By Lon Safko. Originally published at FastCompany.com
Blogs are not just web logs
A blog is the most important thing that you can create for yourself and for your company. It provides an environment that promotes two-way communication with your customers, your prospects, and establishes you as a thought-leader in your field. Blogging is free, it’s easy, and it doesn’t take much time.
The best way to explain why blogging is so important is to cite a few examples of companies that have realized exceptional success using blogs. The first is this airline you might have heard of, the only one profitable, Southwest Airlines. The company created a blog a couple of years ago and what I really love about it is the name of their blog; “Nuts About Southwest.” Get it? Nuts about Southwest.
Southwest Airlines has gotten more than one million visitors to its blog. One million visitors? Honestly, who cares what Southwest has to talk about? All I want them to do is get me from city to city, get my bags there, give me some nuts, and leave me alone. But, you know what? One million people cared enough to go and see what they had to say about their airline and comment, participating in their company and their brand.
What would you me pay right now if I told you I had a secret to get one million people to your homepage? What would you pay me? Write the check. I just told you. And the implementation and tools are free. That’s the wonderful thing about social media, the tools are all free. You just need to invest some time and some creativity.
Here’s another example of the power of blogs: A hotel chain by the name of Marriott. Ol’ Bill, J. W. Marriott’s Chairman; is still running the company. Excuse me for saying this, but he’s one of the old dogs, like me, over 50. And Bill’s a little bit uncomfortable with technology. As a matter of fact, Bill has never turned on a computer in his life. But that doesn’t stop him from writing his blog each week. Bill does it by using a digital recorder. He dictates his blog and gives it to his admin to simply transcribe and post.
Six hundred thousand visitors last year: They tell him the good stuff that Marriott is doing, so they can keep doing it; and they tell him the bad stuff that they are doing so that they can fix it.
What is that worth to you and your company? To actually hear from your customers, in a non-confrontational cooperative environment, what they like and what they would like you to do differently. And it’s free. You have to communicate with, not to your customers. They’re going to start a conversation with or without you. Why don’t you control that conversation?
When I began researching blogs for The Social Media Bible, I heard a rumour that the search engines were giving blogs preferential treatment in their indexing. For the last several years I taught search engine optimization, and search engine marketing in more than 100 cities each year. I know that Google and Yahoo! take about 12 to 14 days from the time you create a new webpage until they index it. Twelve to fourteen days to index your page.
To test out the preferential treatment of blogs, I created a test blog called, “Subway vs. Quiznos.” This is about where Subway was suing Quizno’s for defamation of sandwich. This is under the category of social media gone wild. I created this blog on December 3, 2007. I had already set up Google Alerts for “Subway.” Thirty minutes from the time I hit “publish,” my blog page was indexed by Google and I was sent an alert. Thirty minutes! Not 12 to 14 days. To view the original blog, click here: http://www.lonsafko.com/2008/02/02/social-media-subway-verses-quizno%E2%…
If you type in “social media,” that term gets more than 46 million hits (last count), so that’s not what will take you to my page. And if you type in “Quiznos Subway,” Fortune 1000 companies, that’s not going to narrow it down either. Don’t use my name, that’s too easy. If you type in ”Social Media Quizno Subway”, I come up #1 in Google. Not just on the first page, but in the #1 position. And, I have been in the #1 position on Google for those four key words since December 2007. What would you pay me or your webmaster to get you the #1 position on Google and keep you there since December 2007? That’s the power of blogs.
Blog pages are created from HTML code, but the interface is incredibly easy to use. It’s as easy as creating a word document. A blog page template can look exactly the same as an HTML Web page, except it can actually have more features (widgets & plug-ins), than does standard HTML. My 101 page website was HTML that I first built in 1994 and I continually added on to it. When I saw the power of the blog from an SEO perspective, the next morning I formatted my server. I actually erased 100% of my website and I recreated it, the entire website, using blog software (WordPress). Now anytime I add a page, anytime I make a change to a page, Google indexes me in 30 minutes with priority preference. Does that have any value to you?
To hear Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress and I talk about the power of WordPress, click here: http://www.thesocialmediabible.com/2009/02/27/matt-mullenweg/
Now, I’m not recommending that you go out and erase your corporate Web pages, but I am certainly telling you to add a blog to your Web site and start blogging. Blogs are powerful.
Read more of Lon Safko’s Social Media Bible blog