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Scout Launches Just Venting, New Corporate Blog for Goodway Technologies

just-venting-banner.jpg

Scout and parent company Backbone Media, recently launched Just Venting, our newest client blogging strategy for Goodway Technologies. Goodway is a manufacturer of a wide range of high quality, industrial strength cleaning systems. We named it Just Venting because its content is targeted toward HVAC professionals, building engineers, and facilities managers. These are the folks that make sure your office building, hospital, school or university is clean, not falling apart and being efficiently (cost effectively) heated and cooled.

The businss goal of the blog is introduce new qualified prospects to the Goodway brand by providing useful topical information. As you will see by looking at the blog's welcome post, and post categories such as Green Buildings & Green Technology and Sick Building Syndrome, our strategy is designed to attract the facilities manager audience by publishing an ongoing series of high quality informative, optimized posts on a strategic set of topics. It's no accident that these 'topics' usually correspond with popular industry keywords.

Check out the site and let us know what you think.

 

Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogs Developed By Scout

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on December 5, 2008 5:02 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Scout Blogging and SEO Client Destined for Mega-Millions According to Donny Deutch

We have reason to celebrate here at Scout this month. One of our clients, Internet startup denim retailer TrueJeans, is getting some mass media recognition for its concept along with its search engine marketing results. Just over a year ago, the folks at TrueJeans hired us to help promote their website and brand with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing Pay-Per Click Campaigns (PPC), and blogging strategy. Over the past year we've been able to achieve some great results by following Backbone's philosophy that the three keys to search engine marketing success are indexability, relevancy and links. For TrueJeans, we optimized their existing website's content and introduced a blog to initiate continually updated, relevant content, and to encourage community awareness, discussion and links from other sites.
 
What prompted this entry in the first place is that TrueJeans has made an appearance on CNBC's popular financial segment "The Big Idea" with Donny Deutsch! Their 'Minute to Millions' interview can be seen below in the video segment included in this post.

For anyone unfamiliar with the show, what happens is this: Donny Deutsch brings in a representative or representatives of a budding business venture. He then pairs them up with a couple of industry experts and, after interviewing the business hopefuls, gives the experts one minute to elaborate on why they think the business will or will not succeed. He asks them such questions as "What do you see as the obstacles for this business?" "Is there an edge here?" "Is this really a 'Big Idea'?" The feedback is important for the guests in moving forward with their business plans, and of course, they get exposure! Happily for TrueJeans, the results were all positive. The experts had some great feedback, and in the end, they got the thumbs up from Donny confirming that TrueJeans' service is definitely a Big Idea.

Donny points out during their mini-interview that they had earned a top-ranking position on Google for the extremely competitive term "jeans", which, in this technological age of fierce online competition, is a major point in their favor. TrueJeans was new to the blogging and SEO scene in January 2007 when we first initiated our services, but by the Summer, we had helped them to reach the top five, then top three, and eventually number one position on organic search rankings in Google for "jeans". This has really helped to bring in a plethora of new business by helping denim shoppers to find their site quickly and easily when searching. 

As one of our original blogging clients, TrueJeans has had a strong vision from the get-go. We couldn't be happier for them throughout their continued success. This is yet another feather in their cap to add to the already growing list of accomplishments including networking with influential bloggers, helping more and more readers find their perfect fit, partnering with the National Eating Disorders Association to combat unhealthy body image, and even traveling to Hollywood to help celebrities find their perfect pair of jeans for TV's Access Hollywood! 

We don't want to take all the credit for their success, of course, but we like to think that the blog has really had a profound impact on the wonderful opportunities that have come their way this past year. Keep up the good work, guys! 

Tags: blogging, corporate blogging success story, donny deutsch, scout blogging services, search engien marketing, seo, true jeans, true jeans donny deutsch, truejeans
Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogs Developed By Scout

Posted by Lesley Anderson on February 27, 2008 10:45 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

How Blogging Can Get You Press Coverage

For anyone wondering how blogging can help your company's brand awareness and thought leadership profile via press coverage, here are a few real life examples of how blogging has helped generate press coverage for my business.

In August I posted some advice on the best way for a company to handle a bad Consumer Generated Media thread.  Last week I was contacted by Vawn Himmelsbach, a writer from ITBusiness.ca, an electronic news outlet owned by IT World Canada. The reporter, told me that she found my blog post using Google's regular search (not blog search). Last week Vawn published her story called "How do you stop a disgruntled employee blogger?" and if you read the piece you will see that I was quoted heavily throughout the story. 

Here's another example. In March 2007 I asked "Should corporate blogs use ghostwriters?". That lead to a call from a reporter Tony Kontze, a reporter for Investors Business Daily and this story called "Writing Blogs Can Be Hard, So Get ‘Help’". Unfortunately, you can't read this piece without setting up a trial subscription but if you do you will also see that the reporter cited me repeatedly and gave me the last word.

How did I do it? Very simple. In both cases I took questions that I was hearing over and over again from my target audience and tried to offer my own insight and perspective on the matter. I laid it out there and cited a few related posts that helped make my point. Days, months or years later a journalist does a search in Google, finds my post and says here's a person that will give me a good quote or two. I made their job very easy. How is this different from traditional PR and media relations? I'm not a PR expert but I think reporters like to dig things up on their own but they're not out there pounding the pavement, their using the instant and relevant gratification of your typical Google search or the more timely search power of blog search engines like Technorati.

Simple things you can do. Talk to your customers, and monitor the blogs. At conferences listen to the questions that people are asking the 'expert panel'. Talk to your sales people and people on the front lines with your customer. Figure out what the reporters in your industry are going to be looking for in the next 2 - 10 months, pounce on the issues surrounding the big hairy questions and make sure you post it on a blog that does a decent job at getting indexed by Google.

Now, it may seem like I'm taking this opportunity to toot my own horn, and I am, but here's my point. I'm a big advocate of blogging but I don't blog every day. In fact my average blog post is about one per month. However, my blog posts deliver relevant search traffic to my site, get me invited to speak at conferences, inlinks, and del.icio.us social media bookmarks and quoted in major and minor publications. Here are two clear cases of how blogging can help put your business (in this case a small company) in front of journalists at the critical moment when they are conducting their research and looking for relevant voice.

Tags: blogging strategy, IT World Canada, media relations tactics, Online PR, press coverage, reporters, Vawn Himmelsbach
Filed under: Blogging ROI, Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips, New Communications, Viral Marketing

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on October 15, 2007 11:33 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

How can I drive more traffic to my blog?

I recently was contacted by Yehuda Berlinger, a professional blogger who runs a blog about being a blogger looking for corporate blogging positions called Blogging Without a Wire and another blog about gaming.

He had a few great questions. I answered his email and then asked him if it would be alright to use my response in a blog post. With Yehuda’s permission, below are his questions and my (as usual) long winded answer. Any bloggers out there that have more to say, Yehuda and I would love to hear your comments. I would also like to put out a call for anyone that wants to be a guest blogger on this subject.

