What this is all about, naturally
We like conformity. Sadly, sometimes we confuse it with teamwork. Or much worse, we assume noncomformity to be anti-team and disloyal. The Road to Ruin. This, despite all superficial commitments to the valiant efforts of the Myerses and Briggses and Belbins of this world telling us that diverse balanced teams are good.
In something approaching real tragedy, many organisations go through a painful process of attracting and hiring people with a difference to make a difference; then spend forever driving the difference out of the person. Immensely frustrating for all concerned. Blogs can help prevent this.
We should stop thinking of blogs as just individual soapboxes, it may be the way we learnt about them, but it’s not the way we’re going to learn from them.
They’re very powerful conversation enablers; they help people express care and concern and dissent in non-threatening ways; they help avoid mutual-admiration-society selection bias; they build trust amongst teams; they exposes heresies and cancers; they prevent me (and people like me) from believing in our own propaganda.
Blogs are but one tool in helping us with those selections.
One tool. An important tool. One we did not have before.
Last Wednesday came and went. I was good fun, both during the day and evening. Days before the conference were busy and Lloyd managed to do three podcasts with speakers - Euan Semple, Lee Bryant and me.
Jackie Danicki took some good notes and reproduce them in a meaningful way on her blog. Lloyd Davis has blogged on the conference blog about his impressions from Open Space session and put some pictures on Flickr. For more, there’s Technorati.
... that is how an FT article about social networking and media in workplace begins. I do not normally link to subscription sources but this article was too good to miss and I’ll quote the bits that make the main points.
The next wave in office productivity, represented by wikis (editable websites), blogs and other social networking technologies, is here. Experts say these tools will transform the way work is done by encouraging new types of collaboration.
This is a point I have been making for some time. It’s difficult to demonstrate the benefits of wikis and blogs (and tagging) to companies who operate on measurement and metrics only. The thing about the whole Web 2.0 (before it became an annoying buzzword) is that you cannot foresee what impact the activity of many individuals will have on the network and its dynamics. Many people doing their own ‘thing’ - blogging, organising events via wikis, uploading photos, bookmarking web pages, aggregating their knowledge, etc, give rise to phenomena that leave most business types scratching their heads, wondering what it all means. Well, it’s the emergent, stupid. Nobody could have predicted or planned or justified something like Wikipedia before it happened. As for business applications, the trick is to provide clear parameters to avoid unacceptable risks.
The article mentions some respectable companies such as Google and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein as believers in the brave new world of wikis and blogs.
Every Google employee can create a blog and contribute to the company’s internal wikis. Social technologies play an essential role in keeping the creative juices flowing and also help Google keep track of its rapidly growing numbers of ideas, projects and employees.
More than 450 DrKW employees have internal blogs and the bank has built an internal wiki with more than 2,000 pages which is used by a quarter of its workforce. After just six months, the traffic on the wiki exceeds that on the entire DrKW intranet.
This is what JP Rangaswami says about his experience with blogs and wikis within DrKW:
We recognised early on that these tools would allow us to collaborate more effectively than existing technologies… Using wikis is much more participative and non-threatening, as people can see what other people have suggested…
And most importantly:
Is blogging a good use of company time? They are going to have these conversations anyway – in the lift, for example – and if the topic is boring, people lose interest. It is self-policing.
Indeed, you won’t get the creativity, collaboration and innovation that most businesses profess to want without letting individual employees assert and reclaim their sense of identity and value. And this cannot happen if you box them in metrics, return and objectives that do not take into account the emergent impact of social media and tools.
The grandfather of my fiancé, Antoine Clarke, was a famous French writer known simply as Exbrayat. He invented the genre of the humorous detective novel and wrote more than 100 books (plus several plays and films), on which his first name, Charles, never appeared. You can read more about him here, at the Exbrayat blog that Antoine and I set up yesterday.
We hope the blog will be something very special for Exbrayat’s fans. We will be adding more never before published family photographs, podcasts, and other goodies for fans as time permits. For Antoine’s mother, who has always been very publicity shy and has refused all interview requests, it’s a genuine case of blogging and social media as DIY PR - actually conversing with the public, bypassing the traditional media owned by others in order to speak directly with the people who really count, on a platform owned by the family. The network that nobody owns is a million times more valuable and useful to the family than any other.
May 5th would have been Exbrayat’s 100th birthday, and we’ll all be heading to France soon for the various Exbrayat centenary celebrations in that country. Antoine and I will be taking photos there for the blog, as well as noting the family’s observations on the events in France. And yes, we’ll be doing it in English.
