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Monday, June 09, 2003

Strategies And Tips For Business Blogging Success

Panel information.

John Lawlor: about 23% of the people I talk to these days actually know what a blog is. I look at blogging as an opportunity, an intersection between a technological development and an amazing consumer acceptance of online communications. The expectation of what the Internet can do is coming in line with what we need it to do, it's very much a part of our days. Most organizations still don't know what a blog is, and more importantly, don't care. They care what it might be able to do for them. Blogging=Opportunity. Answering certain questions will give a busineess interested in this a strategy. Who should blog? Who is the target reader? What are you blogging about? What are the benefits we expect? What is important to my business? What needs to be restricted? Where will the blog appear? (Internal or external; makes a good personal filing cabinet, need not be public.) When are you going to have the time? It is a commitment. When will you see results? Why are we doing this, why do we need it?

Major Chris Chambers: discusses the America's Army site, a gaming blog done by the Army. (I missed most of this, sounds fascinating.)

Greg Lloyd: A weblog can be a conversation with a particular group, or with one individual and the rest of the world. The audience can be internal, or there are conversations with a company that are explicitly public. A weblog could be the shared space for everyone in public support, and individual customers can view that unified set. Middle ground is a company blogging about developmental projects.

Halley Suitt: blames David Weinberger for starting her down this path. David told her she had to stop emailing him her stuff, it was good so she had to put it on a blog. Someone here described her blog as sexy and spicy, which is ironic given at the time she started she was dealing with deep, heavy dark issues about her Dad's illness and death. I wrote a piece about that. Other things started to play out in my blog. The Alpha Male series. I also started working at Harvard Business School publishing, had a working life different from what was going on on my weblog. For work, I was asked to write a fictional piece that will come out in September about an employee-blogger who may have disclosed too much information. Four experts commented on the range of appropriate responses to the scenario (firing to promotion). Now with, working on electronic content management strategies.

Don White: Independent marketing consultant. Talks about brand managers, how they think. Fixed price better than low price, tend to look at risk from this point of view. One thing we're doingn is attempting to answer the needs of a real estate brokerage business with a blog tool. They needed to stand out in a business and a region with tons of competition in their area. Blogging tools enabled them to create a useful real estate site. The small real estate firm became The firm with expertise in fourteen different communities, and it was all done for less money than most people would have spent for one Web site. And, it can be operated by one to two people.

John Lawlor brings up the balance between the minimal management and control necessary for effective blogging, and the need to have certain information not go out into the public. Major Chambers: one way to manage the content is to make sure your bloggers are trusted agents (in our case, of the military), and let them self-edit. The army is a pretty risk-averse organization. The general principle is that if an agent has bought into the principles of an organization, it probably will be ok. We went in with a strategy that this was another tool for communication with our players. I was cognizant of this strategy and kept it in mind.

Halley: jumps in that the America's Army blog, against all odds, does just what a weblog should do in the way of voice. It was really interesting to see that given the constraints.

John Lawlor: the Afghanistan blog had a natural end, why didn't you blog the next war? Chambers: we wanted to continue it but had some problems. In an early stage operation, everyone is pretty busy. We couldn't really find someone with the time. In Afghanistan, we came in a little later, there was infrastructure in place. What we have done is continue on the developer side of our game product (kids love to talk to developers).

Greg Lloyd: the primary thing you're relying on is the integrity and trust of the people you've hired. Set guidelines, and give people more than one place to express themselves. Engineers might be more candid and forthright talking to other engineers than a wider audience, for example. People can know and recognize that comments posted to different spaces have different connotations. You can make people more comfortable, as well as avoid mishaps.

John Lawlor: one of the reasons business is interested in this is that blogs do well in search engines. Mentions the dispelled rumor that Google might remove blogs. There is room, I'm sure, for undermining the system. Panel?

Halley: I don't have favorites anymore, I simply use Google to find things. The search engines are used in a different way now. Of bloggers, search results and the other Halley: "He's not blogging enough" Audience comment: anywhere from 75-85% of search engine results come from Google, and weblogs have a significant impact on those results.

Audience question: do purist bloggers have an issue linking to a commercial blog? Jeff Jarvis: you heard it earlier, it depends on what you have to say. John Lawlor: if it has a human slant, that's all that's needed to interest people with a similar slant. Another question, referencing Major Chambers, about security. John Lawlor mentions that new tools or tool improvements are coming online to better address these concerns. ... "Anyone who's in marketing who's in this room is five years ahead of their colleagues. ... The people in this room are so far ahead regarding where this is going, it's phenomenal." (I'm sitting next to my firm's head of Web marketing, she gets a big pat on the back.) Question about the effectiveness of shipping the game related to the America's Army blog. Major Chambers: since this was a PR initiative, we saw qualitative indicators that it was being received positively in our forums and elsewhere. We saw we were resonating with our target audience: tends to be young males who like military things and guns. Our download peaks mostly were related to new realeases of the game. We did notice increases in referrals from our site to the Go Army recruiting site. The site had this scratch, unprofessional feel, mainly because it was me doing it over there, it had that kind of personal touch. Sort of by design, sort of because that's all I could do with the digital camera, etc. I had. ... Greg Lloyd: gives an example of blogs being used by law enforcement as a 24-hour operations log, and to keep people informed.

Don White, on where blogging will be in a few years' time: technologies usually first are used by the technologies, then the information professionals (lawyers, librarians, journalists). It's starting in the broader business community but there aren't many examples right now. Until we can address the risk aversion of those brand managers, we're going to have a tough road. We're a long way from having most businesses endorse a truly personal voice: "The manufacturers of Cheerios have no interest in having someone on the production line blogging the quality of oats coming in."

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