1. Yehuda’s Personal blogging question: While my own blog (http://jergames.blogspot.com) is doing "well" in terms of PR, it still has very little traffic (200 tracked visitors a day) resulting in only token monetization ($300 a month). I know that's better than most, but I feel like I have the potential to do so much better. How do I start really moving forward on my own blog?

2: Yehuda’s Corporate blogging question: I recently got, and left, a job as a corporate blogger. The expectation was that I will drive lots of traffic and lots of results. But my own blog took two years to get where it is today, and, while high in PR, it's low in traffic. If what I think I can do as a corporate blogger (create daily posts, control the corporate conversation, be the friendly face of the company) is so much different from what people expect from a corporate blogger (drive traffic and sales), am I pursuing the wrong thing?

First of all, congratulations on the 200 visitors per day, that’s a pretty good start. What you are asking about is a big question and a challenge that my team and I are faced with as well. It's true that blogs can drive traffic and lead to sales but I think what you are experiencing is something I, and I think many of our colleagues, are encountering as they try to instill social media participating practices into the corporate process. A lot of companies shut down or ignore the concept that there is such a thing as blogging best practices and that's not something you can just slap on the production line (believe me I've tried) and start to see spikes in sales and traffic. 

The bad news is that most of my answers require a significant investment of someone's time and brain power. Here's the opportunity or good news --- the fact that it’s hard to tap into blogging traffic makes corporate blogging a great value for the companies and people who master the art. Doing this takes a lot of time and effort and, depending on what the client is paying you, it may or may not be something that you can systematically provide as part of your arrangement. As professional bloggers, we need to sell the client and get the resources we need to prove the case for them. Once we get their buy-in, we need their support or a level of authority to go out and transparently blog on their behalf.

I think there are a couple of components to driving traffic. They are:

  • The actual setup of the blog,

  • Keyword research and targeting,

  • Community research,

  • Ongoing monitoring for keywords and identified blog feeds,

  • Quality commenting,

  • Quality posting,

  • Social media promotion and blogger outreach.

All of these are very important, but I think that monitoring and commenting are the keys to driving traffic.

There are also some other factors that play into the mix:

  • Who you are (commercial vs. independent blogger, due to the fact that many bloggers have their own commercial agenda. Just a hunch, but sometimes I feel that a blogging community is more apt to promote the independent voice than point traffic to a commercial entity even if the content is insightful and useful). This contradicts a point I will make below hosting the blog under the company domain but it does not override that advice.

  • How stimulating or controversial you are (do your posts spark discussion or outrage), or how inquisitive / conversational you are (some bloggers have a knack for getting the conversation started by raising questions and then keeping the conversation going. This requires dedication, vulnerability and passion on the blogger’s side because they’re saying 'I don’t have all the answers').

So, to answer your question, here are some things to try if you have not already.

  1. Optimizing the technical setup of the blog: If it’s a commercial blog, I think the ideal is when the blog is part of the company domain. For example, company.com/blog. My rationale… presumably, the company website has been around for awhile and this is an advantage over a brand new domain or a company.blogspot.com URL. If a company is going to invest in blogging, they might as well leverage this advantage and let the content and links that the blog generates boost the corporate website’s page rank and, as I like to say, overall content footprint. In my experience a sub-folder (.com/blog) is better for SEO than a sub-domain (blog.company.com). Also see my previous post written about this. In the past I've written about Should you host your own corporate blog or use a service and The Ups and Downs of Multiple Website Identities.

  2. Making SEO more than just an afterthought: Also, you want to make sure your blog has some of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) basics. Each blog post creates a permalink. Make sure the permalink page uses a title tag that includes the title of the blog post. Also, tag and categorize the post with a category or tag name that is relevant but also part of your target keyword list (see next two items for how to discover keywords).  

  3. Keyword Research: Do some keyword research around your topic and figure out the relevant terms that attract the most searchers per month. There are some OK free tools out there for doing this: Webmaster Toolkit or SeoBook's Tools and Gagets. I assume that you are probably already aware of these. There’s also a commercial product called Trellian which is what my SEO department uses.  

  4. Subjective Input: After you have developed your keyword list, give each of the phrases your own relevancy score. I like to use a scale of .01 – 1.0. A 1.0 is a dead-on match meaning that this term is very likely to be a qualified visitor. I would give a broad general term like “game” a lower score (because it is likely that only a fraction of the people searching on this term are interested in your what you are offering). You can then use these scores as a way to adjust and filter against your search frequency and post frequency (see next item). I use Excel to calculate by multiplying frequency by the score.

  5. Blog and Social Media Community profiling: Once you have figured out your best list of terms, use Icerocket.com to check the post frequency about those terms. If the term is searched a lot and posted about a lot you know that if you optimized a post around that term then it is likely to attract a larger share of attention. You can also look at it another way. If the relevant term is searched a lot but not posted on a lot, that could be an opportunity to post about something that is of interest to searchers but does not have a lot of completion in the social media search engines like Technorati.com. This means that your post will stay in the social media searches longer because it’s not getting pushed down into obscurity, but generating a high frequency of noise around the term. Assuming that the term is a popular search phase, it’s likely to garner some extra traffic and attention due to the decreased level of completion in the blogosphere.

  6. Content Strategy: Think about your audience. What are they interested in and what are the popular blogs that they are reading? Develop a profile of the bloggers who are reaching your audience. Read through their blog and look at who’s commenting and visit their blogs as well. Develop a matrix of the community and really try and identify the influencers and the active participants in the community. Create a blog roll on your site of these blogs that will help the bloggers develop an awareness of your site. Develop a strategy that will lead them to reference some of the work you’re doing (Admittedly, this is the toughest part but that’s the price we have to pay for greatness).

  7. Timely Monitoring and Quick Response: Start monitoring all the blogs and important keyword on a daily basis. You should be on the lookout for blog posts that you can add value to by either commenting or posting about. If you see a post that you think you can add value to, comment now and write a post later.

  8. Comment, comment comment: A good insightful comment on a popular or even not so popular blog can drive a significant amount of traffic and awareness to your blog. More importantly, comments will help you develop a trust within the community and with that blogger. Don’t assume one or two good comments are going to do the trick. It needs to be a consistent process that is guided by your monitoring. The earlier that you can spot a good comment opportunity and make a comment, the better chance you have of getting your thoughts into the mix and gaining some visibility and respect from the community.

  9. Use blogging best practices for outreach: A lot of people talk about how gaining the attention of influencers and getting them to blog about you is a great way to generate traffic. Of course that’s true but some people look at influential bloggers as a PR opportunities (visualize a juicy sizzling steak) and try to pitch them using traditional media relations techniques. This might work sometimes but it could backfire (see the Bad Pitch Blog). I would say developing trust through a comment is a far better approach than directly pitching a blogger to write about you. Of course, this approach takes more time, but luckily you did not ask me how to be efficient. Then try and develop relationships with not only the big influencers, but some of the more passionate and lesser known bloggers by commenting and reacting and adding value to what they are saying on their blogs. Commenting on blogs is one of the best ways to direct people to your site. Make sure your comment adds value to what is being said.