Ultimately, however, I remain optimistic. For one thing, conservative bloggers still tend to be more tolerant of dissent than their left-wing counterparts, many of whom are about as much fun as superannuated members of the Militant Tendency. More importantly, if American bloggers often take a superficial view of Europe (we all sit on street corners begging, apparently) Europeans must take some of the blame. There simply aren’t enough of us out there working the internet. For some reason, the habit still hasn’t fully taken root on this side of the pond. Which means that, unless we rise to the challenge, the stereotypes will only get worse. Pardon my franglais, but the time has come to say “Aux keyboards, citoyens!”
If Shakespeare had been a weblogger, Romeo would find Juliet after she took poison and would have been so overcome with emotion he would have blogged about finding Juliet dead and would have taken so long that Juliet would have awoken and Romeo wouldn’t have killed himself, and they would have married and had kids and his and her weblogs… and everything.
-Shelley Powers quoted in the Carnival of Capitalists (for the week of December 26, 2005)
Tom Coates on a new low for marketers, brands and advertising agencies in their clumsy attempts to co-opt the blogosphere for their ‘targetted campaigns’.
A ‘viral marketer’ used Tom’s post about his estranged father, a deeply personal topic, to leave ‘personal’ and sympathetic comment under the name of one Barry Scott. Nice, apart from the fact that Barry Scott is a fake character from a blog called Barry Scott Here (no google juice for that blog but Tom links to him in his post), a marketing vehicle for Cillit Bang products. In the words of Jon Stewart, one could say: It was definitely viral, I felt nauseous afterwards. Tom has done some good detective work, digging out names such as Young & Rubicam, Partners J. Walter Thompson, Reckitt Benckiser.
There are some pretty damning comments as well. The brand gets it, the industry gets it:
On one level it’s simply an addition to the constant irratation of comment spam. On another it just adds to the continuing irritation of advertising in general leeching off communities (or in adspeak, target groups) to market products that by their very nature are tired and lacking in imagination and forward thinking - I don’t have the facts but I can imagine that this particular product won’t go on to win any environmental awards. And no, their ads are not ironic, they’re just annoying. And that’s plain and simple annoying, not even discuss it down the pub annoying.
Holy crap. This is just insane. At what point does it seem like anything resembling a good idea to get your brand associated with an apparent willingness to make capital like this? If it isn’t somebody spoofing, somebody has really lost control of their marketing plan.
Another commenter, Will Rowan sums it up well:
All “Barry” has done is brought the same ethics as work just fine in other marcomms channels, and used them online. Where, imho, they don’t work. At all. You need to be a whole lot smarter than this to make a commercial blog work for your brand.
Let this be a lesson to anyone who thinks that fake blogs can be used as a front to engage with the rest of the blogosphere.
They can’t. Period.
And a useful graph to show to those who needs to see the damage. There is much I need to add to this, other than I am not surprised by this. In the last six months I have been approached by several (large) advertising and media agencies to talk to them about blogs for their clients and very quickly concluded that they are simply not my market. There is nothing that will jerk most of them out of their, we-are-the-ministry-of-fun-co-opting-the-next-’cool’-thing-and-selling-it-to-clients-for-much-money attitude. Nowadays, I just tell them that my aim is to tell their clients how to do this for themselves, with authentic voice, for a fraction of their budgets. If they don’t balk, then we talk.
Oh dear. It looks quite a lot like Reckitt Benckiser, Cilit Bang’s makers, or their ad agencies, think this is a good way to sell cleaning product. And it looks quite a lot like they’re about to learn what happens when viral marketing goes wrong. May they be flamed to a cinder.
Finally, there are more articles like this: Blogs and Bling Bling: Companies See More Sales, Improve Search Position, this time from DMNew.com.
eHobbies.com, which says it has watched its conversion rate double from the normal 2 percent to 4 percent whenever site users visit one of its blogs. Since adding blogging to its site in May, 5 percent of the company’s overall traffic comes from its main blog destination, www.ehobbies.blogs.com. In addition, 5 percent of all orders have recently tracked to a blog-based coupon.
And it confirms that, as Weblogs Inc people like to quib, that BLOG stands for Better Listing in Google.
Blogging also is paying off in the company’s search engine strategy. As one example, the retailer has climbed from the 18th to the third position on Google when searching for Nomadio-branded digital radio control systems. The result occurred without paying for placement.
In the words of Seth Greenberg, CEO of eHobbies.com:
One of the great side effects of blogs is that they are search engine friendly. Once we realized this, we made a point to include better descriptions in blog posts. We look at blogs as an extension of our organic search engine marketing strategy. Paid keyword placements are costly and must be managed responsibly. We have thousands of products, so the more we show up organically in search, the less we need to rely on pay per click.
I always try to get people use pictures to add to what they are writing about. It adds another dimension and if you are going to let people in, you might just as well do it in style.
