Sunday, September 19, 2010
Marketing and Public Relations -- 9 Using Blogs
Blogs can be effective in getting quickly prepared messages to the public. A blog can be like a newspaper columnist’s message, a new report, personal journal, or a semi-scholarly short article. Indeed many newspapers, popular magazines, and trade magazines have paid reporters who produce blogs that are published electronically and never appear in the print version. Instead of waiting for a whole issue of a library newsletter to be produced, a librarian may produce a short article and send it to the public. With the use of a blog many librarians within the library can write personal or official library messages. Search engines index blogs and make them available immediately. Reporters, marketing people, and other searchers rely on blogs to find experts and to get a feeling as to what people are thinking about.
A blog allows ideas to be pushed into the marketplace and receive comments. The blog is a way to both push ideas and get feedback from comments. Sometimes the comments provide interesting ideas and can change a stream of though. Some bloggers learn about their audience through comments. “Dumb” and “smart” ideas are recognized. A weak idea many need clarification; a great idea may be promulgated to many other libraries. David Scott claims that his blog have gathered more than 200,000 views and thousands of comments. So far I have not seen as dramatic results as he claims. Last week I had about 550 views and 12 comments. Most comments appeared in the comment section of the blog and others were received via e-mail or chats. I want comments because it shows people care enough to write and it is a kind of reward. Blogs add value to the organization. For example the Illinois Library Association has a weekly e-mail newsletter with a list of blogs. Before it was shut down the North Suburban (Illinois) Library System had a page that gathered the first paragraph of library oriented blogs and linked to the whole article. This blog was linked from there.
The technology to create blogs is easy and efficient to use. This blog is being produced with Blogspot (http://www.blogger.com/home), which is part of Google. With Blogspot’s integration with Google, one can login to once and you are logged in to them all. Wordpress (http://wordpress.org/) is blog system that requires a download. They claim 12.5 million downloads. According to the site “Usage of content management systems for websites” (http://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/content_management/all) Wordpress has a 12% market share of content management systems (CMS). Typepad is a third example (http://www.typepad.com/). Typepad charges a monthly fee that varies with the features. The software creates all the HTML code to make an attractive blog site, edit content, and allow comments.
Comments are controlled by the blogger. They may allow readers to leave comments and remove inappropriate content. I use this feature to only allow comments I approve since I have received comments in Korean that contained a hidden link to a porn site. Variant and even negative opinions may be a good thing that can add credibility by showing both sides to an issue. If the readership is passionate enough to write a comment they are reading it. Is that not the reason you are writing? Comments can be used to find out what people are thinking about the library.
Since blogs work both ways, you can monitor other blogs for comments about your library or libraries in general. Google Alerts is one way to use key words that will send you a message when the keywords are triggered. I have a Google Alert set to my name. I get an e-mail alert whenever my name appears in a web site indexed by Google. Organizations do monitor blogs. I mentioned a department at a university and within a few minutes my monitoring software showed they had read my posting. They did not send a comment.
The blog writer must be dedicated to a love of writing and communicating. Even a 400 word article (one typed page), can take a healthy amount of time. If the message is worth telling; it is worth telling it well. Some weeks I have a lot to write and some weeks I have nothing to write. I regularly read some blogs on Inside Higher Education (http://www.insidehighered.com/) While some posts may be written quickly because they are more expository than research, others could take 2 or more hours to research, write, and edit .
If you love to write or have someone at your library who does, enter the blogosphere and use the blog to spread your thoughts and learn from the readers.