<blog as a business communication tool>

Report for Eastern Digital Pty Ltd By Johannes Muljana R10design

Table of Contents

Contents 
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ..................................................................................................................... 3  INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................................... 4  DEFINITION .......................................................................................................................................... 5  BRIEF HISTORY ..................................................................................................................................... 5  BENEFITS ............................................................................................................................................. 6  CASE STUDIES  ...................................................................................................................................... 9  . STRATEGY ..................................................................................................................................... 10  •  •  •  •  ALPHA TESTING ......................................................................................................................... 10  GUIDELINES .............................................................................................................................. 10  TRAINING ................................................................................................................................. 10  BETA TESTING ........................................................................................................................... 10 

CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................................. 11  1.  2.  3.  4.  COMMUNICATION ...................................................................................................................... 11  RESPONSIVENESS ....................................................................................................................... 11  COST EFFECTIVENESS .................................................................................................................. 11  OPENNESS ................................................................................................................................ 11 

RECOMMENDATIONS .................................................................................................................... 12  REFERENCES .................................................................................................................................. 13 

Figure 1.1 information for everyone .............................................................................. 6 Figure 2.2 increase transparency.................................................................................. 11

 

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Executive Summary 
The open nature and the transparency of blogs can be harnessed by businesses to provide a platform that can be directly accessed by their clients for relevant and timely information. This also improves a company’s efficiency in communication with their clients by creating a system in which direct feedback from clients or potential clients can be directly received and responded to.

Since its humble beginnings, blogs have evolved in the last decade into a technology that is mature, stable and constantly improving. It has gone from a mainly manual update process into a system that is supported by a sophisticated Content Management System, which makes it a very accessible technology for the average person. From a very technical task, updating a blog today is almost as mundane a task as using a word processor. This has significantly reduced the need and the associated cost of workplace training in how to use a blogging platform.

With the backing of some of the largest technology firms today, blogs have become a technology that can be implemented with a very low startup (largely free) and maintenance costs. In the longer run, businesses will benefit from blogs not only from the reduction of operating costs in communication, but also from being able to disseminate information quickly, efficiently and effectively to their clients and to other operating units of the business.

It is recommended that a blog be used by the company to facilitate a more direct and open communication channel with clients and this very fact will enhance the company’s competitiveness in the marketplace by allowing it to act upon client feedback

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Introduction 
Can blogging be used as a business tool? This question has often been asked in the business circles. In their search for a more cost-effective and efficient communication solutions businesses should consider blogging. It is a tool with many potential benefits as is used by some very large corporations today.

By looking at the history of blogging as a format and its use by very successful corporations, we hope to demonstrate that far from blogs being a technology that is only suitable for individuals or small groups, it can be a very powerful tool that can leverage the company’s competitiveness in the marketplace in this age of information.

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Definition Blog as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary i

Main Entry: Pronunciation: Function: Etymology: Date:

blog \blog, bläg\ noun short for Weblog 1999

A Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer — blog·ger noun — blog·ging noun

A blog generally refers to a website that has its content organized in a reversechronological fashion, so that the newest entries are always at the top and will be the first one read by the visitors to the site. A post in a blog contains many elements, usually including text, images, video clips, audio, podcasts or video (vodcasts). Since the launch of Google maps and its open API (Application Programming Interface)ii in the recent years, many blogs today also include the use of map data that has been “pulled ” from the Google Mapsiii website.

The main characteristics of a blog are: 1. The listing of contents in a reverse-chronological order 2. The use of hyperlinks to refer to a particular topic or other sources of information discussed in the article. 3. The optional facilities to leave comments to the posts (articles) contained in the blog. 4. Items in a blog are often categorized using tags.iv Brief History 

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Blogs as a format of digital medium for discussion, have their roots in the online discussion forums and newsgroups which in turn originated from the BBS (Bulletin Board System) of the late 1980s to the early 1990s. While internet forums and newsgroups organize information in groups and threads, blogs characteristically present their posts or articles chronologically, although in reverse.

In many ways blogs inherit their characteristics from online diaries, hence their chronological organization. They began as people’s accounts of their daily lives and routines published online for all to peruse. As more and more people discover blogging they began to evolve into topical posts according to the interests of the bloggers. Blogs, then, began to specialize in different areas and topics.

Along with its growing mainstream adoption, blogs have also evolved in the way they are maintained. From their humble beginnings as just simple websites maintained and updated by hand, they have evolved into very sophisticated content management systems complete with automated functions to take care of archiving, updates, pingbacks, linking and creation of news feeds (RSS and Atom)v.

An example of the modern blogging platform can be seen in software such as WordPress which has been designed from the ground up to make blogging easy and accessible to non-technical people. With software such as WordPress, tasks such as updates and pingbacks are all done automatically. Even the interface for writing new posts or editing existing ones may be compared to word processing software. Benefits  There are many benefits to using a blog for a business: 1. Direct dissemination of information Unlike other forms of communication, blogs allow for the broadest possible audience for relevant
Figure 1.1 information for everyone

information

information regarding business operations, news updates, press releases, etc. 6|Page

This information can be released directly to the public and to those concerned without having to involve the traditional information channels, eg the mainstream media.|

2. Ability to receive direct feedback from clients Where feedback is sought from clients, facilities can be easily activated/added to allow for direct feedback. This can be valuable in a business where the perception from customers and/or clients is of utmost importance.