We try to lift up the covers and show the customers what is behind our operations, what our warehouse looks like. We want to show them the menu of our local sandwich shop and introduce our customers to our employees, who are also avid hobbyists.
Another case that brings joy to any biz blogger’s heart:
Jewelry site Ice.com said its search performance has jumped since introducing blogs six months ago. The jeweler’s keyword “diamond pendant” climbed from 31st to 16th in Google searches while “discount earrings” rose from 30th to sixth and “gold rings” ascended from double digits into the fourth spot. Page impressions at www.ice.com increased 30 percent in the period.
Full impact, with metrics such as ranks, impressions and search performance. Blogging sceptics, eat your heart out.
The truth is that any metrics to do with blogs should be used to see a different picture, not just a straightforward comparison with normal website metrics. For example, superior page impressions for blogs are a reflection of the nature of blogs - people go to blogs for different reason than they visit websites. Also, blogs are about sending people out to other interesting places, which means that the visitors come back for more.
The page impressions tell us that people are spending more time at the site because of the blogs and are more likely to both purchase and come back. The investment to blogs has paid off in the sales coming from them. However, we are not necessarily looking at sales as the end-all barometer. We are also looking at the whole package: PR, site ranking, traffic and being in the forefront of online marketing.
There are now more and more of these ‘little’ successes. By little I mean that the success stories can now be dressed in the kind of language that the ‘media types’ understand, which make them harder to ignore. I find myself focusing on individual artisans who are their own masters and the impact from blogging on their business is obvious and ultimately measurable. More on this later, so watch this space…
Adriana has participated in a BBC Radio 4 discussion about the use of blogs for businesses and how it is part of the way New Media is challenging entire business models.
If you are curious what blogs mean to the commercial world… or just want to hear what a great sounding voice Adriana has, you can listen to her here (requires Real Audio Player).
A VC in NYC likes to keep things simple. Blogging to him is about three things: Posting, Subscribing, and Tagging. And it is about far more than putting text into a blogging software and hitting a publish button.
Blogging is way bigger than that.
Podcasting is blogging.
Posting photos to flickr is blogging.
Building a link roll on del.icio.us is blogging.
Posting your cell phone videos of your cat on vimeo is blogging.
Building your personal page on MySpace.com is blogging.
Anytime a user posts their content on the web in a place they control for the world to consume, they are blogging.
This makes sense. And it is part of the growing understanding that talking about blogging in isolation, as something that ‘bloggers’ do is missing the point. Often people who haven’t really looked at blogging talk about ‘bloggers’ as if they were some alien species that invaded the online world. This is especially true for marketing and advertising types - they need to stick to their understanding of markets by demographics and their categories and by dimissing bloggers as something different from consumers, they feel they can cope with them newfangled things called blogs.
Every time I talk to a person involved in “traditional media” who wants to understand the Internet, I tell them one thing – user generated content.
Until you get user generated content, you don’t get the Internet.
And blogging is the platform for user generated content.
Subscribing is not about technology but about human behaviour… of choosing to read what you like.
...readers vote every day about what content they like and what they don’t. They do this by subscribing or unsubscribing to RSS feeds of the blogs they like.
And finally, there is tagging:
With 10 million or more bloggers posting a couple times a day, how do you keep track of all that user generated content? You can’t in an absolute sense. But you can establish a framework for user generated content and build on top of it. That’s where tagging comes in.
Everything I have seen so far (and I have been blogging for more than 3 years) leads to me agree with VC’s conclusions:
I believe that together posting, subscribing, and tagging will profoundly change the worlds of media, entertainment, commerce, and communication.
We are five years into the posting revolution, two to three years into the subscribing revolution, and maybe one year into the tagging revolution. We are just looking at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be done with these techniques.
...blog dedicated to search engine marketing. Readers of the Blog will be able to keep track of emerging search engine marketing trends and read valuable analysis from experts in the field.
It didn’t hurt, did it?
SEO Inc. saw that there was a definite need for an extensive Blog dedicated to search engine marketing from the agency point of view. Additionally, SEO, Inc. will be using the Blog as a news outlet. The SEO, Inc. Blog aims to provide companies interested in search engine marketing with detailed information so they can make better marketing decisions. The Blog also caters to search engine marketing professionals looking to keep updated on the most current events within the search engine marketing space.
That’s about right, I couldn’t come up with better reasons to blog myself - SEO junkies have another place to hang around now. I know sounds far more exciting than it really is.
Jeff Jarvis writes to Michael Dell…
Today, when you lose a customer, you don’t lose just that customer, you risk losing that customer’s friends. And thanks to the internet and blogs and consumer rate-and-review services, your customers have lots and lots of friends all around the world.
... and describes how that happens:
I blog. And I shared the story of my Dell trevails here. The topic resonated with hundreds more people. Go read the many comments here and here. Too busy? Then have an intern or an MBA do it for you.
