I get asked this question a lot, and I’ve never really liked the answer “a weblog is an on-line diary”. I’ve never kept an off-line diary, so that answer just never reached me. I prefer to think of a blog in a different way.
Have you ever run into someone you haven’t seen in a while, and asked them what they were up to? Have you ever met someone new and asked them what they do? To me, a blog is a pre-emptive answer to either of those questions. If you’re reading my blog for the first time, welcome! Look around, and you’ll get an idea of what I do, what I like, and a little of how I think. If you’re an old friend, great to see you again, and here’s what I’ve been up to. Sorry I haven’t kept in touch better, I’ve been really busy. Drop me a line and I’ll try to do better.
Whether or not a blog is good depends on how much the reader cares about the question you’re answering. Not being lame is critical though. If you’re interested in blogging but are concerned about being lame, check out Naked Conversations and learn both good and lame by example. You can find my review at http://www.rjdudley.com/blog/Review+Of+Naked+Conversations.aspx, or use the link below to get the book from Amazon.
If you read the blog for Naked Conversations, you’ll hear Shel Israel talk about his friend Ernie the Attorney, whom Shel met researching the book. By the time they actually met in person, Shel considered Ernie one of his best friends; that Shel had come to know Ernie just by reading his blog. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Ernie had already answered the question “Here’s who I am, and what I do.”
As far as small businesses are concerned, think about some of your long-time customers. You know them and their preferences, and they know you. You probably have some inside jokes, and they’ve seen some of the amazing stuff you’ve done. These are your best customers, and your fan club, too. They’re your brand evangelists–the folks who don’t work for you, but bring you new customers through their word of mouth. Turning new customers into long-time customers can be a lengthy process (duh!), but your blog can help. Introduce your staff (like they do at Aldo Coffee), show off some of your cool work (like at The Wedding Blog or Lincoln Sign Company), share something funny, but not one of those “you had to be there” moments. People who just find you will be “in the loop” in no time, and your business will be so much the better.