The New Southwest Airlines Blog Can Take More Risks
I just read the user guidelines on the Southwest Airlines blog, and the blog had me thinking as to why as a customer or potential customer would I communicate with Southwest airlines on their blog, here are some reasons (ha, I wrote this list before I read Robert Scoble's list):
-Details about their routes
Interested in hearing about the scheduled movie program on one of my flights
-How much space does my seat receive on my flight
-What food options are on the flight?
-Tips for avoiding thrombosis
-Ideas for hotels and places to visit in from people who have stayed in the hotel or eaten at a restaurant in the cities I am flying too.
-A place to raise issues, ideas, complaints and service feedback
Southwest Airlines states the following in their blog guidelines:
"The Southwest Blog is not the forum to address personal Customer Service issues. All of us have "day jobs," and we simply don't have the resources through this blog to resolve individual concerns."
In the Backbone Media Corporate blogging survey from July of 2005 I wrote about the benefits of following a thought leadership strategy with a content strategy for a blog. We suggested a model for successful corporate blogging, and that by being open and allowing feedback from customers on products and services a company can gain even more benefits from blogging. Here's a quote from the study, "By developing a corporate culture around openness and transparency, and focusing on their customers' ideas and feedback, a company can gain even more from their customers." We even have a nifty diagram in the corporate blogging study that illustrates that by taking more risks a company can gain particular marketing and search engine optimization benefits over time. I think the Southwest Airlines Blog can be placed in our model on the left hand side of the bridge.
And this model was foreshadowed by the cluetrain manifesto where the authors recommended companies open up their companies to a wider director conversation between employees and customers.
I commend Southwest Airlines for entering the blogosphere and engaging their customers with an online dialogue. I know that many of the companies that started blogging did not start off by being entirely open about product feedback from their customers, but over time the companies saw the benefits of transparency. Macromedia was one such example, and I describe that progression in the Macromedia case study on the company in the corporate blogging survey. To Southwest Airlines I hope the company can provide enough resources to answer many of the comments positive and negative you are surely going to receive on the blog. I am glad the Southwest Airlines blog is allowing negative comments on their blog already. I saw this comment from a passenger on your post, "The business side of Southwest."
"What exactly does a business traveler look like? Business suits and a briefcase? Hardly."
I'd like to tell you what this business traveler looks like: I'm a plus-sized woman, who fears flying on SouthWest simply because Southwest has a public track record of singling out large men and women for public ridicule and intimidation, and targeted for extra revenue generation through SouthWest's fuzzy policy of picking random fat men and women to be subject to an extra seat surcharge.
Your "maybe you need another seat, maybe you don't" approach to your policy is extremely unfriendly to fat people. The very least you can do is set a clear and distinct policy instead of allowing your employees' personal biases to set your policy for you
Thank you for listening, and I sincerely hope that you reconsider this policy and how it truly treats and serves your passengers.
I don't see any return comments or posts from the blog authors to this post or others on the blog, the writers might be polishing their pencils or sticking to their user guide policy of not answering complaints. My suggestion from the blog is that you do seriously think about answering audience comments in the comment section or with another post.
I also think that your user guide is another example of synthetic transparency, a term coined by Dr. Walter Carl, "Synthetic transparency involves using blogs to give the impression of openness, honesty, and transparency but without really doing so."
The General Motors Fastlane blog has some similar issues. I interviewed several GM blog readers who were disappointed by the lack of response and were surprised that their comment was not answered. A solution I suggested to General Motors in the post was to put a message on the comment section of their blog that every comment will not be answered. In doing so General Motors would be transparent about their level of openness. General Motors has not yet made this change to their blog.
The designers of the Southwest Airlines blog might copy the statement, "The Southwest Blog is not the forum to address personal Customer Service issues. All of us have "day jobs," and we simply don't have the resources through this blog to resolve individual concerns," and move it to the comment section, where blog readers who comment will be able to see the blog's guidelines easily and their expectations will be set about how the Southwest Airlines blog answers comments and questions.
Lastly, please have some ordinary workers write some posts on the site. The site has only just started and the Southwest Blog is promising more people from airline staff will blog. So I think the community has to give them a chance, Shel Israel was disappointed about this aspect of the site as well. Overall I really love the design of the site, but blogging is about dialogue and I hope the Southwest Airlines blog can encourage dialogue on their blog by having a conversation with employees customers are most likely wanting to start a dialogue with over time, otherwise I don't believe the blog will reach its full potential.
