Corporate Blogging Survey 2005
 
BACKBONE CORPORATE BLOGGING SURVEY 2005
 
 

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July 31, 2005

Blogher Conference Covers Fear of Blogging

Jay Rosen wrote up his notes on the Blogher conference, I was particularly interested to read his coverage of fear and terror in blogging.

“At the session on flaming and anger online, at the Blogging 101 workshop, at the discussion about identity blogging, and here and there in almost every other session I heard women talking about the personal attacks they had either expected or received. They discussed stalking and whether blogging led to it. They talked about losing their jobs if they said the wrong thing on their blog. They spoke about their children and whether kids were put in danger when mom blogs. They asked about publishing your address and what could happen if you did. They spoke about their dread when an anonymous blog was traced to them. They said they were filled with anxiety that someone they knew was going to read their blog.

It seemed to me (and I told the conference this part) that these were reflections on a kind of terror that is by now deeply associated with the Internet, especially the strangers who are on it. At a conference of bloggers that was 80 percent men and 20 percent women (the usual ratio) this would barely get expressed. I don’t recall many expressions of dread from bloggers at the three BloggersCons I attended.

Here it was routine, which is not to say bloghercon was dominated by expressions of terror (because it wasn’t) but rather in a conference that is 80 percent women—and where 100 percent of the tone was set by women—there were no disincentives to speaking about raw fears connected intimately to the act blogging.?

At conferences and sessions with people on blogging, most people are expressing concerns about the legal implications of blogging. As I tend to write about more business related issues and avoid covering my personal life too much I have not had very many of the same concerns. I’d like to catalog other concerns people have about blogging, either starting to blog, commenting on blogs or the consequences of colleagues’ blogging.


Posted by johncass at 12:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 30, 2005

John Cleese, the LiveVault Video & Blog

Bob Cramer’s company LiveVault did a wonderful job with hiring John Cleese’s company to make a viral marketing video about their data backup system. The video is very funny. I also looked at Bob’s LiveVault blog and had one or two suggestions for him.

· Turn on trackbacks – if anyone does write a post, you will then know they have, they might have some ideas that help you to improve your products or make even funnier your site.
· Build a side list of comments on the right navigation. Experienced Bloggers partly assess the authority of a blog by the number of comments.
· Start conducting blogger relations with the people who post on their blogs about your video and products to increase the number of comments on your blog, see more on comments and writing a blog at Lessons learned from the Backbone Media blogging survey.

Great job guys, the video is very funny, have you made it to 1 million down loads yet? Also what are your sales conversion numbers? You might not want to reveal the numbers, but I think you could easily get into marketing sherpa.com and other marketing publication if you can put a good case study together.

Posted by johncass at 11:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 29, 2005

RSS in Windows Vista

RSS or really simple syndication lets you subscribe to content from a website and is fast becoming a method by which companies get information out to their audience, many of the companies who took the corporate blogging survey described how they have dropped their email newsletters in favor of using RSS, or at the very least compiling their articles from their blog and sending the list of articles instead of their email newsletter.

Microsoft’s new operating system Windows Vista will support RSS.

Platform Components

The RSS platform support in Longhorn has three parts:

* Common RSS Feed List gives application developers access to the list of feeds to which the user is subscribed.

* Common RSS Data Store is a common data store that provides a single location where applications can access any content that has been downloaded to the PC via RSS—including text, pictures, audio, calendar events, documents, and just about anything else. All applications will have access to this content for creating rich user experiences.

* RSS Platform Sync Engine automatically downloads data and files (enclosures) for use by any application. It is designed to be as efficient as possible when downloading this information, using idle network bandwidth whenever possible, in order to limit the impact on the user's Internet experience. Developers can use the platform to get RSS data without having to manage details like synchronization schedules or subscriptions.

Taking some notes from PR Communications on RSS, it’s a “a method for syndicating content from a source (a website or a blog), and may replace email as a way to keep in contact with websites and email newsletters. Tired with the barrage of permission-based e-mails, customers are switching to readers that read the RSS content. A customer reads their RSS content on a daily basis. While it is used to be culturally unacceptable to send lots of permission emails on a daily basis, those companies (corporate bloggers) that provide regular content will be more likely to keep their audience’s attention.?
http://pr.typepad.com/pr_communications/2004/06/the_opportunity.html

The numbers of Americans using RSS are small at the moment, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project 5% of Internet users say they are using RSS readers.

While the use of the Internet has grown overall, see this insert from Pew’s “A decade of adoption: How the Internet has woven itself into American life?:

“On a typical day at the end of 2004, some 70 million American adults logged onto the Internet to use email, get news, access government information, check out health and medical information, participate in auctions, book travel reservations, research their genealogy, gamble, seek out romantic partners, and engage in countless other activities. That represents a 37 percent increase from the 51 million Americans who were online on an average day in 2000 when the Pew Internet & American Life Project began its study of online life.?

Another July 2005 Pew Study, “Public Awareness of Internet Terms? found that only 9% of Americans had a good idea of what the term RSS means.

The potential is there for people to use RSS, but the means for using RSS are not available to most Americans at the moment. Microsoft hopes to change that with its support of RSS in Windows Vista.

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July 28, 2005

Blogging is better for bigger companies

When I recently visited Babson College to give a presentation on the value and benefits of corporate blogging Dr. Grewal asked a question about the legal implications of blogging for larger companies. From that discussion Stephen Turcotte and I chatted about the relative benefits of corporate blogging for larger and small companies. Stephen argued blogging is actually better for smaller companies and I thought in some ways blogging represents more opportunities for larger companies, here’s why I think that corporate blogging represents a bigger opportunity for a larger company.