  10. Cultivate Inbound links: The ideal is when this happens naturally; you write a nice post and a blogger finds it and cites your page. That generates traffic and a link. However you can also give this process a nudge. This is a tricky area and it takes a certain chutzpa to do it but reach out to the bloggers and ask them to feed back to you on what you have written. You never know what they’re going to say, if anything, but I think that if you genuinely try to solicit their advices, it’s likely to lead to some link love down the road. I know that this also seems a little like you have an hidden agenda, but really you’re trying to be included in the conversation that’s going on, and sometimes you have to put your client or yourself on the line a little bit. Initially you may receive feedback that’s not entirely positive, but that’s something to build off of.

  11. More tips and tactics: Here’s a good article I found that talks about some of the technical, feed related ways to promote a site.

  12. Create something new: Create a tool, academic research, do a poll/survey or produce some resources that will create some thought leadership or be of interest to your target community. I've done this for my own company (Corporate Blogging Survey , the Blogging Success Study, Corporate Guidelines for Using Blogs and Forums , 10 Tips for Becoming a Great Corporate Blogger ) and it continues to be a great source of links and traffic to my site.
  13. Social media networking: If you have not already developed a presence in the large social media networking communities such as MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, MyBlogLog, those are a great resource. Or, target more focused communities that focus on a certain industry. A great new example of this is MyRegan, a community of communicators. You can also engage in micro blogging with things like Twitter and Pownce.

Of course there are entire books (See below) written on this subject so by no means do I think my list is the authoritative list of ways and means. Let me know what you think. Did I tell you things you already knew or do you find some value in this? What really works for you? Let me know what points you like. Again, I’m sure you’re already doing a lot of this.

Books:

The Corporate Blogging Book by Debbie Weil

Strategies and Tools for Corporate Blogging by John Cass

What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging and Podcasting - Ted Demopoulos

The New Influencers: A Marketer's Guide to the New Social Media - by Paul Gillin

Blogging for Business: Everything You Need to Know and Why You Should Care by Shel Holtz

Blog Marketing by Jeremy Wright 

Naked Conversations by Shel by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Tags: advice, blog marketing, blog promotion, blogging strategy, blogging tips, online PR, professional blogger, successful blogging
Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips, Blogging Tools, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on August 30, 2007 11:50 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Signs of a Tipping Point for Corporate Participation in Social Media

According to the new PR wiki there are over 130 corporate and business blogs and more than 8% of the Fortune 500 is blogging. To borrow a line from Abram Sauer's recent post titled Connected?,

"If you’re not already one of them, you’ve probably thought about it. And it just gets more tempting."

I’m sure it’s tempting but I think most big companies would like to put consumer generated media back in the bottle. Why? Because it’s stripping down their control of the message and putting them in a position to act. In this new world, one consumer's opinion can outweigh anything the company can say about itself. Companies are now in the tough position of needing to act and risk getting it wrong, or ignore and seed the conversation to the consumer and possibly a more aggressive and agile competitor. The good news for people who want to see more corporate participation in social media is that it's definitely something that's on the radar now and I believe will see more investment in this area starting this fall and into 2008.

This is my anecdotal perception of what's going on; Social media awareness has reached a point where marketers know it's something they need to budget for. They are searching, gathering information, downloading white papers, going to conferences and talking to vendors about services offerings, options and of course, costs.

With four major clients (Spherion, True Jeans, Appistry and a TBA) I've been marketing and selling social media services since March, 06. However, I would say there has been a big up tic in interest since last spring. A lot more companies are calling me to investigate doing something with social media (either monitoring, blogging, commenting, or podcasting mostly). In July I participated in a Frost and Sullivan Marketing East Conference attended by hundreds of senior marketing executives from fortune 1000 companies. Many of them were asking questions that indicate to me that they are beyond the 'what is a blog?' stage and into the 'what should our strategy be?', 'how','how much' and 'when' phase. Here are some of the questions…

  • What different tactics would an industry leader take vs. a new entrant in the consumer generated sites?
  • Any advice on how marketers at big companies can convince corporate compliance that blogging is a good idea?
  • What is the best way for a company to handle a bad Consumer Generated Media thread and how can you avoid this from happening in the first place?

This suggests to me that 2008 will be a major year for corporate social media strategies and initiatives. I think that the adopters that come on in 2008 will drive force even reluctant companies (possibly kicking and screaming) to budget for it and then finally participate in 2009.

Why are companies reluctant? Large companies want to see statistics, but social media participation is hard to measure and ROI is difficult to predict. In my experience this is also a catch twenty two because even when a company has bought into social media services, there are no guarantees the company will allow a vendor to implement a tracking system that will properly measure ROI. From personal experience I've had trouble getting IT to dedicate the minimal required effort to implement the tracking.

Another part of the reluctance on the company's side is concurrently, online marketing departments are hitting a stride and comfort level with more predictable, measurable and systematic online marketing tools such as search engine marketing and online ad sponsorship.  Now marketers are being prodded to use their marketing brains to crack consumer generated media, which, at its core, is a culture that is the opposite of PR and marketing spin. It’s a new job for marketing and communications managers. This post Google world makes me wonder if marketers will ever have a 'cushy' job. I can imagine them thinking thoughts like: 

  • 'Oh great, now I've got to monitor bloggers because what they say can impact my business.
  • 'My CEO needs to be blogging if we want to maintain our thought leadership position.'
  • 'My product developers should be encouraged and empowered to blog too.'
  • 'Let me go home at 5pm and spend some time with family for goodness sake.'

Don't get me wrong. I'll be the first person to tell you that some companies should not blog or engage in social media. A lot of companies are simply not ready to take the leap. My advice is to take baby steps. Social media monitoring is something that should be within reach of any company. Here's what every company should be monitoring.

Unfortunately for the companies with deep pockets, the reality is that participation in social media is more than just doing a little homework and then spending like you’re Vonage on a pre-IPO market grab. Once you understand blogging culture and what social media participation for your company really means, you realize that (in many cases) making it work requires a grasp of blogging best practices, goals, strategic thinking and a cultural shift that stretches beyond the boundaries of a marketing and communications department.

Take it for what it's worth but I think that starting in late 2007 and by the end 2008 we will see a surge in the number of companies either dipping their toes in by increasing their blog monitoring efforts, or getting up to their waists by combining some sort of monitoring and participation effort (with either textual blogging, podcasting, video blogging, social network participation, a combination of all). I'm not saying all of them will be successful but I think it will be the critical mass or tipping point that will make corporate social media strategies a standard part of business by the end 2009.

