Blogs and blogging have become household words nowadays. For those of you who have absolutely no idea, blogs are places on the internet where the blogger (writer) publishes opinions and/or information frequently.

Companies can’t afford to overlook the power of blogging in their marketing strategy. Why? The internet is usually your first place to make an impression on a potential customer. Most people will surf the web before they contact you or visit your physical location.

People who read business blogs are looking for information about a particular subject. Basically they’re in a learning mode. Consumers who read blogs are usually gathering more knowledge about a given topic by

• Reviewing expert opinions
• Seeking advice from informed people
• Following trends
• Keeping up with the latest research

Most consumers want instant gratification in today’s fast paced world. If your business has a blog that accepts comments, the blog becomes a valuable platform for answering questions and establishing a rapport with your would-be customers. Sometimes you might even be addressing customer complaints.

Another thing about consumers — they want more from a company than their parents did. They feel they’re entitled to more than a top-notch product. They not only want all the facts about your merchandise or service, they want to know about your company and where it stands on social issues. I doubt anyone can forget the backlash against Nike for the child labor used in overseas sweatshops. So if you’ve found a novel way to recycle office paper and help save the planet, why not let the world know through your blog?

Business blogging increases consumer awareness about your industry and your company. It helps you attract new customers, employees, and media attention. Consider blogging’s benefits. Companies that blog

• Obtain free advertising and promotion of their product or service
• Establish themselves as credible and knowledgeable — the go-to guy
• Demonstrate that they have a passion for their industry, their company, and their customers
• Reinforce their brand by putting a personal voice behind the company name

There are some downsides to business blogging. While the value of a blog is considerable, blogging isn’t for everyone. Starting a blog is tough. You can’t just start a blog and not maintain it. Keeping a blog alive is a daunting task. Not only do you have to get the first-time reader, but you must convert that reader a devoted follower. You must give your reader value in return for his loyalty and pointing others to your blog. Your information must be timely, informative, unbiased, and entertaining.

The daunting task part is that you must be able to write something new weekly at a minimum. Business blogging is a full-time job — it demands resources, budget, and a purpose. This purpose should be rooted in your company’s overall strategy. If you allow comments, you must answer your readers religiously. You must be willing to accept reader input and suggestions and acknowledge reader corrections. You must also have a thick skin and be willing and able to accept those not so complimentary comments.

If you don’t know where to start, or suffer from writer’s block, the experts at Directory One can help. They can show you either how to integrate a blog in your current website, or write the content for you as a guest blogger.