Blogs as an Internet Marketing Tool

Introduction

The Internet and its development have opened new possibilities for other activities and communication solutions. This paper intends to discover the impact and history of weblogs on society and a variety of activities and analyze its path of development for the future. The choice lies in the weblogs since according to numerous surveys, the absolute majority of people consider the weblogs to be the most significant technology or invention of the 20th century and the most influential and supporting technology in the 21st century. Today we can’t imagine our life without the weblogs since they became the place of entertainment, shopping, work, education, and even relationships.

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History of the Early Blogs Development

The weblog or a blog is a type of internet site created for personal purposes. The first blogs appeared in the 1990s when the software for conversations with threads became available for the community. Certainly, at that time, there were no PCs, and communication online was a technically laborious process. It wasn’t until 1986 when the power and the possibilities that the Internet can bring were finally realized, and more and more people became interested in using it in all spheres of life. The creator of the first blog is Justine Hall, a freelance journalist. He opened the first private page in 1994. Also, in 1994 users were already able to order pizza online and enjoy many other services provided by the Internet. Organizations and institutions felt obliged to create web pages to reach out to their customers on the net. World Wide Web was the solution to the problem which arose at the end of the ’80s when people realized that there should have been a way to organize the data to make it available to everyone and easily classified. As a result, WWW became an international medium for all Internet users. Later, the first browsers appeared, the first ones were Cello and Netscape Navigator. Today, there exists a variety of different browsers, thus the users have a wide choice and can even customize them according to their tastes. The term “blog” was developed and introduced by Peter Merholz only in 1999 (Walsh, 2007).

Virtual Communities as a Blogging Activity

Virtual communities represent a unique communication environment with their own rules and principles located in cyberspace. Virtual communities became possible only with the development of the Internet and information technologies. One of the biggest pitfalls of cyberspace has been that it gave rise to one more form of a divide amongst the society, termed the digital divide. But at the same time, cyberspace has provided many opportunities to mankind to spread education and disseminate knowledge through a number of channels including private and corporate blogs. Even while managing an organization or community, cyberspace lends a helping hand. The development of virtual communities in cyberspace, within a section of the society, group of friends, peer groups, etc. are some of the examples which have become quite prevalent in our society today. Though earlier as well, we used to have the concept of the gathering of like-minded people, parties, clubs, etc. but those were more formal in nature.

Howard Rheingold defines Virtual Communities as: ‘social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace” (cited Bartnatt, 2002, p. 41). The main problem with this definition is that it does not take into account social relations and unique communication that emerged in cyberspace. In contrast to Howard Rheingold, Bartnatt (2002) defines a virtual community as “a group of people interacting via media technologies, usually the Internet” (Bartnatt 2002, p. 43).

Identity and Place in Blogging

Identity and place play a crucial role in blogs defining unique communication patterns and interactions between users. The continuing releases of both the Microsoft and Netscape WWW browsers will greatly extend how individuals can communicate (Baudrillard, 2000). These enhanced facilities will be available for communications as well as those between individuals in separate organizations (Elmer 2002). In addition to the simple exchange of e-mail messages, it will be possible to have a private online dialogue with a group of people irrespective of where they are located. As the sophistication and variety of these new forms of communications increase, it will take longer for the technical standards to become defined and globally adopted (Walsh, 2007; Hillis, 2005). There is an irresistible trend towards the development of new methods of virtual and impersonal communicating with customers: banks and software houses are desperately working together to produce secure payment systems; multimedia companies are desperately working to deliver these services over new forms of communication such as interactive television, satellite television, telephone developments and a whole host of other technological combinations. Enlightened strategists and researchers are working within many producer organizations to work out new ways of adding value to the proposition. “Communication technologies stand at a peculiar interface between the technical culture of those who create them, the commercial interests of those who produce and market them, and the everyday life-world of ordinary users” (Hillis 2005, p. 43).

