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The Web 2.0 Tools of the Trade for Marketers

By Rok Hrastnik
Nov 29, 2006

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Part 2

In the previous article of the Web 2.0 series we took a bird’s eye perspective of the general Web 2.0 tool categories.

Today we will take a better look at those that might need a little more explanation.

Blogging
With millions and millions of blogs out there definitions of what a blog is have become more than just somewhat blurred. If you're consfused, you're not alone.

Just about everyone out there will tell you a different story of what a blog is.

Blogs are an online content publishing platform that make it easy for anyone to get their voice heard online. They are a contraction of Web Log – a linear posting of content that usually focuses on one subject about which the writer is passionate.

Blogs may have started as personal online journals, but have developed into a sophisticated business and marketing tool. Not only is a blog a way to get your point of view online, it is also an excellent way to start a two-way conversation with your audience.

Here are some of the signs to help you define blogging and a blog.

* A blog is an online diary or journal of some sorts, through which an online author shares his experiences, views, opinions, news, commentary and just about everything else that he is pashionate about with the world. Blogs have a personal voice, which is easily recognizable and differs from the rest of the pack.

But sometimes blogs are written by groups of people, combining multiple voices and personalities.

Sometimes, blogs are just objective reportings on industry trends and news, without a personal voice. In this case, think of them as "industry diaries".

And sometimes blogs are only corporate speak, singing praise to your company. While they are often called blogs by their authors, they are usually not seen as such by the rest of the world.

* A blog can be a stand-alone mini-site, featuring a linear list of the latest blog posts on the first page and offering access to blog archives in various ways, such as calendar based archives, category based archives and tag based archives. It's independent from other sites, simple, and easily recognizable as a blog.

But, a blog can also be integrated into a larger portal or even a corporate website, still retaining the before mentioned blog structure, but inserted into a larger website.

* A blog should be transparent, meaning that it offers real and transparent information, and does not mislead the public. It also means that you don't hide your mistakes and the negative things people say about you.

As a marketer or public relations professional, this might seem a little counterproductive at times. When you do something wrong, tell about it first? When someone exposes your mistakes, don't hide them? Well, you can still do this, but if the people find out (which they almost always do) you better watch out. Remember the Dell Hell story …

* A blog is a conversation. People respond to your own blog posts with their comments on your blog, or with their comments on their own blog. You need to respond back … either with new posts or with comments. It's all about the conversation.

But then, some blogs, either out of fear of negative comments or our of lack of time to keep up with the conversation, simply turn the comments off. Even if you do this, expect comments to appear on other blogs. You can turn off the comments, but you can't turn off the conversation. It's going to happen with or without you.

* A blog should always have an RSS feed, used to deliver the latest posts via the feed. That of course does not mean that RSS feeds and blogs are the same … RSS is a way of getting your blog content to those that subscribe to it.

Most blogs don't offer an e-mail subscription option … but they should. Don't be turned off by the naysayers; if it has e-mail it's still a blog … a more powerful blog.

* A blog links to other blogs and sites. The world is a network. If you don't link to others, don't expect others to link to you. If you're telling a story, add additional references, via outbound links, to it. You can't tell the whole story, but the network can come pretty close.
Other signals apply as well, but for now this should give you an idea of what a blog is.

How about blogging?

Simply, a process of keeping a blog and participating in the conversation. You're also bound to hear the term blogosphere. This is simply an expression that encompasses all blogs in the world, as a sort of social network. Essentially, the entire universe of blogs.

Podcasting
Podcasting is the process of delivering audio files through an RSS feed … as simple as that.

Think in terms of delivering …
* Audio interviews with your industry experts
* Top tips in audio format
* Press releases in audio format
* An apology from your CEO for a mistake your company did
* Etc.

But how does it work?

You create an audio file and include it in a content item in your RSS feed. While this may sound complicated, it's really not.

The important point right now is that you then offer this RSS feed to your visitors (as well as the search engines etc.), who may then subscribe to it and receive your latest audio content directly to their RSS Readers. Once new content arrives, they may easily download it to their computers and listen to it there, or even upload it to their portable music players.


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