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When Mixing Business with Twitter and Facebook Remember What Mom Always Says

Remember how your mom always said, 'if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all'? James Andrews, an executive vice president from Ketchum PR is wishing he heeded those words while twittering about his recent trip to Memphis. The story is titled How Not to be a Key Online Influencer, is covered responsibly by David Henderson on his blog. I think that this story is destined to be a cautionary tale that social media communications experts are sure to be adding into their Power Point presentations right after the slide titled "Kryptonite Blogging Fiasco".

To summerize... Andrews flew to Memphis to visit FedEx, one of his agency’s biggest clients. On his arrival in Memphis he published a tweet (a short post on Twitter.com) that said "True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here.”.  The tweet was quickly discovered by someone at Fedex that was 'following' Andrews on Twitter and resulted in a scathing written admonishment from the FedEx Corporate Communications team and I'm sure very cloudy home coming at Ketchum in Atlanta. Wanna get away? BTW in Twitter a Follower is like a Friend on Facebook. A Follower can see the tweets of the other people they are following.

In a world of sugar coated PR and glossy lofty corporate sentiments, I always find it refreshing when someone can eloquently speak their mind while being critical but not come off looking like a kermudgen. The masters can walk away with thought leadership and respect and possibly a few enemies. This is a very important skill for food or movie critics and bloggers alike. Many would say that open / casual discussion is what makes social media so important and popular. While a good zinger among friends and controversy keeps things interesting, and a good restaurant or product review is helpful to the consumer, when it's done on a social media setting like Twitter or Facebook it can be a very risky practice. There's a fine line between being critical or just poking fun and being insulting and dumb.

Now, I will admit to sympathizing with Andrews. In my own experience with blogging and Facebook i have found that these publishing tools can lull me, a multitasking type -- into a false sense of obscurity. Just like people mis speak, I can mis-tweet or mis-facebook, or mis-blog comment. Sometimes it's a typo because the text is so small. Sometimes I publish before I'm finished out of disgust, or publishing late at night after a glass of wine.

The Ketchum fiasco is not the first case of professional stupidity on the internet and it will not be the last. Social Media publishing tools offer otherwise responsible professionals and companies the noose in which to hang our selves. Does it mean we should not embrace them or close off our companies to social media all together? No, of course not. It simply means that companies now and in the future need to get serious about making social media best practices part of their business rather than an obscure interest managed by one or two folks or 'the agency'. Also,  companies need to put social media education right up there with the other major topics in the employee handbook.

Notes: Thanks to Debbie Weil for bringing this story to my attention via Facebook.

[Added January 26, 2009 at 12:43 PM:] Scout Blogging / Backbone Media produced Corporate Guidelines for Using Blogs and Forums a few years ago but I believe that they are still pertinent  today.

 

Tags: facebook, Fedex, Ketchum, Memphis, PR, twitter
Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on January 22, 2009 3:01 PM | | 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)

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)

A Metaphor for Blogging Etiquette

One of the ways I like to explain blogging and blogging etiquette to people is to think of the blogosphere as a huge cocktail party or networking event that includes clusters of people having enthusiastic conversations about every subject under the sun. The fact that this is happening 24/7 gives companies looking to develop relationships with target audience segments an unprecedented ability to search and identify the conversations, the participants, and influencers of the conversations that are relevant to their business. The two big mistakes that most markets make in evaluating the potential of the blogosphere are:

  1. Thinking it’s something that can be mass marketed to.

  2. Looking to quantify it in terms of an advertising unit

Can you mass market at a cocktail party? Marketing to bloggers is more about strategy. The best advices I can give to remember your networking party manners, If you want to converse at a cocktail party you don’t just barge in and stat talking, you stand there and listen and politely speak when you have something of value to add to the conversation. You gain credibility by following the discussion and adding value to it, not by hijacking it and shamelessly plugging your wares. 

Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on January 18, 2007 12:59 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Northeastern and Backbone Publish New Blogging Success Study

Hi folks, just published the Northeastern and Backbone Media Blogging Success Study. Check it out and let us know what you think.

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Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on November 2, 2006 10:50 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Mounting a PR Case for Blogging ROI from an SEO Perspective

Charlene Li posted a magnificent and easily digestible blog post titled Calculating the ROI of blogging. In it she talks about the costs, benefits and risks of Blog ROI measurement. My favorite part is the simple chart of the blogging “Benefit” and “Appropriate  measurement”.