I think that 2007 and 2008 will produce a wide range of brand name companies participating in social media. This will produce a few high profile case study reports that garner widespread business media coverage beyond the blogs into mainstream business media. Mainstream media is already providing a steady drum beat about how the customer is in charge.

If you want some signs of the tipping point, check out this passage from Perry Evans at Evans INC’s blog post titled Against the Gain. It summarizes s The Sunday NY Times article on how AOL is struggling to shift along with online consumer behavior.

"To simplify, searching isn’t so obviously the center of the future universe. The old adage of browsing is rapidly taking on a new life form - call it social, call it exploring, call it stumbling - consumers are rapidly adopting new forms of information navigation that do not follow the paradigm of Search. Media is in a fundamental shift beyond search into personal and community exploration and interaction, and it feels (to me) to be approaching a tipping point.

Perhaps the future no longer belongs solely to the Search Box?"

I also have a theory that for every company that enters the blogosphere there will be three more competitors saying ‘Oh shoot, now we’ve got to get in there too’. What would that create? Ideally it would be a collection of consumers and company personalities maintaining a dialog that is mutually beneficial. The reality will be more of a mix between (to borrow a phrase) clued in socially responsible companies (participating, adding value to the conversation and helping consumers) and clueless (companies that are not aware of social media culture, benefits and best practices) companies trying to inauthentically game the system.

I wish I could use a less pompous term than clueless. However, I've spoken to some companies that are paying people to find blog posts that relate to their products, and then drop in a comment that says nice things about their products as if it were a real consumer. This kind of tactic is a threat to social media because it will drown out the real consumer generated dialog. The good news is that this particular company was willing to listen to me when I told them there was a more authentic way to go that would probably result in better results (But I digress). Ignorance is bliss but this tells me that education is very important to the future success of corporate social media strategies.

Here's Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson reading a chapter from their new book called How to Do Everything with Podcasting. Download the 22-minute conversation here or listen below (MP3, 10Mb). There is a section around minute 4 that i will paraphrase

'Exactly what can podcasting do for a business? To be frank that's the wrong question. Podcasting should be applied as should any communications tool as a solution not a goal in and of itself. No business should ever begin the process of creating and launching a podcast with a statement that sounds like this... By God, we aught to be podcasting. Instead it ought to come up in discussions about ways to reach audiences to convey particular messages or to address specific situations and problems'.

Listen to this podcast now:

To me, this 22 minute listen is a great way to start the education process. Burn it on a CD and give it to your CEO to play on her ride home from work. Maybe when she's done she will subscribe to the For Immediate Release Podcast - which is another great first step. Is it possible to have two first steps? Hmm, let me think about that :)

If I’m right then social media is an opportunity for some companies to take some risks and gain ground with consumers while the other guys are contemplating their navels. The companies that do it right will prescribe to this philosophy that I lifted from a March 2000 interview with David Weinberger about 'Cluetrain Manifesto'.

"Companies that erect a fortress storefront on the Net and send goods out for sale, but immediately hoist the drawbridge at the first sight of a peasant rebellion, will fail. Only those businesses that "decloak" and engage with consumers online will have a fighting chance of succeeding."

That's all I've got for now. I know there's a lot here to digest but I really want some feedback. I'm sure there is someone out there who can pick on some of my thoughts. I know at least one person.

Tags: cluetrain+manifesto, corporate+blogging, markeitng predictions, online+PR, social+media, tipping point
Filed under: Blogging ROI, Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips, New Communications, Social Media

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on August 22, 2007 4:13 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

One Way to Explain a Corporate Social Media Strategy

Recently i was asked by a prospective client to help explain social media to her senior executives in a way that they would understand. She asked me to keep it to a page or two. I wanted to get across the benefits of social media but I also wanted to address some common misunderstandings that people have when it comes to participation and measuring ROI. Here's a version of what I gave her with all the company references taken out. I'd love to hear any feedback. Best regards, Stephen >>>

Corporate Social Media Strategy

One of the strengths of social media is that it attracts enthusiastic and influential community members into publicly accessible & searchable networks. Within these networks, people share thoughts and observations and engage in conversations, sometimes directly coinciding with a particular need for a product (like a discussion where someone mentions difficulty in finding a good Internet access provider in the area, for example). Other times, the conversation may relate more to practical issues that identify a person or group as part of a certain target market or segment (for example, an active blogging community discussing farming conditions in a region, or broader farming related topics). These conversations not only provide insight into the community at large, but also provide an opportunity to research, target, and positively engage with an audience.

Strategic monitoring of and participation in consumer generated media conversations represents a competitive edge for companies trying to:

  1. Build a closer relationship with or understanding of the customer

  2. Improve search engine rankings, increase brand awareness

  3. Establish thought leadership.

  4. Stay in front of issues

  5. Learn from customer insights

  6. Monitor for consumer sentiment about their brand.

The beauty of a social media strategy is that all or some of these benefits can be accomplished with a single strategy. It all depends on goals and resources.

Also see: Corporate Blogging Survey Executive Summary 

Misunderstandings in Social Media

The value of social media engagement is often misunderstood by people who are accustomed to a mass marketing approach or online media metrics. One of the common mistakes companies can make when attempting to tap this opportunity is to perceive this access as way to jump in and talk about their products or value proposition and create linkage to a particular promotion. It’s easy to realize why this approach is wrong if you understand that the reason people read blogs is to find real opinions and to know what their contemporaries are thinking. Blog readers generally approach blogs in this way:

  1. Blogging is an opportunity to take part in a conversation or start one.

  2. Bloggers are willing to hear from your corporation but they don’t’ want ‘corporate speak’ or a sales pitch.

  3. They will appreciate it if you respect their community.

  4. In a crisis situation they want you to address their concerns even if you don’t have the answers.

The third attribute, respect, is an important tactic to keep in mind. You show respect by researching the topic and community before entering the discussion. Readers will be more receptive if you can reference previous comments or posts from the community to add insight or thought leadership to the conversation that is already active in their community. Essentially, a great social media strategy focuses on becoming a great corporate blogger

Also see:Ten Tips for Becoming a Great Corporate Blogger).

What Successful Bloggers Do

Blogging is more than just writing. There is a lot of legwork involved with putting a post together and promoting it after it has been published.

Here is a fictitious successful blogger named Amanda B. Reckondwyth (thanks Car Guys). Amanda is passionate about her topic, she knows her community and monitors over 60 related blog feeds on a daily basis. She’s looking for conversations and comment threads that intersect with her or her company’s interests, monitoring news, industry buzz and specific bloggers that she regards as authorities to an audience that she cares about. Amanda is also watching for specific keywords. When she sees a blog post, comment thread, or something in the news that sparks her interest, Amanda writes a blog post about it or visits the respective blog and leaves an insightful comment.

  • If Amanda writes a comment, her name and URL are attached and provide her with a link, credit and visibility.

