To blog or not to blog: A small-business perspective

Just because you're supposed to do something doesn't make it a good idea. Case in point: Blogs for certain small businesses

Dear Bob ...

I run a small business. Nothing all that special or interesting, but we get by. You won't have heard of us -- we're local, and provide a non-IT service to our community (not everyone who reads Advice Line and Keep the Joint Running are in IT), and I'd prefer not to reveal our name. No need and no point to it.

[ Also on InfoWorld: If you're wondering how to fill out your online presence, you should check out Bob's post, "Making a business case for social media" | Get sage advice on IT careers and management from Bob Lewis in InfoWorld's Advice Line newsletter. ]

Anyway, my question: Lots of people, including a lot of business experts, have written about the importance of people in my situation having a blog. So I have a blog. Now they're writing about how important it is for me to have a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page, and that we all have to Twitter and so on.

My problem: I don't have anything new to say on my blog every week (how do you manage to post three Advice Line entries and a new KJR every week?), have no idea what I'd do with a Facebook or LinkedIn page, and don't have the time to keep all of this fresh.

Do I really have to put myself through all of this?

- Uncreative

Dear Uncreative ...

No.

The only unviolable rules of business are:

  • You have to make a profit or you'll be out of business, even if you're a nonprofit.
  • If you aren't growing, you're shrinking. Shrink enough and you'll be out of business.
  • Prospective customers need a reason to choose you instead of a competitor. Current customers need a reason to stay with you instead of switching their business to a competitor. If they don't have one. they'll probably choose a competitor, you'll shrink and eventually go out of business.

Maybe there are others; these are the ones that occur to me at the moment. Notice that "have a blog, Facebook page, and LinkedIn page" aren't on the list.

Blog first: If yours is the kind of business where there just isn't very much new to say every week -- a dry cleaner, perhaps -- then all you can accomplish with a blog is to announce that you're willing to waste everyone's time with worthless drivel or opinions on subjects unrelated to your business for which you have no special expertise to offer.

Kill the blog, and don't even think about Twitter.

Facebook and LinkedIn are different matters. The question to ask yourself is simple: Is this where your customers and prospects are? If so, you should be there too. Learn enough about using them to provide your message (what you do, and why customers stay and prospects should consider you), provide customers an opportunity to say nice things about you, and make it easy for prospects to find you.

If your customers and prospects aren't likely to use Facebook or LinkedIn to find you and connect with you, don't waste your time.

One other bit about the subject, since you raised it: As you think about this subject, include sites like Bizrate, ResellerRatings, and (if you're in the travel business) TripAdvisor in your thinking. Customers have plenty of opportunities to talk about you in public these days. You should make sure you know what they're saying.

And take it seriously. If someone simply misunderstood a policy in a post, clarify it for everyone to read. If they have a legitimate complaint (in their eyes, even if not in yours) and have made it public, now a lot of people know about it. Figure out if you need to do something differently.

Like it or not, if you're in business, you're probably out there on the Web somewhere or other, even if you didn't put yourself out there.

Your choice is how to handle it.

- Bob

This story, "To blog or not to blog: A small-business perspective," was originally published at InfoWorld.com.

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