Archive for November, 2004
I must be really bad at counting. Because I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked this question or some variation on the theme.
I nearly put together a nice little video presentation on the whole subject because, from my perspective, it’s quite simple: if you need value, can’t find it internally (for resources, political or other reasons) you look externally. If blogs provide that value, why shouldn’t you look at bloggers?
The question is, in my mind, therefore misframed. What most people are really asking is “where is the value in blogging?” Which is ironic, since it’s bloggers asking the question. So, I’ll answer this question first, and then answer “Why should they hire a blogger?” second – since hopefully it’ll be self evident by then.
There are, in my mind, 3 ways that blogging can help companies, and it’s the same 3 ways that it helps individuals: information aggregation, knowledge management and feedback loop.
Information aggregation is the ability to get the right information to the right people at the right time. Has your company announced a major new product? It doesn’t help much if people find out about it 6 months later, or if the only people who find out are construction workers (unless your product is for construction workers of course).
Getting the right information to the right people at the right time.
Previously this was only really possible via 3 mediums: press releases, phone calls and newsletters (email or otherwise).
Blogs afford companies a new way of distributing realtime news to the right people at the right time. Through the use of Newsreaders / RSS or simply by having a website that is updated daily, archived and searchable, blogs let people find the right information at the right time. By having a valuable blog, the anticipation is that the right people will also find it – though you may need to let them know about it via more traditional means (just like any new venture).
As mentioned earlier, blogs are fantastic for managing knowledge. Not so much static knowledge such as who your competitors are (that’s what Wiki’s are for – but that’s a whole other conversation). Blogs are fantastic at managing “Now” information. What is happening in your company, in your industry, with your competitors right now.
The more knowledge you can store, the more you and your company become industry Thought Leaders. After all, who wouldn’t visit your website every day if it had every bit of industry news, opinion and innovation that’s needed? Your competitors would, your employees would, industry watchers would and journalists would. All of a sudden you are defining your industry in a whole new way – something that most companies would absolutely kill for.
Information Aggregation is about Communication. Knowledge Management boils down to public perception. The Feedback Loop is really about customer and industry relationships.
When the right people can get the right information at the right time, and when the entire industry trusts you as a source of information, there is really only one more step: finding out what people think about what you’re saying and about what you’re doing.
Instant feedback from customers, industry insiders and analysts is, after all, something companies spend massive amounts of money on. Focus Groups. Analyst Conferences. Massive conference calls.
There’s the Value
Anything which can get the right info to the right people at the right time, empower your company to become a thought leader and let you know what your customers and the industry are thinking about you in real time is something that has massive value. Companies already spend millions of dollars trying to get a fraction of these things in other mediums.
So, what does this really mean to companies? How can they really put this to work? From my perspective there are 3 kinds of blogs companies can start: internal awareness blogs, external industry blogs and advertising vehicle blogs.
Internal Awareness Blogs
This type of blog effectively takes the place of “corporate newsletters”. Lower cost of production, lower editorial cost, faster distribution. It’s all about letting your employees know what is happening in your company and, to a lesser extent, what is happening in your industry. Some companies are looking at doing this to save their executives’ time. After all, if you can create a blog which aggregates all the info they would need or want without them having to read the newspaper for an hour… Well, you’ve just made your top staff more effective.
Other companies, though, are looking at this as a way to keep their entire workforce plugged in to what the company is doing. Something that would be practically impossible with 50,000 employees in 35 countries. Internal Awareness at it’s finest.
The value here is in getting the right info to the right people at the right time, only it’s internal only. There’s little external value here, except for a handful of journalists and industry watchers perhaps. It’s really about letting your employees know what’s going on. Some companies have entire departments to handle this, and the addition of a blog would be a minor task.
External Industry Blogs
This is the “Thought Leader” stuff I was talking about earlier. Start a blog. Bring together company news, industry news and commentary on what’s going on. Make it one of the premier websites to go to for your industry. Period. And then make sure your entire industry goes there.
The value is obvious: any company would kill to be the thought leader in their industry, and as long as you aren’t simply an advertising or PR vehicle for your company, it’s unlikely another company would surpass you. But, even if they did, the value is still large and the cost is still very low: producing a blog is one of the least expensive forms of marketing, PR, customer relations, communication you can have in your arsenal. Not doing a blog is more expensive than doing one.
This is one of the areas that most people think of when they think of blogging. It’s a blog, sponsored by a company. Thanks to the eBay auction I’m aware of several companies considering doing this. They want to be thought leaders, but they don’t want to be the ones “behind” the blog. They merely want to hold all of the advertising space. A good example of this is Jalopnik, a car blog sponsored entirely by Audi.
