Advisors are always on the lookout for ways to increase their visibility. The Yellow Pages, billboards, newspaper ads and radio spots are some of the standard ways. Technological advances have increased the options in the visibility stable, and the latest vehicle for getting one’s name and face in front of more people is the blog. Do you have what it takes to be a blogger?

What is a blog? It’s an online journal. The name is short for ?Web log’ and it can be anything from a running commentary on the state of your golf game to tips for financial success. But who is posting these blogs and how can they help your business grow? The best way to explain the ins and outs of the latest technological craze is to break the process down into the hows and whys.

A blog requires only the most basic computer skills. The subject matter is determined by the writer and can be updated at the blogger’s will. Each entry is called a post and features a title, body, section for readers’ comments and trackbacks, which let other bloggers show they have written about or referenced your posting.

Blogs can be aesthetically pleasing or basic black and white. The blogger can format the text and background color or insert the company logo. And with more seniors looking for financial information online, the opportunity to be read has never been better.

A business boon?
There are several advantages to having your own blog. The space for comments allows constant feedback on your topic and invites discourse. It can help establish a brand and build trust.

Koo Glogauer, co-founder and chief operating officer of Washington-based KUMA Digital, a firm that offers advertising and Web site production services and whose clients include Goldman Sachs, says, “A blog is a powerful communication tool. Used correctly, it can make contacts and expand your networking, creating a sense of community. And allowing anyone to read it and respond creates a dialogue and a sharing of philosophies and debates. Establishing a personal relationship with the audience accelerates the trust process. You, and the forum, are seen as a reliable, informed resource that people can rely on.”

Though the cost to maintain a blog varies, it has the potential to generate a high return on investment, in the long run.

Charles Rotblut is a chartered financial analyst and senior product manager with Zacks.com, a company that provides financial advice to both institutional and individual investors, and he has created content for financial Web sites since 1998. His most recent launch was the Zacks Equity Research Blog, which provides analysis and insight on breaking news events, earnings news, and market action from the company’s equity analysts. He says financial advisors have a unique opportunity with blogs.

“Although it may not be feasible to provide analysis on a single stock because every client has differing needs, there is a constant demand for insight and advice,” Rotblut says. “A blog gives a financial advisor the ability to personally communicate with current and potential clients, without having to call each individual client. During times of market volatility, a quick post to a blog can soothe clients’ worries. This, in turn, builds confidence and boosts goodwill.”

He attributes successful blogs to relevant content, a regular publishing schedule and reacting to news events, such as market volatility.

Kiplinger.com financial blogger and professional money manager Andy Feinberg posts once a day and uses his blog to give recommendations on specific stocks, as well as to comment on market movement and when to buy and sell. He says his target audience is fairly broad. He wants to reach anyone who is interested in investing. Though the blog’s language is for the seasoned investor, he uses more basic terms when answering readers’ queries. He believes it has helped introduce him to new readers, besides those of his Kiplinger’s personal finance column, “The Money Monster.” He is working on his fifth book and believes his blog will help promote it.

“Publishers like authors to have blogs. They believe a successful blog can generate loyal readers who are predisposed to buy the writer’s books, and they know a blog can sometimes establish a brand. The constant feedback from actual human readers is also a joy. A magazine and book writer can sometimes be left wondering if anyone is really reading his stuff besides his editor and his mother. Since my blog began three months ago, that hasn’t been an issue. The only disadvantage is that I now have a new daily deadline. Such is life.”

Available software
There are numerous software programs available at varying costs. A free one is called Text Pattern. It’s a publishing tool that requires a bit more expertise than “click and publish” tools, according to Diane Kuehn, president of VisionPoint Marketing in Raleigh, N.C., who specializes in Internet marketing and blogs. The advantage of this product, though, is its “more robust features.” First-time bloggers should use a simple hosted solution, such as Blogger or Typepad, she says. These create blogs in mere minutes. A Google search for “blog software” results in more than 1 million links, only a handful of which are useful, but the sponsored links promise software to help potential bloggers of all stripes.

Get readers
Use your blog as a conversation starter with an existing client or a potential one. Glogauer suggests mentioning an idea found on a blog. That will lead to a discussion about blogs and how they benefit both parties.

Providing a link in a prominent place on your company’s Web site will encourage readers to spend more time at your site, as well. Post your blog’s link on other blogs that are similar and include the link on your business cards.

“People read blogs to gain insight and to pass on insight. The important factor is getting the right people to your site,” Glogauer says. “You should have words and phrases in your site that mention what you think people would search for in order to find you. Always target your audience to get only parties that would be interested in your site.” Kuehn suggests valuable, informative and interesting content, but warns against using blogs solely as a marketing tool.

“Some companies have even hired full-time bloggers to represent their company. If you are creating a blog to make money, you may be out of luck” he says. “A successful model built around advertising is few and far between. However, not having a blog might cost you even more in the long run. Word-of-mouth has now become word-of-blog.”

There are free Web hit counters that might require a bit of advertising in return, but they help track readers and statistics about them.

As previously mentioned, blog software varies in cost and level of necessary expertise. Operating and maintaining a blog, however, has slightly more consistent costs. The blogger must pay for hosting and ISP costs. One way to offset this cost is to post advertisements and to make your blog accessible through Google Adsense. If you decide to post one yourself, think about your target audience. If you want more attention from your clients or potential clients, using layman’s terms instead of industry jargon will likely better hold their attention and increase understanding.

With a broad range of cost options available and a minimal amount of necessary computer skills, blogging is an easy way to gain brand exposure and grow your client roster.