  • If Amanda writes a post, she will cite (provide a hyperlink to) her sources, categorize it, add keyword tags, and publish. Automatically this then pings the social media search engines and alerts the people that have subscribed to her blog’s feed. The post is also picked up in the major search engines.

  • Before or after publishing, Amanda may also do some outreach to notify certain bloggers about the post and solicit their input.

  • Amanda knows her audience and therefore her comment or post addresses something that is more likely to generate attention and discussion.

  • Because Amanda is a successful blogger, her community knows who she is. She has the credibility within her community, thereby giving her content a better chance of propagation.

  • The bloggers that she has reached out to have now publicized the post’s existence to their audiences and it is attracting readership. People start to comment and Amanda stays engaged with the conversation until it has run its course.

  • Finally, the posts and ensuing threads stay online as content that can continue to draw attention in the future.

Success breads success. The more successful Amanda is in her blogging efforts the more people react and pickup on her stream of thinking. Practically speaking this creates a snowballing increase in readership and blogger citations (links) and all the other benefits of a successful social media strategy.

Also See:
What Should Every Company Be Monitoring @ the NewPR/wiki
Blogging Success Study we conducted with Northeastern University

Measuring Social Media Success

Many marketers will look at the engagement as simply an interaction between finite groups of people (two or several) that may be viewed by tens, hundreds or thousands of people over time. Basic online marketing metrics such as unique visitors, impressions, search traffic, conversion rates will only tell part of the story.

With a strategic approach, each engagement will be designed to support multiple goals at once. Successful encounters can result in a number of benefits ranging from heightened brand awareness through word of mouth buzz, to customer insights that improve your products. Here are some suggested methods for measuring return.

  • Goal: Dramatically Increase volume of leads from the website via organic search.
    Measurement: Set tracking cookie on incoming visitors to the blog down to specific conversion points.

  • Goal: Dramatically increase company’s brand awareness and thought leadership presence.
    Measurement: Track brand mentions via traditional and online media sources, and blogs. Also track requests media interviews and speaking opportunities.

  • Goal: Dramatically Increase volume of leads.
    Measurement: Set tracking cookie on incoming visitors to the blog down to specific conversion points.

  • Goal: Optimize the blog to give it the best chance of attaining top organic search positions for the most relevant keywords.
    Measurement: Weekly website position reports compared with benchmark web position reports.

  • Goal: Dramatically increase online link popularity.
    Measurement: Improved search engine rankings compared with benchmark web position reports.

  • Goal: Improved connection with the customer.
    Measurement: Benchmark and analyze the volume and content of comments on your blog and on blogs that you do not control.

Also see these posts regarding Social Media and Blogging ROI:
Calculating ROI of Blogging is Easier than it Looks
Mounting a PR Case for Blogging ROI from an SEO Perspective

Blogging ROI Proof is for Pansies

Tags: benefits of social media, blogging tips, corporate blogging strategy, social media strategy
Filed under: Blogging ROI, Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on August 17, 2007 1:00 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Negative Blog Comments: How to prepare for and handle a bad Consumer Generated Media Thread

What is the best way for a company to handle a bad Consumer Generated Media thread and how can you avoid this from happening in the first place? A senior marketing executive recently asked me this question during a panel discussion at the Frost and Sullivan Sales and Marketing conference in Alexandra, Virgina. The best way to handle a bad consumer generated media thread is to first be prepared to act quickly. If a response is warranted, be transparent, and address the person from a sincerely helpful and curious point of view.

The way I would define a bad Consumer Generated Media thread is one person negatively comments, blogs or forum posts about a company or product and that entry generates a string of follow-on comments within the initial thread that are generally skewed in a negative way against the company. In more severe cases the thread will spread via pickup from outside blogs and ultimately make its way to more traditional forms of media, and social consciousness. Negative threads are inevitable for large companies and are a threat to any company concerned about its public image.

Usually this question comes up after the negative thread has started. What can you do then? The best advice is to evaluate who started the thread, how it started and who’s participating in it now. Is it someone anonymously trolling for a fight or was it an influential blogger trying to be constructive and engaging?

As Mack Collier writes, you can either Ignore them, Antagonize them, Attempt to pacify them, or Address them. I agree with Mack when he says "Address them, This is always the best course of action. You can't please all your customers all the time, but you CAN listen to them. Let them speak their peace, and see if they are trying to bring to your attention problems in your business processes that can be addressed and corrected." Read carefully what the blogger is saying and ask questions.

Sometimes it is best not to feed the animals. However, I believe that a negative thread handled well can take a potentially negative situation and turn it into something really positive. This is because avid bloggers are the ones who influence the discussions in social media. They tend to appreciate when a company is transparent, listens, asks questions, comes clean in some way or at least shows a little social media savvy in their approach. When a company addresses a blogger’s concern it says to that blogger and to the lurkers in that community something about your company. It says we’re human, we’re listening, we’re concerned because you’re concerned and we’re trying to make things better.

Being prepared for these questions requires research and monitoring of RSS feeds and forums. The way to be prepared is to research the blogosphere and develop a landscape of the blogosphere that matters to your business most. Think about your target audiences and segments. Use social media search tools like Technorati.com and IceRocket.com and blogsearch.google.com that index RSS feeds and profile the important blogging communities, social media networks that attract these audiences and bloggers that influence the discussions around your brand, products or services. Within these communities you will find key influencers and a number of active blogs. Create a dossier of profiles of the individual blogs and their bloggers, and the blogs that they read. A profile could contain what they write about, who reads it, a rating of their relative popularity and influence within a given community. This is research your marketing and communications and PR teams should have anyway. If they do not, it’s a good way to broaden everyone’s sphere of market intelligence and influence.

Start monitoring all your important sites and keywords with a feed reader tool. Adding a feed into a tool is simple. We like Google Reader. A good RSS feed reader will allow you to efficiently scan content for conversations (or threads) that may have a potential impact your business. This research is the foundation for a number of benefits. Here’s an abbreviated list…

  • It will prepare you with a starting point for who should be on your radar.

  • In a crisis situation this will save you time. Time is the difference between watching helplessly from the sidelines and having an opportunity to steer or influence the discussion in a positive direction.

  • Share the information with internal communications. Monitoring and paying attention to social media will give your team and your company a better sense of the community, what they like to talk about, who’s talking, and (most important for later when disaster strikes) how to communicate with them. The value of listening goes beyond marketing and communications. Product developers will be better informed about the customers needs.

  • This process will enable you to stay on top of the major discussions so you can be informed about the hot topics. More immortality, it will also improve your sensitivity to potential minefields that are unique to consumer generated media best practices and the particular social media community.

