An internet search reveals the rapid growth in online blogging - web and marketing consultants, politicians, journalists, media companies, authors, academics and students are all heavily into blogs (or web logs - online diaries). But it is difficult to find small firms that blog outside of those in the internet and media industries.
While chief executives of many US giants - such as GM and Sun - blog regularly, it remains unusual for a British company to have a blog. Recent research found only two FTSE 100 companies running blogs. This reluctance is backed-up by a survey published in September 2006 by web hosting company Fasthosts, which found only 3 per cent of UK SMEs intending to start blogs. This is despite there being 54 million blogs on the web, with another 75,000 created daily.
GRS Sign Company - which produces commercial signs - is therefore unusual. It started its blog in June. "It allows us to talk among ourselves, about our business," says Richard Dows, a signwriter at GRS with responsibility for its web, having previously been a web designer. The target audience is "anyone who reads blogs," he says.
With larger companies, blogs may be aimed at staff as a better system for employee communication than posters stuck on a wall. They also have the benefWhat is more, technological developments will increasingly favour blogs. There is a strong move to RSS - a form of data feed, sometimes called Really Simple Syndication - through which each new blog will automatically be e-mailed to all people who have registered for updates. This will provide a much cheaper system for sending information to customers and other stakeholders than through a newsletter or other mailing, and will be more reliable and less time-consuming than e-mails.
RSS could be the spark that ignites blogging as a real commercial force in Britain. But before starting, firms should remember that blogs come with risks as well as potential rewards. Libel can be committed online, as can copyright theft. If staff are permitted to lodge their own comments, these need to be carefully monitored for such things as inadvertent disclosure of trade secrets. And blogs should be moderated. One of the most positive aspects of blogs is to find out what customers say about you and your products - but you need to carefully observe these comments and you may not even want them to be posted if they are too critical.