WHILE Facebook and Twitter might hog the social media headlines, the humble blog remains a much-loved communication tool for many Australian business people.
Around the country, and throughout many different industries, there are thousands of Australian consultants, contractors and entrepreneurs running lively, informative and at times, very personal, blogs.
For most, writing a blog is definitely more about love than money. While some bloggers use their posts to communicate with customers and spruik corporate events, most a driven by a simple desire to share their thoughts, knowledge and ideas with like-minded readers.
But despite the willingness of smaller businesses to become self-publishers, large Australian corporates continue to lag behind.
Examples of corporate bloggers are few. Prominent ones include Deloitte Digital, maintained by chief executive Peter Williams, and Telstra Exchange, which contains blogs written from staff across the organisation. Holden has taken a slightly different approach with Tell Us Your Holden Story where Holden lovers can register and share stories about their experiences with the vehicles and the brand.
Further local examples are hard to find.
Annalie Killian works under the title of catalyst for magic at AMP but blogs under her own personal brand. She started her first blog in 2006 as a personal journal, and created a business-focussed blog, Catalyst for Magic in 2008.
Killian believes there are many reasons why larger brands have failed to embrace blogging, including communications resources being devoted to mainstream media where audiences are less fragmented, the difficulty in defining a business case, and a general lack of knowledge and experience.
She also writes several blogs within AMP, and says many organisations must also contend with a lack of desire from those executives best placed to write one.
"There is no-one who "feels" an urge to blog, and corporations have concluded that the time-poor CEO blogging with a ghost writer's help is not the way to go," Killian says.
According to Bronwen Clune, a web strategist and blogger working with Sydney technology incubator and investor Pollenizer, many organisations still fear for their brand identity online, but they are building a presence on Twitter.
"Perhaps this is because conversations around their companies are much more visible there, and they feel it more urgent to be seen there than on a blog," Clune says.
Long-time marketing and social media blogger Julian Cole suggests part of the failure of corporate blogging is a lack of passion for the topic among those writing it.
"You need to be doing it for yourself," Cole says. "A blog is a very personal thing, and if you are not intrinsically motivated to write it, you won't write it. That is why when so many companies set up company blogs they fail, because there is no one person driving it."
The one sector where large organisations have embraced blogging is the one that is considered to be most at threat from it – mainstream media. Many media companies have embraced blogging as another way to generate content that is often cheaper than regular journalism.
Phil Dobbie has been contributing to the Aussie Rules blog for the online publisher CBS Interactive for the past two years, primarily using podcasts, as well as writing other content for its network.
"There's not a lot of local audio business content, yet there's a lot of people stuck on trains for hours on end," Dobbie says. "My approach is to cover a diverse range of business topics, some deep, some light, but to always do it with a sense of humour."
Where large organisations are holding back, small businesses however have been leading the charge.
Naomi Simson says when she started blogging in February 2006 to support her corporate gift business RedBalloon she had no idea why. She has since written 470 posts and finds it to be a great repository of knowledge as well as news for her customers.
"This century it is all about transparency," Simson says. "So you have to be yourself and be prepared to let people know when you have made a mistake or got something wrong. You have to write it yourself. In some ways poor grammar supports its authenticity, because your audience know that it is really you writing it and there is no PR person or committee approving the content."
Adam Franklin started the blog for his web strategy business Bluewire Media two years ago, and says it allows staff to really live and breathe the company's brand promise of "devoted communication", as well as being a good strategy for improving your business's position in Google's search rankings.
"Whether it's a blog post to help address something that will help a client, or to share someone's insights from a book or seminar, it's a way to communicate what we know about our niche web strategy," Franklin says. "A company or personal blog is a perfect way to build your reputation as an authority."
For Michael Fox, cofounder of the online shoe retailer Shoes of Prey, setting up the accompanying business blog 22michaels has helped his company find staff, boosted its social media and YouTube advertising campaign and provided a forum for reflecting on work done and future plans.
"From a single blog post advertising our first Sydney job opportunity we had more than 20 applications," Fox says.
There is now an Australian blog for just about every business related topic imaginable. HR and recruitment technology consultant Michael Specht has been blogging on HR and social technology since June 2004, and says he reads around 50 different Australian blogs on HR and recruitment alone.
Specht started blogging six years ago in June 2004. He says the key to keeping his blog interesting over such a lengthy period is to also be a voracious consumer of content yourself.
"The more you read, the more ideas you get and the more topics you can cover," Specht says. "At the same time you need to have a view on why you started blogging in the first place. A personal blog may have less need for regular posts than a business or corporate blog."
Partner of the retail marketing consultancy IdeaWorks Matt Newell agrees that reading widely is essential to producing a good blog.
"(CEO) Jon Bird and I read a lot of global trend research from a variety of sources and aggregate the most useful parts so that our readers have one convenient source to turn to for insights," Newell says. "But it's also important to us that the information is inspiring. Retail is a highly creative industry so we feel a responsibility to help inspire innovation in the category."
The longevity of many bloggers is impressive. Steve Sammartino's commitment to his blog is almost unparalleled in Australia, with one entry for every day that his Start Up Blog has been live since 2005. Start Up Blog now boasts between 50,000 and 80,000 readers a month.
"The most important thing for anyone writing a blog is to keep at it," Sammartino says. "All the value is created when we have a consistent output. It's a bit like going to the gym every day. The more you go the better you get."
