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.
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…
...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.
Apparently yes. Backbone Media asked bloggers at hundreds of companies to participate in an online survey and conducted in-depth interviews with leading individuals from six corporate blogs that were selected as representative of the diverse spectrum of the corporate blogging world.
What we discovered was that for the majority of our survey sample, (which includes some of today’s biggest corporations and scrappiest underdogs), corporate blogs are living up to all the hype. We discovered that corporate blogs are giving established corporations and obscure brands the ability to connect with their audiences on a personal level, build trust, collect valuable feedback and foster strengthened relationships while and at the same time benefiting in ways that are tangible to the sales and marketing side of the business.
Well, it’s not exactly a new flash, is it?
Update: Realised that my post reads as if I were sceptical about the report or did not consider it important. On the contrary, I am glad it was produced and big thanks to the Backbone Media. I will blog more about it as soon as I get round to reading it in detail.
There is an analysis and bit of pattern-spotting among the rules:
The Core; all companies
- You’re personally responsible
- Abide by existing rules
- Keep secrets
- Be nice
The Common; approximately half of them
- Add value
- Respect copyright
- Follow the law
- Cite and link
- Discuss with your manager
The Unusual; only one or two companies mention
- You can write on company time
- Our goal
- You may disagree with the boss
- Stop blogging if we say so
- Contact PR
Each of group of rules is further analysed.. a must read.
A good article by Nicole Ziegler Dizon of AP in the Miami Herald about corporations entering brave new world of blogs. She uses the case of Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman of General Motors to illustrate the effectiveness of blogging by making possible for companies to present their side of the story, or their story in the first place.
When General Motors Corp. wanted to stop speculation this spring that it might eliminate its Pontiac and Buick brands, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz took his case directly to dealers and customers who were up in arms about the possibility.
He wrote about it on the company’s blog.
There are corporate blogs, although the blogosphere is not bursting at seams with them. Apart from GM, other executives with public blogs include Richard Edelman, president and chief executive of the global PR firm Edelman and Craig Newmark, founder of the online swap meet Craigslist.org. Aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. also uses a blog to promote its brand. Randy Baseler, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, made his first entry in Randy’s Journal on the day before rival Airbus unveiled its A380 superjumbo jet. The numbers will grow for those companies that care about their perception ... and the integrity of their relationship with customers as Jonathan Schwartz puts it. Peter Blackshaw of Intelliseek is quoted, and I agree:
I think that in two years ... we will look back and laugh that we treated this as such a big deal as it’s inevitable that companies will adapt to the consumer-driven atmosphere of the Web.
We told you so…
The following is the first section of IBM blogging policy and guidelines:
Whether or not an IBMer chooses to create or participate in a blog or a wiki or other form of online publishing or discussion is his or her own decision. However, it is very much in IBM’s interest—and, we believe, in each IBMer’s own—to be aware of this sphere of information, interaction and idea exchange:
To learn: As an innovation-based company, we believe in the importance of open exchange and learning—between IBM and its clients, and among the many constituents of our emerging business and societal ecosystem. The rapidly growing phenomenon of blogging and online dialogue are emerging important arenas for that kind of engagement and learning.
To contribute: IBM—as a business, as an innovator and as a corporate citizen—makes important contributions to the world, to the future of business and technology, and to public dialogue on a broad range of societal issues. As our business activities increasingly focus on the provision of transformational insight and high-value innovation—whether to business clients or those in the public, educational or health sectors—it becomes increasingly important for IBM and IBMers to share with the world the exciting things we’re doing learning and doing, and to learn from others.
In 1997, IBM recommended that its employees get out onto the Net—at a time when many companies were seeking to restrict their employees’ Internet access. We continue to advocate IBMers’ responsible involvement today in this new, rapidly growing space of relationship, learning and collaboration.
Amen to that. Openness does lead to innovation and if you take care to foresee the risk and minimise it, the reward is well worth it.
Are you a fake blog character, brand or logo that has been pilloried for the part you’ve played in turning the business blogosphere into a joke?
Do you wile away the days behind closed curtains terrified that someone may shout obscenities at you in the street?
Depressed? Lonely? Scared?
