Blogging: Friend or Foe?

Blogging is hip. Blogging is cool. More and more companies are using blogs as corporate marketing tools. Some of these efforts are enormously successful, while others make us shudder. Before your company adopts a blogging strategy, here’s what you’ve got to know.
Some companies like Google, GM and Cisco have official company blogs. Others like Sun and Microsoft have hundreds of employee bloggers to which the companies link to from the corporate web site. Still others are encouraging executives and rank and file employees to blog, but don’t seem to be having much success. Here are some thoughts about corporate blogs.

Hit the Target

What are you trying to accomplish with blogging? What you decide should have a huge impact on the type(s) of blogs and who authors them. Some common goals include:

  • Feedback for developers or product managers
  • Relationship building with customers or developers
  • Thought leadership
  • PR

One goal that we see coming up more frequently–and to which we are very supportive–is influencer marketing.

What Kind of Blog?

There are lots of different types of blogs. The most popular types are:

  • Link aggregators use lots of short posts to link to lots of other blogs and articles. One of the most popular is Glenn Reynold’s Instapundit.
  • Essayists write longer (hopefully more thoughtful) articles around an idea of interest. Rubicon’s own Michael Mace writes essay-type posts on mobile computing at Mobile Opportunity. There are lots of political essayists in the blogosphere.
  • Feedback & response blogs help organizations connect with users or developer communities.
  • E-Zines are not really blogs per se, but some allow readers to post public comments about articles they read.
  • Group blogs have multiple authors.

Personal blogs are a way to share pictures, news or provide a public diary for the author.
There are even more types of posts. This link talks about 20 different types of posts.

Official or Unofficial?

Response and PR-oriented efforts work well as company-endorsed blogs. Keep in mind no one likes misrepresentation. Don’t veil company operatives and think you’ll get away with it forever — be honest. If thought leadership is your goal, you definitely want to go another way — regardless of whether the author is a senior executive or a developer. We hope no explanation is necessary.

Blogging Guidelines

How do you keep employees from revealing secrets or defaming your company? The short answer is that you employ the right kind of people. If they want to harm your company, blogging is nothing but one kind of stage in a world full of alternates. Most employees understand that there are things they should not write about and are open to supportive guidance.
Some companies have blogging guidelines for employees who blog about their company or industry while others do not. Most require a disclaimer saying that the views expressed are the author’s. If you are going to offer guidelines, keep them simple and supportive. Both Yahoo! and Thomas Nelson Publishing offer good examples. Thomas Nelson went a step further and posted drafts of their guidelines on a blog and solicited comments. The final draft is a much better document as a result.

What Goes Wrong?

Outside of the usual sins–wrong type of blog for a given objective, or worse yet, no clear objective, companies often have the wrong people blogging or smother them in corporate oversight. Blogs work when they are a personal expression, so if the author is not giddy about the idea of blogging, they are unlikely to write the number and quality of posts that will make them successful. Nothing will dampen the enthusiasm for a blogger faster than a review process for posts. If you don’t trust ’em, don’t link to ’em. Guide them with love and support, not with threats or authority. After all, these are your valued employees, who make your business successful, aren’t they?
There is a lot more to think about. Talk to us and we can help define, refine or deliver your blogging strategy.

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