Theoretical approaches to blogs suggest that the concept of blogs is closely connected with the online identity concept. There have already been a number of references to how online identity can be used for communications (Poster 2001). Applied to online identity, the blog’s concept can be explained as the collective term that describes the technologies and functionality that make this possible and is simply the application of communication techniques to individual processes Walsh, 2007). For instance, modern companies are often faced with the challenge of trying to improve the quality and currency of the information they supply to their employees, while at the same time seeking to maximize the flexibility of where and how their staff work. This presents human resource personnel with a major information management task, often conducted over multiple locations in many countries (Bogard, 2003).

Bloggs and Communication

The various applications of online identity (e-mail, WWW and push) offer excellent methods of maintaining contact with existing customers, making communications far easier than using traditional methods. In addition, a refined stream of information can be directed towards the individual customer once their areas of interest have been understood (Poster 2001). The need to perceive online communications as something directed at a market sector could be a redundant concept as the Internet provides the capability for personal and corporate blogs to be directed at the individual consumer level. For industries where the product can be digitized (for example IT, finance, entertainment and information services) it becomes relatively easy to enable the prospective customer to trial the products prior to the purchase (Hillis 2005).

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Blogs and Marketing Possibilities

Theoretical approaches suggest that blogs for marketing purposes may create the facilities to sell direct to the customer, but it may be difficult to ignite the change in purchasing attitudes that will make this occur. Facebook is s networking software that units groups of users from all over the world and provide a core for community amongst users. The blunt, but probably most effective way of stimulating such a change of behavior, will be by offering financial inducements. The potential for a company to reduce its cost of sale and administration by having direct contact with the customer should generate considerable savings, some of which may need to be connected back to the customer (Hillis 2005). There are new opportunities for online providers to enhance their post-sale customer support and generate opportunities for further sales. An online provider’s reputation is often enhanced or discredited by how it handles inquiries from customers. While the telephone may well remain the most effective medium for customer contact, there will be instances when support can be offered via the Internet. For example, if a query is very complex, the use of an on-screen questionnaire can assist the customer to specify the exact nature of their requirement. In addition, the provision of online support makes it available 24 hours a day on a global basis (Poster 2001).

Theoretical approaches suggest that within companies it is becoming common for technical information to be collected and disseminated to staff via blogs (Poster, 2001). There may be advantages in making this information, or a subset of it, available as a part of post-sale support. An example of this is the way that many software companies now offer their customers the facilities to submit questions on their products and to have access to the knowledge base. It is clear that there are many options available to a company when deciding how to proceed with exploiting the Internet. Once a decision has been made to begin this process an Internet marketing plan needs to be created. For this to be effective a number of factors need to be taken into consideration, beginning with establishing precise business objectives and measurable targets (Walsh, 2007). Obviously, the plan will only be useful to the extent that it is implemented so the organizational and staffing issues must be clearly defined as must the resulting requirements for direct investment and personnel. Because of the fast-changing nature of the Internet, it will be necessary to review and revise this plan more frequently than those from other parts of the organization (Elmer 2002). There are a number of pitfalls that frequently occur and need to be guarded against during the planning and implementation phases of blogging. Too often the group responsible for the implementation becomes separated from the mainstream of a company’s marketing development. Internet-related marketing activity is of maximum value when it supports and extends existing blogs’ communication tasks as well as in creating totally new opportunities (Walsh, 2007).

Internet Marketing

Even when a formal Internet marketing plan does exist, it is often not communicated throughout the marketing organization, even to the point where staff is unaware that their company has a WWW site. Apart from being wasteful and unprofessional, this lack of communication can result in staff, who have Internet-related assignments, being unaware of the overall context of their work. Wherever possible users should be encouraged to make use of the Internet as part of their normal working routine (Walsh, 2007). The long-term objective must be to ensure that all marketing staff is aware of the potential of the Internet and capable of exploiting the opportunities that it offers. There is no single solution that will ensure that it is fully incorporated into all marketing activities but, as with any other major change within an organization, the commitment and attitude of senior management will be key to the success or failure of the project (Walsh, 2007).

