What is a company blogger good for?

What is a company blogger good for?

Summary: I often hear from companies that want to "be social" or "hire a blogger." Usually, there hasn't been any effort put into the question of what they'd like to accomplish from the effort, so I send out the following.

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TOPICS: Browser, CXO
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I often hear from companies that want to "be social" or "hire a blogger." Usually, there hasn't been any effort put into the question of what they'd like to accomplish from the effort, so I send out the following. Now, you can call me to talk when you have an answer to this critical question in mind....

The following goals for blogging are for your consideration in making a resource and time decision about how to use the tools available to achieve the impact your company desires. They may be combined or phased in over time, but it is essential that the company understand what it wants out of a blog or a community grown around its site. Simply “hiring a blogger” does not lead to success, because the blog must be an expression not just of the company’s marketing message but, in order to reach any of the higher levels of engagement possible, of its people and their personalities. Readers or, better, customers, don't want to interact with a scripted person, they want to feel like they are conversing with people.

As your company aims higher in this hierarchy of engagement, you will find the investment rises. You can do the least possible and get picked up by blog search engines. Building a must-visit site for your industry is exponentially more expensive. Making your corporate blogger a star whose wide-ranging interests become somehow interesting to people who otherwise would not encounter your company's Web presence is exponentially more expensive than launching a blog to republish your press releases.

Here goes:

1.) Marketing channel. Simply repost marketing material and press releases in blog format with RSS feeds. Not really blogging, just a use of the tools to make press access easier, since journalists can subscribe to an RSS feed. The benefit is that your press materials are treated by many search engines as blogs, personal postings often end up right next to dull press releases. This doesn't do much for your brand, but lots of marketers like to see their Google Page Rank rise or the number of one-time hits on a site rise.

2.) Industry news aggregator. This is the simplest "real" blogging approach, combining some search technology and a blogger’s regular effort to synthesize news and trends makes your site the 2008 version of a 1990 trade journal—without all the messy objectivity and editorial independence. The outcome is that the blog will be linked to and potentially become a hub in the industry’s discussions. It can be combined with the marketing postings, as well, but you're likely only to reach people who are monitoring your industry. Interestingly, many of these sites become a kind of echo chamber of contending views on an industry without any real customer engagement. Why? Because customers are not creating search alerts for your product or service, but for the product or service they make or deliver. Industry news exists to be available at the time a purchase decision is contemplated and to reinforce customers' professional insider knowledge. But, seriously, outside a very narrow band of your industry's most active buyers, no one cares about incremental upgrades and minor features that bloggers love to debate.

3.) Influencer engagement. This requires more outbound engagement with other bloggers in the industry and complementary industries (such as marketing bloggers) in order to bring greater traffic to the site through influential sites’ linking to, and debating with, postings on the your blog. This approach to the market demands well composed thought leadership postings on a regular basis, not to mention a skilled influencer of your own, because the egos in this arena are huge. However, the gamesmanship among "influencers" is eminently manageable, if you have the right person working for you, because the social economy is still fairly basic—traffic, links and kudos are the currency of this environment. Someday, soon I hope, real wit, tact and intelligence will rise above the noise we think defines markets today.

4.) Team reputation building. More than one team-member from your company must participate to make the site (or a collection of personal sites related to the company) both a thought-leadership hub and a nexus of information about the company and its people. The blog postings can include personal and business related postings—the result is a personally engaging site that engages readers with the people at your company, their talent and what they are building. This kind of blog is a form of investment not just in your company, but also in your people, who get to be the stars. The Blogosphere is chock full of engineers, product managers and marketers who emerged from within the walls of their company to engage customers and the rest of the market. When everyone is pulling together for your company, this can be the most powerful approach to blogging. Then, again, it can turn sour fast if a problem within your company becomes a public fire fight.

5.) [Your Company Name Here] Media. Think of this as media about your company and its market. You would need to hire a host and get them to cover the industry using text, audio and video to provide the market a unique view of itself. Your host would interview not only employees of your company, but your customers and other thought leaders, including complementer and competitor companies, about everything that impacts the direction the market is going to take. With this approach, you can redefine the market by being the most vocal and authoritative voice; you could also be just plain loud. This requires real judgment and a judicious approach to issues that could easily become distractions to your company's goals if they are blown out of proportion to the customer's realities. Such a wide-ranging channel, that is because it would be disseminated in a variety of formats through many different sites in order to engage the largest audience, can make your company a kind of "household name" with all the pros and cons that might come with that distinction.

There are, of course, other hues of blogging that might fit into this hierarchy, but for purposes of making a resource allocation decision I believe this is comprehensive. Getting "social" or "bloggy" with your company's marketing is a serious investment, not a latched-on addition to your "normal" media mix. Ultimately, you are opening the wall over which you've been throwing media to the masses (whether in the form of press releases, ads or TV spots) so that every action can have an unequal and opposite reaction. Most companies see the risks of this strategy first and fail to recognize the benefits, but the rising tide of noise in media almost demands that your seriously consider engagement with your market in order to retain some of your customers' attention.

