1. Make Introductions.
A good host connects guests. Albrycht recommends spending 30 to 60 minutes a day scanning feeds from your favorite blogs. Maintain a blogroll, linking readers to blogs you recommend, and use the trackback function on most blog publishing programs to notify other bloggers by email when you cite them. Chances are, those grateful peers will return the favor.
2. Be authentic.
Perhaps you are authentically reserved, or authentically dull. That's okay: Being yourself, in any case, plays best. If you can't write passionately, consider "blinking" — Lark's term for snippets of commentary that alert readers to interesting articles or discussions. But storytelling is a better way to get readers interested in your ideas — and in your product.
3. Dress business casual.
An informal style (and grammatical imperfection) works well in blogs. But don't go too casual: Stay away from topics you wouldn't share with your mother — or without a nondisclosure agreement. Yahoo's blogging policy is a good one: "Be respectful of your colleagues, get your facts straight, provide context to your argument, and engage in private feedback."
4. Don't scrimp.
Nothing brings a party to a halt like running out of food or booze. Likewise, one reason blogs fail is a failure to dedicate the resources necessary to keep the conversation going. "Blogs are incredibly low cost," Lark says. But "they require a time commitment." Adds Albrycht: "Blogging has to be part of someone's job description. You have to have a maintenance plan."
5. Have a contingency plan.
If the party gets out of hand — your company hits a crisis, say — you should be ready. General Motors' Bob Lutz ignited blog readers' ire when he avoided discussing the struggling automaker's strategy. "Could you be a little more vague on your game plan?" one customer wrote. Confronting a problem directly can earn your company some needed trust.
A version of this article appeared in the August 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.