WordBiz TeleSeminar Review: Weblogs and Business

Today I participated in a one hour teleseminar that was organized by Debbie Weil of Wordbiz. It was moderated by Debbie and had three guest participants. They were:

Rick Bruner- (Marketing Wonk) Co-Founder of Marketing Wonk and consultant.
Dave Taylor- (Intuitive) Author, entrepreneur and techie.
Greg Reinaker- (Newsgator) President of NewsGator- the popular news aggregator.

The format was moderated discussion between the panel with Debbie as the moderator. The attendees were muted and listened into the hour long event. Some audience questions were fielded at the end.

Overall I thought it was a good event with well-informed participants with varying points of view. Debbie wanted the teleseminar to be an introduction to business weblogging for newcomers to the scene. In that context, I think it came close to being an excellent introduction- but the subject matter is simply too hard to describe without experiencing it first hand.

When asked "What is a Weblog", two very different, yet related, perspectives arose. Rick provided a great intro to the form and function of a Weblog- organized chronologically with permalinks and comments, etc.

Then Dave countered with the idea that a Weblog is, at heart, a content management system. I thought this was a good point and one that came back throughout the seminar- Weblog technology just makes updating a website a lot easier.

When asked "What is a Weblog really for?" Some words were used that I think certainly apply- like it "humanizes" a web site. It provides a communication resource that's like an "ongoing conversation". I liked Rick's point about it being an alternative to a site that's filled with language that sounds like a press release.

What I didn't hear was the idea of a business Weblog helping to form and serve a "community" of customers via the web site. There were parts where I really wanted to jump in and share my thoughts.

The discussion touched on the risks of business weblogs. Dave was emphatic about the risks of being too free with information in a business Weblog. He said that a Weblog should be used in a way that is consistent and supportive of the overall message of the business.

I agree with Dave about the risks, but there is a fine line between being true to the message and being bland and unattractive to readers. I think every company Weblog will have to define that line themselves. Other stated potential risks were copyright violations, slander and other legal issues.

It was apparent too, that there is a lot of potential in the use of Weblogs as internal resources. An example was where a Weblog was used a repository of ideas, documents and information related to a specific project within a company. I this could be the biggest opportunity of all.

Some time was spent describing RSS, which isn't an easy thing to do- particularly when presenting to folks who haven't experienced it. The panel did a good job and I think a point that got through was that it can be an alternative to giving a company your email address. I recently became a fan of Greg's NewsGator.

Debbie spent a bit talking about "how not to Weblog" and used an example of the world's dullest Weblog. As she talked about it, one of the panelists interjected a couple of times to say "yes- but you're talking about it right now!". I liked his point- I thought he was pointing out that each Weblog, no matter how inane or ridiculous, can have it's niche. It reminds me of those stupid Mentos commercials.

All in all, I liked the experience. I feel like the subject matter is comparatively new to everyone right now. There simply aren't a lot of well-tested best practices when it comes to business weblogs. Given its nascent nature, I think the attendees got a good chance to hear from some folks on the leading edge
of a movement that could have important implications to business websites soon.

If you're interested, here's my post from a few months ago about How I Would Implement Weblogs in Business.