Several years ago, Macromedia, the company who makes Flash, Shockware, Dreamweaver and Cold Fusion, had its "community managers" create their own blogs to answer questions developers might raise in response to a great many new software offerings. The belief was that the blogs would provide these managers with a way to discuss new product offerings and new features, answer questions, and ask for feedback. Developers, in turn, could use the blogs to ask questions, exchange ideas and provide suggestions. The experiment worked very well -- in just a few days and is being actively used to build relationships with customers as well as developers.
Macromedia has used blogs as a very powerful communications tool to build community and relationships. It is an excellent example of the role blogs can play in business. Interestingly, the company now uses several other communications tools to reach its users: including a free self-guided search tool,Microchats, live, hour-long discussions with technical product people "geared to teaching customers new technical skills", Macromedia Blogs for daily thought and comments on various Macromedia products, all under a Community Section of the company's website.