The term ‘blog’ is kind of a funny little word. According to Wikipedia, Jorn Barger coined the term “weblog” on December 17, 1997, and Peter Merholz then coined the popular form ‘blog’ in May 1999. The story said he split the word ‘weblog’ into ‘we blog,’ and the term ‘blog’ stuck. What exactly is a blog? Why should we as business owners know about it? Do we need to have a one? What’s its purpose? Will it do anything to increase your business? How can you have an effective blog? Is there any way to ensure readership? What else do we need to know about blogging?

Think of a blog as a sales tool. You can also think of a blog as a public journal that anyone can read. It’s a way for you to communicate with your customers as often as you wish, but understand that the true purpose of your blog is to interact with customers and followers. Successful bloggers often develop several months of blog topics in advance and plan their posts so they don’t have to think of them on the fly when they might not have time to write. If you’re not a writer, there are people who specialize in ghost writing, who will work with you to develop your topics and write your posts for you.

Statisticians estimate that there are over 400 million English language blogs in the world. Some say that’s too many, other say that blogs are a fad that will die out over time, and yet others claim that in our information age, everybody should have a blog. I don’t think that everybody should have a blog because some people don’t have anything interesting to say, but I do believe that every business should have a blog and they should use it as a tool to drive additional business.

For a business, a blog is a way, that you can engage your customers and start a conversation. You can blog about upcoming specials or your new service contract. In addition, your reach can far exceed your local area as people share your blog posts with their friends through tweets on twitter, posts on Facebook, and any of the other social media sites. A blog is definitely a viral marketing tool. Just think of the many ways you can use your blog to promote your business, look for employees, talk about new products, discuss a new capability, or show yourself to be the expert in your industry – think Rich Trethewey, the plumbing expert from “This Old House.” Nothing is off limits for your blog, you control it, and you can write about anything that you want to discuss. Alister Cameron an Australian blogger who has been obsessing over this internet thing since 1995 said this, “As I have repeatedly written in one form or other, blogging is not about writing posts. Heck, that’s the least of your challenges. No, blogging is about cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with an ever-growing online readership, and that’s hard work.”

WordPress is the most popular blogging platform and it’s available for free at www.wordpress.org. WordPress and independent developers offer many customization tools called themes and plugins. These tools give you exactly what you need to develop your blog so it has the look and feel you want. Unfortunately, this is not something that the average "do-it-yourselfer" can do. You need to be very familiar with how the back end of your website works and understand how to use Fantastico or some other software web loader. I’ve been working on my blog for the past two weeks. I’ve uploaded the software, and I’ve learned some tricks to customize it to get the design the way I want it to look. I have had experts help me and still it has taken hours of time. I wanted to go through the experience so I had the background to help others, but I would highly recommend you farm out to a WordPress expert. My blog is almost ready for prime-time. You can visit it here. Currently there are only a few posts up there but I plan to add more material as I continue to refine the interface.

Here are a few tips to use when you setup your blog. When you insert links in your posts, make sure they open in a new window so that you don’t lose your reader. If you open the link in a new window, your blog remains open on its original tab and your reader can easily come back. Every post you make should have at least one picture and make sure you use “alt” tags. Alt tags help the search engines find your blog and that’s important if you want readers to find it as well. Instead of posting the entire blog post on the first page, use the blog controls in the blog control panel to post a teaser or excerpt on the first page. This draws readers in to your blog and its good for the analytics because you can get data on what your readers are reading.

If you aren’t blogging, consider having somebody ghost blog for you. In our modern age, if you want to do more with less ($), you need to take advantage of all opportunities to market your business. Blogging is another tool that has a minor cost associated with setting up the blog, but it has a long reaching effect and can help propel your business to new levels of profits.

My website contains links to all the marketing articles I’ve written for the HVAC-Talk Newsletter. If you want your marketing efforts pay big dividends, contact a marketing professional. I’m available to assist you in all of your marketing efforts. If you need a branding consultation, a complete strategic marketing plan, help with marketing strategy, or management services, call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, PR, social media, and lead generation strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping companies deliver their message in an ever increasingly crowded market by teaching businesses to do more with less ($). Contact him at 260-338-4554, andy@fracicaenterprises.com or visit the Fracica Enterprises, Inc. website.