“Greater visibility in search results” is high on her list of benefits, but I wonder if the SEO benefits from corporate blogging is being given enough play in the broader blogging ROI discussion.

Here's some advice if you’re a PR or communications person trying to sell blogging internally, find out how much Marketing is spending on Paid Search advertising and SEO. We’ve researched 140 clients of a local PR firm and found that 28% of them are spending an average of $21k per month on paid search(for more on this research, see A case for the ROI of Blogging).

Working with a annual budget of $252,000 ($21k x 12) leads me to believe that a case can be made for the blogging ROI strictly from an SEO (organic search engine optimization) benefit point of view. Start with making the SEO case and then add on all the other noted benefits (consumer education, pr, thought leadership, crisis, management, reach enthusiasts) as gravy.

Blogging is a long term strategy to achieve organic rankings on the most sought after keywords because...

  1. Blogs are search engine friendly.
  2. Good blogs produce an archive of fresh relevant content, 
  3. Good blogs produce quality incoming links.

These are always the biggest challenges in producing SEO results for clients, but they are fundamental in blogging.

So what happens after one year of corporate blogging publishing at a frequency of about 3 posts per week. At the end of the year your company has substantially increased your fresh relevant content footprint by 150 interlinked keyword focused posts/ aka. optimized web pages. We're doing this for one Spherion now and their blog has already garnered "41 links from 20 blogs" in their target blogging community. At this rate they will have 492 quality links by the end of the year. The fresh content and links will add up to a much better rankings for the blog and the Spherion corporate site since the blog is a subdirectory of the corporate website. Is Spherion achieving other benifits from blogging? Sure, but this post is strictly about the SEO benefits.

What is the investment/company dependencies for this? It’s going to cost a company about 20 – 40 hours in the setup phase and then 5 – 20 hours per week to write and publish 3 – 5 blog posts and deal with 6 – 10 comments. Add another 5 – 10 hours per week onto this equation for blog monitoring. Some companies may choose to augment some of this work and retain the assistance of blogging consultant, and that could range anywhere between $2k - $10k per month depending on scope and scale of the support.

Here's one way to calculate... If you're advertising in Google or Yahoo, or paying an SEO firm, figure out what a 1st to 3rd position on keyword X is already costing your company on a monthly Cost Per Click basis. A successful blogging strategy could generate free traffic on that keyword in 2 - 12 months. The less competitive the term the quicker you will see results. Duplicate that strategy/formula on 10 to 20 of your company's most important keywords and then double the totals(because Google is only about half the search market).

I found this article via Steve Rubel's post titled: A Model for Measuring Blogging ROI

Tags:
Filed under: Blogging ROI, Blogging Tips, PR Tips, Search Engine Optimization

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on October 3, 2006 4:21 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)

Has your domain been Wikipediafied?

How do you know if your company URL is in wikipedia.com? It's easy. just go here and type it in. Upon a search for *.backbonemedia.com I was pleasantly surprised to find our Corporate Blogging Survey listed as "External Link" under the definition of "Corporate Blog".

Thanks to Steve Rubel for pointing this out. Check out his post on this where he goes into a little more detail on how to use this "powerful stuff" to measure the impact of a particular blog or brand .

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Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on October 3, 2006 12:33 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

New Blogging Book: What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging and Podcasting

Here’s a new must have book for the corporate blogging and podcasting section of your corporate library. Ted Demopoulos, co author of Blogging for Business,  has released a new book about social media called What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging and Podcasting: Real-Life Advice from 101 People who Leverage the Power of The Blogosphere. Some of the "101 People” referred to in the title are well known leaders in the marketing and technology community (like Seth Godin and Gy Kawasaki) and some of them are “people” like (me).

When Ted told me about the book last year, I thought to myself “what a great concept”, then I broke into a cold sweat when I realized that he wanted me to actually write a few pages. I can’t wait to receive my copy to see what all the contributors said and how Ted and the publisher put it all together.

I called Ted today and asked him if he could do a quick inteview about the book.

Stephen Turcotte: So what are some of the most interesting or surprising insights you picked up in the process of writing this book?

