Women Netting Leads: The Business of Blogging

Women Netting Leads: The Business of Blogging

Hirsch, Rod

The 21st century introduced blogging to the international Internet community, with legions of eager bloggers erupting across cyberspace like summer tornadoes across the Great Plains.

Much like the altered landscape left in the wake of a twister, blogging has forever reconfigured the cyber universe.

These do-it-yourself information exchanges have blanketed the Internet by the tens of millions, fostering dramatic changes in the way the masses communicate.

One size does not fit all; from sophomoric and adolescent exercises in indulgence to sophisticated and well-designed corporate platforms, blogs have emerged as a preferred channel of personal and professional communications.

For some, blogs are a forum to muse, postulate and pontificate, while others do more than show off.

Increasingly, blogs are a place to do business.

In its infancy, blogging enabled the user to rail, rant and cajole and offered a safe haven for stream of conciousness; many were, and continue to be outspoken, uncensored, raw and compelling, unencumbered by protocol.

Blogs are synonymous with spontaneity and immediacy; because of their very nature, they get updated frequently, reflecting the personality and sometimes the politics of the author.

Though there is no template or blueprint for an appropriate or effective business model, the business and corporate community has tapped into the energy and immediacy of blogging on several different levels, creating new opportunities for comment and commerce.

Companies large and small, from international Fortune 500 firms employing tens of thousands to Main Street retailers, laptop entrepreuners and longtime momand pop stores have embraced blogs as an advertising and marketing medium to sell their product and message, enabling them to conduct business and enhance the bottom line.

Serving as an ancillary to the more traditional websites, blogs have enabled Fortune 500 companies to let their hair down and provide public access to the Ivory Towers; CEOs write in the first person and customers and stockholders have an opportunity to respond, a two-way conversation heretofore improbable if not impossible.

Business blogs are all about business – business-toconsumer, business-to-customer and business-tobusiness. Their low cost, easy maintenance and wideopen access are replacing more tradtitional means of communication – newsletters, even mass e-mails.

Increasingly, blogging is becoming more targeted and specialized.

Josephine Pizzolato, founder and Principal of The Loup Group in Princeton junction, a creative advertising and marketing firm, is a firm believer in blogs and blogging.

She has created a blog designed strictly for businesswomen in New Jersey.

The blog is a precursor to a website she expects to launch in the third quarter of this year; in the meantime, she is using the blog to create a buzz about Professional Women of New Jersey – PWNJ.com

She has designed the blog and the website to respond to the peculiar needs of the professional woman business owners, corporate officers and women looking to start their own business.

It’s not unlike holding hands and setting off on a journey together.

In her blog, posted Jan. 8, Pizzolato writes:

“At PWNJ.com, our vision is a vast network of female business owners and professionals all connected to each other. We want success-minded women to have easy access to each other’s skills, talents, knowledge and resources. This website will empower women in business through webinars, resources to local, state and national groups and publications, events, online. At PWNj.com our purpose is to create an opportunity for women to connect. We want to inspire women and demonstrate women’s success.

“At PWNJ.com our goal is to help female business owners and professionals achieve their goals,” she continues. “We want to support your growth by purchasing your products and services, provide you access to needed resources, and connect you with others who share your passion for achievement and prosperity. At PWNJ.com we believe it takes teamwork to make the dream work!”

For now, the website is a work in progress. The blog, however, will be freshened with updates when appropriate, according to Pizzolato.

“The blog will continue to be a key component of the website,” Pizzolato explained. “There’s so much opportunity; you’re educating your client about you and your company, things that are coming up, you can talk to them, they can talk to YOU, it’s almost like market research tool.

“It’s free advertising,” she continued. “You’re getting immediate responses, you don’t have to wait for a return on an investment. You get to reach a lot of different people within the blogging world.”

She will offer links to other helpful blogs, including blogsbywomen.org.

“They have categories like employment, business, entertainment, family, home and garden, things about women,” she explained.

Pizzolato contends there is a need for blogs that target women, and particularly, women in business.

“Women aren’t looked at as equals when it comes to technology; it’s more of a male dominated thing,” she said, referring to blogs and blogging.

“It’s more comfortable for women to work with other women,” she added. “When women come together there is more of a camraderie, we can all relate to children and career issues – ‘I can’t stay, I have to get home for the kids’ soccer games’ – women are more apt to talk about those kinds of things.”

Sarah Miller of Set Now Solutions, an Internet development company in Ewing said many of her clients are “toying” with the idea of a company blog, or already have one up and running.

“Blogging has been going on for quite some time; I had a client contact me two, three years ago, ‘what the heck is blogging, is it right for my company.’ I met with that same client last month and it came up again, ‘should we or shouldn’t we,’ ” she explained.

“From a business perspective, people are concerned about the legalities; even more challenging is who is going to maintain it; will you have staff to maintain the blog. That is the absolute biggest challenge; unless the blog is updated frequently, there is no point in having it,” she continued.

