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What first started out as a consumer phenomenon has turned into a growing corporate trend: Blogs now provide opportunities for organizations to interact and share their stories and thoughts online. As of 2007, there were a reported 100 million blogs; and as of July 2008, some 15 percent of Fortune 500 companies maintained one.

Accordingly, many marketers are now wondering how to create even more dynamic content and "stickiness" through this medium. Meanwhile, that next level of intimacy has already started to emerge—via video blogs, or vlogs.

Vlogs provide companies a way to foster a greater connection with their visitors when words tend to fail. These outlets offer an opportunity for customers to put faces, voices, and personality to the content. More importantly, vlogs are successful marketing tools that can increase online traffic and repeat business while also raising brand awareness and affinity even more so than text blogs.

Some companies looking to take the online video plunge may feel that doing so is too expense or time consuming. In fact, organizations of all shapes and sizes can launch a vlog for very little cost, because the quality of personal video production equipment has increased significantly over the past several years without a similar rise in prices. Some may also look toward outside firms for help.

Regardless of how a company goes about it, here are five rules that should be followed in order to create a successful vlog.

1. Be Honest

Business leaders are expected to uphold the highest level of integrity. Any type of posting or claim that a company makes in a vlog must be accurate; once it's posted, there's no turning back.

Be certain that the information conveyed won't cause harm to the organization's reputation afterward. Once lies are uncovered, it's difficult to recover. Should an accidental error in fact surface on a vlog posting, it is imperative to address it immediately.

2. Update Regularly

To maintain continuous communication with customers, companies should update their vlog as often as possible: monthly at a minimum. Long lapses in communication can cause customers to drift away, forget about the organization, and never return.

Individuals responsible for maintaining vlogs should keep a running list of "anywhere, anytime" topics to avoid the online version of "writer's block."

3. Allow Commentary

One of the most worrisome aspects of communicating with an audience online is the fear that negative comments will be posted in response. No company wants to be criticized, especially when the entire world can see, but allowing customers to formulate an opinion and speak their mind is essential.

Businesses need to understand that by allowing commentary, they are opening up the lines of communication and creating a stronger sense of trust by asking visitors to contribute their thoughts.

With strong communities, unwarranted criticism will undoubtedly be silenced by the leaders of your group, while constructive comments can provide organizations the opportunity to correct deficiencies before it's too late.

4. Take risks

Often, companies are also worried about throwing in humor or divulging personal information. However, both approaches have proven effective, and they allow businesses to build relationships with their audience on a more intimate level, revealing that they are "real," everyday people too. Using other approaches may keep them coming back for more.

5. To Thine Own Self Be True

Not only is it imperative that an organization be factual in its vlog, but it must also remain true to the "soul" of the company. Adhering to an organization's core value proposition is essential.

Businesses are built on their culture, and it's imperative that they not stray from their ideals. Going against a company's principals can be detrimental—and easily considered to be on par with lying.

* * *

If thought out properly, vlogs have the ability to increase brand awareness, Web site traffic, and personal bonds with customers. People tend to gravitate toward and do business with people they like.

Creating a vlog allows organizations to communicate directly with their audience and form a stronger connection. In addition, vlogs provide visitors with more online content, making their site more "sticky" and giving the impression that the company is up-to-date with the most current trends—a trait valued highly by consumers.

As vlogs become more mainstream, organizations will find out that launching one will be not only a good way to communicate with their stakeholders but also very good for their business.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brent Altomare is owner and executive producer of Groovy Like A Movie (www.groovylikeamovie.com), a multi-media production company in San Diego. Reach Brent via brent@groovylikeamovie.com.