Should your small business create a blog?

As a small business owner trying to keep shelves stocked, employees paid, and customers satisfied, why should you create a web log or “blog”? What if you’ve already got a website? What blogging pitfalls should you avoid? And, most importantly, what will a blog cost in terms of time and dollars?

  • The benefits of blogging. Like a personal journal that’s posted to the Internet, a blog is simply a place for sharing ideas about your business. Easier to update than a website, a blog offers an inexpensive way to talk directly to customers via text, audio, or video. With a blog you don’t have to learn web design or hire someone to create web pages. Timely feedback from your readers can provide ideas for targeting products and services to address specific customer needs — like standing at the service counter and chatting with regular patrons. Blogging sites such as typepad.com and blogger.com are good places to visit for software tools and ideas.
  • Drawbacks. Don’t expect more from a blog than it can reasonably produce. A blog is not a substitute for a website. A blog, for example, generally won’t provide the functionality to allow online purchasing, and its contribution to your bottom line may be difficult to measure. Like a magazine article, a blog is primarily a place to communicate ideas.
  • Pitfalls. If you’re publishing a blog for general consumption, it should be well-written. Grammatical errors, poor punctuation, spelling mistakes — these can damage your business reputation, causing readers to question the quality of your products and services. Don’t use a blog as a forum for in-your-face sales. Its purpose is to inform, to build relationships, to connect. And don’t leave it static. Vary your blog’s content routinely by adding links to helpful resources, video interviews, and podcasts.
  • Costs. Besides minimal subscription expense for a business blogging site, time will be your biggest expenditure. By allocating the task of blog updates among several employees — with final edits by a good writer — you can ensure that content stays fresh, readers remain engaged, and a single employee isn’t saddled with blogging duty. You might start by updating posts every other week, increasing your frequency later.

Like any new product or promotion, a business blog probably won’t generate revenue right away. So be patient and find a format that works well for your company.

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