Think about what you want to achieve, then start exploring how to "hire a blogger" or to use social media. The priorities you set will help you eliminate many options, as well as give you a sound approach to testing the waters and staging a more complex approach to engagement with the market and customers.

Topics: Browser, CXO

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9 comments
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  • Seems obvious but often overlooked

    Mitch,

    Thanks for the post on developing a clearly defined set of goals and objectives prior to launching a company blog. As a provider of corporate blogging software (www.compendiumblogware.com), we all to often encounter this challenge and attempt to take a more consultative approach with our prospects and clients. Sometimes this backfires as some of them simply want to subscribe and blog, however those that are either already focused on their goals or are willing to allow us to help them define what their goals and objectives are going to be related to blogging for a purpose, experience the greatest benefits and quantifiable results. Mitch, I hope you do not mind but I am going to add a link to this post on my blog today (http://blogging.compendiumblog.com/blog/sales).
    dtomey
    • Thanks for the link

      I hope your readers find it useful!
      Mitch Ratcliffe
  • RE: What is a company blogger good for?

    Let's keep this simple. Here is our approach with clients.

    A good company blog can provide updates (on beta software availability or upcoming events, for example) and it can add its perspective on industry events to explain "what it means to us".

    The blog should reflect the personality of its writer(s) and not be sanitized with layers of approvals.

    Done right, the blog will present useful information for those who follow the company with the personal touch of the blogger(s).
    glenn.rossman@...
    • But who "follows" a company?

      You seem to be describing "influencers" as the audience,
      because customers don't follow companies. They buy
      products and services, attempt to get more out of those
      products and services, and so forth. If that's the case, it's a
      form of talking to your industry -- the investors,
      competitors, complementers and "power users," but not a
      form of engage with the majority of customers.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
  • Learn from Radio

    A good company blogger is to the company what a morning show "personality" is to a radio station. He keeps the reader entertained, engaged, and present to listen to the company's message. Moreso than press releases, he presents the company's point of view. If he's really successful he personally engages you and makes you want to emulate him (to the extent of being connected with the brand with which he's affiliated).

    If you're hiring a company blogger, you want somebody who's outspoken, naturally entertaining, and tactful all at the same time. You DON'T want a marketer.
    dave.leigh@...
    • In other words, media skills + social grace?

      If we had to reduce the formula to one sentence?

      I wrote a piece about 13 years ago about this kind of person,
      though as an online personality who, like a DJ, has a set of
      products rather than a single company on behalf of which
      they engage an audience: http://www.ratcliffe.com/RatcliffeBlog/archives/000070.html
      Mitch Ratcliffe
  • How to find those "customer influencers"?

    Mitch,

    Thank you for this interesting article, I support your 3rd point: company blog should be used for influencer engagement, as a most effective tool. Take my experience as an example: I am looking to buy a GPS and narrowed down my research to Garmin Nuvi series, I found they have a company blog section on their website but there is 0 feedback on any blog, and I have a lot of questions to ask in terms of product features, prices and model comparison which I would like to put as a comment to their blogs. However since there is 0 feedback I just didn't bother doing that and googled "GPS review" to find out a forum (more traffic, links and kudos)to ask my questions. Garmin should've used their blogs more effectively.

    Back to my question, if I were Garmin or Dell or Microsoft and I wanted to engage those "customer influencers", in my case those active participants in high traffic forums and Amazon customer reviews, how can I find them? What should I talk with them? And how to measure the impact? (This process might be time consuming...)

    Thanks,
    Alex
    AlexSun0421
    • Well, I did start a company that helps with that....

      Alex -- There are a number of companies that help
      identify influencers, including BuzzLogic, which I co-
      founded back in 2004. They are in a different niche now,
      focusing on ads, so also consider Collective Intellect,
      Visible Technologies, and several others.

      You can start with using Technorati and Google, using a
      spreadsheet to track incidence of mentions by bloggers of
      the topics you are interested in. That's free, albeit time
      consuming. Maybe the simplest way is to ask on several
      blogs about your target topic what bloggers they count on
      for good information.

      But, once that step is over, you ask how to approach them.
      There isn't one way. I get hamhanded and bad pitches all
      the time, but a few have actually gotten to know what I
      write about and they generally start with a question about
      something I've published. Other bloggers will react
      differently, so it is really a matter of, like entering a
      cocktail party where you don't know many people, of
      finding the conversations where you will fit gracefully.

      Just my $0.02 -- Mitch
      Mitch Ratcliffe
      • Thanks

        Hi Mitch,

        Thanks a lot!

        Alex
        AlexSun0421