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    Business Connection and Business BlogsBusiness blogs cant be considered to be just about conversations, naked or otherwise.

    For me, a conversation in business which doesn’t have an impact or an outcome is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. Therefore, I consider that when it comes to business blogs, its important that we focus on the idea of connections rather than simply conversations.

    Conversations are great for personal blogs, that’s really what they are looking to achieve: dialogue with people, interaction or a sense of community. Thats not to say that business blogs dont work at this conversational level too – they do. We still want those same personal elements in our business dealings as the Cluetrain Manifesto so succinctly put it, markets are conversations and we need to be participating.

    But with business blogs, we need to go further.

    Meaningful dialogue on a business blog, I believe, is different. It is about taking that one step extra. Its still built on the basis that people prefer to do business with people they like and trust, but surely that means going above and beyond a simple conversation. In business, it’s only when these conversations lead somewhere that they become truly useful in commercial terms. For me, that is about creating connections.

    But, what are connections?

    Well, its not the so called connection that people make on networking sites such as LinkedIn or eCademy, where the number of connections tends to be linked with an individual’s popularity or networking prowess. Many of these are often nothing more than an exchange of pleasantries online (if that!), much less the interaction that a conversation on a business blog achieves. I’m also not thinking about achieving immediate sales or signed agreements – that comes later still and, while perhaps initiated by a connection through the blog, should never be the immediate goal.

    Instead, a connection is when communication on business blogs makes an impact or really strikes a chord with those reading them. The type of connection when something clicks as you talk with someone … at whatever level. Ideas, commitment, personality, integrity, presentation perhaps. Its the type of link up which actually signifies something because of the mutual interest it creates. It’s this which indicates an intention to make contact with that person again rather than a conversational exchange and then a parting of ways.

    To give an example. If you are using your business blog for customer service purposes then the conversation it provides is valid – it reassures and it informs. However, it is the connection you make with the customer by way of the action that you take as a result of it which is the key. It is that which will validate or change your customers opinion of you and encourage them to take action in terms of recommending you or developing the relationship.

    In the same way, I have mentioned elsewhere that I am a fan of Jonathan Schwarzs blog at Sun Microsystems to couch what he does in pure blogging terms, I would have to say that he writes a CEO blog with both passion and authority in a way which comes across as very authentic. By doing so, I feel that he connects with his readers, myself included. He’s not just engaging in a conversation somehow he has taken it a step further because of the way that he presents himself.

    Two very different types of connection, yet both producing results. And both, from a referral or networking perspective, likely to give much better results by focusing our efforts on developing conversations into connections, rather than concentrating simply on encouraging the conversation.

    So, as we develop our business blogs, keep the faith with the main principles that underlay blogging in general but stretch them! Certainly, blogs are viewed as great communication tools (which they are) which are ideal for creating opportunities for conversations (which is also true). But for business blogs, I believe that we should be looking one step further – we should be focusing on developing connections.

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    Well, “not” is the short answer.

    Why mention this at all. Well, merely because Steve Rubel makes the point in his post By some measures, blogging may be peaking that it may be doing just that. He goes on to add that it is really the number of daily posts that he feels may indicate this peaking.

    I must admit that I feel that it is a bit of a sweeping statement to make on the back of a slight fall back in the number of posts which could be caused by seasonality, personal factors or any other number of criteria.

    One comment he makes amused me in particular:

    “Everyone who wants to publish a blog actively may already have one”.

    Sounds a bit like the quote (or misquote) that “there is a world market for 5 computers” to me.

    To be honest, I’m much more inclined to Shel Israel’s take on it over at Naked Conversations. In a post today, he comments

    I see evidence that blogging is going where Robert and I predicted it would go in Naked Conversations and that is everywhere.

    I fall more into this camp. I still think that we are in the early stages of blogging in general and certainly in Business Blogging – early adopter phase, if you like, rather than the early majority.

    As for Business Blogging, that’s certainly still just getting started (innovator / early adopter level) and we are merely scratching the surface in terms of realising the different ways in which they can use it. Particularly so here in the UK where companies and individuals who already using blogs to benefit their businesses and their customers can still consider themselves to be well ahead of the game (and the competition!).

    How blogging is used and perceived is certainly both changing and developing, but to say that it is peaking is I feel more than a little premature.

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    I’ve been reading Naked Conversations again this week – such a good read with so many elements in it that are worthy of comment.

    However, my focus this week has been on product based blogs, whether they are focused on the product development phase or the product management and marketing phase. In both cases, the focus remains steadfastly on customers and there was a set of recommendations quoted which had come from Creating Corporate Evangelists which I found to be particularly relevant. These were:

    • continuously gather customer feedback;

    • make it a point to share knowledge freely;

    • expertly build word of mouth networks;

    • encourage communities of customers to meet and share;

    • devise specialised, smaller offerings to get customers to bite;

    • focus on making the world, or your industry, better.

    Although not specifically focused on blogs, if you can follow these recommendations as you develop your product based blog around your product, then you will create something which will foster the idea of ownership and community. This in turn will develop a buzz around your product and, as the title of the book says, create product evangelists who will be out there promoting your product at any opportunity.

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