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Preview: The Voice of the Blog

The Voice of the Blog



Investigating the attitudes of small business bloggers



Updated: 2005-11-05T18:10:33+01:00

 



MBA Dissertation

2005-11-05T18:10:33+01:00

I submitted my dissertation in July and have just heard that it's been accepted. So I'd like to say a huge "thank you" to all the bloggers who helped me by agreeing to be interviewed. When I started work on...



Interview with Griff Wigley, blogging coach

2005-03-25T22:29:56+01:00

Northfield, Minnesota, must have the largest concentration of small business blogs anywhere in the world. This is due to one man, Griff Wigley, who has coached over 20 small business owners in the art of blogging (see Griff's company site... Northfield, Minnesota, must have the largest concentration of small business blogs anywhere in the world. This is due to one man, Griff Wigley, who has coached over 20 small business owners in the art of blogging (see Griff's company site for the complete client blogroll). Griff has recently returned from a trip to the UK where he shared expertise in the area of civic leader blogging. We talked about blogging over the phone.      JH        What does a blogging coach do ? GW     I think the dilemma of the small business person in a weblog is how do I keep my website up-to-date in a cost-effective way. If that’s all it was going to be, there probably wouldn’t be any need for a coach because most of them can see how to put little blurbs in their blog that update people about their products and services, but they tend to do it in what I call PR lingo. They tend to write in press release language; they’ll write in the third person, “Our company is pleased to announce that…” - that sort of language and there’s a whole other array of types of blogs posts that never really occurs to them. So my role as a coach is firstly to get them to write in a language that is more appealing to their site visitors and secondly to get them to consider the wider range of posts and then to do it. One of the ways I build a coaching relationship with them is to help them with some of the technical stuff. I’ve got a couple of bloggers who are doing audioblogging, so I’ve taught them that. I’ve got a couple that are wanting to use their camera phones to post photos to the blog. So there’s a two-pole coaching role that I take – the technical and then the content. JH        What benefits can a blog bring to the type of small businesses that you coach? GW     I think the one that seems to resonate with them is bringing a voice of authenticity to a medium that they have typically thought of as a brochure. The stock-in-trade of small business owners – it helps them compete with much bigger rivals - is their personal approach. This whole personal touch that they bring to their business dealings typically goes out the window with the website. The website is this dry, impersonal brochure that it just sitting there. So I think the voice of authenticity and keeping the site current are probably the two main benefits. I also think a lot of them are surprised when they see how low they come up in a simple Google search for some of their products or services. So another benefit is that Google and the other major search engines now key in on weblogs because weblogs are typically full of links. So once you let Google know you’ve got a blog on your site and you post to it regularly, its spider comes back frequently. A lot of these businesses are small enough where they’re not about to buy a Google text ad, let alone pay somebody to optimize their site for search engines, so another major benefit that I pitch is that once you add a weblog to your site, it’s much more search engine friendly. JH        Do you think that anyone can do it, given a minimum amount of coaching? GW     One of the things I've started to do more regularly when I pitch a blog to a business owner is ask them to show me their typing skills because that's a major inhibitor. I think that that would probably be something I would assess more regularly right up front and say 'Right, are you more comfortable with the keyboard or are you more comfortable with the telephone?' and get them comfortable with audioblogging if they're not comfortable with the keyboard. JH        Do you think that all small b[...]