* Larger companies have more people to blog – the discipline required to write on a regular basis is rare amongst bloggers, see this article about the scarcity of blog posts at Microsoft & IBM.
* Aggregating blog content is one way larger companies can use the power of many customers – both Microsoft and Macromedia are using this technique with their blogs.
* A larger company faces more challenges in presenting a human face to customers than a smaller company – when your just a cog in the wheel there’s less incentive to make a difference, blogging gives big companies more opportunities to build direct connections between employees and customers.
* Larger companies have existing customer bases; their customers are already interested in communicating with the company.
* Big companies by leveraging their larger employee base will be able to have a bigger impact on their community.

Posted by johncass at 12:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 27, 2005

‘Blogging Relations’ the concept that combines PR & SEO

Public relations is all about getting your message out into a community and hopefully influencing people to listen and hear your message. Part of the PR process is going through conduits that are seen as independent.

The new blogging economy means that companies are facing customers who know more about their products and industry than they do. Customers have the ability to self publish on forum sites, slashdot.org, blogs and other self-publishing community sites. Customers are discussing products with their fellow customers.

My company, Backbone Media, Inc. helps clients to develop strategies that work within the new blogging economy. We conduct an online media audit of a company’s customer community, identify the key influencers in the community from both the perspective of thought leadership and readership, plus the benefits of getting a link from their website to your site.

The next step is to identify the content strategies that both link to a customer’s products and ensure that a pitch, comment, trackback is not just seen as a crass attempt at selling a company’s set of products. Backbone Media, Inc believes that the best way to get high rankings on search engines is to build good highly relevant content on a keyword or topic. If your content is relevant your customer community will vote for its relevancy by linking to the content.

As an early pioneer in search engine optimization and marketing (founded 1996) Backbone Media, Inc. has always believed a client’s content strategy is the key to building high search engine rankings. Now that the reality of the new blogging economy has hit the mainstream we believe those SEO content strategies are just as relevant for building a company blogging strategy.

I was inspired today to write about the evolving nature of SEO and PR into ‘blogging relations’ or BR. I don’t think blogging relations just relates to blogs, it includes any website that gives customers and industry influencers the power to self publish but as a concept it does describe the new cultural phenomenon of blogging as it combines with search engine optimization.

A company conducting ‘blogger relations’ doesn’t only look for links from highly ranked websites; a company first develops a content strategy that will be of interest to the community. As the examples of Microsoft, Macromedia and others were detailed in the Backbone Media corporate blogging white paper, focusing on a content strategy of your customer’s ideas and feedback produces the greatest opportunities for creating customer evangelists, more links, sales and higher search engine rankings.

Backbone Media, Inc. helps our clients to combine their content strategies for the new blogging economy with an SEO strategy that helps to develop relevant content that boosts search engine rankings.

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Corporate Blogging: Responding To Criticism

David Smalley’s post "Corporate blogging: Macromedia baiting" discusses the Backbone Media Corporate blogging white paper. I found David’s comments about content and blogger relations strategy insightful.

“Whilst corporate blogs are good for fostering relations between customers who are fans of your company, it is an even better way to foster relations between your company and the people who openly criticize you. By actively monitoring blog search engines and feeds you can quickly get a sense of where the criticisms are coming from, and respond quickly with a human touch. As long as the complaint is not a serious one, most people reading it will quickly forgive and forget once they’ve read your rebuttal.?

David’s right active discussion with your critics really does pay off in terms of fostering better blogger and customer relations. Having a foil to critic your work seems to be a surprisingly successful content strategy. Criticism does not have to be completely negative, feedback on improvements can actually help your product development process.

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July 26, 2005

Microsoft Embedded Weblog asks if Corporate Blogs are Valuable

Microsoft employees are asking themselves and their customers’ questions about the affects of blogs. Mike Hall’s Embedded Weblog asks his customers several questions about feedback.

1. Why do you read blogs, and more specifically, why do you read Microsoft blogs ?
2. Has your impression of Microsoft as a company changed from reading blogs and viewing MSDN Channel 9 or the video podcasts from MEDC/TechEd content ?
3. Should we (Microsoft bloggers) translate the content we produce on the blog into technical white papers or support knowledge base articles rather than posting to the blog ?
4. Have you seen Microsoft make product design decisions based on feedback in the community/blogs ?
5. How about bug fixes, have you seen any bug fixes, or power toys created directly from your community/blog feedback ?
Comments include:
Ian Dixon said “My impression has changed, at least you can get to see the human side of the company, and teams that don't blog seem to be not listening (hello Windows Media Player team!)?

Mihailik said, “4. Have you seen? Personally I have not. But I read about such cases.?

Sarah Blow said, “2. My impression of Microsoft changed a little from reading blogs and viewing the channel 9 podcasts. However it is constantly shadowed by lack of developer support for CE and hotfixes that break other parts of the windows platform! So I do still wonder what Microsoft do in terms of software testing!!!? and “4. I haven't seen any decisions or product design decisions based on feedback which is a shame.

5. Microsoft need to listen to their developers more! Please fix the bugs in Windows CE!!!! I have informed you of one and it still hasn't been fixed. Win CE with CDDB crashes after 4.5 days under certain conditions when the CEDB is in use!!! This isn't to say that Microsoft are terrible, just that they can improve by doing a few small things:
Test thoroughly
Listen to where the developers need support
Fix bugs that the developers identify
Give feedback on progress?

