These days, it seems almost mandatory to create and maintain a presence on the Internet in order for any business or organization to gain access to a wide variety of potential customers or useful associates. One of the key elements of contemporary web-marketing and web-based promotion is the “blog,” which is an abbreviation for “web-log:” a streamlined, frequently updated and highly-targeted web-site based on a topic. For both web-based and brick and mortar based businesses, online blogs offer a multi-purpose tool and one which, according to many experts in commerce and advertising, is indispensable in the modern age of business.
S. E. Streight observes in an article “. “20 Reasons a Business Should NOT Blog. ” (2007), that one of the most important functions of a blog is to allow businesses and organizations to keep in direct, nearly constant contact with their customers or supporters. In fact, Streight’s article, written in an ironic and sarcastic fashion, pretty much dwells on the aspect of customer/supporter feedback as the central benefit of maintaining a business or organizational blog.
Other benefits, such as driving customers and potential customers to specific services of products are also important aspects of blogs. Streight’s reason number three for why a business should not blog, points out in direct fashion, the commerce-related aspects of blogs: “(3) Has no need to drive traffic to a corporate web site or ecommerce application” (Streight, 2007) with such a wry, straightforward observation making the point that blogging is mandatory for most start-up businesses and organizations who hope to promote awareness of an interest in their product, services, or interests.
For libraries, blogs provide a very special capacity to provide services and information for library-users and researches. Blogs, while most certainly crucial to web-based commerce and Internet-based advertising are actually equally important for the “interface” capacity they offer businesses and organizations and their respective patrons and supporters.
The top two reasons on Streight’s list are: “(1) Doesn’t need customer feedback, and doesn’t value their suggestions” (Straight, 2007) and “(2) Is afraid of harsh or challenging comment posters, or discussion of real issues, i. e. , blogocombat” (Streight, 2007) which indicates that the relatively new development of “instant feedback” that blogs help to facilitate is now both expected by consumers and also presents a genuine challenge to any organization of business which finds itself in constant, direct communication with the public.
The Regina Public Library blog presents a multi-faceted and highly professional example of what a blog can accomplish for an organization which is not primarily interested in driving sales, but is most interested in providing service-outreach and patron-based feedback. The blog at KidSpace, for example, allows users to access frequently updated information and leave feedback according to the specific posts which concern them or interest them.
An entry on the blog about a recently released or acquired title provides useful information for library patrons in a highly targeted and efficient way which diminishes the need for time-consuming browsing or searching by library patrons. The benefit of such a service and of the rapid flow of information that is provided by a professional and well-maintained blog such Regina’s is not merely that service to the patron is expanded, but that there is an immediate, constant, and highly demonstrable flow of interest by the library itself reflected back to the patrons.
The library is able to better serve its patrons, but it is also better served by them in that the immediate feedback of library patrons, as well as the tracking of the most often used services allows for library administration and staff to hone the expenditure of working hours. The reciprocal nature of the blog functions both as a facilitator of good library/patron relationships, but also as an indicator of managerial priorities and the allocation of work hours and dollars.
Important aspects of an effective blog include: timeliness, easy navigation, clean layout and presentation, frequent updating, and easy user-interface. These aspects are important because they relate directly to the prospective blog-visitor. Keeping in mind that most people on the Internet will visit a blog for a very specific reason: to read a particular entry, to find some specific piece of information or see a particular picture, etc — it is important to remember that most people will not stick around at any blog which appears confusing, disorganized, out-of-date, or too crowded with information.
When properly designed and maintained, a good blog can attract a diverse and sizable amount of traffic to a specific site with a specific agenda because the various posts and aggregate information archived on the blog, through frequent updating, allows for various topics and themes to be picked up on search-engines while all the while, the blog remains more or less focused on a central topic, service, or product. Frequent updating is one of the most crucial components of any successful blog. For a library blog, it is essential.
lack of updating and lack of timely posts will promote the image of a stagnant and even ailing organization. For this reason, as Straight remarks, it is crucial to employ talented bloggers when attempting to make us of the potentially beneficial tool of an online blog. Of course, Straight frames this argument ironically, remarking: “(4) Has no employee with genuine passion, expertise, and customer relation skills, to act as the company’s blogger” (Streight, 2007). So, in effect, a blog is only as good as the talent writing it. Are there down-sides to maintaining a blog?
Aside from those which might arise from promoting or maintaining a bad blog, one which does not adhere to the success-strategies outlined above, the possible negatives are few in number and rather easily addressed. The first possible objection is that user-interface allows for potential “flame wars” or online arguments based upon blog-entries or the opinions expressed in them. For most businesses and organizations this potential hazard is met by the reality that business and organizations are not dependent upon “editorial” material or the offering of opinions and reflective material on their blogs.
Instead, businesses and organizations routinely find themselves with a wealth of detail adn fact-based information that is of interest to their customers and patrons, so the blogs serve not as a soap-box for opinions or as stages for “flame wars” but as information-driven access portals for their respective customers. In addition to this fact, it is always both possible and advisable to monitor the posts on a blog for possible hijinks and to enforce a modicum of politeness and professionalism.
In regard to the second most-frequent objection to blogs — that everyone has one, that there are already too many blogs to make any headway — the best response is that, while this may be the case, blogs are so highly specialized and highly targeted at specific demographics and sub-demographics that is very likely that simply by streamlining and targeting the blog-content, even a newly christened blog can still evolve a sizable audience in a short period of time.
Reading at a blog, after-all, is a matter of seconds, minutes at most, for most people, so it is possible to read or skim dozens of blogs a day. Because of their ability to be so highly targeted and to reveal new, fresh information on an almost continuous basis, blogs will almost certainly remain an important aspect of promotions and customer relations for all businesses and organizations in the future. Reference Streight, S. E. (2007). “20 Reasons a Business Should NOT Blog. ” Vaspers the Grate. http://vaspersthegrate. blogspot. com/2007/10/20-reasons-business-should-not-blog. html
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