Interview with Eric Rice of Audioblog

2005-03-14T22:32:31+01:00

Eric Rice is the founder of Audioblog, a publishing service that enables you to put audio and video on your blog. I spoke to Eric over a Skype connection that was so clear I could hear the birds singing in... Eric Rice is the founder of Audioblog, a publishing service that enables you to put audio and video on your blog. I spoke to Eric over a Skype connection that was so clear I could hear the birds singing in his garden.     JH        What exactly is your role at Audioblog? ER       I am the founder and chief evangelist so I do lots of the marketing, the word of mouth, evangelizing the product and also the concept of audioblogging. I have a lot to do with the product management. We're a small company, about 4 people. I look at the product, look at what's happening in the industry and decide what we need to work into the product. JH        How satisfied are you with the blog as a marketing tool? ER       I don't necessarily look at the blog as a marketing tool. Maybe it's because I've used blogs for so long. I've probably done it since 2000 and prior to that I would still do blog-like things on the website. I know that it's there. If it's important enough news, if the blogosphere thinks it's worthy, then they'll link to it. I really don't have to engage in any word of mouth activities. I think the blog is a very useful marketing tool because people can take part in it and ask questions and that conversation surrounds a marketing effort. The other thing is that when people start publishing audioblogs or make podcasts by phone, the little player's got the URL on it. People see it and they follow it up. I like the viral nature of how the blogosphere works. I can actually save dollars that I would probably spend on big marketing campaigns for other offline marketing activities. JH        How much time do you spend blogging? ER       Well, I have multiple blogs. I think for me it just slipped into the daily routine like checking e-mail or voice mail. It's just part of the flow, it doesn't strike me as anything that's out of the ordinary. What I love about having audioblogging available to people is you can actually get out of the house and post your thoughts of the moment and it takes very little effort. People do this when they're moving and they're packed up and they don't have their computer. They just pick up the phone and call it in. JH        What would you say are the marketing possibilities of audioblogging or podcasting in the small business context? ER       I think it really depends on the content that somebody might talk about. There's a customer that we have who does something very innovative. The gentleman is a retired advertising executive who lives in the southern United States and gives fishing tours. His website traditionally has been "Well, here's where we're located, here's how much it costs, and here's some pictures." Very basic stuff. Then he put up a blog to talk about fishing things. Then he got set up with an audioblog. So what he does is that he calls in reports from the river and when people come down and book fishing trips with him, he interviews them and he says "I'm out here with so and so from this city and we had a great day and he caught a big fish." It actually makes for an interesting piece of content because it's almost like listening to a little fishing show. And his customer can now come back to the website when he goes home and send a link to everybody going, "Look at this, this is cool." So I think it can be used as a viral tool but then I also think that it can be used as an information tool. Things like the Hobson and Holtz reports - that's just pure business and gets right to the point. I think that having an audioblog or having a podcast is almost like having a blog. It's a differe[...]



Interview with Priya Shah

2005-03-09T21:57:24+01:00

Priya Shah is an electronic publisher and serial blogger with no fewer than 7 blogs to her name. Priya lives in Navi Mumbai, a suburb of India's financial capital, Mumbai. I spoke to Priya over a rather crackly phone line... Priya Shah is an electronic publisher and serial blogger with no fewer than 7 blogs to her name. Priya lives in Navi Mumbai, a suburb of India's financial capital, Mumbai. I spoke to Priya over a rather crackly phone line at 2 a.m. her time. Don't bloggers ever sleep? JH        How did you get into blogging? PS       As a publisher I found it an easy way to post new information online. I started off in 2003 and I found it a very convenient way of posting stuff I could not write about in my newsletter. I found it a very easy add-on to e-zine publishing. JH        You've got several blogs. How much time do you spend on them? PS       I guess I spend about 3-4 hours a day. It's not just posting, it's also reading up on news, compiling news and then posting stuff. JH        Would you say that blogging is your business? PS       Yes, it is to some extent. It's a way of growing my business. I use it a lot to enhance my search engine listings. I've got very good results using blogging. Even though I've only been using Blogger and Wordpress, I'm quite happy with the results I've got with them. JH        What do you do to increase the traffic? PS       I write articles, I sometimes compile the posts I write into articles. I also blog about what other people are saying. If you write useful information, people will link to you. You get traffic without even asking for it. JH        How much traffic do you get to your blogs? PS       It's not much because as I'm using Blogger, which doesn't give me the opportunity to ping back someone's blog and stuff like that, but I do link to other people's blogs and they get to know where I'm linking to. JH        Have you any idea how many visitors you get? PS       I wish I knew better. I haven't been able to track that very well. I can see that people are referring to posts I've made in my blog. They comment on my blog and thank me for posting. JH        How do you measure the effectiveness of your blogs? PS       So far I've been measuring the effectiveness in terms of search engine rankings. I also measure effectiveness by the kind of publicity you can get for yourself. When someone like Steve Rubel blogs about something you wrote, you know that you're getting noticed. I measure the success by the kind of visitors I get because of my blog posts. It's a brand building exercise, it's not just in terms of sales and profits. Blogging is more about building relationships. I think blogging has also helped me to do that, so that's also how I measure the effectiveness. JH        How would you describe your blogging voice? Do you have a particular style? PS       I have different blogs for different purposes. Some of them are just useful resource blogs where I just post news and updates and stuff like that. I don't comment a lot on those blogs but there are a couple of blogs where I post mainly opinions and rants and stuff like that. I tend to be a little controversial at times, I tend to be provocative. I make posts that may sometimes irritate people. You could say that I have different voices on different blogs because I use different blogs for different reasons. JH        What do you feel about blogs as a marketing tool for small businesses? PS       It depends on what you are trying to do. I find that newsletters are very effective because[...]



