What is a blog, and why should small businesses care!

As far as Jamaica is concerned, and by extension the English-speaking Caribbean – aka CARICOM – there is a deep-seated fear among small business folks for anything new – in this case the blogging. At a workshop I attended recently in Kingston, it was disclosed that nearly 95 – 97 percent of Jamaica’s small businesses (entrepreneurs, professionals, consultants, etc.) don’t have websites, much less a blogs or eMail addresses. I am yet to discover why this internet-phobia has permeated our small businesses. However, I have a strong sense that it might have to do with most of them operating in the underground economy – a sort of haven for tax dodgers. So, to have a website means transparency, disclosure, and of course, the dread of the taxman coming to collect his pound of flesh. The sad reality is that the powers that be, and I speak specifically of the Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ), have basically done nothing to prepare its constituents – it doesn’t matter whether you are a member. Over the past year, I tried to no avail to get a response out of the SBAJ. Ironically, the only times I have heard its presidents – past and present – were on radio programmes – purportedly on matters affecting the small business sector. But do they really speak for the sector? As a small business person, they certainly don’t speak on my behalf. That aside, let's get back to the question: What is a blog, and why should small businesses care? For the few Jamaican small businesses, who regularly post a blog, this is indeed a powerful but under-used tool to be leveraged to connect with customers and clients, and so perhaps a little background and illumination would be beneficial. Early Internet adopter, Jorn Barger, first coined the term "weblog" in 1997, to describe his online journaling. As the practice became more widespread, the inevitable contraction, "blog," made speaking about this activity handier by spawning at least two verbs, "to blog" and "blogging." As the practice grew, innovators hastened to create new blogging tools to make it easier to record and distribute ideas in the emerging - wait for it - blogosphere. Today readers can receive blog posts over multiple platforms, plus begin commenting "threads" with the blogger and other readers who have a point of view, question, or concern about the topic of the blog post. Now back to that "powerful but under-used" thing: Small business owners and entrepreneurs must appreciate the power of these two facts:
  1. Small business owners are world-class experts on their industry and product applications.
  2. Customers and clients want access to what you – the small business owners - know.
But even when these facts are accepted, there are still two whiny blogging excuses: Excuse #1: "I'm not a good writer." The truth: Customers would rather read the thoughts, experience and wisdom of the non-professional writer they know, the business owner, than from some smart-alec wordsmith like me. Excuse 2: "I don't have time." The truth is that once your blog platform is set up (you won't believe how easy it is), new posts and responding to customer/clients and prospects comments takes minutes a week. Practically speaking, a blog is different from a website in two ways:
  1. Content - posts and comments - is changed more often and usually is more interesting, if not more helpful.
  2. Handier content posting and commenting tools
Here's the golden egg from the blogging goose: When you blog about what you know, you will connect with present and future customers/clients and build online communities, which is one of the ways customers want to get to know your business. For further information please visit my website.

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