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Starting an online business the right way


With the rise of new social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, can blogs still help a business in any way? Even if businesses no longer consider blogs their main online PR tool, many believe that they are indeed still valuable. A lot of companies began to alter their websites just a few years ago, changing them from sites that looked like boring, fact-heavy reproductions of their Annual Reports to places where they and their clients could connect. Much of this exchange of ideas took place on a blog, where new products were announced or responses were made to customer input.

It’s well known in the business blogosphere that Dell Computers led the way, being one of the first companies to make such a change. Even as successful a business as Dell was, a barrier still existed between the company and its customers, many of whom had frustrating complaints that weren’t being addressed. When the company set up to receive blog entries, the turnaround in its relationship with customers was remarkable. General Motors, too, had a similar experience.

And for anyone considering building a home internet business the benefits of blogging can be enormous.

A business blog can provide a supplement to regular email newsletters as well, although some customers might still rely on the emails for updates and never think of visiting the website, while others are more proactive and check blogs regularly to find current information. Businesses need to engage customers in several ways. If it’s updated regularly, the blog can provide fresh information that won’t vanish down the page quite so quickly, say, as the more ephemeral tweets on Twitter. Up-to-date business news can be posted in a friendly, casual fashion, allowing customers to ask questions or make suggestions. And their remarks won’t vanish down the page either.

Businesses do need to be cautious about raising customers’ expectations, however. While an almost one-on-one relationship might be possible between a small business and its customers, larger companies may not be able to respond to all queries or complaints, and this could damage its reputation if it’s not careful.

But another use for blogging, and one that businesses might not even consider at first, is for internal communication. Even though employees can keep in touch via email, meetings or conference calls, an internal blog can focus on one department or a single project, providing a central place for a team to receive regular updates or make an informal record of their progress. This will keep these employees up to date without their own email inbox piling up to an unmanageable level.

Blogs are the elder sibling in the social networking world, and are still better at providing information and feedback in a more permanent form. Once blogging software made it possible for a business and its customers to interact in this way, the lines of communication opened widely. The company can provide up-to-date information about products and services, and customers can respond, thus both sides of the relationship benefit.

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