS. The RSS feed created by your blog is extremely useful for getting you message out. It can be used with RSS readers so subscribers can see as soon as there is new information to read. Google and Yahoo have created readers which millions use.
Search engines love you. Because of the way blogs are built it makes it very easy for search engines to index you. If you are linking to your business site from your blog, this has a knock on benefit to your business' ranking.
Comments - companies pay thousands for market research and focus groups etc. Blogs invite Feedback on every post. It will never replace the afor mentioned methods but it is another channel to get user opinion. Want to know what people think of a particular topic? Post you thoughts on it and invite comments, or better still offer both sides of an issue and ask what people agree with. If you're brave enough you could play the devils advocate and write something controversial which usually generates a lot of feedback but might give you the wrong kind of attention unless it is done in the right way, perhaps, tongue-in-cheek.
Blogs are not intended to be a corporate message (although they can be) They are are usually written by an individual with their thoughts and opinions etc. A blog can put a human face on the company. As an individual's opinion an informal monologue you can be freer to say what you like compared with a press statement or official content on your company website.
Research shows that consumers get tired of the smoothly polished corporate message, and may even tune it out. Conversely, they tend to perk up their ears when they detect an individual's honest expression. It's the same phenomenon that causes hand-addressed direct mail pieces to earn a better response than identical but machine-addressed pieces.
What does your profile say about you?
Your name? Unless your a celebrity or the viewer already knows who you are at most it will reveal your gender and maybe even your race.
Your Job Title? In many profiles this is all there information there is so your job title defines you, but is there any difference between consultant 1 and consultant 10? Who knows.
Your Biography? Here we start to get more of a feel of who you are. If you haven't done so already fill yours in. However, this is just your statement about you. I could state I am the smartest, most popular person on the web, but it doesn't make it so.
Your Blog? Ah, that's the decider. You can't just make a statement that you know your stuff. Your regular postings will reveal your insight in the field you work or blog about. It reveals your personality and skill. When you make a suggestion or comment it has more weight when you have a history of reliable/useful information behind you. It talks for you even when your asleep.
Why I blog
The reasons I blog will no doubt be very different to yours so if none of my reasons apply to you don't be put off. I am a freelancer. An unknown freelancer. My blog helps me get known, is an example of my work, I will use it to drive traffic to my portfolio (eventually when it is finished), I make contacts through visitors who read my posts and comment. Since starting my personal blog 3 weeks ago I've had email conversations with CEOs of 5 different companies through them contacting me in response to a posts I had made. I also have a place to direct people when I mingle with others in my field. I have neither the time nor inclination to spend hours/days on creating a detailed website or page for topic I may want to publish, my blog allows me to get my thoughts out there quickly and easily. The ease in which I have generated traffic to my blog surprises even me. Compared to my websites my blog as many if not more hits after only a couple of weeks. Google has indexed every single page of my blog. Although I make no money or business from my blog currently I am establishing a reader base which I hope to eventually channel to whatever project I want to promote in future.
Why a ZDBlog.
The added benefit of a ZDBlog is the audience. With an external blog you are just another webpage amoung millions of e-commerce, corporate, fun and blog sites etc. On ZDNet your blog is highly visible to thousands of other like minded Business and IT professionals. ZDNet have a team of genious' constantly taking users feedback and improving ZDNet, the blog included. I am sure there will be more and more features to boost the usefulness and ease of use of your ZDBlog making even more reasons to have one.
Why read blogs? In my field - webdesign/producing/developing things are constantly changing, as I am sure it is in business. This is why a quick and easy delivery system is needed to get news out there before it's old news. Many will agree with me wen I say there is more useful information on web design on blogs than in a 3 year university course. I have friends currently studying web design at uni or on courses and by the time they start the course the information is lready out of date so when they finish and try to use their knowledge in the real world it's ancient history. The most up-to-date information to learn techniques from is on the web and more specifically on blogs. I've learnt more in a month from blogs than in a year from books ad the information hs been more relevant and currenty useful.
One of the few places you can get genuinely useful, up-to-date, free information. So even if your not a blog writer at heart you can defiinitely benefit from reading them.
Is blogging for you?
If you expect me to say here that blogging is for everyone then you'll be surprised to here that I don't believe it is. How can you tell if it is for you? Well don't base it on your first attempt. Your first 5 posts are the hardest. You have to think about - what am I trying to achieve, what should I say, what tone should I use, how does this blogging thing work anyway etc. Then when you have made a single post there isn't much worth promoting or you may have used all your ammo in your first post and have nothing else to say etc. All of this is normal and only a born blogger will not have similar jitters. But once you get a feel for it and have made 4-5 posts you'll either find it getting much easier (maybe even enjoyable) especially when you get positive feedback from readers and colleagues either as comments on your blog or verbal/email. This "pat-on-the-back" could be enough to motivate you to do more or even without this being able to express yourself in this very visible and effective form may want you to do more. However, if you find every post painful and nothing comes naturally it may not be for you. Me, I can't type fast enough to get my thoughts out, but if you have to squeeze each letter out it may not be worth your while. It's usually easier if your talking about something you are genuinely passionate about than something your marketing dept has asked you to push.
Some sources of my research: http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/5229.asp