Dr. Quack understands your pain and will remove your shame because you aren’t the one to blame.
One evening last month, he channeled one of those off-duty opinions into a satiric bit of artwork - an appropriation of a “loose lips sink ships” World War II-era propaganda poster altered to provide a harsh comment on the growing fears among corporations over the blogging activities of their employees. He then posted it on his personal Web log.
But in a paradoxical turn, Mr. Kennedy’s employer, having received some complaints about the artwork, stepped in and asked him to reconsider the posting and Mr. Kennedy complied, taking the image down.
Apparently, bloggers like Mr. Kennedy are starting to realise that corporations:
… are under no particular obligation to tolerate threats, real or perceived, from the activities of people who become identified with those brands, even if it is on their personal Web sites.
Interesting, I am not sure what it means to ‘tolerate threats, real or perceived, from the activities of people who become identified with those brands’. Obviously, there is confidential information and privacy issues but as far as the ‘brand’ is concerned, if an employee is making fun of it, well, it should be a useful signal to the ‘brand’ creators that something is not right.
Strange that years after the Cluetrain, the blogging world can put up with an argument based around the assumption that brands belong to the corporations, which spend millions of dollars protecting their brands.
… this isn’t about us and them. It’s about us. Them don’t exist. Not really. Corporations are legal fictions, willing suspensions of disbelief. Pry the roof off any company and what do you find inside? The Cracker Jack prize is ourselves, just ordinary people. We come in all flavors: funny, cantankerous, neurotic, compassionate, avaricious, generous, scheming, lackadaisical, brilliant, and a million other things. It’s true that the higher up the food chain you go, the more likely you are to encounter the arrogant and self-deluded, but even top management types are mostly harmless when you get to know them. Given lots of love, some even make good pets.
The point is not to condone doing something stupid as an employee, just because he or she has done it via a blog and blogs are groovy, doncha know, so that must be OK… It is about the idea that there must be just one approved voice coming from the mothership. Such ‘voice’ has always been a fantasy perpetuated by ‘brand strategists’ and blogs have made it clearer that while such a voice has never been credible, it can no longer be imposed.
Perry and I have returned from our month-long sojourn to Los Angeles, and are frantically getting caught up on London business - hence the unusual silence here. Even with our indispensible internal blog, which saves us untold amounts of time and energy in keeping up-to-speed and helping us to collaborate from even 6000 miles away, there is much to do.
Some things are more enjoyable to share face to face, though. You don’t really get the satisfaction of seeing a look of horror on a person’s face when they absorb some bit of information that you’ve posted to the internal blog. For me, the expression of disgust and revulsion on Adriana’s face when Perry and I told her of the widespread fake blogging that we heard of firsthand, from people who are actively executing fake blogs for companies, was priceless.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t making it up when I recounted to her how one PR flack we met in LA boasted of how his firm lies to big corporations and promises them good coverage on their “big traffic,” fake blog. The blog itself has been set up by the PR company for the express purpose of scamming companies into paying out substantial amounts of cash for positive postings on it. Looking at the blog, it seems to be authored by an anonymous nobody...who just so happens to pepper his commentary with glowing mentions of the PR company’s clients, and negative remarks about their competition.
The really sad thing? A quick Technorati search on the blog’s URL shows that it has only been linked to by one other blog - whose author just happens to be a friend of the PR flack. The companies - household names of the highest order - that pony up for coverage on this “big traffic” blog could easily check its credentials. Instead, they continue to pay lip service to taking part in a “conversation” with customers...and pay PR companies that claim to “get blogging” for utterly worthless “services”. Niall Cook’s prediction for 2005 is as spot-on as ever.
... and not thinly veiled PR.
Since blogs became the next big thing, an increasing number of companies have come to see them as the next great public relations vehicle—a way for executives to demonstrate their casual, interactive side.
But, of course, the executives do nothing of the sort. Their attempts at hip, guerrilla-style blogging are often pained—and painful.
Rebecca Blood says:
Repositing marketing materials on a blog is a waste of time. I would advise them to just stop right now. Those materials already exist. The blog that is powerful is when it is real.