Gursharan said, “5. The best example to this is the bug in the CeFileWiz that was brought up on the blog and was then corrected. Am i right??

Jeff Horton said “2. I was just thinking about this, my opinion has changed for the better. I enjoy seeing that the people working at ms are passionate about what they do and enjoy the company. It has even made me think about applying.?

Sean Chase said, “4. Absolutely. E&C for C# is a great example. 5. Yes, ASP.NET 2.0 breaking change to having a PageBase class defined and working with controls created automatically in a hidden partial class.?

Michael Hoskins said, “1.Seven out of ten times, it's from a Google search. The remainder, linked from other blogs. That should show how relevant most of the information is.

4. Nothing wrong with a corporate blog, as long as it's not used to disseminate misinformation, though that pretty much applies to any form of communication.

So the short answer is: useful, yes, but it's still more noise (though you can't fault the medium for that).?

Posted by johncass at 10:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pheedo RSS Stats Point To Tuesday

According to some new RSS statistics from Pheedo, Tuesday is the most active day for checking RSS feeds. Hmmm… this means the best day to post is Tuesday.

Posted by johncass at 4:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Influencing Customer Blogging Communities By Requesting Customer Feedback

I am in the process of attempting to understand the benefits of marketing to customer blogging communities to a company, to me a customer community exists where customers have the ability to interact and self publish content in reaction requests for comments from companies and fellow customers as well as publish content in general. Forums provide customers with self publishing communities and blogs also give customers the ability to self publish and if they develop a community through blog relations give customers the ability to develop customer blogging communities.

I recently read the following article, "The power of personalization: Customer collaboration and virtual communities," Petra Schubert, Institute for business economics university of applied sciences, Basel and Michael Koch, Technische Universitat Munchen, Institut Fur Informatik. While this paper is really focused on the power of personalization, I was interested to read about the advantages of building a long-term relationship with customers within the context of a customer community. I found this quote from the authors particularly interesting, "Personalization is not about grabbing information from the customer, using it to provide a personalized offer but it is rather concerned with building a long-term relationship between customer and online merchant where the electronic platform (web site) learns about the customer thus establishing trust and better catering to the customer's individual needs."

Further, the authors stated e-commerce web sites can gain from designing effective personalization elements into a website, they said "Besides the incentive of forming a large customer base, the collection of customer feedback is an important aspect for the creation and maintenance of a community. Merchants can derive valuable marketing and service information from discussion among clients. They hear about factors of dissatisfaction, possibilities of improvement, comparisons with the competition, technical flaws, etc. The community might be a source of valuable information that manufacturers usually seek to obtain from expensive customer interviews. Business intelligence engines can be used to give more or less weight to various comments depending on their attributes.?

Schubert & Koch suggest expensive marketing research studies can be circumvented by using online customer communities to understand the needs and wants of customers by reading discussions amongst customers in a community. However, I ask how representative a particular positive or negative comment derived in such a way from a customer community will be?

In the corporate blogging survey we learned from many respondents that there were customer feedback benefits to be gained from a using a corporate blog strategy, in particular in the examples of Maytag, Microsoft and Macromedia customers willingly gave feedback to the respective companies. Is this feedback representative of a customer marketplace? And how does a company determine the size and representative nature of a customer online community when thinking about forums and blogs? In fact does it matter if the community feedback is representative? A small minority of individuals can hijack a community’s focus of attention; maybe what really matters is if a company can influence the current discussion to focus on their issues. If Macromedia by requesting feedback during its software development process focuses a community on its products, Macromedia will gain the benefits directly from improving the product and indirectly through its product development becoming the center of focus for a customer community. A company will have to focus on the top issues described by customers, but essentially a company has framed the agenda or topic for discussion within the community. Yes, a customer community will be discussing customer issues, but within the context of a company’s need to improve their products. In the blogging survey we discovered there were additional benefits to be derived from a company focusing on their customers ideas over and above a company’s thought leadership. We developed the crossing the cultural blogging economy model to provide a framework for companies to use in developing a strategy as to how a company can influence customer blogging communities by requesting customer feedback.

Stepping back for a moment and thinking about blogging content strategies in relation to public relations strategies, I compare and contrast the process of capturing the focus of a community in the Mass Media with the same process in online customer communities. Google recently announced its Google Earth satellite mapping search service, MSN has responded to the launch with its own version, called MSN Virtual Earth. The Google announcement has been dominating public conversations for the last few weeks. MSN’s announcement continues the debate and changes the focus to MSN’s technology, though there have been some issues for MSN with regards to the age of the satellite data and finding Apple’s current corporate headquarters.

I believe the same process occurs within an online blogging customer community, there is an opportunity for companies to focus a community’s attention on their products by requesting product feedback that captures a community’s imagination just as the Google and MSN Earth stories capture the headlines now.

Posted by johncass at 12:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 25, 2005

Blogs Publishing New Content or Publishing The Same Content?

Another way to publish content and ideas was the top answer to question eight in the corporate blogging survey; this was the question "please rate your blog's impact on the following factors in your company".

I was wondering why the respondents to the survey thought it was important for their companies to have another way to publish content and ideas? Did they think this answer means that companies did not have the place to publish certain ideas and content, or that a blog is just another place to publish the same type of content a company might publish on their corporate website? I queried a few of the respondents again.

Do you think this answer means that companies did not have the place to publish certain ideas and content?

