Blogging can literally help you reach an audience of millions of potential customers. In the 21st century, if you do any kind of marketing, a blog really is an absolute necessity. Let’s start at the beginning. The word “blog” is a contraction of the words “web log.” A blog is a website, or section of a website, of entries (“posts”) displayed in reverse order, so that the most recent entry is at the top. (The word is also used as a verb, “to blog” meaning to write and maintain a blog.)

You have several options regarding where your blog can be found; it can be part of your own already-established website, you can use a hosting service like WordPress, or you can join a multi-author site like Open Salon. You may even choose to blanket the internet and use all these options simultaneously. And you’ll certainly want your blog optimized for mobile technology; over a billion people on the planet are now registered smartphone users.

Be smart about marketing through blogging; you don’t want “merely” to advertise and push products or services. Give your readers advice and resources. If you sell computers or motorcycles, offer advice about keeping them maintained and running optimally; if you sell groceries, offer recipes and tips on eating healthy. If you aren’t certain what to blog about, ask your customers; a survey can also give you helpful insights into their needs and interests. Providing reliable advice creates trust, and trust translates into influence when it’s time for customers to make a purchase. Interesting topics, top-notch writing, and practical advice are the keys to successful blogging.

An additional option is podcasting, which you can use as an audio blog. You’ll need to decide for yourself if podcasting is for you. Today only 5% of marketers (in a survey of 3,000 conducted by Technorati) take advantage of podcasting, but that may change quickly; Apple has introduced a podcasting mobile app, and Ford and BMW are introducing podcasting technology into new cars.

Of course, you’ll want to post links to your blog on Twitter and Facebook. Integrating your marketing, as you probably already understand, is key to success. Finally, if you don’t have a great deal of time for writing, and if you aren’t a Hemingway or a Stephen King, you’ll want to consider hiring a ghost-writer or a social marketing company that provides blog-writing services.