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Talk of blogs is everywhere. Corporations, authors and experts of every stripe are finding that blogs can be valuable marketing and PR tools.

But blogs aren't for everyone. So before you join the blogosphere, consider both the advantages and the caveats.

The major advantage of blogs is that they are interactive and require no knowledge of coding by the content creators. The major disadvantage is that maintaining a successful blog requires skillful research, professional writing skills and a huge commitment of time and effort.

There simply is no such thing as a perfect marketing tool—or an effortless way to build traffic to any site, including blogs.

The 2004 Presidential race inaugurated the blog into the realm of serious marketing tool. From in-house communication, file sharing and sheer speed of creation to interactivity with an audience, blogs are the cheapest, most effective content management tool yet created.

There are more advantages than disadvantages to blogging. But the disadvantages will definitely cause your blog's failure and could even put you in the midst of controversy or see you mocked by other bloggers.

Blogging Caveats

  • Blogs are writing intensive. Most people would rather have a root canal done than write something coherent, pithy and provocative every day. It takes talent, skill and training to write down ideas clearly and make them interesting to read.

  • Maintaining a blog is hard work. Researching and writing are complex and time-consuming tasks. A blog that isn't kept up to date quickly loses its luster and its audience.

  • Blog software is cheap and easily configured. However, you need to have a designer customize the appearance and navigation of your blog and set up templates to make using it easy for you.

  • It takes time, effort and skillful promotion to build an audience for a blog. Just as with a newsletter, report, Web site or e-book, driving traffic to a blog requires marketing.

  • You have to register your blog in blog search engines and use subtle PR to push traffic to your blog. Blogs are no more of a "build it and they will come" medium than Web sites. Besides time and consistently good content, you need to think about sending out press releases and media alerts about your blog's scoops. (And, of course, you need to have scoops to do that.)

  • A blog that isn't well-written and frequently updated will simply be ignored.

  • A blog that is an obvious attempt at self-promotion may be mocked by other bloggers. You could be a laughing stock of the blogosphere. The Dr Pepper Raging Cow blog has become a classic example of what not to do. To launch a new milk-flavored drink called "Raging Cow," Dr Pepper/Seven Up's PR firm launched a blog called "Pasteurize This," following the adventures of a fictitious cow.

The PR firm Richards Interactive offered money and gifts to a half-dozen influential 18- to 24-year-old bloggers if they'd push the drink in their blogs. Instead, the bloggers wrote about what they viewed as a scam and pretty soon many bloggers were ridiculing Dr Pepper and calling for a product boycott.

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B.L. Ochman is a social media marketing strategist for S&P 500 companies, including McGraw Hill, IBM, Cendant, and American Greetings. She publishes What's Next Blog and Ethics Crisis, where readers can confess their worst ethics transgressions and others can rate them on a scale of one to ten. She also blogs for MarketingProfs Daily Fix Blog.