While many businesses are still getting used to the idea of having any kind of Web presence, forward-thinking companies are looking at blogs as simple, self-sustaining Web sites and Intranets.

If you're not thinking about how to use blogs in your business, you're missing a big opportunity.

Blogging can be a remarkably effective marketing tool. It's also an excellent way to stay in touch with customers and hear concerns that can be an early warning system of potential problems. Many marketing campaigns cry out for blogs, but companies are missing great opportunities.

A Sticky Situation?

For example, WD40 (the smelly but remarkably useful spray) is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a Web site that would be perfect for a blog.

On the site, a Fan Club Board of Directors—made up of customers who are WD40 fanatics—point out WD40's thousands of uses, from keeping pigeons off the terrace (they hate the smell) to keeping toilet bowls clean. Visitors can suggest their favorite uses at the site.

Although the site is a font of information, a blog would be even better. Via a blog, the Fan Club would be interactive and the thousands of WD40 uses would be searchable. You'd be able look up a WD40 cure when you're in need. On a blog, customers could add their profile information and recommended uses of the product into a searchable database.

The WD40 Fan Club Board members include Thomas Livermore, a WD-40 history nut; Jonathan Knopp, a retired teacher from Milwaukee; and Kevin Meany, a Volunteer Fire Chief, who likes to “spray WD-40 on the hinges of my cooler so I can sneak a beer in the middle of the night.” The site even has a downloadable WD40 Spray Game that you just have to try.

It's got everything but what it really needs: a blog.

Good Blog and Intranet Examples

Many companies have embraced the new technology and incorporated blogs into their marketing campaigns. The following companies are among those making good business use of blogs:

  • Scene Embassies brands its hip European fashion label by having 18-28-year-old bloggers around the globe spot trends in their cities and blog about them.

  • Fast Company Magazine, once considered extremely hip, is trying to regain its image with a blog where writers give their short takes on news and offer personal opinions that are likely to be edited out of the magazine's articles.

  • DaimlerChrysler is using blog intranets at a few of its US plants. Managers employ them to discuss problems and keep a record of their solutions. And, according to FastTake, American Airlines uses blogs as a way to give employees more channels to management. Only 20% of the company's highly mobile workforce has corporate email, but all can access the blogs.

  • Forty field technology managers of The Hartford Financial Services Group are using blogs to share information about e-commerce features and solutions to technology problems.

  • At IBM, more than 500 employees in 30 countries use a blog Intranet to discuss software development projects and business strategies.

  • Beta-7 is a marketing blog from ESPN and Sega that is supposed to appear to be the blog of a beta tester for ESPN NFL videogame. It has an active following of gamers and includes lots of video clips, some of which are supposedly commercial out-takes and rejects.

  • Bold Career Blogs is career-coach Ian Christie's blog promoting his consulting service and online career assessment tool. Categories he covers include a job search tune-up, career management and personal networking advice.

  • Hammock Publishing publishes client magazines, and on this blog CEO Rex Hammock blogs about the magazine industry, custom publishing and business communications.

  • More than a dozen analysts for Jupiter Research use this blog to discuss the Internet media trends they cover in reports.

  • Jeffrey Zeldman's Daily Report is a blog covering Web design and information architecture. Zeldman runs Happy Cog, a Web development agency.

  • Marketing Ladder's Marc Cenedella uses blogs as a customer service tool for his three Web-based job search services for $100,000+ executives. No, he's not a headhunter. And the site is not really a job board, either. If you said a job spider, you'd be closer. He's turned the typical job listing business model on its head. His sales, marketing and finance lists are sent out to his 43,000 subscribers with about 800 new listings each week. The subscribers pay $25 a month for the service, and the companies with job openings pay nothing.

What could your company do with a blog? Lots! And it's high time to start thinking about it!

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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.