Click.TV Pitch Program Is Public Relations Not Blogger Relations
Shel Holtz wrote a post recently about the work he is doing for click.TV in the blogging world, "blogger relations for click.TV," Shel described the blogger outreach program he is running for the company.
Language has a lot of nuances, and so many people may probably think I quibble here. I think the Click.TV program Shel describes is a pitch or product review program, as the process of sending emails to pitch the company is public relations rather than blogger relations. I'd suggest another definition for the term blogger relations. Here's my post, "Blogger Relations Is Not Media Relations For Bloggers," and discussion with Andy Abramson about the definition:
Blogger relations is not media relations for bloggers. Even though some would define the term that way, I don't. I don't perceive blogger relations to be the process of connecting with bloggers to pitch a story or interview. That to me is traditional PR or media relations. Rather blogger relations is the process of connecting with peers and your audience to develop relevant content that illustrates your message and brand through content and responsiveness.
Andy Abramson and I had a discussion about his Nokia product review program in this post when I reviewed his program earlier this year on the blogsurvey blog.
Part of the reason why I keep on returning to the issue of the definition of blogger relations is that I think by using my definition it helps bloggers and PR people. I think that blogging is not just a domain for PR professionals, though I think Internet marketing and blogging owe and can learn a lot from the PR profession. To me blogging is something entirely new, yet also a combination of PR, SEO, marketing, writing, journalism, product marketing, customer service and many more disciplines. In fact many of the original bloggers were not PR professionals or are even PR professionals today.
To be successful at blogging I think you have to focus on conversation rather than selling or pitching other bloggers. By keeping pitching in the realm of PR rather than BR, companies will help to highlight the importance of conversation within the discipline of blogger relations rather than thinking of blogging as only being a PR tool. I am not saying PR is bad, but I think it helps both professions if we clarify what you need to do to conduct an effective corporate blogging campaign. In my book pitching a product review does not make an effective blogger relations campaign, I think its PR, I do think it's a great way to get the word out about products and services, but to me its not blogger relations (BR).
A critique of my point of view would be that if someone reviews cameras or telephones on their blog, that blogger would like to receive products from companies about their latest product or service.
In most cases I think that's true, but sending a product to a blogger is not the same as discussing the relative merits or problems of a product with the blogger, or having an open dialogue about the product. That's where Andy Abramson's work with the Nokia product review program does enter the realm of blogger relations. Andy studiously cited and linked to every mention of blogger entries about the Nokia phones, both positive and negative. That aspect of the Nokia product review program I do consider to be a good blogger relations program.
Shel discussed the issue of whether its okay for a PR professional to contact a blogger on behalf of a client in the April 17th 2005 FIR podcast. I agree with both Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson that is okay for a PR professional to pitch a blogger. And I also agree that it's important for any PR professional to write a good pitch. But to me a pitch from a PR person or for that matter a blogger is PR not blogger relations.
Thanks Neville for including my definition in your post, "Blogger relations the right way," and highlighting the program. I look forward to hearing more about Shel's PR and BR program with click.TV.
Jonathan Schwartz's Call To Action
Jonathan Schwartz is the new CEO of SUN Microsystems, and he is a long time blogger. That makes Jonathan the first fortune 500 blogger.
Though it seems as if Jonathan will have even less time to blog, as SUN Microsystems has not been doing very well in recent years. According to this Bloomberg article, SUN is set to report yet another loss this next quarter.
I was taking another look at Jonathan's blog this morning and I noticed a few clear calls to action on the right hand navigation of the blog. A large image promoting one of SUN's new servers and several links to software downloads. If you are running a corporate blog, I think its okay to put one or two calls to action on your blog. A product, white paper or the latest webinar are all good calls to action. But content and outreach are the keys to gaining new customers and keeping them. I wish Jonathan well in his new job.
A Fly On The Wallpaper
My spouse and I agree on many things but one of them is not wallpaper, she prefers painted walls, while I like really interesting patterns on my wallpaper. I am also a bit of a history buff so if you provided more details about the history of wallpaper as a retail outlet I think I'd be more inclined to make a purchase, just as long as I like the wallpaper.
