IBM CASE STUDY
Working with Bill Higgins, a Systems Engineer and blogger at IBM on this case study; we wanted to understand if his blog had helped with any product development, customer service issues and brand issues.
Product Development & Customer Service
Bill explained to us that in all of IBM developerWorks' blogging efforts he had not seen very much feedback on their blogs, and that IBM developerWorks has not had any examples of where a post or communication on an IBM developerWorks blog has helped IBM to improve their product or deal with a customer service issue to his knowledge.
Bill explained that none of their key company executives or product managers blog on developerWorks, at this moment in time. Bill went on to explain that, "at IBM the people who ultimately make product decisions are:
Most of the existing IBM bloggers on developerWorks are people who use IBM products; they are in services, rather than people who define product scope. There are about thirty bloggers active on developerWorks. And of those people who work on IBMs product, Rational, none of the bloggers will get into the level of detail about the product that might solicit product related comments on their blogs.
Why is it that IBM, as a technology company does not get the same response as Microsoft and Macromedia in terms of product development and customer service? According to the IBM blogger interviewed it appears that IBM developerWorks is not getting very much feedback on product development and customer services issues. This contrasts with Microsoft and Macromedias situation, both companies have asked for feedback on products from their customers, based on the case study with Bill Higgins the reason for the lack of customer feedback on products through blogs may lie in the fact that product builders are not blogging at IBM developerWorks at the moment.
It may be that there are other factors involved; IBM might actually have very good channels of communication with its existing customers. IBM developerWorks bloggers are not actively seeking feedback on product development and customer service issues. Or IBMs resellers might be doing a better job of providing support to IBM customers.
Now the fact that IBM and specifically Bill's blog is not getting results in terms of product development and helping with customer service issues does not mean that the blog is not successful. Bill Higgins thought that overall his blog has been successful in terms of thought leadership, building a community and getting information out to his audience quickly.
Brand & Transparency
In our research, it seems that the most successful companies in terms of the number of blogs are larger companies; we wondered if this is because they have the resources and existing customer audience to sustain many successful blogs. We asked Bill Higgins for his thoughts on the nature of blogs relative to their success and if it really is dependent upon the size of a company.
Bill Higgins said, "I think the key thing to having a popular blog is
This is why you see so many comments on the Microsoft Internet Explorer blog. This little formula doesn't depend on company size directly; for instance BEA is much smaller than IBM yet their WebLogic application server is comparable in market share to our WebSphere application server; therefore if there is a BEA blog on WebLogic and an IBM blog on WebSphere, and the bloggers are equal writers, I'd expect the blogs to have equal readership.
Now it would be possible for an independent blogger to write about some topic and get as big an audience (or bigger) as a company. For instance, Ted Neward writes about .NET and probably gets more hits than many MS employees working on .NET simply because he's famous as a published author and also has good writing skills.
So net, company size and blog popularity are loosely correlated, but there isn't a causal relationship in either direction. The causal relationship is that successful technologies tend to make companies get bigger and successful technologies tend to attract more users; more users lead to more interested blog readers for said technology.
One other thought, I think bloggers who focus on the topic of some platform (e.g. Java, XML, web, WebSphere, whatever) will tend to draw big audiences because successful platforms create large ecosystems of complementary products and technology (i.e. the stack) and anyone involved in that platform ecosystem will be interested in someone writing intelligently on the base platform."
According the IBM blogger, IBM developerWorks just does not a lot of feedback from its blogs as companies such as Microsoft, and Macromedia have in terms customer responses. IBM developerWorks bloggers are not seeking feedback on product development and customer service issues.
A suggestion for any company thinking about blogging is that they should blog about their products and services extensively if a company is hoping to get more interaction from customers on product development and customer service and in so doing build a stronger brand. Brand as we define it is not just a logo or company color, it's the whole product or service experience for the customer. Blogging can help to build brand.
Again Bill Higgins' goals as a blogger are to build a community and achieve thought leadership in his space. He believes he is getting good results in this area. Anytime a company ventures out into the blogosphere and starts a blog to open conversations with their potential audience they do have the opportunity to change the perception of the relationship or company's brand through blog posts. To understand how a blog has changed the perception of customers we also have to survey the audience.
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