Ted Demopoulos:  The most interesting thing was realizing that people have started using blogs and podcasts in the most interesting ways that I would have never thought of. This is probably just the beginning of a very empowering time for many people in terms of how they leverage blogs and podcasts in their daily business life. For example… A friend of mine is a career sales guy. He doesn’t blog, probably never will. He’s a really good salesman though -- the type that you want selling you something when you’re actually interested in buying. He started using blogs as part of his pre meeting research. There’s no way he will go to a client meeting without searching the blogs for news. I would have never thought of that.

Ted Demopoulos:
  Another example… There's a company called Rightlook Automotive. They sell high end automotive reconditioning training and equipment. When the president figured out what podcasting was 8 - 12 months ago, he thought 'this is perfect for my business'. Not the first business you would think of as being ripe for ROI from podcasting right? But think about it, Rightlook’s average new order is $25k - $35k. This is somebody starting a detailing business. They want as much information as possible. He started a reconditioning business podcast on subjects like Industry Opportunities and Professionalism in the Trade. Today He'll get calls in the morning with big orders from prospects who spent the night listening to his podcasts. I would have never thought of that.

Ted Demopoulos:  The thing is great bloggers and podcasters can come from the most unexpected places. One guy who is one of the best writers I've ever run across is an unemployed factory worker.

Stephen Turcotte:
  Thanks Ted.

The book now available for presale on Amazon, B&N & 800ceoread and will be "on the shelves" by Nov 1st.

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Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on September 5, 2006 5:38 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)

Simple advice for Introducing your new blog

A business acquaintance of mine who is launching a new corporate blog recently asked me for some thoughts and or advice on writing the intro post. This is what I told her... Always remember that a blog should be more like a conversation. Make that first post conversational - like a single reader is there sitting across from you. Think about your audience. Tell the audience why you're excited about blogging and list a few of the topics / categories that you intend to discuss with them. Encourage their participation feedback. Tell the audience that you really want to hear from them and open it to anybody who wants to join into the discussion. Introduce your user guidelines. Lately I have been referring to Southwest's User Guide as a good example. When you do finally write your intro post or following posts, always read the post out loud and make sure it strikes the right tone and does not sound too official or formal. Try not to make grand proclamations like "we're pleased to launch this blog which is going to be the best... this or that".

Experienced bloggers recommend researching and becoming familiar with the blogging culture in your industry before launching your blog. Many also recommend skipping the press release (at lease for a week or two) and favor launching quietly. Simply link to It from your website without much fanfare and start joining into the existing industry discussion. Get your sea legs commenting on outside blogs and writing a few actual blog posts.

Find five to ten blogs that you really like to read and link to them from your blog roll. This will let them know that your blog exists because most bloggers have a tendency to monitor for incoming blog links. Again, look for opportunities to participate in those target blogs by monitoring them with an RSS feed or with tabbed browsing. Contribute to theses discussions where you can add value to the conversation. If you know a certain blogger is interested in a topic you have recently written about, it's ok to send them a friendly letter asking them to check out your post on _________ because you would like to know what they think.

In the future when you write posts, make them kind of open ended or thought provoking - inviting response / agreement or disagreement. Disagreement is ok. It's an opportunity to engage with the audience. Good blogs thrive on it. Welcome it and you will have a great blog.

So these are some general recomendations. Does anyone have anything to add? Please let me know.

Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on August 1, 2006 1:25 PM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Corporate Guidelines for Using Blogs and Forums

The SCOUT team and I have been busy helping our first customers develop their blogging strategies and blogs. The good news is, in the process of our client work, we developed a nice list of Corporate Guidelines for Using Blogs and Forums. We'd like to share them with you. Please let us know what you think! We're very open to hearing any additional suggestions.

Author Note: Special thanks to Charlene Li, LSU Office of Public Affairs and the US Government Performance Review. The author's publications were used as reference for this document.

Blogging policy examples - Charlene Li
http://forrester.typepad.com/charleneli/2004/11/blogging_policy.html

LSU Office of Public Affairs http://www.lsu.edu/pa/crisis.html

Serving the American People: Best Practices in Resolving Customer Complaints - National Performance Review http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/npr/library/papers/benchmrk/bstprac.html

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Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on June 23, 2006 3:00 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Get a Master's in Blogging in One Day

Here's a great idea for companies looking to educate their workforce about corporate blogging. Send your employees to blogger university. Stonyfield Farm's famed chief blogger, Christine Halvorson has started Halvorson New Media, a new blogging practice featuring a suite of blogger training services ranging from the 1 hour "Freshman Seminar" to the "Master's in Business Blogging--Full Day Seminar".