Which leads me to my question, would you read a blog about wallpaper? That's really the question Melissa on the Northeastern Advanced Communications blog asks as a result of chatting with Adfreaks writer Cathy Taylor about her blog on advertising. Cathy was making the point that the broader the spectrum of issues covered on a blog, the more likely it will gain an audience.
Melissa asked, "Do you think a more niche-based blog, such as one about wallpaper, could ever rise to the level of popularity of a blog about a more universally popular topic? If a signifier of success is the number of visitors, are niche blogs doomed to be less active?"
I think if a blogger writes about home improvement issues in general their blog will be tremendously successful. Wallpaper might be a little narrow a topic, but take this tech blog that talks about Wallpaper with the post "Why Wallpaper is Evil", with a blog, you can go off topic every once in a while.
Personally, I would read a blog about wallpaper, especially if the blog explored the creative and the manufacturing process for wallpaper.
Bentley Honors Class Blog
I will be talking with Dr. Susan Dobscha's honors class on blogging today at Bentley College. The class runs the successful Bentley College honor's blog.
UPDATE: One of the students asked me about a company I referenced on a slide, flyertalk. The company provides a community space for frequent flyer users.
The Concierge Should Be The Blogger
When I go to a hotel in a strange city I want service and information from the hotel. I want to know the hotel's facilities and what's the nightlife around town and within several blocks of the hotel?
Several PR bloggers have criticized the new Sheraton blog for being a dud. I thought I'd take a look and give the blog a grade.
"Nightlife, Philly Style," one of the entries posted by the Lobby's writers describes the nightlife and restaurants surrounding the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel in Philadelphia. I thought the entry was short, and well written and if I was a guest to the hotel give me the sort of information I'd like to receive from the concierge desk, so I gave this post a B. However, next time have one of your writers or hotel employees add some personal element into this type of article. What's are the drink specials at the Continental or Cube Libre, what special events are happening in the area?
"Westin Denarau Resort & Spa Opens," definitely receives a failing grade, pure marketing puff about the resort. Enough said. Here I agree with B.L. Ochman when she said a number of the articles on the blog were duds. B.L. Thinks that the Lobby's content is more advertorial and editorial.
"Head and shoulders above the rest," ugh, this is not good defiantly a D. The article is about the spa facility at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel in London, I would have like to have read the writers experiences after taking a massage at the facility. Was it worth the cost?
Reading through a number of posts I see mainly D grade posts, with the occasionally C & B when the writer catalogs the surrounding nightlife for the guests. I'd suggest some different content strategies for the blog. I did not get the impression the writers have ever been to the hotels, inject some personality in the posts and have them write about their experiences at the hotel. As Robert French suggests, even dare to criticize the hotel and facilities.
Also, the blog does not really make sense when it comes to geographic strategy. I think its unlikely a guest would search though each of the posts for info on the hotel they are just about to visit. The four pull down menu categories listing city, country, brand and category partly solve that issue. But to me it would make more sense to have different blogs that cover different regions.
If the PR blogosphere community has learned anything from the example of the Stonyfield blogs, having someone who is involved in the trade blogs produces some really interesting content. One of the two remaining Stonyfield blogs is run by an organic farmer and successful. For the Sheraton to follow a similar strategy I think the perfect person to blog or to interview for blog content is the Hotel Concierge. Concierges should have knowledge and passion for their city and hotel and style.
Thanks Robert French
Does Your Employer Fear You Blogging?
Krista on the Northeastern Advanced Communications blog writes about a story she found on Bostonworks.com about the benefits of blogging for your career.
One of my colleagues in a local business association told me recently that his old company used to view people who joined such associations as people who were looking to switch jobs. If that's the case should an employer worry when an employee starts to blog?
Rather I'd say an employer should encourage their employees to further their careers and education. That every time you join an organization or explore new ideas you are investing in yourself. That investment will eventually pay off, I don't know when or where, but eventually it will. My advice is to start blogging as an individual if it meets your goals of learning more about your industry. I think both you and your employer will see a payoff.
Answers To Bentley College Questions From Yesterday
Met with a Bentley College marketing graduate class yesterday to chat about corporate blogging. Lots of great questions from the students in the presentation, but also on the original post about the corporate blogging event, here is my follow up to the posted questions on this blog from several students:
Q: How can you effectively fight back against negative publicity posted in a blog about your company/product/service?