“You have to think about ‘Why am I doing this – because I need to get something out there, or am I doing it to get ranked with the search engines.’ If that’s the motivation behind the blog, is it worth the time and effort to create it and maintain it.”

“We can say that we have received clients as a direct result of our blogging efforts,” explained Rachel Stark, a partner in the law firm of Stark & Stark in Lawrenceville.

“We’re always thinking of new ways to communicate with our clients and the community,” Stark added. “One of the things we’re doing as part of our blog is broadcast and video blogging web seminars. We started integrating that last year and as we learn more you will see more web seminars run by our attorneys for other attorneys. We can target seminars on topics, practice areas, certain legal and legislative updates for anyone who is interested,” added Stark, who is chairwoman of the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce Women in Business committee.

Richard Deluca, business development director, oversees the law firm’s blog.

“The process we have here is that every attorney is encouraged to write about their area of expertise and how clients are being impacted,” he explained. Then it’s sent to the marketing department where we go through it and add it. We serve as the clearing house for content, but the inspiration for the blogs comes from the attorneys.”

The firm is also interested in exposure.

“Search engine optimization, where we are placed in the search engines has been consistent because we do blog,” Stark explained. “People that have found our blog can subscribe to new updates and get an email from the firm that links them to new content,” she added.

“We really see blogging as more of an interactive version of a newsletter, another way for people to get information about issues that they are interested in.”

Set Now Solutions has replaced its newsletter with their blog, according to Miller.

“It’s another component of our website,” she said. “We replaced our newsletter with our blog because it is easier to produce; you write a few paragraphs about something you’ve read and that’s it, you put it out there. You can be less formal, which is nice.

“We like having a blog because we have stuff to say.”

However, Miller cautioned, bloggers must exercise some restraint.

“Blogging is gossip unless you reference the source and offer the link,” she said. “You have to be careful of heresay she and opinion taking the place of facts added. “You have to be careful of libel.

“Our staff has rules for what they can and can’t say on the blog,” she continued. “Our blogs have to go through a final approval process; it doesn’t get published without me looking at it first. You need that control. People have been fired over blogs.”

What is said in blogs says a lot about the company, Miller emphasized.

“It’s just like anything else that is business related,” she said. “Anything you say or do represents your business.”

A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging

Nothing personifies the Internet’s promise of easy and unlimited communication possibilities quite like blogs. Never mind the millions of commercially driven websites; what could be more creative than placing your own thoughts, feelings, art, rants, your own… whatever, in front of a potential audience of millions?

A Blog is a frequently updated online journal, organized by date and containing whatever the person that creates it wants to put down. Essentially, blogs are simple noncommercial personal websites. Among certain sets, the blog has become almost as popular as the ever-present instant messaging services as a communication tool.

Like any other site on the Internet, a weblog requires an IP address (like 64.221.45.110) and a DNS name (like WWW.myblog.isnotreallyhere.org) in order to be visitable online. This means that a blog site needs to be hosted on a web server like any other website.

The major difference between blogs and websites is that blogs are generally single pages only, the majority of which is text. This means that they take up very little space on a given web server, and also means that they are very easy to create and update.

This flexibility has led to a multitude of free blogging services offering both hosting (some with ads, some without) and software to let you easily update your blog without HTML skills. Most of these services provide some sort of index to help you draw readers to your blog. And after that, you’re on your own to write, or complain about whatever you like.

Creating your own Blog

The first thing you should have in order to create your blog is a plan of action. What are you going to write about? How often? Why would people read it, and do you care? This may seem kind of trivial now, but without such a plan, the chances of your blog lasting are next to none.

Let’s start with a list of various free blogging software and services.

Blogger.com: Probably the easiest to use of all the combination blog update/free hosting sites. One of Blogger’s major pluses is its support for third-party blog sites, meaning you can set up and update a weblog on your own website using Blogger. You are not restricted to using their hosting service.

Typepad.com: TypePad is the premier blogging service for professionals, hosting many of the world’s most popular blogs and small business websites. TypePad’s ease of use enables you to create a blog in minutes.

Livejournal.com: A blog site that offers free hosting and updating of weblogs using the built-in interface. Considerably more community oriented than blogger.com but less flexible. It allows message boards so people can respond to your posts on your blog.

Seven Tips to Writing A Business Blog

1. Start with a topic you’re passionate about.

2. Concentrate on shorter, more frequent entries to your blog.

3. Let your authentic “voice” emerge.

4. Use correct grammar and syntax.

5. Write for the Web: Purposefully organize the content of your blog.

6. Post a new entry at least once a week, and preferably 2 or 3 times a week.

7. Include your key contact information.

Courtesy Josephine Pizzolato, principal, The Loup Group, Princeton function, and founder of New Jersey Business Women.

Copyright Mercer County Chamber of Commerce Feb 01, 2007

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