Small Business Blogging Won’t Grow in 2008

I’m a proponent of business blogging, and yet, in my experience as a web designer for small businesses, I continue to see major stumbling blocks that will prevent small businesses from creating and utilizing effective business blogs.

Liz Fuller of Business and Blogging recently pointed out that only five percent of small businesses (those with less than 100 employees) have any kind of business blog. That equates to about 1.25 million businesses.

Let me tell you why this number isn’t likely to increase any time soon. One small exception is for owners of high-tech small businesses. But those make up a small percentage of small businesses in America. Although high-tech businesses are on the rise, they do not represent the vast majority of small businesses in America.

1. The average small business owner is barely computer literate. Most of the small businesses I run into have, at their heart, a business owner who is in their 40’s or 50’s, who is very good at what they do… building widgets, for instance. Or cleaning carpets. Or running a retail store. What they don’t have much experience with is computers. Most of them feel it is perfectly okay not to have a website (despite my own opinion here), or that having a website requires a “lot of work”. If they use email in their business, they are perfectly comfortable giving out a non-branded AOL, Bellsouth, or Yahoo email address as their primary email. Their use of computers is limited to using Quickbooks or an off-the-shelf cash register program. They often have a computer at home, but few of them feel that their computer belongs in their business.

2. The average small business owners are poor writers. Trust me. I get a lot of copy for initial websites. The grammar is horrific. Sometimes it amazes me that people who are otherwise great folks and who run a great business have such a horrible grasp of their own native language. Some of them know this (and thus hire people to do their copy), but a lot of them are unaware. Putting out a blog requires a reasonable ability to communicate via the written word. The last thing any business owner wants is to have their blog make them look worse.

3. Most business owners are void of being transparent. Transparency is the big quality that is necessary on the internet. While it is understandable that large corporations with millions of shareholders have to be careful about their public blogging, even those companies have found how important it is to be open. An even simple read through Debbie Weil’s blog about corporate blogging would demonstrate the follies of trying to run a corporate blog without complete transparency. Small business owners are usually even more scared. Sometimes it has to do with their own insecurity about their future success. Sometimes it has to do with having told various stories to different groups, and not wanting the two to meet via the web. But, mostly, it seems to me that they are just incapable of understanding that a blog that doesn’t relate the ups and downs of running a business day-to-day will just be… boring! And thus, won’t be read or commented on.

4. Business owners fully believe they are right. Taking criticism is exceptionally hard for most people to do. Many business owners are fully-convinced they have genius ideas that, with a little elbow grease, will make them successful. They surround themselves with non-critical employees and avoid those who paint a bleaker picture. So, getting comments on a blog, which is a necessary function of a blog, is the equivalent of having darts thrown at them. Most would try it if everything was going smoothly in the business, but as any small business owner can tell you, it’s a rare day that everything runs smoothly.

5. Small business owners are way too busy. Most have control complexes that psychologically prevent them from outsourcing. I know one owner of a franchise cleaning business who has dragged his family into his business, one son at a time, until his sons have finally moved onto entire different careers - not out of dislike for the business, but for the father’s refusal to give up control. He will likely die running the business since he has been unable to properly delegate. This kind of mentality is what initially makes many businesses successful, but which also keeps them forever at a certain level. And it certainly leaves little time for a public blog, much less delegating the blog to a VP.

6. Business owners are clueless on what to write. While this can be a hurdle for any new writer, including blog writers, small business owners routinely thinking that blogging about their services and products is acceptable. They fail to understand that a blog that does nothing but market will be read for what it is: one never-ending advertisement, which most people have no interest in reading. I’ve been in many businesses and even suggested blog topics based on my observation over the course of an hour on the premises. The owners look aghast usually. Blog about the customer that just came in returned the baseball glove because it was too small? Blog about the difficulty of running a business with a child on the premises? Blog about the employee who shows up continually 20 minutes late? The shock! The horror! I try to explain it like this. The baseball glove provides an opportunity to give helpful advice on choosing the right size in the first place (while subtly emphasizing your friendly return policy). The child on the premise lets people empathize with you, makes you a real person, and also shows your value on family. The tardy employee is a way to show your compassion and how you try to work with all types of people, while at the same time giving a subtle hint to the latecomer that maybe next time you’ll mention them by name. In other words, be free, have fun, and write about real-life experiences. Even after this brief tutorial, I usually find them just as steadfast in their desire to litter their blog (if they had one) with marketing hype.

In Summary

I really hope this changes soon. As the numbers that Liz researched show, a business blog is an easy and free way for a business to immediately set themselves apart from 95% of the rest of small businesses out there.

Over the holidays, a place I frequent decided to close for an extended period of time. This place has a website and a MySpace page. Neither one of those online resources were updated with this information, but instead an old-school paper sign was stuck on the door saying “Closed until January 3″. Of course, being a web guy, I was annoyed that they didn’t utilize the power of the web to better communicate. But guess what? Turns out I wasn’t the only one. Last night, at Barnes & Noble, I was pleased to hear a conversation by two young girls who were lamenting the exact same thing. Do you hear me, small businesses of America? Get a website, put a business blog on it, and then write transparently and keep it up to date. You’ll endear your current customer base and win some new customers, too.

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Thanks for the link! I know that Liz worked hard on that article. Sadly, you make a lot of good points. Many small business owners won’t start a business blog until they are forced to - either because a competitor is blogging or because they are desperate for new business?

Hi Lawrence

I agree with your points about the real and psychological barriers that small business owners need to overcome in starting to use a blog. However, as I pointed out in my article, 1.25 million have overcome those barriers. I believe those are just the early adapters. There are over 22 million other small business owners out there who still have the opportunity to blog. Some will rush to take advantage of the opportunity, some will do it when it becomes a standard practice, and some will never do it.

And that’s okay. What we hope to do in our blog (and what it sounds like you already do in your business) is to address those real and perceived challenges and one by one remove the barriers. At the same time, we intend to demonstrate the advantages of blogging for small business owners so that they will have more motivation to blog.

I’m glad you found us - and we found your blog - I’m sure we will continue to be in touch!!


You seem to be taking a pretty rough stand on the businesses that make the USA go round. You bet these owners have little interest, its not their expertise, and least not forget, there are substantially more people that do not know computers well enough to maintain a blog than those that do.
One thing that I believe on the E economy, when times were rapid, owners, likely, spurred by their children, would set aside Web budgets, as the economy slows, I believe these budgets will constrict much like what is occuring in the conservation movement at this time.
E-conomy is still an infant business model by any measure. As long as it meets the needs of who pays for it, its money well spent. Like your coffee shop, they provide a service that you need to receive in person. Aside from advertising, their web exposure does little more. Not everyone has online sales and nor should they.

“This place has a website and a MySpace page”

Have either ever (visibly) been updated? In my experience with small businesses these things are done once when it seems like a good idea, but when they don’t provide an immediate visible return they quickly get forgotten about.

Today everyone wants instant gratification…

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