Bloggers, as well as the public, are running into some difficulty these days defining exactly what a blog is and how they can be used. For some unknown reason, I'm seeing a personal journal stuck in with a business site here and there. You wouldn't think someone running a business would really feel comfortable directing their customers to tales of how their plumbing backed up and a subsequent argument with their spouse, or worse, their online shenanigans in personal vendettas with some discussion group or other.
Yet they're still there, and as blogs nudge further in to the business arena, I don't see this puzzling anomaly going away anytime very soon.
There are a couple of reasons why this may be happening. In some cases, you've got longtime journalers attempting to capitalize on the trend. The explosion in blogging, they think, is sure to bring more visitors to the business site. Sometimes you have online businesses hearing about blogging, yet not researching it enough to find out the wide variety of applications for a blog.
In both cases what you have here is a case of mistaken impressions. People still haven't quite recognized that a blog is really only a content delivery system. It doesn't have to be a personal monologue; in fact, it doesn't have to have any kind of personal content at all. A blog attached to a business website could feature product information or industry news of interest to the customers. It could also serve as a customer service area, allowing customers to get product-related help when they need it, or make suggestions on new uses for old products, for example.
Just because blogs are growing at an amazing rate doesn't mean ANY blog will be a help to a business. It's true business is changing, and methods of marketing are something the pre-Internet generation wouldn't even recognize. One thing that hasn't changed is that any business needs good customer relations to survive.
While considering adding a blog to an existing online business site, you need to think about how the content of the blog is going to help or hinder any business you've already got going. Imagine, if you can, the online business as a brick-and-mortar store. The blog is a new reception area of the store. What do your customers find there? Do they find you, as the store owner, handing out helpful information and making their shopping easier? Or do they find you suddenly, and inexplicably telling them the most intimate details of your personal life, or expounding on political issues with no relation to the business?
Put yourself in your customer's place; try to see how they would react to this new wrinkle in your marketing plan. Too much personal information is not always wise in business. It's not that you should be less than honest with your customers, but do they really care about your digestive problems, for example?
It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out. Right now my money's on "business as usual." Of course, knowing how what used to be considered bizarre and unusual tends to become common practice online, anything can happen!