Turning golden boys of blogging into whipping boys

There’s a new game to play around the office —- pelt the champions of blogging because they don’t have ALL the answers. Big companies are looking for the simple answers and the proof that blogging will mean ROI for their business. Are we turning the messengers from golden boys into whipping boys? At a recent educational event hosted by Amazon for Amazon employees, Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon asked Naked Conversations authors, Shel Israel & Robert Scoble, to “tell me why customers would get a better Amazon product if we would institutionalize blogging at a wider scale around Amazon.” Judging from Vogels recap, the “golden wonder boys” answers fell short.

Quote from Werner Vogles Post, Naked Answers: “This was my approach with challenging Shel and Robert at our lunch meeting. I wanted them abandon their fuzzy group hug approach, and counter me with hard arguments why they were right and I was wrong. Instead they appeared shell-shocked that anyone actually had the guts to challenge the golden wonder boys of blogging and not accept their religion instantly…”
Quote from Shel Israel’s Post, Amazon’s CTO Retorts: “The Amazon people who prepped me for this meeting, had just said Amazon wanted to hear about blogging and why they should do more of it. I don’t often avoid confrontations, but this felt pretty much like the wrong forum for butting heads with our host’s executive officer who was behaving like he was locked and loaded for bear hunting…”

Mr. Vogles, I think your stance was a little brusque but it is provocative. I think you’ve asked a very intelligent question and it shows that your number one concern is the Amazon product. Interestingly enough, I did a search on your blog for posts containing the following terms and came up empty; Marketing 0, Public Relations = 0, Sales = 0, SEO = 0. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Macromedia Blogging Case Study, but I think that’s a clear example of how blogging can help a company build better products. Of course every company is different and what worked for Macromedia will not work for Amazon. You seem like a smart guy who understands how to blog.

Here’s my advice if you’re listening. A little research assessment and creativity could go long way. I would recommend researching Amazon’s blogging opportunity with an open mind and including marketing, add PR, SEO, sales and brand reputation into your equation. How much of an investment of your company time or money would that be? Give it about 200 hours. Look at the bloggers influencing your customers. Look at bloggers who uses your services. Estimate the search marketing value of Amazon blogging. Evaluate all the opportunities where bloggers mention Amazon or competing brands by name. Think about what (dare I say) an even closer connection with your customer would mean in terms of better products, customer satisfaction, client satisfaction. I think all of these are examples of data that could lead you and some strategic folks at Amazon to concoct some possible blogging and blogger relations strategies. What is the potential risk for Amazon? What is the potential return for Amazon?

Quote from Robert Scoble’s Post, Much ado about blogging (Scoble, you didn’t answer the question): Where I gave them stuff like “blogging doubled sales at Stormhoek winery, according to its CEO.” Or “Munjal Shah, CEO of Riya, says blogging is very important to his new company.” Or “Axosoft raised more than $14,000 in just a few days with nothing more than a few links on some blogs.” Or “Foldera got more than one million signups for its service in 17 days by doing nothing more than talking to six bloggers.” Or, a tailor in the UK saw his sales go up by 10x by doing a blog. That probably wasn’t well enough communicated, or it wasn’t the kind of answer that would convince Werner. That means I need to go back and do some more homework or at least learn to communicate better while being interrupted by an executive with strongly formed opinions.

Putting the gossipy threads aside, this post by Scott Karp on Publishing 2.0, trying his hardest not to be an “Old Media defender” gets into the heart of the issue by asking What Is the Quantifiable ROI of Corporate Blogging? Scott’s summary is…

Now you can argue that corporate blogging makes intuitive sense just like brand building makes intuitive sense. But, rudely stated or not, big corporations have every reason to question whether the risks of blogging (which Howard Rice outlines well — via Nick Carr) outweigh the potential rewards.

Scott raises a good point in this, corporations should “question” whether the risks are worth the potential reward. That’s a responsible way to approach corporate blogging because part of the equation in corporate blogging is risk. However, equating blogging arguments to brand building arguments sells blogging a bit short. Maybe the anecdotal evidence offered by Scoble isn’t enough for a serious C level professional to “institutionalize blogging” but I think the fact that blogging is providing some very measurable benefits for some companies, is enough to warrant a serious assessment of the opportunity.

Blogging is a strategic decision that has many possible implications. Amazon CTO Vogles is asking a serious question ‘should we institutionalize blogging here at Amazon’. It’s not up to your customers, and it’s not up to industry facts and figures, or even A-list gurus in from whirlwind tours to answer that question for Amazon. If you want actionable information about the opportunity, then Amazon should conduct a unbiased assessment of the opportunity / risk and then use it to make a justification to decisively go one way or another.

Here are some other blog posts that are worth a read on this topic…

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Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 5, 2006 12:23 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)


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Healthy debate is good for Corporate Blogging. However, it highlights the challenge that blog evangelists are facing when educating marketing folks and CEOs. Most people aren't buying the coolaid without some Forrester report that undeniably proves ROI... [Read More]

Tracked on April 11, 2006 4:34 PM

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