Ever since the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) started collecting links to the rapidly growing world wide web in its What's New Archives, people have been busily cataloging the web. The work of search engines was originally done by these link collectors and it wasn't long before individuals joined the fray, collecting links to places on the web, and then publishing them so others could share in their discoveries. By some accounts these link collections were the forerunners to blogs, and two names figure prominently in that story.
Justin Hall is widely considered to be the first blogger, and Dave Winer is generally accepted to have the longest continuously running blog on the Internet. Hall started his blog in January 1994, and Winer started his in April 1997. Ultimately, what started out as collections of links, quickly evolved into personal journals that were called weblogs by 1997, and then renamed to blogs in 1999, according to Webopedia.
Blogs were always about being social because entries or posts were meant to reveal the personality of the poster and to provide personal glimpses of their lives. Then too, readers could post comments, leading to a sort of conversation between the blogger and the reader. More evidence of the social nature of blogging is seen in Twitter, which is often called a micro-blog. Blogging is also a subset of that vast amount of content called "user generated" -- the same kind that is being shared on content-based sharing sites such as the social media platforms.
For businesses, the blog has become a place where the personality of the business can show through, and where the business can publish highly targeted, timely, and evergreen information. Here is a compilation of the common benefits associated with business blogging.
Improving organic search
Properly setup blogs where new posts are regularly published encourage more crawling; they also inspire people to add links from their other social media activities, and overall they can provide more organic web traffic. After awhile, blogs have deep content and that helps to expose more related keywords to search. Blogs also provide the chance for incoming links.
Then there's the mobile connection. As reported in 2012 by comScore, nearly 37% of mobile device users accessed blogs on their devices.
There are multitudes of nonhuman business websites on the Internet, often with pictures of smiling, confident web mannequins that everyone knows don't actually work at those companies. Blogs bring the human dimension to your online presence, because they're typically informal and often offer opinions. You can use blogs to explore topics at deeper levels, and because people can participate by commenting, interaction occurs naturally. All of this, when done with careful thought, leads to building relationships and trust.
Blogs are an excellent vehicle for showcasing thought leadership. At a minimum though, they also help to establish your company's level of expert knowledge. As you tackle deeper topics, you can become more recognized as an authority, and that helps to build more trust.
Becoming the source
The basic act of providing information about your product or service helps people when making purchasing decisions. If you go above and beyond and share background information that reveals the nuances to the types of products and services you offer, you're giving potential buyers the kind of in-depth information they might not be getting elsewhere. At a minimum, this helps to differentiate your offerings. Ultimately, the blog can generate leads and in some cases make sales.
Improving on a continual basis
The act of blogging requires research, and research exposes you to new ideas and concepts you might not have thought about. The result is you end up writing about what you learned. That keeps you current in your field, and helps you to continuously clarify and refine your thoughts about your business.
Bolstering the brand
As long as you don't overdo it, blogs are places to promote you brand and to differentiate your brand, products, and services. They're also places where you can tell the long story about the brand, and where you can reveal the philosophy, objectives, and programs associated with it. All of this helps to reinforce and build brand awareness.
Curating your own content
Unlike public social media platforms, you own your blog, and therefore own the information and how it is presented. There are no restrictions that limit your use of the information in the blog, and a blog is a natural place to refer people, much like a graphical and ever-evolving business card.
ConclusionMany blogs fail to deliver on any of the potential benefits of blogging because of poor execution. In my next social media article I'll cover strategic and tactical things you can do to get the most from your blogging efforts.
Duane Craig reports and writes on technology, construction, finance, food, and agriculture. He's been published in trade print magazines, the Washington Post, and widely on the web.