Who is Integrated Strategies?

November 5, 2007

How to Make Blogs Work for You

Only 14% of small to medium sized businesses believe that blogs will be important over the next five years. Web 2.0 as a term is filled with mystery to many business owners and operators. It is one of those things that Google and college kids do, not something that they need for their business. Blogs, wikis, RSS and social networking are all well and good if you know what they are, but who has the time to learn when there are customers to go after? Sure it would be great to get new information about what's going on in the industry but there is no way to do that.

Let's step back a second. If you can use Microsoft Outlook you can do the blog thing. First let's go over what everything actually is:

Blogs are the basically just one person or company's view on a particular subject. The subject could be anything from sports to politics to personal improvement to small business advice to comedy. Any subject you can think about there are likely hundreds of blogs currently be written on it. Supply Chain? Real Estate Strategies? 18th Century Coins? Los Angeles Lakers? Yes on all counts. Tips on how to run your particular business better? That's why I'm trying to convince you this is worth your time.

I'm a fan of this topic because I regularly use blogs as a source for knowledge improvement. I learn new marketing methods, ways to make better charts and the latest tips and tricks from Google. It no longer surprises me how useful all of these sites are to my day to day activities. The best part is that they are entirely free! Even the time commitment is not overly significant. I probably spend about an hour reading the latest headlines and interesting articles from all the blogs I check. More than once I've emailed an author a more detailed question pertaining to an article and gotten a response back that was able to save me time on an actual project I was working on.

Most blogs are simultaneously published on an RSS feed. An RSS feed is basically a tool that can be picked up by blog readers. My personal favorite is Google Reader but there are also readers available free from bloglines, newsgator, technorati, windows live, pageflakes, newsburst, feedreader, myearthlink, myyahoo, netvibes, rojo, myaol, and newsisfree to name just a few. The best bet if you are new to this and want to give it a try is use the one from the website you are on most often. Typically that is going to be Google, Yahoo, AOL, or MSN. The reason I say this is that you won't have to change any of your current online habits to integrate blogs into your daily routine. You go to a site regularly anyway, now you just change what comes up when you go there.

Look at the right hand side of this page. One of the things you see is an orange logo that says "Subscribe in a reader." Once you've picked your reader you can find the RSS feed on all of your favorite sites and instead of visiting NYTimes.com or CNN.com, all of their headlines can be sent to your reader. I personally subscribe to Inc.com, forbes.com, time.com and entrepreneur.com. Instead of having to visit their sites now, all of their latest stories are sent to my personal space in the reader that I use. I'm able to get two or three times as much content that I did when I had to visit each of these pages individually. The other benefit is you can easily see the articles and pick the ones that are interesting to you much easier.

So why should you do this other than the time benefits, extra knowledge you'll gain and simplicity it will add to your life? The extra benefit is that you become part of the communities that make up the blogs you read. Even semi-popular blogs develop a regular following and provoke comments from readers. Long, involved discussions on any given topic is not unheard of. Participating in these discussions helps to establish you as an expert on a certain topic within that particular community which is better than just free advertising, it is additional reputation. If I go out looking for small business help that I'm looking to spend money on, where am I going to go first? I'm going to go to someone that I trust because I've been reading his opinions on the subject for the past 2 years first. Not some company that I have no knowledge of. And because it is all online, you don't have to read it everyday to keep up. If you skip two or three days it doesn't hurt anything at all.

To summarize the steps in making Blogs work for you:

1) Setup a reader at a site you frequent a lot (Google, Yahoo, MSN or AOL more than likely)
2) Subscribe to the sites you visit a lot that you know off the top of your head (CNN, NY Times, etc.)
3) Add new sites as you stumble upon them and expand your network
4) Participate in the comment discussions on your favorite sites
5) Keep your subscriptions up-to-date. Delete old ones, keep adding new ones.

You are now well on your way to helping yourself.

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