As has been said so many times on this blog and elsewhere, blogs can provide companies with a connection they don’t otherwise have with the public, employees and clients. But it may take some time before executives figure out how to best use them. David Weinberger goes back to the nature of blogging - it is a conversation:
Success in blogging is exactly the same as success in conversation, where if you stay on message, you’re being a bore. It’s very hard to wean yourself. You stay on message then congratulate yourself for staying on message. Then what you do is alienate readers.
Amy Joyce of Washington post seems to imply that unless company bloggers disclose something that they should not, the blogs are not worth the read.
Although corporate blogging gives many readers what they want from a company—an avenue to listen to and talk to decision makers—it also loses that edgy, voyeuristic feel of personal blogs about bad bosses, annoying roommates and flings. As much as personal bloggers blithely ignore the conventional boundaries of etiquette, corporate bloggers edit themselves to avoid disclosing a company secret or representing an organization in a way not intended by the marketing department.
Well, if the only way for company blogs to attract readership is to titillate them into visiting the blog, business blogging does not have much future. Fortunately, this is totally unnecessary as the reason why people read a blog is that they get something out of it. And it isn’t necessarily the same thing you get out of reading tabloids. Personal does not mean, indiscreet or under the company radar. It certainly is not necessary for Tinbasher or La Fraise… or indeed for Scoble.
Company in trouble? Chief executive in the middle of some scandal? Don’t expect anyone to be emoting about it on a corporate blog. No mention on Lutz’s blog, for instance, that GM’s stock fell to its lowest level in more than a decade this week. The day Boeing’s board announced its chief executive had resigned after an investigation uncovered that he had an affair with a female employee, Baseler wrote about competition from Airbus SAS.
Actually, I would expect an executive with a blog to emote or at least address anything that is happening to his company and is already public, positive or negative. That is the whole point of a blog - a medium for those who have something to say and are willing to do so in a genuine conversation. Then it works just fine.
Most bloggers aren’t being fired for blogging. Bloggers are being fired for doing something stupid on their blogs that violates some policy of some description within their respective employers…
Send dirty emails, get reprimanded, make lots of personal calls, get fired. Blogs are just another way for employees to get themselves in hot water by not heeding corporate policy. Memo to bloggers: Check your corporate ethics, conduct, and media relations policies and just ‘keep it between the lines.’
- Dana VanDen Heuvel, Business Blog Consulting
...high anxiety over what employees can publish in both e-mail and blogs. There was a slew of products that monitor employee communications in one way or another, mapping them to corporate policy on everything from offensive language and sexual harassment to outright prohibition of personal e-mail.
He finds OutBoxer probably the fairest to employees. As soon as an e-mailer hits the send button, if there’s a dirty word in there, a notice will pop up explaining which rule was broken so the writer can reconsider.
Another one, IPLocks’ Information Risk Management Platform, doesn’t give employees a second chance. It tracks employee access to sensitive company data and sends alerts to appropriate managers when employees step outside of normal usage patterns.
There are several more such as Fortiva Archive that monitors emails after they have been sent and the WhatCounts Appliance Series which monitors and evaluates blogs and e-mail before they are published or sent, routing posts to HR managers and/or legal when necessary.
I agree with Ephraim Schwartz that these products point to a disturbing trend and no amount of justification based on the combination of privacy issues, new government regulations, and a litigious society can convince me that this is the way to treat your employees and get the best out of them.
For example, can you imagine a legal department reviewing every blog post? If you’ve ever waited for legal to approve a document, you already know that you might as well give up now and forget corporate blogging. It’s probably not worth the aggravation.
Between lawsuits and regulations, I wouldn’t be surprised if, spearheaded by legal departments everywhere, all employees will someday soon be sent to class to learn a new, neutered, corporate-approved written language. Of course, companies may want to revamp their job descriptions for their vice presidents of corporate communications. May I suggest a more classic title — something like “Minister of Truth”?
Hm, where have I seen this before...?
I have been very busy lately and neglected my RSS aggregator. Today, I will be trying to catch up on what I missed and so you will see some stuff that may have been noted by others but I think they are worth pointing out here too. So bear with me.
Not much to say - it’s fake and does not work. Why? It’s not credible, there is no point to it and it links to a flash site with an ad. A marketer’s wet dream, but no customers in sight.