Looking at the best-of-breed blogs

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I typically use this column to look at future trends, but this month I want to recognize some businesses that are simply doing a great job leveraging corporate weblogs, which are the most mature social media tools. While only a handful of corporations are blogging, the ranks are growing steadily. The leaders below all take different approaches to the craft, but it's working for their businesses. With one exception, I've screened out tech companies, where blogs are now mainstream and different rules apply.

GM FastLane ( General Motors Corp. started this blog in part because execs thought the company was getting a bad rap in the media. GM has innovated in using this channel to bypass the middleman and take its message to the public. Hundreds of people routinely comment on FastLane Blog entries. GM credited its recent decision to revive the Camaro in large part to visitor feedback.

Nuts About Southwest ( This upbeat, playful and even joyous journal by airline employees works because it reflects the personality of the company they work for. It's got human stories by likable people who show that they care about their customers. What a shame that should be a differentiator.

BenettonTalk ( Quite the contrast to Southwest's airiness is this left-leaning blog by the Italian clothing maker, which features hard-hitting commentary on environmental, cultural and political issues. Benetton's partisanship seems risky, but it's clearly trying to reflect what it believes are its customers' concerns and connect with them on an emotional level.

Road Warrior Tips ( This useful collection of advice for the travel-weary businessperson is the work of Extended Stay Hotels. While the authors can't resist slipping in occasional plugs for their properties, the blog achieves its overall goal of being a trusted source of useful advice. This is a great way to connect with customers. ( Published by the National Association of Manufacturers, this feisty lobbyist journal is aimed at Capitol Hill and doesn't hesitate to poke a stick in the eye of politicians, journalists and other perceived enemies of its 14,000 members. Chief blogger and former Reagan administration official Pat Cleary brings a buoyant combativeness to his writings, and his spirit trickles down to other authors. ShopFloor has become a must-read for many members of Congress.

Direct2Dell ( I'll make one exception to my "no techs" rule in recognizing Dell's year-old blog. Dell was an early victim of a blog attack and must have been nervous when it waded into the conversation last July. Its early posts were trashed by bloggers as too promotional, but Dell listened, adjusted and has made Direct2Dell a core part of its communications program.

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