Debbie Weil asks: What Can You Do With A Blog?

In doing research for her book, The Corporate Blogging Book, my colleague and friend Debbie Weil asked a half dozen or so of her blogging colleagues if they wanted to comment on her proposed list of categories for blogs. As she explained it:
“I’m trying to be more creative than saying blogs can be used ‘for marketing and PR and thought leadership, as well as internally for project and knowledge management.'”
Her proposed list includes blogs as a complement to traditional PR, conference blogs, customer evangelist blogs (what today’s NYTimes calls branding blogs), etc.
Where this gets interesting is that I didn’t respond with a expansion of her categories, I responded quite differently, and the subsequent email offers some good insight into how blogs have evolved from a simple system to a proscribed technological communications platform with many specific requirements. I’ll let the email talk for itself.

Here’s what I wrote:
“But blogs are just content management tools, Debbie, so I believe it’s the case that they can be used for an infinite number of different corporate tasks, as many as there are tasks requiring online communication, archiving, or discussion. Anything from a shared discussion space for developers to a space where draft documents can be discussed in the pr group to evaluating logos for a new product in marketing, with the watchful eye of the VP involved.
“I understand your desire to categorize and “taxonomize” but the very act of trying to break it down into discrete parts inevitably changes the nature of what you’re writing about and your reader’s reaction to the material.
“Make sense?”
Rick Bruner then followed up with:
“I’m so glad, Dave, to hear you say “blogs are just content management tools.” I agree completely. I honestly think what’s most remarkable about blogs is the simplicity of the tool, not all the rules people apply to personal voice, whether comments are on or off, etc. At their heart, they are just a means for anyone to self-publish with little hassle.”
Toby Bloomberg offered an even more potentially controversial response:
“I agree with you and Dave; that was why I began talking about blogs to begin with… but then the marketers got their fingers in the virtual pie and the game hasn’t been the same.”
Sally Falkow agreed, with her comment:
“How refreshing to hear these comments. I have been taken to task many times for using blogs in odd ways – and not having all the things a blog is ‘supposed to have”
“I completely agree that a blog can be used for many different things. I have clients who publish news blogs – and now that Yahoo News is indexing blogs their content is being picked up.
“I am also using blogsites as a monitoring tool and it works very well. The RSS feeds are set up to monitor words and phrases and then the analysis is done in the blog so other members of the team and execs can access it. Internal use only, of course.”
Tris Hussey gave an additional thought and added a prediction about the next release of WordPress too:
“Expanding on the blogs as content management theme here … Blog platforms make great, cost-effective platforms for “websites”.� If you’re an SMB [small to medium size business -ed] with a limited budget you can get some budget hosting that includes MySQL and have WordPress installed in a few mins.� Since WP’s theme and style system is pretty flexible you can cut design cost and time incredibly.
“I’ve been advocating blogs as website solutions for SMBs before, but now even more so. Personally when WP 1.6 comes out I think it’s really going to shake things up in a huge way.”
I’ll let Debbie have the last word:
“Yes, yes and yes. I agree with all of you. I’ve been explaining blogs as a content management tool since 2001. But for the purposes of the book I can’t just say “Oh and you can do anything with a blog.” I need to give examples to make it make sense to readers. And I like to put examples into categories. It’s just a way of packaging the info.”
But what do you think, dear reader? Is a blog simply a tool for managing content on a Web site, or are there a specific and well-agreed-upon set of capabilities and features that it either must or should have to truly be considered a blog in the greater online community?

8 comments on “Debbie Weil asks: What Can You Do With A Blog?

  1. It’s anything. That’s the great amazing semi-secret. Put there what you want. The blog takes on its own tone. It conveys its own unique information. Then, it either finds a place or not, a readership or not. You may be satisfied with 2 readers. Or need 50,000. Or with a password protected, medical blog, only want one person, your doctor, to read it. We’re constantly advising reluctant, conservative, worried about doing the ‘wrong’thing business guys, “just do it”. You just can’t go wrong.

  2. Its nice that blogs can do anything – but for my purposes I am just trying to show executive management that it is an easy way for them to communicate with our remote field inspection staff using the Bureau intranet.

  3. Hey Folks,
    Several months ago I ran a project called the “Blogsite Dream Team”.
    I contracted Debbie Weil, Dave Taylor, DL Byron, Rebecca Blood, Bill French, F. Andy Seidl, Jim Baldwin, Dave Taylor, and me (I was free), to tear apart my Blogsite (Bill and Andy’s great tool for multiple blog management…at least for me)
    We spent a month or so…me learning, them tearing apart and building up my technique, what “should and shouldn’t” be in a blog, etc. It was, indeed, a very hot seat to sit in, and a most rewarding experience.
    My point is: What I learned is that a blog is a tool. Having listened to the purist Rebecca Blood, to the designer DL Byron, to the developers Andy and Bill, to the SEO and SEM firm of NetBaldwin and Jim Baldwin, to the talented Debbie Weil, and the inimitable Dave Taylor…truly the best…do what you will with your blog.
    None of these greats agree exactly the same. My favorite Dave statement remains to this day, “Well maybe…” I think Dave could be a politician. Debbie rewrote some of my posts, boy is she good.
    Enough rambling…would any of y’all like me to open the to the public?

  4. I don’t think blogging tools are refined enough to be a replacement for the average SMB website yet. If you look at most blogs they, well, look like blogs. I’ll agree with you when I get my hands on a tool that allows me to create a blog that really looks unique with simple customization tools, and yet is a powerful blogging engine.
    I set up a TypePad account for a client recently, and it drove me nuts how complicated it was. I use Word Press on the Biznik business networking site, but I find what works best is to run the blog separately and pull an rss feed from it onto the main home page. Best of both worlds until the tools get better.

  5. Excellent discussion. It’s so true that we struggle to meet expectations set by others when really all that matters is the question: “Are you getting your message across in a way that the people you want to read it will hear, understand and appreciate what you have to say?”
    Blogs are tools that are contibuting mightily to our new wired world–giving us a powerful way to use our True Voice.

  6. The reason I stumbled upon this website is because I am a current college student trying to find a way to make some money outside of college. What I have gathered from your comments is that a blog can be anything you want it to be. I guess if my blog got enough hits than I could possibly make some money through advertising on it? Thoughts and comments please.

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