3. Reduction in the cost of communication By disseminating information directly through a blog, a business can benefit by being able to reduce the need to take inbound calls from customers as upto-the-minute information can be easily and continuously posted on the business’ blog. The cost of operating a blog can be minuscule compared to running a fully-stafffed communication centre.

4. Creating a culture of openness and transparency A regularly updated blog can help create a sense of openness and transparency about the business. It makes information readily available to potential clients and investors about the day to day operations and actions of the company.

5. Scheduled release of information Since many blogging platforms today include Content Management System (CMS) functionality, when the need arise to synchronise information online with certain dates and events, it is possible to schedule the release of information far ahead of time. This is especially useful when it comes to special announcements to launch a new product or service.

6. Collaboration For larger-sized business operations, especially where there are many separate operating units, blogs can open up new avenues for collaboration within the organization. They allow for a more open information sharing and discussion.

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Case Studies  Many businesses and corporations today utilize blogs to communicate with their business clients and consumers. This has allowed for effective dissemination of information to very large audiences. Some of the major companies are: 1. Google Google maintains an official blog at http://googleblog.blogspot.com. This blog contains the latest updates and activities of the company. It is a blog that is quite diverse in content. Some of their articles are directed at developers, others are more for general consumption. This blog also links to other blogs that they maintain for Adwords, Google Grants and utilizes tags for categorizing articles. 2. Microsoft Microsoft maintains a quite comprehensive blog at http://blogs.msdn.com. The blogs are part of their MSDN (Microsoft Developers Network) which contains discussion forums and resources for the large community of Microsoft developers for the different platforms that they support. The many blogs that are part of this network contain latest updates on Microsoft development tools and software. It is also a place where they announce the latest products coming out of Microsoft Labs. 3. Adobe Like Microsoft, Adobe’s blogs at http://blogs.adobe.com contain a lot of information dedicated to their large development community. All the latest bug fixes and the newest products get announced on these blogs to help developers working with Adobe products get either the latest updates for their software or to directly contact Adobe development teams about their products.

All three companies successfully use blogs to conduct their communication with their clients. Through these blogs people can find out the latest activities and announcements from Adobe, Microsoft and Google. Furthermore, the blogs have made possible a more direct exchange of information between the internal development teams and the people working outside using the companies’ products.

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Strategy 
In implementing a blogging system, the company should consider the benefits as well as the risks involved: • Alpha testing The company blog should be tested internally for a period of time before launching it into a public arena. • Guidelines A set of guidelines should be put in place after a review of the blogs to control quality of information that will be published on the blog. • Training Training has to be conducted to ensure the appropriate level of skill is attained by members of staff who will manage the blogs. • Beta testing A period of stress testing should be conducted separately from the company’s existing web infrastructure to ensure high availability and high security.

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Conclusion 
The use of blog as a business tool can enhance the company’s performance in several areas: 1. Communication The company can speak directly to clients, shareholders and potential investors more directly 2. Responsiveness A blog will allow the company to more quickly respond to issues that may arise in the mainstream media, as well as communicating with the media itself. 3. Cost Effectiveness A blog will have a positive impact on operational costs, as well as having very minimal startup and maintenance costs 4. Openness Using a blog will enhance the company’s profile in the community in general by making up-to-date information more readily available.

Figure 2.2 increase transparency

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Recommendations 
As blogging has now become more mainstream and more clearly defined in use, many different solutions have emerged over the years that can be of enormous value to the company. Since there are already many mature blogging platform in the marketplace, it is recommended that the company first evaluates some of the readily available solutions. Using a readily available software has many positive benefits to the company. Among them are lowering the startup costs and greatly reducing implementation timeframe. 1. Blogger.com Blogger.com is owned by Google. Since Google owns a very large infrastructure to run its main business of running a search engine and online advertising business, the company can benefit from having an externally maintained, yet stable platform for blogging. The other benefit of using Blogger.com is that there is no startup cost other than staff training which can be accomplished in a very short timeframe. The drawback is that there is very little room for customization and it cannot be used for internal blogging within the company due to its lack of a granular permission system. 2. Joomla Joomla is a mature open-source project which supports blogging. It is, however, also a fully featured Content Management System which can be complex to install and maintain. The startup cost of running Joomla can be quite high due to the complex nature of the software, which might also require more lead up time and more staff training. It is recommended as a solution only when the company wishes to migrate its existing website onto Joomla. Full customization is possible and once installed the maintenance cost can be very low. Joomla has a very good and granular permission system which allows it to function as a both internal and external blogging platform. 3. WordPress WordPress is a mature blogging platform which is also an open-source software. It can be fully customized and can be easily integrated into an existing web infrastructure. It is quite easy to install and is supported by many existing web-hosting companies. It is the recommended solution if the company wishes to maintain a certain separation between its website and blog. It can also function as an internet and inward facing blog due to the existence of an adequate permission system.

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  References 
i

Merriam-Webster dictionary chose blog as the word of the year in 2006.

Application Programming Interface refers to the way programmers can take advantage of features and/or functions of a software system.
iii

ii

Google Maps is an online map service provided by Google http://map.google.com Tags are words that are used to categorise items.

iv

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and Atom are two xml-based standards used to display headlines from the originating sites in a reader software.

v

Appendices 

Wikipedia definition of blog http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog Joomla home page http://www.joomla.org WordPress home page http://www.wordpress.org Microsoft website http://www.microsoft.com

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