A: If you have a negative post on your blog and its using inappropriate or un-rational language you always have the option of deleting a comment. However, if you receive a rational comment that constructively criticizes your company/product/service on your blog, I'd advise against deleting the post. Rather respond to the post, state your position and the facts as you see them. Not only may you win over your detractor but also you will definitely get across your point of view and position to your blog's audience.
Q: What are the methods a company can use to gain the consumer's interest in reading and communicating with your company sponsored blog?
A: Writing good relevant posts for your audience will generate traffic over time, however, blogging is not just about writing, it's also about having a dialogue with your audience and other bloggers. That's why it's important to monitor your community's ongoing conversations and get involved with that dialogue.
Q: Is it ethical for a company to anonymously sponsor a blog to gain consumer insight?
A: I'd say no, it is not ethical to anonymously sponsor a blog, if you are advertising your products and services, the FTC requires that you notify an audience of the relationship between the publisher and the advertiser.
Q: Since both individuals and businesses are communicating ever-more-increasingly through means of internet options, do you feel that blogging is not only expected but essential in an organizational framework of integrated marketing communication?
A: Blogging is not for every company. Drug companies are a good example of the type of company that has particular issues with starting blogging. The regulations drug companies have to follow on marketing and trials means such companies should move carefully.
That's why I think a company should think carefully about its goals and strategy before jumping into blogging. Once you have determined your goals, conduct an assessment of your community on the blogosphere to determine the viability of starting a corporate blog. To be successful your company may have to address issues your company executives are uncomfortable handling, that's why you will need to conduct an assessment to determine the critical issues of the day, and if your company really wants to address them head-on in order to be successful within your community's blogosphere.
Q: What do you think is missing from the blogging experience and how could it be improved?
A: Here I focused on one particular issue within the active PR blogosphere, the ability to track comments on other blogs when someone has posted a comment on another blog. Currently there are few solutions for tracking when a blogger responds to your comment on their post. Some solutions have appeared, CoComment is one example, but we still have not dealt with the issue enough to solve this problem. I think we need some better solutions for tracking conversations simultaneously from another blog.
Q: What do you see in terms of the future of blogging?
A: With 4.6% of the fortune 500 blogging, and an estimate of the total number of employers at 0.73% I think the future of blogging is bright. The web is all about interactivity, and blogging allows a company to have a better dialogue with their customers, not only do I foresee more blogging, but I think you will see more blogging elements incorporated within the existing design of corporate websites.
Q: As SEO is becoming popular, pretty soon everyone will be implementing it, how can a company ensure that it is always on top of the list when a search is done?
A: Companies can never guarantee that their website will achieve top rankings in search engines, but there are some steps a company can take to beat their competition. Develop a lot of relevant content that includes the keywords their audience uses to find them. Have other websites with similar relevant content link back to their website, and make sure their website is accessible from search engine spiders.
Focus On Strategy To Avoid Indecent Marketing
Kelley on the Bentley College marketing blog writes about 'indecent marketing', a company had approached a marketing professional blogger with information about screening for postpartum depression. The blogger thought the contact was indecent.
I think if ever there was an example of what not to do by a company this is an example. If your goal is sales leads you don't get leads by asking for sales leads in blogging. The strategy is achieve your goals should rather be one of conversation and discussion. If you provide value and advice at the appropriate times, people will click through to your blog and website. Once a consumer clicks through if that consumer needs your services they will contact you.
Remember you will achieve your goals through corporate blogging, but to get their you have to follow and keep to your content strategy.
How Many Stealth Comments Does Your Blog Receive?
Toby Bloomberg was recently asked the question, how many blog comments are stealth comments placed by marketing/PR companies? I thought about 5-10% of my comments are stealth comments from people rather than the overwhelming number of spam comments I receive every day.
What would you estimate to be the number of stealth comments you receive every day?
Here's Toby's comment on the Marqui blog.
At a presentation I did this week for the AMA Philly Chapter, I was asked a similar question. A guy in the audience mentioned he read that 30% of comments are stealth - placed by marketing/PR companies. No one could confirm the source. If you come across any data on that one I'd sure appreciate if you could share. Thanks.
The Coffee Smells Good At The FPRAblog
The Florida Public Relations Association is running a blogging week to showcase their member's talents. I've been reading some of the posts and here's my take on one or two of my favorite articles.