  • Part of the question is how to avoid negative threads. Since you are actively monitoring you will often see an opportunity to add value by commenting on a recent blog post or its ensuing thread. Go ahead and make your comment but don’t come off as a huckster by making a smart comment or giving advice then writing something self promotional at the end. Take the Good Samaritan approach. Offer advice and look for nothing in return. Your name and link are usually included with your comment and that’s all you really need. If you can participate and establish some connections with bloggers and communities before the next bomb drops it may give a boost in goodwill points with that community. They will be more receptive to see your side.

  • Goodwill from participation will also position you to divert negative threads from happening in the first place.

Maybe your company is considering a social media strategy of its own someday. This process is the logical first step into educating your team in how consumer generated media really works and how to participate in it.

Tags: Consumer Generated Media, crisis communications, how to handle a negative blog comment or post about your company
Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips, New Communications, Product Development

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on August 4, 2007 2:29 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Want to See How Viral Marketing and Social Media Works?

I just came across The Break Up viral video ad skit, by way of Doug Karr at The Marketing Technology Blog. I think this video, the story it tells, and how it is now being told, and distribued is a brilliant living example of the power of viral marketing and social media.


The Break Up
Uploaded by Geert Desager - Trade Manager Marketing Manager at Microsoft

The film is called The Break Up and it was produced in a collaboration between Geert Desager's team at Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions and Openhere, a Belgium based ad agency. Bravo Geert, what's great about this little spot it that it puts all the buzz words like 'conversation marketing' and 'social media' and my favorite 'the customer is in control' into context. Thanks to you and Microsoft for moving the conversation miles forward.

According Geert, the "film" was inspired by a Business Week article by David Armano titled, It's the Conversation Economy, Stupid. The article is another credible mainstream source that puts the shift in consumer behavior into context.

Filed under: Blogging Strategy, CEO Bloggers, New Communications, Viral Marketing

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on June 19, 2007 2:13 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Ghost Blogging Covered by Investor's Business Daily

For all you PR bloggers and blogging skeptics out there, please file this post under further proof that blogging can lead to a credible media citation and ROI. In my last blog post, I asked Should corporate blogs use ghostwriters?. A few weeks later a reporter, Tony Kontzer from Investors Business Daily called to request an interview with me. Last week this article titled Writing Blogs Can Be Hard, So Get 'Help' appeared in the online version of Investors Business Daily's technology section.  One more thing, the reporter actually quoted me correctly and gave me the last word in the story. Pretty cool ah?

Check out the story. Kontzer offers some reasons why companies start a blog and highlights the choices companies need to make when selecting who writes the content. The story presents some alternate view points (from Nancy McCord, Mary Gillen, Debbie Weil, and me) on the questions that surround why blogs can be an effective marketing tool for business and the use ghost bloggers.

Filed under: Blogging ROI, Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tools

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on May 17, 2007 12:53 PM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Should corporate blogs use ghostwriters?

So you’re interested in corporate blogging and think your company should have one. Only problem is there is no one in your company who has time to blog. Should you hire a ghostwriter for your blog? Bryan Person brought up this topic on a recent episode of the FIR podcast

My advice is look for a way to blog for your business in an open and transparent way. I’ve got two main reasons which can be summed up like this. 1.) The old Sir Walter Scott line “oh what a tangled web we weave… applies here.  Ghostwriting is one of those little white lies that can easily spin out of control and backfire. 2) Blogging could be a waste of time and money for your business if it’s not willing to embrace the concept of what it means to participate in social media.

Ghostwriting a blog is a slippery slope. While it may be acceptable in the book publishing world, it’s not ok with many bloggers. And, bloggers are known for having an innate ability to detect shills and other forms of BS.  How far are you willing to go to perpetrate in the illusion?

Let me just list a few ways in which a seasoned blogger can start to catch on that the writer of your blog is really not the listed author. The writing style, cadence and voice does not match other published writing samples. What if someone puts the named author on the spot in some sort of public setting about a past post or comment dialogue? Who responds to the comments, the ghost or the person who’s supposed to have written the post? Part of blogging is commenting on outside blogs, whose name is on those comments? It’s very easy for a blogger to look at an IP address and establish where the comment is coming from. If that comment has not been written from a contradictory location then there’s your proof. It just becomes one big lie wrapped up in a riddle. For an example, see John's Cass' post about how a person from Alaska Airlines was caught "annonomusly" sniping Jeremy Pepper's coverage of the incident.

The social media space is quite new and the natural tendency that most people have is to apply their familiar model to this new channel for communication. Education needs to happen so that the person considering the ghost writing option understands that there is a certain set of blogging best practices. In a nutshell, the blogosphere is very welcoming to honest dialog and engagement. Many of the people that you will want to influence or appeal to as you blog are people who care deeply about this culture and the sanctity of their particular blogging community. You best believe that they will feel obliged to call you on it (especially if you’re a big fish). It’s not because they’re mean spirited. It’s because they’re trying to preserve what’s great about social media, which is the idea that people trust other people more then they trust the corporation. Once the blogosphere becomes just another venue for the company spin and speak it will loose all of its value and usefulness to the consumer. Bloggers are going to fight like mad to preserve the “purity”.

As blogging consultant, the mere mention of ghost writing makes me start to question whether this company is really ready to engage in social media at all. That’s not because I’m a blogging purist throwing down the gauntlet about what blogging is and isn’t. I think that companies can contribute to the validity of social media without eroding it at its core. As the owner of a blogging service for companies, I feel it’s very important that our first clients to produce exemplary case studies of what successful corporate blogging can really mean. We have three active clients (Spherion's The Big Time is the only live example at this point, but we have two other client blogs that will be launching in the next two months) for Scout at this point and all have found a way to leverage internal resources to write their blog posts. Rationally, it makes the most sense to work with companies that are ready to embrace the concept of transparency and engage under the new rules.

I’ve found that some companies are ready and willing to embrace social media and I think it really helps when someone at the top actively reads other bloggers in their industry or has read books like the Cluetrain Manifesto or Naked Conversations. If they don’t read blogs or haven’t been “clued in”(as some like to say), that's not a show stopper if they’re open-minded and express willingness and the ability to change a few things about their company culture. On the other side of the spectrum are companies that have interest in the virtues of corporate blogging but are strongly attached to the old command and control mentality. From my narrow point of view, these cases represent a longer selling cycle, before and after the sale, and have a lower likelihood for success due to the fact that part of our job will be changing an entire company culture. (Here are some factors to consider before you start to blog from the recent Blogging Success Study we conducted with Northeastern University)

One final thing, ghostwriting is not a black and white issue. I’m sure that there are cases where the choice is ghostwrite now or no blog. I’m not going to judge anyone who decided blogging is important enough to hire a ghostwriter or their PR folks to do the job. The main idea that I’m trying to present here is that in the long run the transparency approach will produce better results with lower risk. The closer that you can get to that ideal before you lauch your company blog the better.

Correction 8:29PM Stephen T. corrected typo. ghost writers to one word - ghostwriters.

