It has taken a while but the world of business is slowly starting to realise that tomorrow’s customers, clients, partners, suppliers and employees are not necessarily going to be found in the traditional places companies are used to looking.

Businesses have struggled to come to terms with the move to an online life, but the evidence is emerging that they are finally waking up to the enormous potential offered by the blogosphere and other social networks.

A conference takes place in London this week to highlight this potential, which is no longer an emerging trend but firmly established in a growing section of the population. It aims to show ways in which businesses can utilise new technology more effectively and tap into the ever-expanding market.

But the event also shows just how slow the world of business has been in adapting to the significant shifts happening online.

Too many companies and organisations still regard blogs and other social sites as a potential threat. Focusing on the negative aspects has seen most shy away from exploring the possibilities that such developments provide, rather than looking at how they can benefit from the technology.

One of the big sticking points is, perhaps, the desire of business to control every aspect of their operation.

As it stands at present, exerting the sort of control they are used to in respect of the blogosphere and similar sites is simply impractical and unworkable. The fact that such sites are continually evolving also suggests that it is likely to get harder than easier to impose any sort of restriction or control.

It requires a far greater level of understanding than many in business possess and much more flexibility in approach than they are possibly willing to concede.

Business needs to change simply because their future, as represented by this expanding online community, is forever changing itself.

Expectations, requirements and the demands of the consumer and employee of the future are going to be very different.

The issue is not whether business can conquer the blogosphere. It is whether it is capable of adapting to an ever-shifting environment.

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