Kari Conley writes on the benefits of corporate giving. I found this article very interesting because I used to work in the marketing department at Washington Mutual Bank. The community-marketing department at WAMU concentrated its efforts on giving support to child related giving activities. The reason, people with children want bigger houses, the program really works and Washington Mutual's efforts in giving to children's programs has helped them to grow their customer base through the parents of those children. Check out Kari's post for ideas on how you can develop a corporate giving program that benefits the community and your company.
Jennifer Wakefield wrote a great piece on using RSS to monitor the web; Jennifer also gave a good overview of some of the other tools available. Monitoring is one of the most important aspects of blogging, without connection to your community and knowledge of the current trends. A blogger's writing can become stale and isolated. Jennifer gives you a good starter in the world of RSS.
I particularly enjoyed Ann Marie Varga's post about the Millennial generation, those people born after 1982. It was short and made me pause and think. Especially when Ann Marie mentioned the concept that many colleges now need a dean of parents.
Ann Marie also quoted Susan Heathfield, a management and organization consultant. "Unlike the Gen-Xers and the Boomers, the Millennials have developed work characteristics and tendencies from doting parents..." As a perspective parent I wonder if I will be doting to point of harm, or will I follow my late depression era parents example and leave well enough alone when I really should? Time will tell.
The post though short does make you think about how to manage Millennial people. And highlights one method of working I think many companies could really benefit from if implemented even for managing people of every age, the idea of working in teams.
Taking a note out of extreme programming and the software development industry. Working in teams to me isn't just about splitting up the tasks in a project and assigning them to each team member to go away and work on them independently. No it means something much more, it means actually working on the project together at the same time. If programmers can do this with code, and it works well, then marketing and PR people can do this with their work.
Ah, you cry but its so much easier to do the work myself, maybe I wonder, but I ask you next time you work on a work project try this technique you may be surprised. Check out Anne Marie's post on what Millennial can teach you today.
Assessing Whether You Should Blog
In the mid 90's I used to work for BioData in San Mateo. The company had four web designers in 1995, a lot in those days. We eventually let them go to concentrate on providing computer networking services to biotechnology companies in the San Francisco bay area and San Diego; in hindsight not the best of moves at the time.
When the folks at BioData first met with a new prospect we'd open up the conversation by explaining our assessment process.
Before we could estimate how much time it would take to manage a company's network and servers, we'd have to understand the extent of the network and what problems needed to be fixed. To understand a client's network we'd propose BioData should initially conduct an assessment of a company's computer network.
Often customers had additional goals beyond the simple management of their network; there might have been a move, expansion or change in network operating system.
Surprisingly for me a lot of biotechnology companies ran Apple networks. In those days a lot of software for the medical/biotech industry ran on Mac's. But people were switching to PC networks.
With the BioData assessment clients received a report on the state of their network, and solid estimates as to how long it would take to manage their networks. We'd highlight problems with the network that needed to be fixed. Clients purchased the assessment but did not have to commit to a long-term contract. The approach worked out well for both clients and BioData. Less commitment to a new vendor and we got to work with client on a small project. And if a client chose not to go with BioData for the work, our assessment would be a great tool for the next vendor.
Just as any company needs to assess their computer networking system when it comes to deciding how to manage the network, when you ask the question if your company should blog? You should assess the opportunity to blog by conducting a blogging assessment. Here are some tips on conducting an assessment for your company:
1) Company Goals: Start off by writing down your company goals; list your PR, Communications and SEO goals. Understanding your goals will help you to determine if blogging is a strategy that will help you to achieve your overall marketing goals.
2) Outcomes: Develop a list of outcomes that will be produced by starting a blog. Base the outcomes on the your assessment of your industry's blogging community, the ability of your company to blog and what's happening with your competition. List traffic potential, which goals you expect to achieve through a blogging strategy and how you expect your industry's blogosphere to develop.
3) Keywords: Research the keywords that will help you to target your audience for search engines and RSS feed search engines.
4) Blog Audit: Develop a list of bloggers in your community. Assess each blogger's level of influence and impact.
5) Blogosphere Profile: Take the themes being discussed in your community's blogosphere and assess how your company can enter into the discussion. What unique characteristics about your product/service will elicit discussion and demonstrate leadership.