Tags: ghost+writing+blog ghost+writer blogging choosing+a+blog+writer online+pr social+media+strategy
Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips, CEO Bloggers

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on March 23, 2007 3:34 PM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

Why aren't more companies blogging by now?

In May 2005, Business Week issued a bold cover story; Blogs will change your business. Almost Two years later Gartner is predicting that blogging will reach its apex in 2007. This prediction is misleading if you're trying to gauge the adoption rate of corporate blogs. I think that a distinction should be made between random individual blogs and company blogs. Considering the fact that only a tiny fraction of companies are blogging now, the only logical conclusion is that the rate of corporate blogging will exponentially increase as workforce familiarity and the competitive nature of the market ensue.

Brian Edwards at the new Cedar Mill Communications blog recently posted an insightful review of the Northeastern University and Backbone Media Blogging Success Study's findings in a post, What makes a corporate blog sing?”. Brian has offered three very good insights into understanding why adoption of blogging will take some time. Here's a summry of his main points...

  1. "First, is time. The CEO is supposed to be the one blogging, but rarely will blogging take precedence over closing big deals or keeping the board happy..."

  2. "Second, companies aren’t convinced that blogs are a good idea and will be effective..."

  3. "Third, the blogging and social media skill set is non-existent at most companies..."

I would add a fourth to the list; 'the Keeping up with the Joneses factor'. C level support is crucial for a blog to make it out of the gates and through the first year. Chief Executives and Directors that remain on the sidelines are not going to apply a sense of urgency to blogging until they see their adversaries / rivals / competitors doing it. I've seen it happen. As soon as a key competitor pokes its blog through the corporate membrane, the 'blogging thing' becomes part of this week's agenda.

I'm just a biased CEO Blogger so take this for what it's worth; corporate blogging will become a standard tool for companies in the years to come. I would compare the adoption of corporate blogging with the adoption of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO practices have been around since 1995, but they were not really embraced by a critical mass of companies until after the Internet bubble burst in late 2000. Before the crash, Search Engine Marketing was a fast growing industry but many marketers preferred the glitz and familiarity of the CPM banner advertising over the arcane practice of positioning a company website on target keywords. The turning point for SEM was when the new economic realities forced marketers to explore new ways to market on a shoestring budget. It took a major shift in thinking and the SEM professional community to show companies reports on missed keyword opportunities, relative position of competitors and ROI to finally establish critical support from industry influencers.

In my opinion, Search Engine Marketing is a simple concept, but the glories of corporate blogging and social media are not so cut and dry.The act of corporate blogging crosses major disciplines such as PR, Legal, IT. Brand Positioning, Customer Service and more. Executives are faced with a much steeper learning curve and larger barriers to entry than simply hiring an SEM firm. Therefore, I am not surprised that the adoption of social media by companies is not wide spread. I think it will take three to four more years before we see widespread adoption. I believe it will be brought on through

  1. Greater understanding of the benefits of blogging among the C suite

  2. More high profile case studies of successful corporate blogging strategies

  3. The inevitable influx of a new workforce that is familiar with what it means to participate in social media prefer text messaging and IM over email, phones and fax machines.

There is nothing wrong with treading lightly when it comes to social media. As we reported in the Blogging Success Study, there are several Factors to Consider Before Starting a Company Blog, not least of which is having somthing to say. Blogging is not something that every company needs to be rush into. It's certaily not for every company. There are many companies that should not blog. However, every company has a responsibility to its stakeholders to explore the possibilities and then make the call based on their own set of goals and circumstances. 

Tags: blog+adoption, company+blog, corporate+blogging, growth+rate+of+blogging, online+marketing, search+engine+optimization, social+media
Filed under: Blogging Strategy

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on February 20, 2007 1:58 AM | | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (0)

SCOUT Launches First Client Blog - The Big Time a Spherion career blog

SCOUT Blogging is very proud to announce the launch of our first client blog -- The Big Time, a Spherion career blog. It officially launched today with this press release titled Spherion Hits The Big Time with First-of-its-Kind Career Blog; Leading Staffing Firm's CEO to be Among Regular Contributors and this post by Spherion's CEO, Roy Krause.

The Big Time Career Blog Logo

I want to thank the leadership at Spherion for keeping with its tradition of being an innovator by recognizing and being the first corporation to engage SCOUT's full package of corporate blogging services. For anyone that's interested, the SCOUT service starts with a comprehensive Assessment of the blogging community and a suggested Strategy that's tied with company marketing, PR, thought leadership and SEO goals. Then SCOUT provides Creative, Messaging, Design, Development Blog Hosting and most importantly, ongoing Blog Monitoring, Blogger Relations Consulting and daily SCOUT Reports that highlight blog posting and commenting opportunities. The clients are required to write their own blog posts and comments.

At this point, the SCOUT Corporate Blogging service has been in development for over 18 Months. It's very satisfying to launch a blog so we can FINALLY get to the REAL VALUE of SCOUT, which is helping our clients become great bloggers. Without getting too sentimental here, I have to deeply thank all the members of Backbone and the SCOUT team for rising to the challenge of launching this blogging services company while maintaining a successful and busy SEO and website development agency. David Neuman, Kristine Monroe, Dave Naggar, Eben Bathalon, Steve Abramowitz, Ryan Mulloy, Olga Krivchenko, and especially John Cass and Magen Dickinson. Thank you for making the launch of our inaugural corporate blog something we can all be proud of.

So far the site has been received well by career industry bloggers. Here are a few links to related blog posts as of 8/15/06

1. Jim Durbin from StlRecruiting wrote a nice post listing the things we did right and this after the column titled "Things they did wrong : Um, so far, nothing is wrong...." You can't pay for that kind of blogging. Thanks Jim :)

2. Jim Durbiin also posted this on an other blogRecruiting.com Check out Jim's post. He wrote some some more nice things about Spherion's new blog and continued with "Spherion is not the first staffing firm to have a blog (Volt was first), but they certainly seem to be the first to take it seriously enough to promote it and pitch it is as part of their long-term marketing strategy. " Thanks Jim, We'll take that as our second thumbs up in a row. Ok, Ok, enough with the mushy stuff and the self-congratulations. We thank Jim for his early recognition and kindness, but we also welcome critical or constructive suggestions from anyone in the blogosphere who has any ideas or suggestions for making The Big Time even better.

Tags:
Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogs Developed By Scout, New Communications, Product Development

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on August 15, 2006 9:21 PM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Should you host your own corporate blog or use a service

There are essentially two types of blog publishing systems, user-friendly hosted systems (like Blogger and TypePad and Wordpress.com) and robust flexible server systems (like Movable Type and Wordpress.org). Building and hosting a server solution can be a huge pain in the butt, and probably not the wisest move for companies with minimal technical resources. However, there are a number of reasons why companies should consider their options carefully.