And then have them read all the many posts of other bloggers who pointed to my posts and shared their dissatisfaction with your products, service, and brand and, in many cases, announced that they were no longer going to buy your name: See some of those posts here or here and you’ll learn a lot.
Heard of those new podcast things? Well, you’re in one.
Now go read the press this generated, because the press is reading blogs, even if you’re not: here (where Fast company turned consumer dissatisfaction into a verb: you got Dell’d), here (ZDnet not just in America but in India, where your many customer-service people are probably reading this, even if you’re not), here (a mainstream newspaper), here (an influential online news service), here (a consumer PC magazine), here (BusinessWeek, guys), and plenty more here: Just Google it; you should be doing that every day.
Yes, the meme travel gets interesting in the blogosphere nowadays…
Kris Osen in AdAge wonders:
Is it safe to advertise in places on the Internet that are essentially run by consumers and cannot be controlled? How can they protect themselves and their good names when blog and chat-room users are liable to say and post anything? It’s not just pornography or off-color language that worries them. What if consumers got angry about something involving a marketer’s brand, and their remarks got linked to across the Internet?
The article has a telling sub-title: Blogs and Chat Rooms Pose Risks Despite Coveted Demographics. Interesting. So what happened to those pyjama wearing, navel-gazing techies, politicos and all-round geeks who are so not the desired ‘target market’. Or has the holy grail of ‘Mainstream’ exposure moved online and into niche audiences? My, we have come a long way. [/sarcasm]
Another ‘interesting’ thing is the terminology used in the article to describe chat rooms and blogs (which finally are being recognised as interactive formats although still clumsily lumped together). Consumer-controlled spaces is what they call them. Hmm.
But all is not lost because blogs are more predictable than chat rooms and they can be monitored, contained, controlled and neutred. Hit them where it hurts, take their ads away!
The other major difference is that because the postings are predictable, the content can be monitored and controlled by automation or by human beings. If something objectionable is posted, an ad can be pulled within minutes…
Feedster is using filtering technology that, among other things, collects and reviews blog postings over time. So the firm that is running an ad campaign on blogs(!) can keep an eye on wayward bloggers:
Feedster squirrels away a record of everything a blogger has written to establish a pattern. The firm knows if the blogger uses profanity, proper grammar and spelling, whether the language is on the level of PG-13 or NC-17, even how often they go off topic. The advertiser chooses the set of attributes it can live with. “Then if something objectionable occurs, it would take us about seven minutes to stop the ad...”.
Seven minutes! How cool is that?! Alright, I give in. It is perfectly fine for companies to know what conversations are happening about them as Pete Blackshaw of Intelliseek points out:
Companies need to be tuned into the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s amazing how many companies have no idea about all the bad things that consumers say about them—really vicious.
However, something has got lost in the translation - the idea is to join those conversations, not to control them.
Update: Doc already said pretty much the same thing. I guess, I am not fast enough these days…
The ”Try impossible” headline was my two-word response to the Ad Age headline, “Marketers wrestle with hard-to-control content”. I had other objections, like calling blogs a “consumer controlled space” and lumping them together with chat rooms; but my main objection was to the “control” assumption.
And states the point clearly:
Freedom from advertiser control, which has prevailed in varying degrees in traditional media for the duration, is one of the reasons we have blogging.
Red Herring reports:
U.S. blog readership in the first quarter jumped 45 percent to 49.5 million people, or one-sixth of the total U.S. population, a report said Monday, suggesting the blogosphere is becoming increasingly alluring to online advertisers.
I am hearing this from all sides and have been invited to a couple of conferences for advertisering industry to speak about blogs and advertising. Hm, I am not sure they’ll like what I have to say but I will try to make sense of the relationship between such two different worlds - the blogoshpere and media industry. Well, the first thing I notice, apart from the bitching from both sides, is the media industry’s eyes watering as they are trying to focus on blogs. Too small for those big-budgeted and gloss-filled vista and the range of vision is adjusting with the declining revenues, impact and channel fragmentation and other disruptive goodness.
But back to the blog ‘metrics’:
As far as advertisers are concerned, blog readers are a desirable demographic—young, wealthy, likely to shop online, and with high-speed Internet connections. They visit 77 percent more web pages than the average Internet user.
Blogs are addictive, that’s the real news flash. Heh.
It’s natural enough to think of the growth of the blogosphere as a merely technical phenomenon. But it’s also a profoundly human phenomenon, a way of expanding and, in some sense, reifying the ephemeral daily conversation that humans engage in. Every day the blogosphere captures a little more of the strange immediacy of the life that is passing before us. Think of it as the global thought bubble of a single voluble species.
- Measuring the Blogosphere, New York Times editorial