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To Blog Or Not To Blog?

That is the question so many of our Customers are beginning to ask themselves but what is blogging, really? There are, in my opinion, two ways of looking at it - you can look at the word 'blog' either as a noun or as a verb.

to blog or not to blog, that is the question

I wanna blog

Hardly Shakespearean, I know, yet, none the less, I wanna blog is something I continue to hear people say about their website with increasing frequency. Perhaps some people seem to say it because they've heard a bloke down the pub tell them it's what they need to get to the top of Google, others may say it because they think blogging is the trendy thing to do, whereas others may say it because they genuinely believe that a blog is what their website's lacking. The brutal truth is that very few people appear to get what a blog is all about. So, my good many fellows, let us, this very day, try and set ye record straight.

What does the word 'blog' mean?

Blog may be used as a noun: I want a blog. Blog may be used as a verb I want to blog. The origin of the noun comes from the fusion of the two words: web & log to form the word weblog that described website server software that enabled non-techies to publish logs or journals online. Weblog became truncated to blog and, thereafter, to blog became the verb that came into being to describe the activity of writing and self-publishing online using blog software; those who blogged became known as bloggers.

A blog is a piece of software that lets an author self-publish a series of articles or 'posts', typically a blog does not require the author to post the article in any kind of directory, hierarchical structure or menu system - the articles simply get posted on a particular day. This loose framework offers a tremendous amount of freedom for the author to write what they want, when they want, without being overly concerned about knitting the post into a conventional website. This free-form style of publishing lends itself well to the rapid publishing and dissemination of articles, one at a time, without the need for any thought as to how (or even whether) one blog post flows into another.

A blog, a blog; my Kingdom for a blog!

In order to blog, you need a blog and the vast majority of blog software is free; Blogger, by Google, is a very quick and simple way to get into blogging - just create an online account and you're away! For those who want a little more control over the look and feel, Wordpress is a common choice as it is installed onto a webserver for each and every blog; Wordpress has grown into a system that allows many authors and bloggers the ability to freely contribute posts and comments. Now, I'm not a big fan of Wordpress so I built my own blog into Sub@omic's own CMS Web Diffusion so that our Customers could manage two-way communications with their own online marketplaces.

To blog, perchance to dream.

So, once you have your blog, what are you going to blog about? It's right at this very point that the digital tumbleweed tends to appear. Few people appear to have given more than a passing thought to the topics they'll actually blog about; even fewer appear to have asked what their Customers will actually want to read about yet that customer engagement, dear friends, is what a blog is ultimately all about.

A blog is now characterised by not only letting non-techie authors post articles but also allowing anyone to post a comment at the foot of the article too. The blog, therefore, allows for a two-way communication between a business and its audience. The blog has a very loose structure in the sense that the only thing that stitches the blog posts together is the timeline upon which they sit. So what makes a blog is its timeliness and responsiveness - the posts provoke discussion and bloggers become part of an evolving debate or merely observe it. It's OK for a blog to be wrong; it's OK for the blog to be non-stuffy and non-corporate; and it's OK to be corrected by the audience - if the author gets something wrong then a simple author's comment correcting a previous statement is all that's required; what matters is the shared opportunity to openly communicate. A blog is a freer, more open channel of communication - more importantly a two way channel of communication. The point of running a blog is not to broadcast but to engage.

Aye, there's the rub

So it turns out that it's not so much of a case of whether to blog or not but what to blog about. Ask yourself: just what could you write and publish that would be so engaging that your Customers would feel utterly compelled to comment upon? Your Customers don't really want to read a thinly-veiled half-arsed attempt at a sales pitch. Be controversial, be outspoken, be current, be colourful, be relevant, stay legal and be something that your Customers want to tell others about. Highlight malpractice, champion a cause, make a stand, make a genuinely special offer, share knowledge, build relationships and become commercially attractive by being known for saying and/or doing something.

The size of a blog

Last week, UK Government sought to clarify its position on whether what it termed small-scale bloggers will be exempt from the press self-regulator that will be setup by Royal Charter in response to the findings of the Leveson Enquiry into press standards. The clarification was required as there was no real definition as to what kind of publishing activity constituted being a member of the press; it's now proposed that blogs which have a turnover of less than £2m or employ fewer than 10 staff will not be subject to new press regulation. So, a blog is now more than a piece of webserver software, it's now bigger than an online activity; a blog is now an employer: I want to be hired by a blog.

Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells

We mockingly refer to the stereotypical right-wing letter-writer, who feels compelled to write an anonymous letter to the Editor of 'their' newspaper in reaction to an article they've just read, demanding that something must be done!, as Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells. Well, dear would-be bloggers, it's time to get opinionated, to publish and be damned. Come on out from behind the curtain - your audience awaits you.

el avatarel30th November 1999
Many interesting points there Steve, I think in particular the question of what to blog about, though the subsequent irony of blogging about what to blog about is throwing me (inception moment)!

Blogs are definitely an effective outlet for content online and are inevitably an individuals account and opinion on events, experiences, interests and findings. These are generally focused around your field of work, though not necessarily – as who wants to keep reading the same formatted content?

I think the key points are ownership and engagement, long gone are the days of hiding behind a corporate veil, be clear what you write is fact or opinion, ask questions, challenge opinions, enlighten, entertain and discuss.
http://eliothill.co.uk
Steve Whiting, Sub@omic Ltd avatarSteve Whiting, Sub@omic Ltd30th November 1999
I've just read a wonderful piece by Zeldman about the use of the word 'blog'.

Zeldman writes: Blogging may have been a fad, a semi-comic emblem of a time, like CB Radio and disco dancing, but independent writing and publishing is not. Sharing ideas and passions on the only free medium the world has known is not a fad or joke.
Author of 'The Art of Search' - the SEO strategy book 2,500 years in the making.http://www.theartofsearch.co.uk
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