Congratulations to Christine, one of the pioneers of successful corporate blogging. I think this is a great idea, and that it's sure to help promote corporate blogging best practices.

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Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on May 15, 2006 9:14 PM | | Comments (0) | 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.

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Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips, FAQ

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

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.

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Filed under: Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips

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

Learning from what's in the tool box of top bloggers

We're living in an age of information overload. Knowing how to sift through the streams of information for gold nuggets without breaking a back is the skill that we all need to learn and develop. No doubt, the next generation markets (who are now in high school and college), will be measured by how efficient they are at filtering and responding to information.

When it comes to searching the web, the best at it are possibly the top bloggers. Top bloggers have an uncanny ability for uncovering the stories and discussion that their audience will eventually care about. They do it by sifting through piles of information usually while maintaining their day job. Therefore, knowing how top bloggers efficiently zero-in is a valuable lesson for all of us.

Here are a couple of very helpful posts by a top blogger, B.L. Ochman . In her first post, How I Keep Up With It All: My Top Blog Research Tools, she outlines some tools and techniques she uses. In her second post, Top Bloggers Share Their Favorite Research Tools, she asks other bloggers such as Doc Serls, the co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto to share their tools and techniques.

I highly recommend these posts for college professors and high school teachers looking to prepare their students for tomorrow's competitive workforce environment.

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Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 14, 2006 2:37 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

Measure twice before your cut into corporate blogging

Once a company decides to blog it's natural to want to put up a blog and start blogging, but it's important to measure twice before your cut into corporate blogging. Ted Demopoulos over at Blogging For Business highlights a nice post by Shadowbox Studios that gives some down to earth advice on how to Develop Blog Strategy First. I really like how the author of this post, Patrick Dodd has offered a sampling of his Goals and Objectives.

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Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on April 14, 2006 10:33 AM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

Who should blog in a company?

Anybody in a company can blog, but not anybody in a company necessarily should blog.

An employee in any position could potentially be a good blogger, as long as they have something interesting to say. PR people, product developers, CEOs, and VPs are all examples of employees who could blog.

Marketing and salespeople can also make fantastic bloggers, as long as the blogs don't sound too "salesy." Blog posts should have a casual, personable voice and should not read like advertisements.

People who want to become a corporate blogger should be prepared to:

  1. Communicate with both existing customers and potential customers.
  2. Commit to posting regularly.
  3. Set aside time to read other blogs in the industry.
  4. Receive and respond to feedback, both negative and positive. It reflects well on a company if they are willing to engage in correspondence.

In elise.com's post Blogging for Business, she says that "Sometimes the best spokesperson for a business is a company's President, CEO, owner, or VP of Something Important", although she adds: "the best person to blog for your company is someone with a deep knowledge of your products, someone who likes to talk with customers and won't get unduly defensive when the feedback isn't all positive, and someone who likes to write, and writes well."

Elise is right on the money there; no matter what title the blogger holds in the company, above all he or she needs to be a good communicator.

Susan Solomon at www.marketingprofs.com suggests in her article Whose Blog Is It Anyway that mid-level managers blog. She finds that CEOs and executives in larger companies "don't provide the bare honesty expected of a decent blog" due to stockholder's perceptions." She also mentions that mid-level bloggers won't make great bloggers if their blog posts wind up being submitted through "layers of approvals". This is very true, mostly because it will lose part of the voice. Blog posts should not read as standard articles or press releases. She recommends that some clear-cut guidelines are laid out beforehand, so the company's bloggers can follow them and not have to go through different people to approve their blog entry before posting.

Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by on April 10, 2006 11:03 AM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

The Noisy Tragedy Only Exists If You Don't Interact

Seth Godin suggests that the volume of content from a blog will produce more readers and even more loyal readers in his post, "The noisy tragedy of the blog commons."

I don't believe the volume of content on blogs or an individual blog is anything new, I know I was not able to keep up with the volume of traditional media content.

To me it's a matter of design and desire.

RSS feed readers do give people the ability to review more content easily, but even this new design tool for reviewing content can overwhelmed the reader. I think a happy medium will develop for people, if you cannot cope with the volume of RSS feeds, unsubscribe or hire someone to help.

Seth suggests,

"over time, as blogs reach the mass market, the number of new readers coming in is going to go down, and the percentage of loyal readers will increase. The loyal readers are going to matter more. Blogs with restraint, selectivity, cogency and brevity (okay, that's a long way of saying "making every word count") will use attention more efficiently and ought to win."