Sammartio says another factor behind its success has been topic purity.
"Blogging is all about narrowcasting," he says. "We keep an audience who are interested in a micro topic that mainstream media can't support, so we must reflect that by not straying off topic."
Ross Dawson began blogging in 2002 in support of the launch of a book, Trends in Living Networks.
"(The blog) Trends in the Living Networks has ranked well into the top 100 business blogs in the world for several years now, and its high visibility in search engines has resulted in many professional engagements," Dawson says. "The best approach is to combine timely commentary on breaking issues, and structured thoughts on broader issues."
Many business bloggers utilise their blog as a means of driving business. Specht says that his blog is a marketing tool that drives sales for his specialist HR technology and social technologies consulting firm Inspecht. The blog often attracts more than 6,000 unique readers in a month, making it the next higher referrer for his business after search engines.
Entrepreneur and 'chief chick' at the women's business network Business Chicks, Emma Isaacs says it is also important to understand that blogging is a long-term strategy.
"While you may not see an immediate return, you'll reap the rewards over the long-term," Isaacs says.
"Also, having a rhythm and a routine helps. I try to post weekly, which is probably very infrequent compared to a lot of other bloggers, but the reality is that my focus is on building my business, and blogging is a secondary task."
The keys to running a successful blog
- Be authentic: Most bloggers talk about needing a combination of knowledge, passion and genuine interest in helping their audience as being crucial to both building and retaining that audience and assisting their own motivation.
- Update it regularly: There is debate among bloggers about how often is often enough, but most agree that weekly blogging is essential for growing and retaining an audience.
- Have an opinion: Thousands of blogs are simply rehashes of stuff that other people have already blogged. It is important to bring something new, such as analytical insight and opinion, lest readers just move past you to the source of your material.
- Build a community: Invite feedback and respond personally when appropriate. Visitors are more likely to come back if they feel they are personally invested in the blog and the discussions that it fosters.
- Spread the word: Use Twitter to tell your followers every time you update a blog post, and be sure to provide comments and links to similar blogs to broaden your audience.
25 Australian business blogs to watch
- 22michaels: Business blog that accompanies the online shoe retailer Shoes of Prey, which discusses the development and lessons learned for the start-up business.
- acidlabs: Stephen '@trib' Collins blog on the interconnection of government and technology which has been published since 2007.
- Adspace pioneers: Blog on social media and marketing by Julian Cole, now a digital strategist with Sydney social media and digital content agency The Conscience Organisation.
- Aussie Rules: Phil Dobbie and Robert Gerrish blog on a wide range of topics relating to business and society in Australia using text, podcasts and video.
- Bluewire Media: Business blog oriented to digital media content, social media and entrepreneurial business strategy.
- Catalyst for Magic: Annalie Killian of AMP's personal blog on social media and society in general.
- Delimiter: A hybrid blog/publisher/news service and reporting on issues relating to the Australian technology industry.
- Deloitte Digital Blog: CEO peter Williams and team members blog about the work of their organisation and its partners.
- Digital Buzz Blog: Blog dedicated to the latest happenings in digital media internationally, which receives more than 120,000 unique visitors each month.
- Emma Isaac's Blog: Women's networking forum CEO Emma Isaacs' blog about entrepreneurship and business issues.
- Ideas Culture: Yvonne Adele discusses innovation and how to develop good ideas for business.
- Just Creative Design: One of many design-oriented blots in Australia today, Jacob Cass' blog charts his journey from Sydney to New York City and his passion for design and creativity.
- Michael Specht: Since June 2006 Spect has blogged on topics relating to human resources and social technology and the application within Australian business.
- Mr MiniMovers: Entrepreneurs and business blog written by Mike O'Hagan, founder and owner of MiniMovers, a company he grew from $200 and a ute to turnover of more than $30 million and 400 employees.
- mUmBRELLA: More of a publisher now than a blog, mUmBRELLA is a popular online source of news relating to Australia's marketing and advertising industries created by former B&T editor Tim Burrowes.
- New Retail Blog: One of many retail-oriented blogs that have appeared, this one written by Jon Bird and Matt Newell of retail marketing consultancy IdeaWorks covers global as well as local retailing news and events.
- Pollenizer: Created in 2008 to support this technology incubation, development and investment organisation, the blog has become a focal point for the leading edge of Australia's technology development community.
- PR Warrior: Trevor Young's blog on marketing, branding and public relations.
- Problogger: One of Australia's best-known business blogs written by Darren Rouse with extensive tips on how to make blogging work.
- RedBalloon: Naomi Simon's blog plots the developments of her business RedBalloon and the things she has learned along the way.
- Start-up Blog: Rentoid.com founder Steve Sammartino's blog on start-ups and the connected society.
- Tell Us Your Holden Story: Partially a blog, and partially a place where Holden lovers can share stories about their cars.
- Telstra Exchange: Started originally as Now We Are Talking as a means to bypass the press and reach consumers directly, these days Telstra Exchange provides Telstra with another platform for reaching out to customers through the words of their staff, while providing a platform for discussion about the future of communications.
- Trends in Living Networks: Futurist Ross Dawson's comprehensive explorations of social media and its impact on both business and society.
- The Pursuit of Luck: Jason Bresnehan, a business consultant and corporate advisor who lives in Tasmania, writes a fascinating blog that discusses and analyses how you can create luck in business and life.
Read more ...