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BLOGGING: COMING TO YOUR COMPUTER NOW!
Blog: (n.) Short for Web log, a blog is a Web page that serves as a publicly accessible personal journal for an individual. Typically updated daily, blogs often reflect the personality of the author. (v.) To author a Web log. Other forms: Blogger (a person who blogs). Source: www.webopedia.com.

That definition is already changing as 2005 is predicted to be the year of the corporate blog. According to Media Guerrilla Mike Manuel, more companies and organizations are beginning to use the medium as an easy form of micropublishing to a targeted and interested audience who can receive the updated information almost instantaneously.

Blogs, blogging and bloggers have been around since about 1998, but the potential of this information tool is only just beginning to be realized. "Blog" was named the 2004 Word of the Year by U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, and at this point, blogs have become so popular they are now a force that needs to be reckoned with by traditional media. However, even the most Internet-savvy in the communications business have yet to figure out what all the fuss is about.

WILL BLOGGING WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

It's important to remember that a blog is just another Web site. The major difference is that it can be changed or updated much more easily. In addition, blogs are easier to start and maintain, and perhaps best of all, they provide marketers a way to communicate directly with individuals and give a more human identity to your business or organization.

In fact, some of the buzzwords in the blogging world are "voice" and "transparency." Voice is pretty obvious as your blog allows you to practically carry on a conversation with your clients and customers. As they read what you write, your voice, or personality, comes through and they better understand you. Transparency means that you are providing a window into who and what you really are. When you adopt this form of communication, readers will quickly know if the information you're providing them is credible. There have been some famous cases in the news lately of bloggers losing credibility by not being completely open and transparent.

Credibility is a very important concept as companies try to incorporate blogging into their public relations programs. Somehow you will need to convey the information you want without appearing to be too commercial and self-serving.

The beauty of blogging for marketing and PR is the ability to communicate directly with a willing target audience. Consider it for such applications as direct interactive communications with customers, dealers, members or any other target market. It's faster, more efficient and more user-friendly than an e-newsletter.

The best way to learn more about blogs is to actually check out a few and see how they work. The sidebar provides a list of blogging resources for your browsing pleasure, but you might also just want to do a search and find some of your own that can help get your creative juices flowing.

When you become comfortable with blogging, you might want to graduate into the world of syndication, where technologies such as RSS (Rich Site Summary, or as some like to call it, Really Simple Syndication) now allow you to distribute content, including audio and video, from your blogs or even regular Web sites.

COMMUNICATING WITH PRODUCERS

Although there is not yet any formal study on farmers and blogging, available statistics indicate that farmers use the Internet much like the general public, with nearly half of all farmers having some form of Internet access.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project surveyed Internet users on the subject of blogging this past November and found that 27 percent regularly read blogs, which is up from 11 percent in the spring of 2003. They found that blog readership increased by more than half in 2004. According to their survey and Internet usage estimates, that means that more than 32 million Americans are reading blogs, up from almost nothing just two years ago!

It is likely that if farmers are following the trends of the general public, we can expect farm blogging to increase this year, even though the current list of agribusiness-related blogs is short.

The bottom line is that blogging is a new and potentially beneficial way to distribute information. As one of our site visitors wrote to us, our blog "puts a warm, fuzzy human side to your corporate identity." Now is the time to jump onto the blogging bandwagon and consider the possibilities of this brand new communications tool. AM

Chuck Zimmerman is co-owner of ZimmComm, Holts Summit, Mo, which offers a wide range of marketing services for the agribusiness industry. You can subscribe to ZimmComm's blog at http://zimmcomm.blogspot.com.


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