6) Blog Costs: Describe how much time will it take to blog. Assess the cultural norms of interaction within your community; for example do bloggers send trackbacks. Estimate the costs of not blogging against the dangers of blogging for your company.
7) Justification for the blog: What results will the blog produce, estimate the traffic, SEO results and PR outcomes. Use these results for your CEO presentation.
8) Commit or pull the plug: Review your research and based on the overview give a fair estimate of whether your company should blog or not blog.
Want more on blog assessments, here's some of the research I found on the subject:
Why I Like Marketing
Playing with spreadsheets is fun; some would say this is the sign of an accountant at heart. But to me marketing is about building a successful business. You set goals, find out what your customers want, check you can provide the product at a profit and try to promote the product. Whether its pulling together a product-marketing plan, or putting together your marketing campaign budget, you really have to use a spreadsheet at some point.
Budget spreadsheets are especially thrilling to me. Why, well you get to forecast the future. Sometimes your crystal ball reveals all and your assumptions hit sales pay dirt but most of the time things don't go as well as you hoped. And you have to explain why your marketing campaigns were miserable. "err...well we won't do that again!"
Balance sheets and spreadsheets are the life and blood of marketing, especially Internet marketing. Numbers do not lie. The fun comes when things do go right; you succeed in getting rid of enough bad programs and campaigns that you actually do make a profit. Oh, rats I may be giving the game away here, marketing is more based on failure than success, on the cutting room floor rather than the bright lights; on planning for red ink rather than blue, and on being vigilant enough but not trigger-happy too much to know when to pull a campaign.
Blogging Interview Debriefing At Northeastern
At Dr. Walter Carl's class today discussing the blogging success study at Northeastern University. Each student gave a debriefing about their interviews, though we still have a few more to conduct.
Several students described the time it took to transcribe the interviews, a long time apparently; people really work hard for their degrees today.
And the review of the bloggers was great, excellent overview of the interviews, with some interesting themes. I look forward to reading and listening to the interviews in detail.
Bentley College Blogging Presentation In Waltham
I first met Andy Aylesworth, an Associate Professor of Marketing at Bentley College here in Waltham Massachusetts back in November 2005. Andy was helping with an American Marketing Association event on competitive intelligence at the college.
Andy and I met after the event for lunch and he asked me if I'd like to present to his graduate marketing communications class on search engine optimization and blogging. I am presenting at Bentley next week in Andy's 5:00pm to 7:20pm class on Tuesday 18th.
If any of the class would like to post their questions about SEO and corporate blogs on this blog in the comment section, I will make sure I cover your questions in the presentation, thanks!
Luis Suarez's Thoughts On Effective & Successful Blogging
When Backbone Media, Inc. launched our new service for effective blogging, SCOUT, we developed 10 tips on how to become an effective blogger. Luis Suarez blogged about the 10 tips in a great post, not only did Luis write about the document but he detailed his thoughts about each tip. I thought it would be great to chat with Luis about blogging and ask a few of the questions from the forthcoming study on success study at Northeastern University.
John Cass: how did you come to start blogging?
Luis Suarez: Sure ! Well, I started weblogging in December 2003 but initially on an Intranet weblog as a way to capture my thoughts to come back to at a later time and share those documents I need to repeatedly share with multiple groups within the organization I work for. Then from there it built in becoming my main method of communication both internally and externally.
John Cass: I really enjoyed reading your post about the ten tips, especially because you commented on each tip
Luis Suarez: Yes, I know. Although I enjoy those posts on Top 10s I actually find it more beneficial when linking into them to add some more into the conversation, to make it more personal. Just linking for the sake of linking is not something that I would think would help understand the reason why you want to link. So when I saw your post I decided to chime in and share what those Top 10 tips would be also relevant for some of the work I have been doing myself on the subject. And I know that has proven to be very successful because I got lots of comments from people, especially via e-mail about how much they enjoyed that reading
John Cass: You have spent some time blogging, and have built a successful blog, what factors do you think have contributed to that success?
Luis Suarez: To me there are a couple of items that I have found over time to be really crucial. Let me list them briefly with a couple of comments:
1). Being constant. People want to read blogs and they want to do so on a regular basis so being constant, have a fixed schedule (daily, weekly, whatever) helps keep people's expectations and get them to come back for more.