I think Seth raises an interesting point about the content issue, and he might be right if content on your blog was the only way to get new readers. That's why I disagree with him as content is not the only determining factor in gaining new readers.

Developing relevant content is a super way to build loyal readers. But to find new audiences, a blogger has to be involved in their community. Effective blogging to me requires blogger relations or outreach on the part of a blogger. I think commenting and sending trackbacks are two of the best ways to interact within your community. That community involvement translates into conversation on other blogs, and if relevant, will produce new readers for the blogger. Seth misses one of the most important factors in successful blogging. Conversation on and between other blogs produces new readers.

Thanks Stowe

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Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by on March 14, 2006 11:09 AM | | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (2)

Promoting Blogging to the CEO

So you're sold on blogging. You see the great potential for your company in terms of PR, capturing market share and building better products. You understand that there is this huge networking party going on online--one you can participate in from the comfort of your own office. Moreover, you are aware that the discussions are taking place regardless of your participation, and the only question that remains is if you're going to cede the entire space to the competition or jump in. Maybe your marketing department is looking for additional ways to generate ROI with organic search engine traffic. You recognize that blogging is a great way to create a body of relevant content and quality links to make that happen. In short, you're ready to burst into the executive dining room, gather around the c-level execs and open their eyes to what you see as the greatest online opportunity to come along since the search engine. I understand. I am convinced too. But you know as well as I do, if you are to bring this truly innovative idea to the bosses, you'll have to come armed with more than just your enthusiasm. Here are some ideas on how to conduct a blogging assessment yourself, and ultimately, get the ball rolling with the execs. This will enable you to transform blogging from abstract Internet technology into a concrete discussion about business benefits. The Preparation The first thing you need to do is find proof that your company should or should not be blogging. If you can prove to yourself that people are talking out there and there's an opening for someone from your company to add value to the conversation, then you can speak with confidence to your leadership about why they should be considering blogging. RESOURCES

  1. Start by using technorati.com and blogpulse.com to search on your company's brand names and your competitor's brand names as well as relevant search phrases and business categories. Sift through the spam and document every post you can find that has some meaningful connection to your business and its goals.

  2. Search del.icio.us to see what others are book marking.

  3. Find examples of how other thought leaders (maybe CEOs or product managers from competing organizations) are gaining a following through blogs.

  4. Find examples of how a relevant blog post translates into media coverage, search engine listings and speaking opportunities.

  5. Find examples of competitors who have blogs are getting better search engine rankings.

  6. Find blog posts speaking positive or negatively about your company or your competitors.

  7. Identify spots where your business is absent from important conversations.

The Discussion Now, you have conducted valuable research, and you're armed with some initial evidence to support your advocacy of blogging. You're ready to develop champions in the senior leadership positions of your company. But before you pull the execs away from their lamb chops, here are a few things to consider. While you want to be a strong proponent of blogging, be sure to acknowledge that it's something that needs to be explored further before moving ahead. After all, blogging is not a small undertaking and requires a strong strategic commitment and investment. Without the resources--strategy, technology and people--in place, you will not succeed. And finally, be well versed in the potential benefits. Fortunately, they are many and include the types of things c-level execs like to hear:

  • Demonstrated thought leadership within your industry

  • Improved search engine rankings and increased traffic

  • Enhanced product development

  • Increased press coverage and buzz on-and off-line

  • Superior lead generation

  • Better community goodwill

Here are some case studies and white paper to help you explore these potential benefits further.

RESOURCES

ConverStatioins Business Blogging Basics

Blogging Case Studies: IBM, Microsoft, Macromedia, Annie's Home Grown and Backbone's Corporate Blogging Survey 2005

Podcast: The Holtz Hobson Report

Books: Naked Conversations, Cluetrain Manifesto , We the Media, What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging and Podcasting:

Corporate Blogs: Fortune 500 companies that are already blogging.

List of CEO Bloggers: CEOBlogsList

These are the actions of someone who cares about the company's future--someone I would consider promoting. (But that's just me; and I'm a little biased.) It's a lot of upfront work, but well worth it for your company. And if you do decide to start blogging, there's even more work ahead, like establishing a blogging strategy and policy. But, I'll get into that next time.

Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by Stephen Turcotte on March 7, 2006 1:03 PM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

Thoughts On How To Become A Great Blogger

Luis Suarez wrote about the SCOUT blogging tips web page here on the new SCOUT weblog a few days ago. I enjoyed reading his perspective on each of the tips.

Luis asked if anyone wanted to talk in an interview on blogging related issues. Luis I`d love to chat with you about blogging and social networking shoot me an email at john AT backbonemedia DOT com or im me at bostonmarketing.

Here are Luis`s thoughts on each of the tips we presented:

  1. Understanding the fundamentals of Blogger Relations: I never thought about it this way but the article has got a point. If you want to get out there and connect with others you would need to work on your Blogger Relations, indeed, perhaps at the same level if not more (Because of the remoteness) than the traditional PR. And perhaps being shy may not help a lot.
  2. Create value: Indeed, this is one of the reasons why I primarily created all of my weblogs. To be able to add further into the conversation(s) my two cents worth of comments on the topics that I have got a passion for, because after all, it is all down to how passionate you are about the topics you want to discuss in order to be able to create that sustainable value.
  3. Grow and sustain your audience by providing real analysis: Spot on! Otherwise why would you want to reference on something if you are going to be able to read in the original resource. What is the point? We can all read the original article by ourselves. In my case, I just want to know people's opinions about that piece of news. For the rest I can get the details myself. That is where I think the power of weblogging is; in augmenting the original conversation(s).
  4. Report on community opinion: This is a very powerful option since it would allow to build further up on that sense of belonging to the group or the community with which you can start creating multiple connections at multiple levels and make it all a very worth while discussion where everyone provides their share on establishing the connection.
  5. Respond with comments to build relationships and traffic: This is one of those tips that I cannot but stress how important it is. I am one of those lucky folks whose Internet weblog is not very popular. Yes, to me, that is a good thing ! It has got a good share of readers who get to comment every now and then and I am just very delighted that I can dedicate the time to respond to them the way they deserve for coming back over and over again and sharing their thoughts. That is, to me, what differentiates a good weblogger from a mediocre one just looking to have their traffic increased so that they rank higher. Waste of time.
  6. Track your conversations: This is also another tip that I have been employing from the very beginning since I started weblogging away. I have even weblogged myself about it elsewhere when I provided an overview about coComment and how I am currently using myself BlinkList to keep track of all of the comments I share out there in the Blogosphere. Yes, indeed, it is all about the conversations so you might as well go ahead and keep track of them.
  7. Don't be afraid of criticism: No, indeed, don`t be afraid of it because that is actually what is going to give character to your weblog and what will make people stick together with you. Believe it or not, you will be able to attract some more traffic through that criticism than just talking to yourself. It is just so much more entertaining and engaging, specially if you would want to be part of the conversations.
  8. Conduct interviews to generate content and ideas: Great tip ! Something I haven`t exploited myself yet for any of my weblogs I maintain but perhaps something that I may be able to use some time in the future. Does anybody out there from you folks fancy doing an interview to talk about KM, Communities of Practice, Social Networking and the like? Let me know
  9. Promote your weblog: Yes, in principle, I agree with giving some more promotion to your own weblogs, like I have mentioned elsewhere in another weblog posts, but I have also indicated that you should probably not overdo it in detriment of providing that value that is mentioned above. I think they could both walk hand in hand to provide some good balance. Sometimes it is not about getting the word out and about all over the place, but getting the right word out and about. That is, to me, what really matters. The rest is circumstantial. Check this other weblog post from Steve Rubel on the subject and its subsequent commentary (I will talk about it more in detail at a later time, not to worry; one metablog post at a time) for some additional reading on the topic.
  10. Monitor the web for brand names and references: As far as I can see anybody who may not have been doing this for quite some time now, even if you do not have a weblog, I feel that they just do not want to be part of the conversations taking place out there and therefore become an integral part of them. Thus, if you haven`t done so yet, get involved ! We will all be much better off if you do so.

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Posted by on March 1, 2006 7:12 AM | | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

Luis Suarez Blog On The SCOUT Tips Post

Luis Suarez wrote a really great follow up to the SCOUT tips on becoming a great blogger, and I would have blogged about it yesterday, but I`ve been busy with the Search Engine Strategies show. Luis thanks for the post and great ideas. Unfortunately I see that your website is down at the moment so I am not sure if my link to Luis`s site will work.

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Filed under: Blogging Tips

Posted by on March 1, 2006 12:06 AM | | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (0)