Blogging for business

Looking for a new way to "brand" your business, give it some personality, and really connect with your market? Try a blog, says Kandace Chapple, editor and publisher of Grand Traverse Woman Magazine.

"I see it as a way for people to get a feel for the magazine before they ever pick it up," said Chapple.

A personalized atmosphere permeates both the web site and the magazine Chapple produces, and that spirit can be found in the company's blog, too. Other area bloggers stress that showing personality, while staying professional, is one of the keys to successful blogging.

Traverse City attorney Enrico Schaefer blogs about legal issues and his work has been well received by the "blogoshpere" – Internet speak for people online who regularly read, comment on, and post to blogs.

"We are retained by clients every day as a result of our blogging," said Schaefer, who along with Mark Clark and Brian Hall make up the firm Traverse Legal, PLC, located within Grand Traverse Commons. The firm offers clients general counsel and corporate legal services but specializes in the growing discipline of technology-related law such as website domain name issues, digital copyright protection, and computer software law. Clients with legal needs in these areas are sure to be Internet savvy, and one way that Schaefer has found to reach them is via active blogging.

The word "blog" was derived from combining the words "web" and "log" and way back in 2004 – a lifetime ago in Internet time – blogs were being touted as the latest media trend. Back then, a blog was usually just a web-based diary where everyday people told stories about their kids, their pets and their vacations and posted them online. In 2005 businesses started taking notice of blogs, using them experimentally to launch new products, and by 2006 use of the new medium by businesses was becoming a much more common practice.

According to author and national blog consultant Lisa Sabin-Wilson, the number of new blogs has doubled six times every five and a half months for the past three years and more than 175,000 new blogs are started daily. These figures don't surprise Schaefer all that much.

"We do over 1,000 hits a day across our blogs," he said. "Many of these visitors come as a result of Google searches for 'non-compete lawyer' or 'cyber squatting lawyer' or 'trademark registration.' A significant number of these visitors are looking for more than free information. They are looking to retain an attorney with our expertise."

Schaefer and his partners blog at greatestamericanlawyer.com, thetechnologylawyer.com, and traverselegal.com.

Besides the law, many other areas of business benefit from blogs too, including art and design services, computer software, travel agencies, new product introduction or test marketing, entertainment reviews, customer support and, of course, consumer media like Grand Traverse Woman Magazine and other outlets.

Web developer Andrew McFarlane uses his blogs at absolutemichigan.com and Leelanau.com to inform people about what's going on statewide as well as in Leelanau County and Traverse City. McFarlane said he tries to focus on stories that will increase people's enjoyment of both Michigan and our local area. Leelanau.com features the Leelanau Almanac updated daily and a weekly archive of local news.

"We have a number of web development clients who came to us through being regular readers," McFarlane said. "If you can think of a way to engage potential customers in reading and responding to your blog, I think you will find that it's a great way to attract their attention, educate them about your services and convert them to customers."

In his research on blogging, that is exactly what Professor Michael Stephens learned. Stephens, of Dominican University's Graduate School of Library and Information Science in River Forest, Illinois – is also a summer resident of East Bay Township's Spider Lake area. He wrote his doctoral thesis on why people blog. What he found is that blogging personalizes the Internet. His blogs are Tametheweb.com and TCBlog.com.

"Businesses who would like a dynamic web presence might add a blog to the mix," said Stephens. "The ease of use makes it a perfect low cost solution for sharing information."

Or, in photographer Ann Teliczan's case, a way to rave about a whole state. Teliczan is a partner in a Michigan-based advertising agency, Allied Design, and uses her passion for the state to attract an audience, who then learn about her commercial services. She allows anyone who wants to use her photos to promote the state of Michigan to do it for free, as long as they give her and her blog (anntopia.com) credit.

"I started my blog when I drew the conclusion that a lot of people from other parts of the country think of the entire state of Michigan the way Detroit was portrayed in Beverly Hills Cop…" said Teliczan. "So, I decided the one thing I could do to try and help out was to use my skills as a writer and photographer to show the world what they're missing."

Select readers who were introduced to her work via her blog have gone on contract her services.

"I think blogs tend to reach a tipping point where, when enough people see it and like it, you get huge traffic," she said. "I'm almost there." BN

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