Successful Blogs from the study
- Authors and Bios
- Blogger Interviews
- Blogging Glossary
- Blogging Research Methodology
- Blogging Success Study
- Choosing the Right Blogger
- Company Blog
- Company Culture
- Deciding to Blog or Not
- Generating Dialogue
- Interview Questions
- Online PR
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Marketing
- Social Media Strategy
- Starting a Blog
- The Time Investment
- Top Content Strategies
- Top Habits
- Top Success Factors
- Writing Style
Generating Dialogue Archive
posted: November 2, 2006 2:04 AM
The web has given companies and their audiences the opportunity to conduct an open online dialogue. The online dialogue between customer and company was once a private conversation that now can be made available on the Web and benefit the greater community. While an individual customer's problem might be answered or ideas discussed online, the very nature of dialogue online enables customers and industry peers to assess the overall strength of a company’s brand. When a customer reads an online interaction between another customer and a warm and friendly employee, the reader will likely take away a positive impression of the company. Such open dialogue is one of the most important benefits of corporate blogging.
For many bloggers generating dialogue is one of the best measurements of success on a blog. However, a blogger may not actually have a high level of interaction with his readers even though there’s a large audience. Customers often prefer to keep to the sidelines and read blog content because they may be uncomfortable about revealing too much about themselves, due to privacy concerns or fear of revealing competitive details to the rest of the industry on the blog. A blogger should realize that confidentiality is important to blog readers and to have their contact information available to blog readers when they need to correspond privately.
Dialogue is not just about conversation on your own blog but also the process of seeking out the places on the web where there is conversation about your industry and interests. Bloggers should search their blogging community for places where conversation and dialogue about their industry occurs. Blogging should never be just a cynical attempt at dialogue, but a real conversation between individuals. Successful blogging occurs when writing is transparent, open, and bloggers are willing to listen to criticism. One of the ways to be transparent and open is for companies to provide insight into how and/or why decisions are made that affect their customers, shareholders and the surrounding community.
Successful blogging requires the development and implementation of a complex blogging strategy. Corporate bloggers might understand that dialogue is important, but so, too, is the subject matter that should be discussed and the other bloggers with whom to communicate online to achieve a company’s blogging goals. To answer those questions, careful content planning and an outreach strategy must be developed. A company needs to create the best content and connect with the most important people in the community.
Corporate bloggers have goals in mind when they prepare to launch a blog, goals such as attaining more leads through blogging. The way to achieve those goals, however, is not necessarily by writing about the company’s products. Success may come from discussing an issue that is totally unrelated to the product but resonates with the company’s audience.
Successful bloggers understand that demonstrating an expertise in topics relevant to their audience can be more important than talking specifically about products. This concept may be new to many marketing professionals. Content generation in corporate blogging is about creating a dialogue with your audience; that dialogue may take place by reacting to another community member’s blog post with a post of your own or by leaving a comment on the other blog. As community dialogue might be unrelated to product discussion, it is sometimes difficult for most marketers to understand how a particular blogging strategy can bring benefits to a company.
Stonyfield Farm is an excellent blogging example of using a blog to speak about related topics rather than product line. Stonyfield sells yogurt but does not write about yogurt; rather Stonyfield’s blogs provide content that addresses the issues that are important to their customers such as children’s health and the environment. A conversation about yogurt on the part of Stonyfield would have been a very lonely experiment in blogging, but a conversation about children’s and the environment as they relate to healthy food and growing healthy food works. The Stonyfield Farm blog’s content strategy is based on the psychographics of the audience – Stonyfield is attempting to create a dialogue with its audience about organic farming and health. The content on the Stonyfield blogs is related to yogurt but not about the products Stonyfield sells. The Stonyfield blog content draws in an audience who can then conduct a dialogue with Stonyfield bloggers. The content and the open comment boxes on the Stonyfield blogs say two things: Stonyfield is willing to talk and this is what we are willing to talk about.
Describing the inspiration for the Stonyfield blogs, the blog author, Chris Halvorson, said the Howard Dean campaign in the last Presidential election, which used blogging to create a dialogue with constituents, had a big effect on the CEO of Stonyfield Farm, Gary Hirshberg. Over time Stonyfield reduced its original number of blogs from five to two, and that reduction is a good example of how a company needs to be self-critical and create content that is of interest to an audience and will facilitate dialogue. We asked Chris why the company cut down the number of blogs. Chris said, "We started out with ah five, I was the only staff person doing it and it did get to be a little too much to write and maintain five. We had five different topic areas and all along we considered it one big experiment. So, we put the five out there to see what works. We got rid of one because it never seemed to find an audience. It was sort of an insider’s view to the company, you know, I wrote about quirky little things we did as employees. We had a potluck today, in Honor of St. Patrick’s Day, or whatever it was and it didn’t really seem to find an audience which is in retrospect, understandable."
