White Papers

July 1, 2006
Jim Huber
Huberspace

Blogs, bloggers, blogosphere... Blogs seem to be about the biggest thing on the Web these days. There are over 60 million of them out there. They can be good for search engine rankings, and they also allow your group to speak to readers on a more personal level. I hate to make 60 million enemies, but I for one don't think that blogs are the Second Coming. At least not for my market: businesses, political organizations and candidates.

If your blog is your site and you are using the blog technology for content management, that's one thing. But if you are adding a blog to your site... read on.

Part of the allure of good blogs is that they create communities on your site because people can interact with you and join in on the discussion. But I am a firm believer in staying on message. Your Web site serves the function of promoting your business or cause. Allowing others to post their remarks gives your competition an opportunity to give their message and attack yours. Case in point, during the Democratic presidential primaries in 2003, a Howard Dean supporter attacked John Kerry in Kerry's own blog. The Deaniac said that Kerry was not a real Democrat. Imagine someone on your blog saying you're not a real or good doctor, or whatever you are.

So there's a solution to protect your message: moderate the discussions to prevent opposing views before they make it onto the site. There are two problems with this. First, you wind up having discussions on the site that are nothing but people agreeing with each other. After a while, it gets very dull and pointless. The second problem, which is especially true for candidates and any organization or company under extra scrutiny, is the criticism for silencing debate on your site. Sure, it's a tacky charge for your opposition to make. But then controlling the message on your Web site causes your campaign to lose control of the message, offline. You would rather be talking about transportation and taxes than deflecting charges of "what are you trying to hide?"

Of course, you could just make your blog a one-sided discussion. You can use it for commentaries from the campaign, news updates, or whatever. After years of political sites already having news and events sections, how are blogs a necessity? Now there's a second place to look for news.

Arguably, the more personal touch of a blog entry, compared to the carefully written press releases, helps the candidate connect better to the site visitors. Fine, a personal touch is a good thing to have. But that's just a style choice, and nothing that the blog technology offers. Once again, your news/commentary section can do the same exact job.

Where does this personal style fit into a business Web site? Skimming through the attorney blogs at blogs.injuryboard.com, it's hard to say it does. At least not in that case. These brave bloggers do allow feedback, but few postings have received any comments. The lack of responses in this example suggests that the personal touch is lost in these business blogs. So either no one is reading them or there is nothing about the postings that are any less suited for a news/commentary section.

But ultimately this, like any other tool, is as good as how it is applied. Your site is not going to be revolutionized because it has a blog. For your business or political organization, it's trickier to use blogs effectively and stay on message. Overall, blogs duplicate features already on your site that are already effective at their goal - the dissemination of on message information. Just because a lot of people have blogs (that no one reads), does not mean you need one, too. In some respect, blogs are an upgrade to free homepages of the 90's. You would not have put your business site on Geocities back then. And if you build it, they will not necessarily come to it.