01 July 2005

Blog 101

I recently had to put together a quick intro to blogging and I thought that, although if you're reading this you clearly don't need it for yourself, it might be a useful thing to share.

It was pretty hard to explain without tautologies - it's so easy to want to explain that well, duh, clearly a blogger is somebody who blogs... in a blog... etc.

Anyway, many thanks to the ever-eminent Greg for helping make this not only concise but accurate.

Feel free to quote me. Plagiarize and I'll hunt you down and voodoo curse you. Or at least kick you in the shins.

What’s a blog? What’s a podcast? What’s RSS?

A blog (short for “weblog”) is a website that has short, frequently updated entries with a personal point of view on a narrow topic. Because readers can comment on each entry (including fact-checking, agreeing or disagreeing), they quickly develop reader loyalty. Posts frequently include links to more information. Blog services make creating and publishing a blog very easy.

A podcast (combination of “iPod” and “broadcast”) is a short radio program made available online. Audiences can listen on their computers or can download to listen on their MP3 players. Like a webcast, it’s Tivo-like, in that it can be played on demand.

RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) is a computer-readable format that allows services to detect and grab new content from sites. It allows readers to automatically monitor the sites they’re interested in and eliminates the need to go and check each site – making it effortless. In addition, an RSS feed can go directly into other media – a site can include in its content the latest entries from other sites, automatically updated.

So what? What does all this mean?

Blogs are a new news medium. True, most bloggers are average people talking about nothing much to a small group of their friends. However, opinion leaders are by definition “information junkies” – and these people are blogging and reading blogs of people like them who have educated, informed, opinionated things to say. These blogs have gained not only readership but credibility. Traditional journalists (the biggest information junkies) are looking to them as sources, and readers are going to them for information the same way they would refer to traditional media.

And, it’s not just individuals; blogging has gone corporate. Ketchum has a blog on their home page offering podcasts, posts and links. (However, when Ketchum announced they had created a new division of their business devoted to blogging, they didn’t yet have a blog and they were mocked for it. Ketchum listened to the bloggers, and their new blog is a response to that reaction.)

In another example of business in the blog world, Blogads is a network of bloggers that accept advertising. Such highly targeted advertising is getting a proportionally huge ROI for companies, which can find those people in their target audience who are engaged enough to be blog readers – the perfect target.

So what next? What can you do with it?

Use blogs for audience research. People with strong interest and strong opinions are ideal as a focus group and as a new form of KOLs. Knowing what’s being said about the things you care about can give you entirely new ideas. Bloggers want people to pay attention to what they have to say, and when that applies to your work, that can be enlightening. Find relevant blogs with Blogads and Technorati, and monitor them with Bloglines – all free.

Consider the potential for media relations. If there are bloggers writing about a topic you have news about, let them know. However, it’s riskier than pitching a traditional reporter. Bloggers do not look kindly on overt “spin” – see Ketchum above – so it has to be done right.

Consider the potential for brand-building. Frequent, short, timely articles need only a link to a topical article and a sentence or two of commentary to create an interesting entry and keep up a blog that will get and gain readers.

Consider the potential as a PR tactic. Blogging requires both updating frequently and saying something interesting every time, and corporate law has not yet developed standards on blogs. However, a blog could be a viable tactic for a client. If it was balanced, transparent, and useful, it would develop a reputation and show the company as a leader.

5 comments:

Karen said...

Your job rules sometimes. Also? I need to see up an RSS feed somehow because I check the same 10 sites every damn day and there's usually nothing new. Brilliant.

austinizer said...

you said tautology. you smarty pants.

Tommy said...

*applauds*

Dustyn Kurt Gobler said...

Very clearly written and helpful post. William Zinsser would be proud. My only comment would be that I think "Tivo-like" might need to be explained to some readers.

Sarah said...

I do love me the big words. "Tautology" was one of those I understand, but not well enough to feel comfortable using. So I done looked it up. And now it's MINE. Mwahahaha.

Karen, I love Bloglines as an RSS aggregator.

Dustyn, you are the sweetness. But I think I need to be more worried about Tivo tracking me down for helping ruin their trademark. I hear they're copyright Nazis.