Christine Halvorson of Stonyfield Farms said, “This would be my choice. Let me elaborate: The blogs have become the editorial column for our company. It’s where we can express opinions and convey our company’s mission in a way different from traditional marketing, advertising, or public relations venues. It has replaced “chat rooms? and “discussion boards? as a place where consumers can talk to each other or to us. It is also different and wonderful because it is more easily and quickly updated than other website content, so in that way it serves a content management function when we want to talk about something QUICKLY!?

Joseph DePalma, of Vertora, Inc said, “A corporate website is somewhat canned and everyone has the same thing. The blog allows for personality and most importantly, UNFINISHED thought. If you publish unfinished thought on your corporate website, you'll be clubbed to death by the industry and your customers. With a blog, it's set up for it and that combined with your personality, it brings attention to those ideas and new content.?

Janet Johnson, Marqui said “we don't publish the same type of content on our blog as on our website - by design. People look to blogs to be different from web sites, I think. And we're using our blog to speak WITH vs. TO our constituents. We launched the company into the US through the blogosphere, and have had plenty of practical experience with the values and pitfalls of negotiating the blogosphere in seven short months! It has been one wild ride.?

Shawn Lea of the Mississippi Hospital Association, said “It's an easier way to publish ideas.

I turned a weekly e-newsletter into a blog - and now our members get daily updates. I continue to send weekly reminders of what's been posted for the old-school folks. But the members that do want their news everyday can browse by category, comment, etc.
(http://mhanewsnow.typepad.com and http://mhanewsnow.typepad.com/executive )

I also turned an internal employee newsletter that was published in
Acrobat and e-mailed to employees into a blog. Now members can see
pictures and read updates about the staff too.
(http://mhanewsnow.typepad.com/staff)? slea@mhanet.org

Farida Hasanali of APQC said, “Answer: If I had to pick I would say the latter for sure. But the reason why organizations could use another publishing medium is in part due to saturation of existing media and in part due to a change in how we work. An analogy that best describes this is television. Product companies have realized that the effectiveness of their television advertising has dropped considerably. Are people watching less TV? I wish! The availability of on demand television through Tivo and DVRs have led to a drop in "commercials" watching. People record their shows and fast forward through the commercials. So product companies have had to think of other ways of getting the message out and an example of that which everyone recognizes is the partnership with TV shows like The Apprentice. Pontiac sold more cars and Burger King sold more burgers because the show used those products in their competitions.

On a similar note, how we work has changed. We are more collaborative now than ever before. We have access to more information, we have access to higher data speeds, we need more information these days to deal with the global environment than we did before. These changes are leading to the search for more effective means of communicating and blogs is one of them. Its low barrier to entry and ease of use makes it an easy tool for people to collaborate and share. In my opinion Web sites and Intranets are still effective mediums for sharing information but I think they are not getting the credit they deserve because people may been jaded from past experiences of sites that were either not populated with content or stale sites where content never changed.?

The answers below explain that blogging is a way to publish the same type of content found on a website, but there are advantages to publishing the same content on a blog.

David Paull from MSInteractive said “Publishing to my corporate website means getting content to my webmaster and having him get around to publishing it for me. With our blog, I post what I want, when I want and it's instantly out there. Eliminating that layer is important to me.?

I was particularly interested in what Farida had to say about the need to do blogging because of the changing way in which customers gather information in today’s online society. I believe this is very true and also leads me to research in more depth on how customers are finding product information through the web at the moment. According to the Pew Research on people and the internet 27% of Internet users read a blog in 2004, but what percentage of Internet users were influenced by a blog? That’s a question that’s hard to measure as people may or may not know if they have been influenced. Actions are how easier to measure, but how do we determine the current ROI on blogging compared to Search engine marketing ads or other advertising mediums. Many of the blogging survey respondents stated they received a lot of benefits. Maybe the chart I need to develop is a chart that shows the number of sales developed by a company across all of their marketing efforts that includes a slice for blogging.

It was also particularly interesting to read Christine Halvorson of Stonyfield Farm’s response. I was slightly confused about Stonyfield’s use of forum’s Christine clarified and said, “We have replaced chat rooms and discussion boards. Not necessarily that the consumer prefers blogs. We just eliminated those other options. Because 1) they didn’t see much activity 2) hard to moderate 3) blogs are more fun!?

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Average Microsoft Blog Posts

During July we reviewed 431 Microsoft blogs and determined the length of time the Microsoft blogs had been established, the number of months, the number of posts since launching the blog. Using this data we determined the average number of posts for all 431 Microsoft blogs to be 2.73 posts per month.

This is an especially interesting statistic as I had received some data from IBM on the number of blog posts written by internal IBMers. Calculating the average I determined the average number of posts for IBM is around 2.9 posts per month.

I’d like to get more data from more companies with a number of blogs; specifically I am interested in blogging at companies rather than personal blogging. These numbers do seem to indicate that a massive blogging strategy will not necessarily produce a tremendous about of content from each blogger. However, I don’t think the quantity of content really matters, as all of the many blogs started by employees at a larger company can be aggregated into a blog aggregator. Both Microsoft and Macromedia are doing that at the moment for their company blogs and are also aggregating their customer’s blog content.

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July 22, 2005

Monitoring your trackbacks

Monitoring your trackbacks for trackback spam is just as important as monitoring for comment spam. Even large companies can fall victim to black hat search engine linking bandits, GM’s blog Smallblock Engine block currently has some trackback spam listed on their blog.