When it comes to corporate blogging, I recommend setting up your own blog system over relying on a large hosted service like TypePad, Blogger. Granted hosted systems require minimal investment, they're very powerful, easy to use, setup, and design, but they can limit your potential.

Here's why I prefer the robust flexible server systems for corporate blogging.

  1. Server based blog publishing systems are less likely to be targeted by DOS attacks and system outages and slowdowns. With hosted systems, your company's blog is at the mercy of the provider. See this story in a May 3rd edition of Information Week. The headline reads Massive DoS Attack Knocks TypePad, LiveJournal Blogs Offline.
  2. For me the most important advantages to hosting your own blog are the search engine marketing / SEO implications. This is one reason companies are so keen on blogging in the first place. Well if your blog content is hosted somewhere else, the link juice is not helping boost your website link popularity. Also, the content that you are working so hard to produce is not getting attributed to your primary domain but rather something.blogspot or something.typepad. When you are in control of your own blog publishing system then you can decide where the content gets published. Some hosted systems like TypePad allow you to alias to a sub domain but from an SEO point of view I much prefer to publish to a root directory or a subfolder. I have anecdotal evidence as to why I believe this so if anyone is interested in hearing about it just ask.
  3. If you are into blogging for the long haul then you want the links and relationships that you build to accumulate and endure. You may start out blogging with a hosted service and then change your mind and go for hosted. It will be hard to transfer the rankings and subscriptions you have built up. That's like living in one neighborhood and then moving to another town. You can keep some of those relationships that you have built up but a lot of your friends will have your old address and it's a little like starting over.

Now, I know that this subject is rife with exceptions and grey areas. This post is not really about evaluating the features of various blogging systems but rather a discussion about whether it's a good idea to rely on one of the mainstream user-friendly hosted systems.

I have researched it a lot over the past year. This post is intended to get the discussion started but it's not the final word. Just for the record, we use Movable Type for all of our blogs but I think Wordpress (commercial) is also a very nice system.

Tags:
Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips, FAQ

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on May 4, 2006 10:47 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Southwest Blog Takes Off and Hits Some Turbulence

I applaud Southwest Airlines for being the first airline to engage into the blogosphere with thier Nuts About Southwest Blog. I think the site looks great and it may become a model for future brand name blogs. However, as with most forays into blogging by big businesses, the site is gathering some constructive criticism. It's coming from Shel Israel for not being engaging enough, from Robert Scoble for being too "safe" and from my colleague John Cass for burying this customer service disclaimer in their obscure "User Guide".

One final disclaimer -- 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. Even though this is not the forum, Southwest is eager to resolve your concerns. Our Customer Relations/Rapid Rewards folks want to assist you, and you can contact them by...

I would like to weigh in on the customer services aspect of this discussion. Of course Blogs should be open and ready to respond to comments, but I think the constructive bloggers out there should remember that airlines already have very elaborate customer service systems. Do you think this blog would have ever gotten off the ground if the blog evangelists selling the idea to Southwest leaders said "if we're going to blog then we have to reconfigure our customer services departments so we can respond to all the potential customer inquiries that come in through the blog"? In the case of an airline, or a car manufacture I don't think the blog is the place for that anyway.

Built in Customer Service is a great aspiration for a blog but I don't think it's a realistic expectation for the first batch of brand name corporate blogs. Rational people know how to complain to an airline. You walk up to the ticket counter; you call the toll free number or go to the website. If your claim is valid they do what they can to keep you happy if they don't they know that you have other choices. If it is not taken care of sufficiently there, then a blog may be an ok place for the irate to vent and have a soapbox but should we really expect large companies to portray their blogs as a customer service vehicle?

Now I'm not arguing the blogs can't be great customer service vehicle. I believe that blogs could be a great STRATEGY for Southwest or any company to consider IF one of their primary goals is to build or revamp its customer service system.

All that being said, Southwest should do a better job communicating their commenting policy and be prepared with some strategy for directing inquires to the appropriate Southwest resource (be it a phone number, web site, FAQ, email address or even a previous blog post).

Tags:
Filed under: Blogging Strategy

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 27, 2006 6:07 PM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

Blogging Strategy By SCOUT

Hi Folks, I just updated our Blogging Services page with a new section outlining the blogging strategy that we provide to corporate blogging clients. I think this might be helpful to use as a checklist for anyone interested in developing their own corporate blogging. Here it is. What do you think?

Blogging Strategy

A formal custom strategy and plan will be developed upon company approval based off of your SCOUT blogging assessment. Your strategy and plan will include the following elements:

Blog Strategy Overview – Executive summary of the strategy for your company highlighting the key goals, tactics, and measurement standards.

Designated Bloggers – An overview of the bloggers who will be posting and their administrative privileges. This section of your strategy also provides a profile of the types of people from your organization who would support your company’s overall blogging strategy.

Blog Description – The formal written description of your company’s blog(s) and its mission.

Content Focus – The content focus describes the various topics that the blog(s) will cover on a frequent basis. An abstract description for each recommended and agreed content focus area will be available in this section.

How often should bloggers post – Your bloggers will be provided with coaching on the posting frequency. Your post frequency strategy is determined by the assertiveness of the stated goals, available resources, and the scope of the agreement with SCOUT.

Content Review Process – This provides all parties with the agreed upon protocol for posting to the blog. The goal is to provide the highest level of content scrutiny without sacrificing the voice of the post or the ability to post an entry or comment in a timely fashion.

Blogging Policy – An outline of the limits to what can be written on the blog, what is expected of all bloggers, what topics are off limits, as well as basic rules and guidelines for engagement in the blogosphere.

Comments Policy – A publicly posted policy outlining how your company will filter and or respond to comments and trackbacks. The general guidelines are to post all comments and trackbacks as long as they are not inflammatory or obscene. Your company can also reserve the right to prevent overly promotional posts or spam.

Employee blogs: Internal and External – A posted guideline regarding internal or external company blogs. For example, you may authorize your employees to run their own “external” blogs as long as they follow certain guidelines, list a disclaimer, and link to the official corporate blogs with a designated image or line of text.

General Employee Consumer Generated Media Policy – We will work with you to set up a general employee consumer generated media posting policy. If even your employees don’t blog, it is important to let them know what can be said about your company on the web while they work for you.

Blog Marketing Plan – Based upon your marketing goals, we develop your strategy for generating awareness and reaching your marketing goals for your blog. The blog marketing plan will provide an overview of your blog SEO and PR goals, which will offer quantitative goals to achieve with the number of articles.

Blogger Relations Plan – How we intend to promote your blog with the key influencers in your space, addressing who we will target with comments, and trackbacks,.

Blogging Technology and Hosting – The recommended technology solution for your blogging needs.

Blog Design Recommendations – Design guidelines and recommendations.

Training Schedule and Participants – Training for your designated bloggers and affiliated team members.

Implementation Timeline – A living document outlining the implementation process for your custom strategy.

Tags:
Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 25, 2006 5:15 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)