Think of it: a cheap, direct means of working one-on-one, one-to-many with customers, partners, prospects — the ideal means of educating, informing, persuading. That's what management sees when you mention one of the "hottest" communications tools available — blogging.
The Web 2.0 blogosphere is one of the fastest growing communities today. New blogs are launched every second — 120,000 every day. Technorati, a research firm that tracks Internet and Web 2.0 activity, reports that they currently track 70 million blogs which is up from 35 million blogs less than a year ago. According to their research, 22 of the 100 most popular Web sites in Q4 of last year were blogs.
Technorati states that bloggers searching for company/product information rely on:
- 63 percent from other bloggers.
- 26 percent from company web sites.
- 6 percent from corporate blogs.
- 5 percent from company press releases.
Blogging is an international phenomenon:
- 37 percent blogs are in Japanese.
- 33 percent are in English.
- 8 percent are in Chinese.
- Farsi is the 10th most popular blogging language.
Because of the global reach and the low cost of communicating 1:1, 1:many with various stakeholders, it is little wonder that companies are so enamored of management blogs.
Blogs have proven invaluable in generating word-of-mouth marketing for firms by reaching and informing satisfied customers. They have become an effective means of resolving customer problems, issues, questions before they become major problems.
Large and small companies, organizations around the globe have official and unofficial blogs being developed, read every day. Sun, GM, Ford, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, GE and nearly every Fortune 500 firm has thousands of blogs that are being updated every day. Even employees in small firms have some type of blog being written/read. Whether the individual blog has been officially sanctioned by management or is in fact written by management, blogs are appearing everywhere.
Reason to Blog
The primary reasons individual employees blog is that they want to create a record of their thoughts or want to be seen as an authority in their field.
The major problem with blogs is that they are a new — albeit rapidly growing — Web 2.0 arena. As a result, they still represent an uncharted arena with few official corporate policies or guidelines.
According to a recent Harris Interactive poll of Fortune 1000 executives:
- 77 percent believe they should have corporate polices addressing company-sanctioned blogs.
- 40 percent believe they should have corporate policies regarding blogs unrelated to the company or its activities.
- 30 percent really understand the term.
- 21 percent actually read business-related blogs.
- 15 percent believe someone in the company is currently writing a blog.
- 12 percent have taken legal action in response to a blog.
- 3 percent have changed product, service, policies because of a blog.
Blogs from management or employees to the global community can be effective but they go beyond blogging-as-sales tool thinking. Most corporate blogs come up short because they are used as marketing rather than two-way communications tools. They should primarily be used as a means of acquiring and keeping customers. They shouldn't be initiated for lead generation and brand awareness.
Not an Ad Vehicle
Keep in mind business blogs are not a new form of company advertising but a means of reaching your most important audiences — employees, partners, customers. If the blogs attract and persuade prospective customers, that is an added bonus.
Executives who have embraced the blogosphere have found the effort has significantly enhanced the organization's and individual's credibility. They also receive feedback they may not want to read. In today's very open Internet and Web 2.0 world this communication is taking place — every minute of every day.
It is time for business to consider the question of blogging. But management has to be aware of the positive and negative aspects. For most corporate blogs this may be the only problem that they encounter. However, the Web 2.0 frontier can be a wild, unruly, disruptive place. As one writer noted regarding these and other blog encounters, "the inmates have taken control of the asylum." Investment and commitment to Web 2.0 activities such as blogs, wikis and other collaborative technologies have to be entered into cautiously — with considerable thought and preparation. Collective intelligence, which tries to tap into the wisdom of crowds to make decisions, can be immensely effective. But firms also have to consider the stakeholder return on these investments. Today we exist in a knowledge economy and knowledge is power. Knowledge defines the company and the employees.
Blogging and technology adoption can no longer be dictated by management. It is dramatically decentralized. Tools like blogs and wikis will bubble up from departments as corporate strategy evolves. Management increasingly understands that they must talk with customers, suppliers and business partners to achieve corporate goals. Web 2.0 tools can be used to streamline and expedite the design, development and adjustment of products and services. Management will find that it requires work and patience to become comfortable in listening to this unvarnished feedback. At the same time, it can lead to positive results and support.
The best marketing, communications, policy consultants are available on Web 2.0. However, it does take time to weed through the disenfranchised to those who are constructive and valuable.
Blogs — especially internal blogs — need to be viewed as a tool to enhance the organization's competitive advantage rather than a marcom device that they can/should manage and control.
Blogs provide an opportunity for organizations to talk directly to more than 180 connected individuals around the globe. They also open the door for these individuals to not only talk back in a positive manner but also strike back for the entire world to see.
Blogs travel at the speed of light to reach, inform people. At that speed, communications can encounter rough air. Policies and plans have to be in place to handle situations immediately.
Being right sometimes doesn't matter in the Web 2.0 world. Monitoring blogs is mandatory; management blogs are optional!
For more information, contact: Marken Communications Inc., 3375 Scott Blvd., #108, Santa Clara, CA 95054 408-986-0100 fax: 408-986-0162 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org