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Fortune Magazine: Blogs a business marketing force you can’t ignore

Blogs are a business’ best chance to talk with new and old customers and an ideal way to send out information says Fortune Magazine in an excellent, though long, article on the power of business marketing blogs.

Fortune says blogs are changing how people in advertising, marketing, and public relations do their jobs. If you are a law firm marketing professional or lawyer and you’re not changing your approach to marketing because of blogs, you are burying your head in the sand, unless it is that you do not give a darn about growing your firm’s business.

Fortune makes some great points you can run with today.

First and foremost, Fortune discusses the transparent face blogs can put on a company. If there is a business that needs to break down the barriers between it and the public more than the legal profession, I have not seen it. The public hates lawyers and the number one thing the public says we can do to improve things is to start communicating with people in a more open fashion.

Sure you can blow off how the public feels about lawyers but it is hurting business for law firms. In addition, any law firm that begins to really communicate with people in an open fashion is going to stick out like a shining star and pick up some well deserved business. This goes for the very large law firms seeking to reach in-house counsel and corporate exec’s to the small firm looking to reach consumers and small business people.

Law firms ain’t Microsoft but you’d have to be stupid to blow off simple marketing advice from Bill Gates. When Microsoft started its blogging service MSN Spaces, one of Microsoft’s leading software evangelists and leading blogger, Robert Scoble wrote on his blog “MSN Spaces isn’t the blogging service for me.” Nobody at Microsoft asked Scoble to comment; he just did it on his own, adding that he would make sure that the team working on Spaces was aware of the complaints.

Fortune reports how nearly 4,000 blogs linking to Scoble were able to see his running commentary on how Microsoft was reacting. Scoble told Fortune “I get comments on my blog saying, ‘I didn’t like Microsoft before, but at least they’re listening to us.'”

Bill Gates agreed with Scobles that “The blog is the best relationship generator you’ve ever seen.” Bill Gates says “It’s all about openness, people see them as a reflection of an open, communicative culture that isn’t afraid to be self-critical.”

Second, businesses need to be following what people are writing about them and matters relevant to their business in blogs.

Fortune says:

It all used to be so easy; the adage went “never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel.” But now everyone can get ink for free, launch a diatribe, and?if what they have to say is interesting to enough people?expect web-enabled word of mouth to carry it around the world.

But heck, according to Technorati, 23,000 new weblogs are created every day?or about one every three seconds. That’s lots of opinions on just about anything. This makes it very difficult for businesses to control their messages. As Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman Public Relations, told Fortune: “Now you’ve got to pitch the bloggers too. You can’t just pitch to conventional media.”

Unlike earlier promises of self-publishing revolutions, Fortune says the blog movement seems to be the real thing. Fortune believes one big reason is the permalink, a unique web address for each posting on every blog. That way other blogs link directly to a blog post, as opposed to the home page of a site which can change. An opinion or story can spread like wildfire this way.

Third, as Microsoft’s Scoble tells Fortune you need to be credible. “If I’m only saying, ‘Use Microsoft products, rah rah rah,’ it sounds like a press release, and I lose all ability to have a conversation with the world at large.”

Fortune, citing good marketing blogs from GM, Stonyfield Farms, Monster.com and SunMicrosystems, says corporate propaganda almost always drives readers away; real people with real opinions keep them coming back.

Fourth, though marketing blogs work for large companies, it can be unsettling for the firm’s leaders – especially in law firms – to allow employees to speak their mind. Advantage to smaller players, Fortune says, who are nimbly working blogs to their advantage. Entrepreneurs have learned that bloggers can be an easy?and free?marketing arm, if used right.

Take me for example. I was not allowed to open my mouth to the outside world while serving as a VP of Business Development at LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell. But starting LexBlog, I used this blog as the exclusive marketing tool. I’ve gone from handful of readers to almost 4,000 unique visitors a mouth reading my evangelism on the use of professional marketing blogs. The result: LexBlog’s business has taken off by serving lawyers across the country.

Fifth, Fortune acknowledges we’re still the early days of blogging, and the form is still morphing. For law firms this means acting now gives them an early advantage.

But I would not wait. A ‘blogging volcano’ is getting ready to erupt as I look at the following information from Fortune.

  • Venture money always appears before the public advent of a new business phenomena. Venture capitalists last year invested a still tiny $33 million into blog-related companies, but that was up from $8 million the year before, according to research firm VentureOne.
  • Blog ad companies, which place ads and pay per response, are enabling bloggers to earn money from their sites.
  • Blogging publishers have emerged. Two of the most prominent, Jason Calacanis and Nick Denton, are going head-to-head with stables of popular blogs (Engadget and Autoblog vs. Gizmodo, Gawker, and Wonkette, among others).
  • More important, some of the most competitive companies in tech are throwing their weight behind blogging ( Microsoft’s MSN Spaces and Google’s Blogger).

Take a look at this article and get ready to act now.

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