Posted by johncass at 7:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Personal & non-personal blogger survey from Asia

A recent survey on blogging from Asia was launched this week by Andy Koh, Alvin Lim, and Ng Ee Soon from the School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University (SCI/NTU) in Singapore.

“The results of our survey indicate that personal and non-personal bloggers are indeed different in their blogging experiences, habits, and demographics.?

"findings show that while personal and non-personal bloggers have some things in common in terms of their ethical beliefs and practices, there are also some distinctive differences. For example, non-personal bloggers valued attribution and truth telling the most, but for personal bloggers truth telling was less important than attribution and minimizing harm."

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July 21, 2005

What do you have to gain from using a blog?

What do you have to gain from using a blog?

I was reading an article in the Journal of Marketing today while traveling into Boston, I was inspired by one of the articles to ask this question, "what do you have to gain from using a blog?"

That depends on your audience and customers. Over the last ten years, the web has given Internet users the opportunities to search the web and research companies and products they wish to purchase. Most customers want to make sure they are going to make the right decision before making a purchase. The best way customers can rely upon prior purchase vendor information is to ask for referrals from family, friends, colleagues and fellow customers. Why? Well customers trust their relationship and the source of information; your family or friends are trusted more than a company. Though people probably put different levels of weight depending on the referral they are requesting. Other customers typically give good and bad references for company products, by reviewing a number of different customer responses customer achieve some form of a balanced view to make a decision. Customers are using self-publishing tools on the web to communicate within their customer communities; Amazon.com’s book review function is a great example of how customers can gain a mixture of viewpoints from fellow customers on the web. Though sometimes the anonymous postings on forums and review sites may be biased. A blog can afford some form of additional credibility than an anonymous posting on a forum, if someone goes to the trouble of creating a blog, makes both negative and positive comments about their community and products, and builds relationships within their community over time.

As a corporate blogger if you can join the online conversation within your customer communities, you have a chance to use the same tools your customers are using to analyze your products and your competitors. You can respond to questions, and ask for feedback. Though the process of conversation if you demonstrate you respect the community and are willing to listen to customer ideas, and even incorporate customer ideas you can influence customers within the community to look upon your company favorably.

Posted by johncass at 11:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2005

Babson College Presentation on Corporate Blogging

I am giving a presentation tonight on business blogging at Dr. Dhruv Grewal’s class on “Using Customer Input in Creating and Delivering Value through
e-Commerce Solutions? for Babson College’s Department of Marketing MBA class.

I think it will be particularly interesting to meet Dr. Grewal and discuss how research into the area of blogging can be conducted in the future using different sampling methods. I am also looking forward to chatting with the MBA class; the course has been centered on describing how markets on the web work, and providing models and frameworks for companies to work within those markets. A little scholarly, but as I’ve learned from the blogging white paper, thought leadership is what its all about.

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July 19, 2005

Survey Engines and Chatting with a Survey Vendor

Lessons learned on the blogging survey are not only from lessons for marketing people in terms of blogging; I think the Backbone Media team picked up some great tips on how to conduct a survey. Backbone Media, Inc. used Zoomerang to manage the survey, in hindsight; I wish we had split each question up individually rather than leave many of the questions to appear on the same page. I believe this would have encouraged more response from the many people who clicked through to the survey. We had a lot of questions, 32, and while the survey, as a whole did not take all that much time to complete, a page full of questions was probably a little overwhelming. One useful feature of Zoomerang is the ability to skip questions depending upon the respondent’s answer; we really used this skip function only once, if a respondent was not a blogger we sent them off to another set of questions. We have not as yet published the results to the survey.

The experience of using the engine caused me to ponder about survey engines in general. In Zoomerang it is not possible to send a secure link to a respondent with a password, so a survey link might be posted on the web. And while the skip function is useful if I wanted to make spilt the survey down any more than one or two questions, the design of the survey could get rather complicated.

Arick Rynearson is Research Services Manager for DataStat, a Seattle based survey engine software company, I knew Arick from when I lived in the city. We recently chatted and he told me a few things about the application. Here’s an overview:

“Designed from the ground-up to handle the needs of multi-user, multi-site, multi-survey environments, the DatStat Illume platform provides flexibility, and control for the survey user. The technology provides you with actionable results you need to make better decisions,? stated Arick.

I wanted to ask Arick a few questions about his product over time. I’ve always found that the best way to build a relationship with someone is to meeting with him or her on a regular basis. Arick had sent me a list of features of his product. I’ve put together the list of the features I am most interested in discussing. And over the next few weeks, I hope to conduct a back and forth between the two of us. This is a little reverse to the way blogs are used in terms to discussing a product on the company’s website. But I thought it would be interesting to try an experiment where the vendor and I have a conversation about their product. We don’t use DataStat at Backbone Media, Inc. at the moment, but I’d like to learn more about the product for our use or one of our clients. Here are the features I am interested in learning more about.

· Surveys are created as a dynamic series of definable objects - not page or question number centric
· Re-use surveys, with new questions or edits, across time periods to easily monitor trends
· Data Repository model is far more powerful than question library; robust search capability to quickly locate historical questions- click and drag to re-use; Repository management allows only approved questions; locks scale values for future cross-survey trend analysis
· Show-if logic for branching. Operator Wizards to easily define logic to convey when questions or collections of questions are displayed much more powerful than skip to?
· Robust analysis interface; build and share powerful queries, analyze trends across time periods or even different surveys; output to a variety of formats
· Multi-layered, roles-based system administration provides control on what users can access and perform for each survey, project, or group.
· XML translation module greatly streamlines survey localization process

Arick, I understand the concept of objects in programming, how does this work in the survey world? Can you give me some simple examples?

