By Gavin Meikle, Head Of Learning And Founder Of Inter-Activ

The term blogging has become pretty familiar to most people. Short for the term Web log, a blog is a simple way to publish information to the Internet and to start on-line discussions. But what has blogging got to do with business and is it a valuable use of your or your employees time? It's true that blogging started out in the late 1990's as a self indulgent sharing of random thoughts and information between geeks. Since then however it has matured and now individuals, groups and organization's blog for all sorts of reasons. Here are my top six reasons why every business should have a blog.

- Use a blog to share up-to-date information with your staff

Internal communication is a vital part of any business. Today, with things changing so fast, relying on a company newsletter is simply not good enough. Emailing updates to managers with the expectation that they will then cascade the information on to their staff is also a risky business. Establishing an internal blog that can be quickly updated and which is available to all staff is a great way to share information and keep as many people as possible in the loop.

- Use a blog to communicate with your customers and prospective customers

Keeping in touch with customers is vitally important but can be time consuming and difficult. Consider using a blog to help keep your customers informed. Because your customers can choose subscribe to your blog, they can get automatically receive product updates, special offers, relevant company news stories and links to new advertising campaign videos via your customer blog.

- Use a blog to improve website traffic and search engine rankings

It's not just human beings that like fresh content. In the eyes of the search engines like Google and Bing,each new post is a new page with fresh content. The Search engines reward web sites that are regularly updated and having a blog is an easy way to keep your site up to date. Of course you must remember that whilst it is easy to update a blog, the posts don't write themselves, and having an inactive,out of date blog is probably worse than not having one at all. You need to maintain your commitment to your blog over time.

- Use a blog to build credibility, demonstrate expertise and build a brand

This is a great use of a blog, particularly in smaller organizations without a recognizable brand presence. By sharing relevant articles, insights, tips and ideas for free you can quickly demonstrate that you know what you are talking about and are a reliable and trusted expert. Customers will often book mark your blog and visit it regularly for new tips. They may also easily share it with their friends, thus introducing you to potential new customers Of course this is dependent on you a) sharing quality content and b) blogging consistently. This is a slow burn strategy but it really does work.

- Use a blog to create a dialog with your customers

Blogs typically include the ability for readers to easily comment on your posts and ask for further information. This inherent ability to foster a dialog with readers provides a powerful tool for building a long lasting relationship with existing clients as well as attracting new ones. This commenting facility can also be used for market research purposes to get feedback on new product ideas, improvements or most wanted features. Blogs are a great way to create 2-way communication.

- Blogs integrate well with other social media marketing channels

Social media is a great way to find new clients, engage with them and invite them to read your blog. Find out where your target customers like to "hang out" on line and then engage with them there first rather than trying to entice them directly to your website. It is very easy to automate the linking of your blog to the common social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pintrest etc. Then, every time you add a new post, your social media followers get a notification of your new content and a link to access it. Simple for you and simple for them. By adding social sharing buttons to your blog posts you can make simple for your readers to share your posts with their networks too.

Do you have a blog? If you do, I'd love to hear how you use it to benefit your business. If you don't - tell me what's stopping you.