When the Stonyfield blogs first started in April of 2004, Chris Halvorson wrote about politics and religion and other non-business issues. Those posts received a lot of comments. The company started a blog about strong women because the majority of yogurt eaters are women. Chris Halvorson told the interviewer that the other blogs were successful even though Chris did not write about yogurt more than three or four times in two years. Chris also spends a lot of time reading the news about parenting because that is the content strategy of this blog. Chris also tied the blog content into Stonyfield yogurt products because the company was one of the first companies to put DHA into their yogurt. DHA is good for developing baby's brains. Chris would not try to pitch the product but ask questions around the subject, whether people know about the importance of their babies eating DHA, and if they or their babies eat food with DHA in it. Chris said she tries to raise questions in people's minds and be provocative by asking questions to generate comments. Dialogue is important for the success of a blog, but only when that dialogue is linked to issues your audience is interested in reading and discussing.
What is surprising about many successful blog posts that create dialogue between bloggers is that success can be very random in nature. As we discovered in the interviews with bloggers many bloggers don’t know if their posts are going to be successful or not. Many of the bloggers did believe that stating an opinion is definitely a factor in creating dialogue. Also, agreeing or disagreeing with the majority of people in their industry will create a greater chance of eliciting a response from the audience. However, even opinion pieces are no guarantee of success. Dialogue is really about showing the community a willingness to talk and engage in meaningful conversation.
Adweek, Cathy Taylor
posted: October 29, 2006 9:19 PM
1.1.2 Company: Adweek
Blogger: Cathy Taylor
Student Interviewer: Melissa Buckley
Cathy Taylor is a journalist who works for Adweek. She initiated the Adfreak blog at Adweek and helps run the blog with her colleagues.
Cathy recognized the impact of political blogs on the country’s political discussion during the 2004 presidential election, and also noticed several blogs whose content on advertising competed with Adweek. She recommended Adweek start a blog to compete with the advertising related blogs. Cathy said that Adweek noticed the benefits of the blog being the conduit for all content related to advertising. Cathy said this insight developed over time.
Due to the time constraints of blogging, the Adweek management decided the whole editorial staff would be able to contribute to the blog. However, all content would pass through two gatekeepers, Cathy and Tim Nudd. The two journalists serve as editors for the blog. The editors ensure Adweek steers clear of posts that might cause legal problems, makes sure content is on target with what the AdFreak audience is looking for and provides copyediting for the blog posts.
Cathy said there's definitely a correlation between the number of posts and the number of people who come to the blog; more posts produces more traffic. When large influential blogs link to the blog the Adweek team also sees an increase in traffic.
Cathy said the person who runs the blog at a competitor, Adrants, comments on more blogs than the bloggers at Adfreak. Cathy thought that the Adfreak team would probably comment more if they had the time. She also discussed how she and her colleague send out links every once in a while and that she makes sure that the links she sends out are extremely relevant and important to the people she sends them to. She suggested bloggers had to be judicious in sending links about posts to other bloggers.
Cathy does comment on other blogs, but she has so little time, that it’s just occasionally, and typically she comments when it relates to her blog posts, or when someone else has criticized what she has written previously.
After reviewing two commercials one by Apple featuring the music star, Eminem, and the other by Lugz Footwear, Cathy was really taken aback by how similar the two commercials were and commented on the similarity on her blog. Eventually the New York Times and other major newspapers picked up the story. Lugz Footwear started sending cease and desist letters to Apple. All because a blog reader had sent a link to Adfreak asking the question, “do you guys think this looks really similar?”
Once Adfreak pointed out the similarity, everyone in the industry started to pay attention. Cathy even received a call from the ad agency who did the Lugz spot. And Cathy was introduced to the spot's creative director. There was a misconception that the production company for the Lugz Footwear spot had sent the link around the media community. Cathy took it upon herself to call media who had been contacted by Lugz' agency about the story, to let them know that was not the case. When she was working to set the story straight with other media, she changed her role from reporter to something else; perhaps PR person or a blogger. Cathy questioned her role in the affair, and asked herself, “What am I now? A PR person getting the story straight, a blogger or the reporter?” and went onto say, “The lines that used to be so stark are just not stark anymore.”
According to Cathy, the content on the blog focuses on ad creative and takes a big time commitment but is also a big listening device about customers and stories.