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July 18, 2005

Millie's blog at the AMA Blogging Workshop

The highlight of the AMA’s blogging Boston workshop where I was moderator for the end of day session was Millie’s blog and video. Millie is 79 years old, maybe one of the oldest bloggers on the net. Her video at the conference illustrated how product-marketing people can use blogs and in this case video’s to understand how their customers use their products. Millie had some problems with several of the products demonstrated in the video; any product manager would jump on this information to improve their products.

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July 14, 2005

Ken Dyck Interview about the Microsoft Case Study

Ken Dyck was the Microsoft customer who was featured in the Microsoft case study in the Backbone Media corporate blogging survey. He had made a post about a spelling mistake in Microsoft’s Windows on his own blog; employees at Microsoft picked up the post and responded.

I recently received some criticism of the blog survey case studies interviews in the marketing and PR forum of SoftwareCEO.com, a forum member had suggested I should not accept statements from large company employee like Microsoft at face value, and that their statements were probably just marketing boosterism. Inspired by this critic I thought I’d contact Ken directly to get his thoughts on the case study.

Ken told me that all that had been described in the case study happened, and that while he believes the Microsoft Windows product “is not great, there is no great alternative to windows,? however, “Microsoft is doing reasonably well, Microsoft is so big, and the products so widely used, they are doing the best they can, I believe they are basically good people.?

I asked Ken if Microsoft’s response to his opinion had changed his opinion of the company?

Ken replied, “Not terribly, I’ve been reading Robert Scoble’s blog for a while, his blog had really changed my opinion of Microsoft. I was a long time slashdot.org reader, and used to have a negative opinion of Microsoft, but after reading Scoble’s blog over time and working at a large company. I realized Microsoft was probably not so bad, just a regular big company with lots of people, and the complexity of the company makes them look bad.?

I asked Ken if he thought its necessary to post comments on a company’s site if you want to get feedback as a customer? Ken replied, “Depends on the company, for Microsoft, I knew that Scoble has all sorts of feeds set up, I knew it would fly past what he was reading. I would not use that as a strategy for every company, I really tried my post as an experiment, and it worked.?

Ken and I chatted a little about the nature of large corporations and the blogging strategy at Microsoft, I thought that Microsoft’s blogging strategy had grown very organically, and distributed. With Microsoft having a strategy that lets portions of the company start blogging when they want think it’s a right time for them, Ken said that, “Microsoft is a fairly distributed organization, so a distributed strategy works better at Microsoft, many smaller empires rather than one large monolith.?

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Macromedia Developer Relations Podcast

Macromedia Developer Relations Podcast was released in late June; they now have two, I am very curious to learn about the results of the Podcast for Macromedia. How many downloads and the feedback from customers beyond the posts on Mike Chamber’s website?

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Will the Internet destroy the Competitive Intelligence community?

I was chatting with Parmelee Eastman from Eastsight Consulting today (a local member of the Boston Chapter of scip), we were chatting about the consequences of companies being more open and transparent with their information in relation to the blogging survey report, now that the new media landscape gives companies even more benefits to being open than the risks of revealing inside company information to competitors.

We thought that while there will be less need in the future to dig for competitive intelligence on an industry, that there will always be some call for companies to discovered upcoming campaigns and other competitive information.

I also suggested that it’s a competitive intelligence consultants provide a very useful service to companies when it comes to analysis of data results for marketing managers. With the wealth of data now available, without the analysis marketing departments are overwhelmed with information. Any competitors of companies that have crossed the blogging cultural divide will need to review all of the customer comments and data generated by customers, now that customers have the ability to publish so easily on the web today. The Internet and any new openness on the part of companies, rather than destroy the competitive intelligence community, will make their role even more important.

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July 13, 2005

Will Technorati.com Remove the Spammers?

In my work helping several clients on blog relations strategies for Backbone Media I’ve been using Technorati.com more often than ever before in the last few months. For eight months I was Director of Marketing for 48hourprint.com where I was dealing with lots of marketing issues unrelated to blogs. From this experience of using technorati.com so much recently, I’ve noticed that lots of blogs have been throwing in Spam on highly trafficked keywords, I was wondering how technorati.com will evolve to cope with these issues, I think Technorati.com is a victim of its own success just as search engines started to face a lot of Spam from site Spammers, the search engines developed techniques for removing Spammers and also developed the links idea with Google.

I have a request to Technorati.com would you please put in a function to sort by the most links on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis for each keyword. Would you also provide your users with the ability to recommend a particular site be banned?

Oh, and Google you are sponsoring blogspot and the blogger blogs, is there are way to have these blogs tagged as a spamming site and put the no follow tag on the overall site? Though I wonder if there are legal issues with this solution.

Thanks to the following bloggers for their previous posts on the subject, John August, Pascal van Hecke, Piers Fawkes.

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July 12, 2005

Podcasting Questions

Stephen Turcotte, the President of Backbone Media, Inc. and I were talking about starting our own podcast, the theme would be Internet marketing strategies, specifically Stephen on search engine optimization and I would chat about corporate blogging. However, my ideas are don’t stand up to too much scrutiny when put up against our audience’s ideas. We are looking for five questions, the people who provide the best questions will be invited to appear on the podcast and ask their questions and join in the discussion with Stephen and me.

