Welcome to the Blogosphereby
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Blogging both intrigues and frightens people. US companies are diving into the blogosphere, learning how to swim; UK companies are still standing on the beach, skirts raised, wondering whether to dip their toe in or not.
March 18th 2006 - Cardinal Sin
To tell the blog story I’m going to commit a cardinal blogosphere sin - start with the first entry and end with the latest. Hopefully, as it's in a good cause, it won't bring the 'blog gods' down on my head for breaking the code of conduct. But please note, proper blogs begin with the latest entry; like email chains, they are conversations.
Posted by Jennifer Kirkby 3.01pm Comments (0) Trackback (0)
I was initiated into the blogosphere myself in 2003. I started writing a blog on mutual marketing with two friends, Tim Kitchen and Johnnie Moore. Johnnie prolifically produced at least one entry a day – an important blogging feature. The idea fascinated me, the power to tell my story about good and bad customer service and the ability to comment on news items. Comments and trackback soon showed I was being read, which was slightly scary to start with. Bloggers don't hold back on controversy, it's an idea swapping medium and it’s no good being faint-hearted. But I've never been a good diarist; I forgot to update when I didn't have anything to say, not wanting to inflict, 'dear diary it's been a busy day' on people – being boring is another cardinal sin.
Then in January, over a coffee and danish in the Cornerhouse café, Manchester, (which I can thoroughly recommend for fascinating conversation of the face to face kind), Diane Clare from the Chartered Institute of Marketing mentioned she was thinking of writing a blog instead of a members newsletter. "Was that a better way to get and keep members I asked?" She didn't know, but that, and an email from Tim to say he was setting up a blog for Oxford Strategic Marketing, (http://first100days.co.uk) set me thinking again about business in the blogosphere.
The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli, c. 1480
Posted by Jennifer Kirkby 4.36pm Comments (1) Trackback (0)
March 18th 2006 - What is a Blog?
It is fascinating how history looks clearer in hindsight! Jarn Barger is credited with the idea of weblogs. In 1997 he started Robot Wisdom to list other sites of interest. Many early blogs were just that, a linking of interesting sites on a particular topic. The bloggers made comments and allowed readers to do the same. In essence they became subject 'internet tour guides' – an umbrella for easy identification held high.
Since then bloggs have developed a set of well defined desirable characteristics. They must:
- Be themed on a topic of interest
- Be written in a personal, authentic and reflective tone of voice
- Honesty is paramount
- The content should be useful – e.g. information, discussion, ideas, help
- The look and feel should be user friendly
- Be written by one or more, 'known' authorative authors
- Contain links to other sites and blogs of interest
- Be regularly updated , latest first, with archives for old blogs
- Have a comments facility for readers, listening is vital
- Have a trackback mechanism for other blogs to link too
- Preferably have an RSS feed for updates
- Archive of past entries
Although I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere, I also think some background on the purpose of the blog and the blogger(s) is also desirable - the equivalent of a conversational introduction. See also Ten Tips for Becoming a Great Corporate Blogger – Backbone Media.
Despite these rules, there is confusion between blogs and community message boards. I think the difference is the linking and the tour guide idea – a blog has an orchestrator, not a moderator. The orchestrator leads the dance and spreads wildfire passion around the globe. But that being said, I run a one name family history community with links; if I make comments more frequently will that make it a blog? I need to explore further.
Blogs are usually written, with some visual material but can include audio podcasts, downloadable to MP3 players, and video.
Posted by Jennifer Kirkby 5.02pm Comments (6) Trackback (3)
March 19th 2006 - The Blogosphere
You are never alone in the blogosphere this is not for isolationists. It's an intricately linked network of intelligent, educated, individuals with growing influence and something to say. The network of links is a key feature, a good guide will attract readers.
Whilst young men used to dominate, women and 'baby boomers' are now finding their feet. Thousands of new blogs are started everyday, estimates are 23,000 for those who like numbers. Many are just for friends but others attract much larger readerships from the estimated 30m worldwide consumers of blogs. A figure that doubles every month I'm told. The bottom line – this is a growing way to link with and influence other people.
Posted by Jennifer Kirkby 8. 48pm Comments (6) Trackback (10)
March 19th 2006 - Business Uses
Great, I’ve updated my understanding of blogging '2006 style'. So the question is, why and how are businesses using them? Political debate, journalist diaries from Iraq or discussing ideas like mutual marketing are obvious. I’ve discussed this with Johnnie and Leon Benjamin, another blogging friend. This is our considered view:
Blogs are for conversations with your customers, shareholders, staff, or whoever else you would like to converse with. If you don't want to invite them into your 'circle of friends' don’t start a blog. If you don’t want frank and honest comment, which are sometimes downright rude – don’t start a blog. If you think you can use blogs for toadying the company line – don't go near a blog, they must ring true. Mazda tried that by hiring an author to 'promote' their cars, the blogosphere caught on quick and all hell broke loose – Mazda, corporate reputation a good few notches lower, pulled the site.
Le D'jeuner sur l'Herbe, Edouard Manet, 1863
Uses for blogs include:
- Corporate reputation and social responsibility – an increasing number of senior mangers (45% of corporate bloggers in a recent survey) are facing the blogosphere with their views on their world including Bill Gates.
- Research - use blogs to listen and learn. Capture comments and understand your customers and influencers better; catch the start of a trend in your market. Monitor corporate image.