2). Be authentic, be yourself. No need to try to imitate others. People will leave right away as soon as they notice that it is not you the one blogging. Build up your own voice and blogging style and stick to it. Regardless.
3). Be honest. Everyone has got a level of expertise on something and when blogging you should stick to it. Admit straight up front if you are not familiar with a topic but when you are say so.
4). Committed. If you want your blogging to succeed you have got to be committed to make it work. You need to lead by example; being there helps others feel they are part of the conversation.
4a). A commitment to make blogging work implies that you are involved in what you are doing. Thus getting involved in the conversations is a key successful item for a successful blogger.
5). And, finally, you need to be passionate about what you write. Passion should be one of your main drivers while blogging. Find a topic you are passionate about and blog it! There would be some good and bad times along the blogging path, so if you have got something that you are passionate about it will make that road a lot easier and much more fulfilling not only for yourself but also for your audience.
John Cass: Do other bloggers in your industry make a negative or positive contribution to the success of your blog?
Luis Suarez: Very much so. In all of my weblogs I am finding out that through time people are getting more and more involvement helping build a sense of community where people are able to get closer with one another and collaborate in a much more efficient and effective way by sharing knowledge in a trustworthy environment.
I have been very lucky because throughout all those couple of years I have been weblogging I have met / known more people through my weblogs than through whatever other collaborative and knowledge tools. And by far! It is all about being part of a group who share a common passion. I have got a passion for KM, Collaboration, Communities of Practice and Social Networking. Then there are other bloggers who share that same passion and believe it or not the blogosphere is not that large, since we have found each other and are sharing our thoughts on those topics we like talking about so much.
John Cass: Does the relationship ever progress beyond blogging, to IM, telephone or in person meeting? If so how does that typically happen?
Luis Suarez: Yes, it does, extend beyond that. In most cases it all starts with e-mail, then you find out you would want to get together, so we jump into IM and nowadays VoIP, and all of a sudden you find yourself collaborating on the same online spaces with the same group of folks and it all ends up closing the circle by being able to meet people in real life, and it feels like you have known them for years.
John Cass: I was wondering if you had an example or examples of posts that produced a lot of trackbacks or comments?
Luis Suarez: Social Network Analysis - Adding Business Value
Weblogging Directly from FireFox - Performancing for FireFox
Changing My Default Web Browser to Something Else More Web 2.0
Making Sense of Social Bookmarking Offerings - del.icio.us vs. BlinkList
John Cass: Well I'd like to know why you thought these posts were so successful in generating audience interest?
Luis Suarez: Well, in principle because if you take a look into the different weblog posts people were sharing their two cents worth of comments and wanted to make a point and engage into the conversation. They had something to add and the fact that my blog is open for commentary really encourages people to come by and place a comment. Those blog posts ended up providing some really good discussions that even resulted in e-mail conversations flowing as well. So they were successful from my point of view in the fact that they sparkled more interactions outside of the blog itself.
John Cass: I noticed the first link is really a discussion between you and another reader, Noel.
Luis Suarez: Yes, indeed that discussion on SNA actually took place in both Noel's and my blog and we actually learned a lot. He had a point opposite to mine by a large margin and in the end through our conversation we came to understand each other's points and see things from the other side. I doubt that would have happened elsewhere than in a weblog.
John Cass: I was wondering have you ever written a post that you thought would get picked up and commented on, but did not?
Luis Suarez: Yes, many! Most of them actually! I always try to create blog posts that would sparkle at least some attention. Till now I think I may have created about 2000 blog posts and a big majority of those were created to sparkle a discussion, but they haven't. And actually over time I have learned to live with that. Why? Because over time I am finding out that through search engines people bump into those blog posts and may comment then, which will then bring the conversation back to life. That is the power of a search engine, imo
John Cass: Is there anything else you think the reader should know in order to better understand what makes for a successful blog?
Luis Suarez: Yes, they would come, not to worry. It is like when you head over to the water cooler and people do not want to talk to you and one day they all want to :) That is how I view it.
I think another key message people would need to understand about blogging is the fact that there may be a lot of hype behind it. We have all seen it, but that same hype is the one that will separate the temporary bloggers for a day for the ones that will go beyond. And perhaps it is the time now for people to decide where they are. Following the hype or wanting to make a difference in the collaborative web we have all been exposed to.