Corporate Blogs

Corporate or business blogs are combined to address traditional business situations, it is possible to generate communication benefits. By selecting examples from three business functions (HR and corporate communications, purchasing, and finance and accounting) it is possible to illustrate how business entities are already gaining advantage from the blogs (Walsh, 2007). An important ingredient in enabling many of these new developments has been the evolution of the intranet. Whereas the focus of the Internet has been to provide access to a wide range of data to an audience that is normally external to the business, the intranet is solely focused on the community of users within the organization. Almost all of the intranet’s technology is the same as that used for the WWW. What differs are the types of users and their demands for information. The Glossary provides a more detailed definition of the intranet (Hillis 2005).

The Blogosphere today

The blogosphere is a community of all blogs on the Internet. Such tools as Bloglines, Blogscope, and Technorati facilitate the establishment of inter-organizational ties, yet success depends on the inherent business necessities of such ties, and top management’s commitment to making them work. Since knowledge workers become accessible to a number of legally independent organizations, they are assets to a wider community, making them a valuable resource to be protected. In order to keep control over the assets that are invested in these new business alliances, organizations may establish a hierarchical structure of formal control for them (Hillis 2005). This depends on the significance of the alliance and the potential danger associated with losing key internal resources. Blogs can influence organizations through an incremental process starting at the individual level, transcending teams, affecting the entire organization, and eventually redefining the boundaries of the firm.

The immediate effect of communication technology use may therefore only become visible after communication technology has been used intensively for a longer period of time. This tension is reflected in the knowledge workers’ compliance with certain social norms of interaction. Yet, as users, they also create new norms of interaction by choosing to use technology in an unintended manner and thereby influencing the norms of the organization (Elmer 2002). By changing the social patterns of interaction, virtual design dimensions are affected. The use of communication technology will therefore result in intended and unintended consequences for organizations. The complex interaction between virtual space and users makes it difficult to predict the exact path of communication technology influence on organizations over time (Walsh, 2007).

Since new cyberspace can provide tools for establishing and supporting links between information, they provide a starting point for knowledge development (Walsh, 2007). New communities can be used to support information distribution, yet knowledge workers have to use more traditional media to make sense of the distributed information to enable it to develop into knowledge. Essentially, virtual community can inspire information sharing, yet it requires human beings to realize their potential. This is the case because knowledge involves thinking about the information. New communication technology can also play a critical role in raising the consciousness of existing links within the organization since its implementation and use require renewed thinking about the entire process of information acquisition, distribution, interpretation, and storage. Given renewed thinking about these processes, communication technology implementation may unleash human thought that leads to the development of knowledge (Bartnatt 2002). For the organizational infrastructure, appropriate incentive schemes, an open organizational culture, key people, and teams need to be readily available to support the development of knowledge. For the communication technology infrastructure, access to a wide range of communication tools is necessary. Communication technology can be viewed as a knowledge development tool that is capable of capturing and making better use of both explicit and tacit knowledge (Walsh, 2007).

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Conclusion

All blogs are based on the identity of users and social changes in communication and interaction patterns. Although cyberspace technology has been found to have the potential to change organizational behavior by decreasing response time, speeding up information processing, and altering the time and place of work, there are unavoidable second-order effects that may constrain new social relations. The development of blogs in today’s cyberspace like social networking sites has made it easier for a wider section of the community to join the group/s and take the benefits, enrich the information database, or help in disseminating the information. Cyberspace and the missionary zeal of some of the community leaders have further given a flip to such development. How the curiosity amongst the kids helps them in understanding the wonderful world of cyberspace, animations, paintings, etc., and how this similar curiosity helps in developing like-minded groups of kids desirous of learning skills provided they get an opportunity.

List of References

  1. Bartnatt, C. 2002, Cyberbusiness: Mindsets for a Wired Age. Chichester: Wiley.
  2. Baudrillard, J. 2000, The Vital Illusion. New York: Columbia University Press.
  3. Elmer, G. (ed.) 2002, Critical Perspectives on the Internet. Boulder, CO: Rowman & Littlefield.
  4. Hillis, K. 2005, Digital Sensations: Space, Identity, and Embodiment in Virtual Reality, Vol. 1. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press.
  5. Poster, M. 2001, What’s the Matter with the Internet. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.
  6. Walsh, B. 2007, Clear Blogging: How People Blogging Are Changing the World and How You Can Join Them. Apress; 1 edition.
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