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Podcasting the Blogging Survey

Thanks to Lee Hopkins for the mention in popular blogging and PR podcast “The Shel & Holtz Report?. Lee thanks, you quoted some of the key ideas we put into the blogging report “we would suggest that it's the customer's thought leadership that is more important than the company blogger's ideas?

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July 11, 2005

Cash Restricts Web Content Strategy

Gautam Ghosh wrote an article on the blogging survey, “My contention is that blogging is great for individual professionals and professional services firms to build their brands and expertise. For others it's a good way to test out new ideas. The vast majority of others will find the blogosphere a great means of evesdropping into conversations. But even those need dedicate resources, and in these cash strapped times, it remains a moot point as to where they will find those resources.?

Gautam I actually take a different view, I think that many companies spend money on pay per click advertising to get a sales leads, when in reality a good content strategy for their website will produce high rankings on search engines as well. In some ways a blogging strategy can be cheaper than spending on pay per click ads.

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July 9, 2005

Steve Ballmer’s Thoughts on Blogging Transparency

David Burn of AdPulp gave a transcript of the interview between Steve Ballmer and Robert Scoble in a video on Channel9.

Robert Scoble Q: Microsoft has been a leader in transparency, blogging, and Channel 9. Why did you allow blogging to happen?

Steve Ballmer A: In the world of developers I don’t think it would have mattered if I wanted to allow blogging to happen or not. But I think it’s been a great way for us to communicate to our customers and for our customers, more importantly, to communicate with us. We trust our people to represent our company. That’s what they are paid to do. If they don’t want to be here they wouldn’t be here. So in a sense you don’t run any more risk letting someone express themselves on a blog than you do letting them go out and see a customer on their own anyway. It just touches more people. Hey, if people need to be trained or understand better we can do that but I find that it’s just a great way to have customer communications.

I think Steve Ballmer is right about blogging and openness, in daily operations customers talk with employees and there is an open interchange, this translates well into the world of blogging. However I do think there are some differences between blogging and ordinary conversations. When you blog about something, the message is permanent and can be seen by thousands, in the case of Microsoft, probably millions of people. Each employee has to be a whole lot more cautious about their blogging efforts than when they chat with a customer in an ordinary conversation. Dr. Ron Lasky made the same comment recently at the AMA blogging workshop in Boston. Dr. Lasky describes how he has to be much more careful in answering customer’s questions on his blog about his customer’s products then when he chats on the telephone, a permanent post might be misinterpreted in the future.

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Did the blogging Survey Short Change IBM?

Did the blogging Survey Short Change IBM?

Ian Kennedy, Six Apart's Director of Sales and Partner Development made a post about the blogging survey.

He also mentioned that the report might have short changed IBM, probably by omission. To tell you the truth I don't know the answer to that question. I do know that the blogger I interviewed was not aware of any examples of product feedback from customers within developerWorks, while in my efforts to reach out to IBM I have not seen any examples of bloggers asking for product feedback yet.

I actually struggled with this very issue in the preparation of my paper, as I was surprised not to find any examples of IBM using blogging for product feedback. It is my understanding that IBM is at the forefront of internal blogging in the US with over 3,600 blogs in the company. But as far as I know, I have not seen any examples of IBM’s employees using blogging in the same way Microsoft and Macromedia have been using blogs with the same level of openness and transparency to the external world, with regards to product feedback.

Ian mentioned IBM’s recent announcement to develop a major blogging effort amongst its 320,000 employees externally. The announcement is something that occurred during my research on the blogging survey, so we are definitely in an evolving state at the moment. If the strategy plays out I am sure we will start to see some examples in the future (unless there are already examples available?).

As I mention in the case study, IBM’s current position with its external position is not a bad position to be in. In the blogging divide chart companies on the left side of the cultural divide gain many benefits from their efforts and are to be commended. It is just my hypothesis that for many companies more benefits are possible by developing a blogging content strategy that focuses on their customer’s ideas than on just their own thought leadership. Why, well ideas that match customer needs and wants have a better chance of turning into usable and saleable products.

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July 8, 2005

John Dowland’s Take On Blogging

John Dowland from Macromedia was kind enough to take my blogging survey last year in 2004. This year I chatted with Mike Chambers and developed the Macromedia case study found in the blogging survey results.

John made a post about the blogging survey, and he wrote down his take on Macromedia’s and other companies’ progress in using blogs for building better products and companies.

“Things are pretty good, but are necessarily imperfect and evolving, and different groups of us pursue different paths when moving to better places…?

I believe John is right; each company will use blogs in a different way depending upon their circumstances and traditions. There is no one right path, of the six case studies I highlighted in the study, three stood out to me because of the number of blogs in use, they were IBM, Microsoft and Macromedia.

It occurs to me from conversations with corporate bloggers that blogging initiatives have been quite organic at companies, some strategy, but also real testing of new ideas. It did seem that Macromedia was most defined in their approach and strategy. But that does not mean that is the right approach for every company, more experimentation might produce some new ideas. Microsoft appears to be doing the most experimentation at the moment. I’d actually like to get a better understanding of the different developments at the company (more on that at a later date.) I am really curious about IBM and its progress with internal blogging, IBM seems to be furthest along with internal blogging, at 3,600 blogs I believe more than any other company. Though how anyone would ever get to read them all would be hard to imagine.

