I was interviewed this week by Long Island Attorney Pedram Tabibi for a story he was doing on the rise of blogging for the Long Island Business News.

Tabibi’s piece on the growth of blogging is in the Young Island section of the today’s Long Island Business News, but I thought it worthwhile to share with you the ‘raw footage’ of my exchange with Tabibi as some portions were not included in the online story.

Tabibi: According to a recent survey, 43% of US companies will be blogging by 2012, up from just 16% in 2007. Why the increase in your opinion?
O’Keefe: Three primary reasons. One companies need to connect with their customers and prospective customers. Those customers are using social media and reading blogs.

Two, only 14% of people trust advertising. Unlike a website, which is an advertisement, individuals trust other individuals who share insight through blogging. That’s why it’s important that a blog carry the voice of individuals, as opposed to a marketing message from the company.

Three, blogs are an enabling technology. Never before have companies been able to connect with their customers and clients this easily and in such a cost effective way.

Note also that in the case of law firms, 94% of large law firms intend to blog and for small and medium size law firms, it’s 84%.

Tabibi: What benefits does blogging serve for a business?
O’Keefe: Many, but here’s a couple. Blogs establish trust. Once people read your blog, they view you as a trusted authority for information. When people go to hire a professional or buy a product when they have the need, they turn to someone they trust. Blogs put you one step away.

Two, the best companies and professionals get hired by virtue of their word of mouth reputation. The internet did not change that. Blogs accelerate a company’s or professional’s word of mouth reputation.

Tabibi: How does blogging mesh with social media? Is it the same thing? How is it different?
O’Keefe: Blogging is part of social media. For professional services providers who get hired because they are trusted and reliable authorities, a blog is their hub. Their blog demonstrates their expertise, passion, intellect, and heart. Other social media, whether Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn are roads that lead to their identity, their blog.

Other social media also extend the reach of the company blogging. A company’s blog posts, if done well, will be shared on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn by people influencing your customers or clients.

Tabibi: How can a company effectively blog? What must be done to sustain an effective blogging strategy?
O’Keefe: Strategy is key. Many companies blog because they think they need to blog or to look innovative. They’ll spend lots of time and get nothing in return. It’s critical that before blogging, a company or individual clearly define their targeted audience, the focus or niche of the blog, and their definition of success.
Tabibi: What are some important keys to effectively business blogging?
O’Keefe: There are many.

One is to realize that the Internet is one large conversation. There are people talking about niche subjects on everything imaginable. In any conversation, listening is important. When it comes to the Internet and blogging, listening requires an understanding of how to effectively subscribe to sources and terms relevant you or industry and industry as well as how to harness the tools and applications to efficiently read the information subscribed to.

Two, it’s critical to understand that your customers and clients are not the most important members of your targeted audience. Your most important audience is amplifiers, influencers, and thought leaders, whether they be reporters, publishers, other bloggers, or association leaders. You must engage those people and get them to start sharing and citing what you are blogging.

Three, understanding how to measure the ROI on blogging. Traffic and analytics are not necessarily they way to measure success. Ask: 1) Is our reputation being enhanced? 2) Is our network of relationships growing? 3) Are we establishing ourselves as trusted subject matter experts in the industry or consumer group we sell into? And 4) Are we getting not just customers or clients, but high quality customers and clients?

Four, don’t make a blog part of your website. Your website, though important, is an advertisement. Your blog needs to be a stand alone presence in order to build trust and influence.

Tabibi: What habits/pitfalls should a business looking to blog avoid?
O’Keefe: Don’t blog if you don’t know what you are doing and cannot present yourself well. Though some companies will tinker on their own, doing so can be an expensive use of their time and puts them at risk of not making a favorable first impression, if not embarrassing themselves and damaging their brand and reputation. If you’re not familiar with blogging and social media, hire someone with experience to guide you on strategy, design, development, coaching, and support.
Tabibi: Where do you see blogging going in the next few years?
O’Keefe: We’re only scratching the surface today. As publishing by traditional publishers declines and traditional PR becomes less effective, blogging is going to become more and more important for companies looking to reach their customers.

At the same time, customers are looking for better and more information. The people in the know, your employees and practicing professionals, are the ones who have the best information and insight. It’s a recipe for not only more blogs, but also much improved blogs.

Again, Tabibi’s well done piece entitled, ‘Businesses Increasingly Embrace Blogs to Promote Brand and Attract Customers‘ is in today’s Young Island section of the Long Island Business News.

Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed Pedram, my pleasure.