Interview with Bill Flitter from Pheedo

2005-03-06T22:13:16+01:00

Bill Flitter is Chief Marketing Officer of Pheedo, a company which provides publishers and advertisers with RSS advertising solutions. If 2004 was the year of the blog, then 2005 could well be the year when RSS really takes off. Bill... Bill Flitter is Chief Marketing Officer of Pheedo, a company which provides publishers and advertisers with RSS advertising solutions. If 2004 was the year of the blog, then 2005 could well be the year when RSS really takes off. Bill kindly agreed to a phone interview and we talked about the Pheedo blog and the growing importance of RSS.     JH        How does the blog fit into your overall marketing strategy? BF       When we started our Pheedo, over a year ago now, our blog was our only marketing tool. We didn't have a big budget for marketing so we decided to start establishing ourselves as an expert in our particular field: RSS Advertising. We started publishing information that we gathered through knowledge of the industry and what we'd been seeing at our own company. The blog is really a vital component of our marketing strategy. People started linking to us, we found other people, we started participating in the community and up came this great viral effect. We got customers through our weblog, we got speaking engagements through the weblog and that was the catalyst, that really started it off. JH        Have you got any way of measuring the effectiveness? There's a big question about the ROI and whether it justifies the time spent. BF       As far as ROI is concerned, I don't have hard numbers to say the weblog equalled this but I can definitely say that's all we had in the beginning as our marketing tool and we're surviving. I think it helped us to establish ourselves as an expert and then also network within the community. JH        Do you think that the blog is a good marketing tool for businesses in general? BF       In general yes. Blogs aren't good for every company but I think that generally speaking they are a good tool to add to the marketing mix. The next question is where do they fit into the marketing mix. I think the most obvious area is public relations. Post all your press releases to your weblog. I think it's a great tool to alert your readers what you're doing and also the press. We've actually had stories picked up and people calling us to ask us if they could use similar content for a story that they're doing, so it's just a great way to establish yourself as an expert.      JH      Where does RSS fit into this?        BF      Marketers spend a lot of money on e-mail marketing and there are quite a few problems with that now that spam has really devastated e-mail marketing business. Just to send an e-mail to a customer is pretty tough. You have all the ISP filters, you have human filters, you have the client filters, and you have to be very careful if you send any e-mail in bulk. You have to work closely with the ISPs and such to make sure that your e-mail does get through. But it's just a cluttered mess and a blog within an RSS strategy can really take care of that information at delivery. I'm not naïve enough to say stop sending e-mail but start early and introduce your customers to blogs and RSS because RSS is a direct delivery channel to the consumer, a direct pipe. With RSS you don't give up any of your personal information, you can unsubscribe at will. Publishers are going to recognize that fast, that the consumer's now finally in control in an RSS environment. JH        But if you read RSS feeds rather than actually visiting the blog, aren't you missing out on some of the features of blogs such as the ability to post comments? BF    [...]