I am convinced that blogs are an important tool in opening conversations with your customers that can help companies to understand their customer’s needs and wants. This in essence is the marketing concept. As a marketing person I think that companies should consider blogs not just as a promotional tool but also as a tool to develop world-class products. To the strategy of developing better products, I encourage any company to carefully consider opening up their products to customer feedback and even criticism. As Microsoft and Macromedia’s examples have shown (John Dowland mentions one example of a lingering customer issue that has turned into a petition), there might be some problems, but the benefits outweigh the risks. The key is to know how to handle those risks. Here are some ideas on that subject.

· Monitor the web for customer criticism and feedback, don’t wait for customers to come to you.
· Respond quickly when feedback or constructive criticism is received, even if you don’t have an answer now, a response is needed to demonstrate you have listened to the customer.
· If you do make a commitment, follow through on the commitment to remedy an issue or implement a product change.
· If you cannot make a change to a product explain why you cannot make the change. Customers will appreciate your honesty and fair dealing.
· Suggest alternatives, if you are stating you cannot make a change, for instance a change might require an increase in price. Customer might actually respond and say they are willing to pay more for the change.

Really product development is a negotiation between vendors and their customers, especially when it comes to software product development. Vendors have to manage satisfying the largest number of customers, limited resources, deadlines and profitability. Using blogs to negotiate that process can help to build a better product, that’s more profitable for the vendor.

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July 7, 2005

Blog Marketing Airs Dirty Laundry

Peter Ejtel take on the changing nature of communicating with your customer really hits the mark.

“What some businesses are catching onto is that having dirty laundry aired in public allows them the ability to also publicly show how they addressed the concern, fixed the issue, and also have the opportunity to express how they will never allow this to happen again. We all make mistakes and your customers know you do too even if you never let them know about it. Doing this publicly allows you to develop a sense of trust with a broad audience that would have taken years to develop individually through a "controlled" information environment.

That is a truly powerful thing and a marketers dream come true... Imagine being able to take every single negative customer experience and turn that into a positive outcome further strengthening your relationship with them and ten others. Before blogging that never would have been possible.?

Companies are really starting to use blogs to build better products and companies. Now with the instant and easy publishing nature of blogs, companies can accept and respond to constructive criticism much more easily. However, it will take a lot of resources to monitor both comments from customers and negative or constructive companies about a company out on forums or in the blogosphere. Companies need the tools and frankly the manpower to do both.

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July 6, 2005

La Fraise Crosses the Divide

Loic LeMeur, Six Apart’s EVP and FM for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, interviewed on Naked Conversations, a blog by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble, talks about Patrice Cassard’s blog, La Fraise, a one man ecommerce blog and ecommerce site that sells t-shirts. Patrice discovered that getting customers to give feedback on his products and help design new t-shirts gets a tremendous response and produces extra sales for the company

Loic LeMeur commenting on when he talks about blogging with major companies said, “Our T-shirt guy realized very quickly through the comments that the customer had more ideas about the products than he did. It's not just about feedback. The customers design the product.?

The focus on customer feedback and ideas has propelled Cassard’s blog traffic to 300,000 unique visitors per month.

La Fraise has crossed the cultural divide into openness and transparency with his customers, he asks them how to design future products and gets feedback. By involving his customer’s in the design process the customer’s become customer evangelists.

Thanks to Ian Kennedy for the story

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July 5, 2005

Monitoring Blogs At Microsoft

Rick Segal’s post A Scoble Freebie describes one of the biggest benefits of today’s blog monitoring tools, the ability to connect with someone indirectly by making a post about their company, product or industry topic that captures their attention. The secret comes having your own blog and writing a post using the keywords you believe an individual or company will use to monitor activity on the web.

We saw this process in action at Microsoft recently and detail the incident of a blogger blogging about a Microsoft program spelling mistake error in our Microsoft case study. Rick is correct; some people at Microsoft are actively monitoring the web for discussion about their departments and products. Though it’s my understanding that the process is not as formal as you might expect at the moment.


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July 2, 2005

Smaller Companies Use TypePad

Andrew at Changing Way mentioned the blogging survey, and he stated that he was “surprised that hosted services (e.g. TypePad) were more popular than products (e.g. MT) in the corporate environment. I suspect that the hosted services tended to be used by the smaller firms in the survey.?

Andrew, you are right, of the 19 companies that use TypePad in the survey, 17 of the companies have 1-100 employees. For companies using TypePad, seven companies have revenues of less than $1 million, and ten companies have revenue of $1 million to $50 million. One company has revenue of $1 million to $50 million. The larger companies in terms of revenue had custom solutions and other solutions.

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July 1, 2005

Cult Marketing With Blogs

Focusing on your customers, their needs and wants, and working towards building better products that satisfy those needs should be the goal of any company that wants to build a strong brand. Vespa launched their blog today; the company has given two customers, Jonathan Ogilvy and Neil Barton, the keys to their new blog, Vespaway.

Heather Green at Business Week’s blog, Blogspotting, interviewed both bloggers and discussed their passion for the product.

“I guess it shouldn’t come as such a surprise, after we have seen how Tivo, Blackberry, and Netflix aficionados can be such cheerleaders for the brand. But I would bet that actively recruiting bloggers for a company would only work for these kind of cult products.?

What does make a cult? A mass audience or a small band of dedicated followers, in my mind every successful company have some passionate customers, there is the possibility of every company giving their passionate customers the password to their own blog.

I think the one issue is does your company’s industry actually have an active group of bloggers discussing your products at the moment if not. Help to create your industry’s blog media landscape by empowering some of your customer’s with his or her own blog.

Thanks to Steve Rubel for the story.

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