- Customer engagement – blogs can involve your customers in 'open source' product and service design as well as provide a means of feedback and updating on the company.
- Brand image - give a face and a voice to the company, to enhance or create a brand image.
- Thinking – a source of reflection between staff or any group of stakeholders. A blog can be a creative place to practice the underused but important corporate skill of thinking and creating new ideas. .
- Thought leadership – any brand that is not a market leader needs to develop thought leadership in an area; a blog is the perfect opportunity. Challenge the norms of the industry and create a name for the company
- Market gossip – create a place where people come for the latest gossip in the market. If nothing else it will improve search engine rankings.
Excellent research and case studies on blogging benefits can be found in Corporate Blogging: Is it worth the hype? – Backbone Media
Posted by Jennifer Kirkby 10. 11pm Comments (6) Trackback (5)
March 20th 2006 - Starting a Blog
So, is a blog worthwhile? Well if it were me I'd be experimenting with them as part of a communication strategy. Only by using one can you really get a feel and work out the value. I like the idea of working with customers on 'open source' design as that makes a truly customer centric company. And I can see the benefit of creating a more personal face in a world where the business of business is 'social'.
The down side is, are customers really interested; do I or anyone else have what it takes to do this on a regular basis, take the stick that is bound to come, and risk controversy and wrath if I am deemed to have broken the rule?
Ogilvy PR has produced a useful guide to getting started:-
- Familiarise yourself with business blogs, and blog search engines like www.blogsearchengine.com and www.feedster.com
- Is the medium suitable for the target audience?
- Decide on the blog’s objective and goals and ensure everyone knows how it fits in the communication strategy
- Find a genuine blog 'guide', who can do the updates, has a good knowledge of the subject and the time to find the links – this is usually a company employee
- Write a company blogging policy, but give the blogger(s) a free reign
- Choose a relevant publishing IT platform, eg Typepad or Moveable Type, either hosted or on our own system
- Link into the blog search engines, and link to other blogs so you are picked up in the blogosphere. Visability is a key benefit.
Posted by Jennifer Kirkby 11. 16am Comments (2) Trackback (2)
March 20th 2006 - Blogging Codes of Conduct
The blogosphere is an ethical place, a great attraction, and bloggers are determined to keep it that way. Transgressors of the rules will be hung drawn and quartered as a warning to others. There are 2 codes of conduct to consider:
- A general blogging code of conduct that will satisfy the blogosphere gods.
- A corporate blogging policy
- We will tell the truth. We will acknowledge and correct any mistakes promptly.
- We will not delete comments unless they are spam, off-topic, or defamatory.
- We will reply to comments when appropriate as promptly as possible.
- We will link to online references and original source materials directly
- We will disagree with other opinions respectfully.
- Respect for confidential information
- Making it clear that it is a personal blog and not the corporate view
- Being respectful to other stakeholders
- Complying with IPO quite periods
Posted by Jennifer Kirkby 8. 23pm Comments (0) Trackback (0)
March 21st 2006 - What’s in a Name
Spring has at last come to Yorkshire; it's amazing how sunshine makes you feel so much better. (Well I’m English - I have to talk about the weather first ;-)). An interesting bit of information gleaned today: As it hits the mainstream blogging is becoming known as 'Citizens Media' or the ‘5th Estate’ – a recognition of the powerful voice it gives to the grassroots. I think I'll stick with blogging in the same way I still like CRM – both say what they do on the tin and that seems to be the essence of the craft.
Posted by Jennifer Kirkby 10.46am Comments (12) Trackback (2)
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Strategy & Business Analyst, CMC
Links – Blogroll
- Lego – Lego have an ambassador programme where 15, 20 hand picked ambassadors feed back on new product ideas, here is the weblog of one -http://www.zemi.net/?p=main
- Sun Microsystems - Jonathan Schwartz president of the company, gives his views - http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan
- Microsoft - Robert Scoble, an employee with no corporate PR line to toe, he is credited with giving Microsoft a more human, friendly image - http://scoble.weblogs.com
- General Motors - Bob Lutz of GM discuss developments with customers – http://fastlane.gmblogs.com
- Boeing - by Boeing’s vice president of marketing for commercial airlines, with comments from customers - www.boeing.com/randy
- Stonyfield Farm - blogs by the suppliers of organic dairy products - http://www.stonyfield.com/weblog
- Stormhoek Wine - by a new young south african wine, and everyday story of wine production www.stormhoek.com
- Guinness – a restricted viewing blog (debatable views on this) by the Guinness marketing team http://landingpage2.guinnessblog.co.uk
- Explore numerous blogs in the blog directory www.blogarama.com
- James Torio researches blogs http://www.everyhuman.com/pages/2005/08/thesis.php
- Dark Blogs: The Use of Blogs in Business - Case Study of a European Pharmaceutical Group – Suw Charman for Corante Research
- Blogs: Make Way for the Social Customer – Christopher Carfi
- Blogging and Corporate Reputation – Listen to the Conversation – Alan Scott, Factiva
- Blogging and Corporate Reputation – Contribute to the Debate – Alan Scott, Factiva
- Measuring the Influence of Bloggers on Corporate Reputation - Market
Sentinel, Onalytica and immediate future
- Search is brand - The challenges posed to brands by search engines and blogging – Nicholine Hayward, Weboptimiser Ltd and Mark Rogers, Market Sentinel
- Trust 'MEdia': How Real People Are Finally Being Heard – Edelman and
- UK PLC misses out on customer management opportunity of blogs