Wednesday, July 13, 2005

TAGS blogs

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 owner, 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, Lip-Sticking.  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 Trott, 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.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at July 13, 2005 10:26 AM to On Weblogs