Business Blogs

Blogging for small businesses was the topic of a talk I attended last evening
at Turning Stone near Verona, NY.  I was invited by
A., joined
her and M. at a table
near the middle.  The yellow table–yellow name tags, too.  Part of a
Society for Technical Communication. Yvonne Divita, self-employed
print-on-demand publisher and women’s marketing guru, gave the talk: "Blogging:
Is it a verb or a noun? Yes!"  The event was well attended, maybe fifty
people or so. 

The basic premise of the talk was that blogging would be useful for small
businesses.  The small-business owner should consider the possibilities of
a weblog as a replacement for a static web site that generates relatively few
visits because few people link to it.  Sub-pitch:  turn the
blogosphere’s interest-clustering into for-profit marketing.  Although the
other incentives were brought up, the ruse was heavy on giving page rank a boost
more than on opening up a different kind of relationship with customers and
other business owners.

The audience included more than a few people who knew relatively little about
blogs if they’d ever heard of them before, and so DiVita’s approach–elementarizing
the blogosphere–was on the mark for most.  This wasn’t an academic talk by
any means, and because it was a sales pitch on blogging–blogging lite for the
few of us who already blog, who already understand RSS, who already get the
implications of outward/inward link-gestures–the event, overall, was purposeful
for a few other reasons:  it absolutely confirmed
J.’s brief mention
that folks in our field (knowing of writing/technology/rhetoric) could be more
involved in consulting.  We need to circulate these important ideas,
people!  It also got me thinking: I’m not, but if I was a small-business
, what would I need to know about blogging?

On one level, I’d characterize DiVita’s pitch as a sales event for Six Apart,
Movable Type, and especially TypePad–the platform she uses to host her weblog,
Divita’s assistant–the laptop navigator (clicking through the browser history
because the internet connection was failing)–referred over and over to the "Six
Apart kids," interjected anecdotes about
Mena and Ben
, and did much less to celebrate any other platform:  Drupal,
Wordpress, Blogger.

Early in the talk, DiVita described weblogs as "thin" web sites. I would have
liked to hear more about her contention that weblogs, in their thin-ness (a
quality of their on-going-ness? their stretch?), are distinct from web
sites.  I suppose the qualities of weblogs she was accounting for are their
currency, flexibility and fluidity.  The regular self-publishing of
business-related content into the weblog would make it more vital (and likely to
circulate) than the otherwise static structure of what she called a "web site." 
Static::dynamic: the ratio in question, I guess. And yet, as most bloggers and
web developers know, the move to dynamic content comes with some trade-off. 
I also wanted to hear more about what leads to blog fizzle: (-1-)
infrequent entries, (-2-) lack of linking, (-3-) neglect–by not reading and
commenting–of the small world you are seeking to activate.  Kickers, then:
Don’t expect it to work if you can’t commit to two entries per week for eternity
and don’t expect it to work if you don’t actively engage in the network not only
by writing entries, but also by reading and commenting generously in the cluster
you aspire to fashion.  Oh, and: Do you really want un-moderated comments
from customers on your site?  I can think of a few companies I wish!
had open comment spaces:  Blockbuster, United Airlines, for two.

Instead of sounding critical or unfair–going on and on airing the
presumption that I know more about it than was covered last night, I should say
that it was simply a nice event for a group of folks who hadn’t ever heard of
blogging.  Divita was generally descriptive of what a blog can do for a
business, and she had plenty of examples in hand to reinforce her primary aim. 

Critical aside: I don’t have a copy of the dinner card with the accurate
names of what they served, but it was, um, unusual.  Something like a
pancake stuffed chicken breast covered with apple cinnamon glaze.  Or was
the apple-y taste in the stuffing?  Sides: Maple-flavored rice and mixed
vegetables.  Never had anything quite like it–a collision of breakfast and
dinner. "Compliments of the chef, formerly of IHOP…." For dessert:
strawberry-sauce-covered biscuit with whipped cream.  And a small coffee
that kept me awake until 2:45 a.m.