The goal of this blog is to be associated with the thought leader, so that you own the branding around it. Personally I think this is more short sighted, but it’s also much easier to get approved internally at companies where new advertising ideas are looked at suspiciously. Getting ad dollars approved for a website are easy, though because it’s something companies have already done.
So, Why Hire a Blogger?
Hopefully I’ve managed to show a few areas where companies can find value (I’m sure there’s more) and a few ways that companies can start real blogs that provide that value in a tangible and measurable way.
The question remains though, Why Hire a Blogger? After all, couldn’t internal marketing / PR / ad / communications departments handle this? Yes. They could. And, ultimately that’s what I’d recommend doing.
However, whenever a new project is started, many companies bring in a consultant to act as a sounding board: will this work, how can we avoid this pitfall, how will our customers respond to this idea?
To me, that is one of the biggest value that succesful, profiled, experienced bloggers bring. A golf pro will teach you how to golf and then leave you to it. A blogging professional will teach you how to blog and then leave you to it.
Few people hire golf pros for life. I expect that few companies will hire blogging consultants for life. However, that isn’t to say that there isn’t a continued value for bloggers in companies.
So, why hire a blogger instead of just some writer off of eLance or Guru.com? The short answer is that you don’t just want a writer. The blogging consultant you hire should know how to write, know how to communicate (which is an entirely different matter) and know the business and marketing drivers which are likely to cause success or failure in this new venture.
Much like when you are starting a new software project you need more than just software developers, when you are starting a new blog you need more than just a writer: you need someone who (at least for now) is a leader in the blogging industry, who can walk you through the process and who can be a continuing resource to you and your company as the project evolves.
Hopefully that’s a semi-coherent answer to the dozens of emails I’ve been receiving, and the even greater number of blog posts asking this very question.
At the end of the day, companies don’t need to blog. But, if you can provide greater value than the cost of production, the real question then becomes “who does this”. And in companies where resources are already stretched to the maximum, where starting a new communications vehicle is a daunting prospect or where you simply need an Expert to push a project forward, people like Darren and myself are invaluable in getting you started.
Okay, it’s a bit of a fluff piece. Not my best editorial ever.
Can I be honest on how my feelings with this auction have gone? I initially listed this for 100$ and a Buy It Now of 5,000$. I thought somone just buying it outright’d be very cool. But, honestly, I wasn’t even sure someone would bid 100$.
I mean, blogging’s new. Who knows if anyone would ever FIND the auction, nevermind bid!
So, somebody bid. I was ecstatic. The first bid’s always the hardest. The bidding quickly went up to 250$, and I did a reality check “how much would be nice?” I asked myself. My own answer was 750$. I make 250$/month off of a couple of blogs I write, so 750$ for 3 months would be okay. I wouldn’t be losing money.
These days, though, I earn about 500$/month for blogging, so the dreamer in me said “well, 1000$ would be cool”.
I watched today as the bidding went from 650$ and flew up to 1000$. Amazing.
Obviously my next “milestone” is 1500$, as that’d be my “standard” current rate for blogging. But, I wouldn’t mind 3000$ either, as that’d be a decent 1K/month for blogging, which is a rate I could live with.
Are there companies willing to spend more money out there? Hell yeah. I’ll be posting some of my thoughts on this in the next few days, but I can easily see companies justifying blogging budgets in excess of 10,000$/month. No problem.
The question is who will create the market, who will ride the wave and who will be left standing when everyone else is sucking sand.
I keep saying this’ll be an interesting little thing to watch, but it just got even more interesting.
Thanks to every bidder who’s helped get this this high. I know several folk were figuring this’d be a steal at 100-200$. Now it’s bigger money. Several bloggers are saying this should be worth at least 5,000$. Well, find companies and let them know. What’s good for me is good for blogging in general – at least during this wave.
I have interviews today with talk radio, television, financial news outlets and internationally syndicated radio shows.
Current Price: 650$ Current Views: 1402 Press Release Views: 22,102 Press Release “Buys” (potential uses): 458 Actual Google’d Online Version of Press Release: 102 Mentions in Blogosphere: 75~ Reader / Blogger I want to thank: Every single one.
Here’s hoping for 1,000$!
Scoble points out that MSN’s new search engine is XHTML. Nearly valid too.
Some of his commenters took him to task with some choice comments:
Quite funny considering the fact that IE can’t even handle some simple CSS stuff properly… Probably that’s the reason why they give Firefox screenshots to the media ;-) Ralph Scheuer • 11/28/04; 6:32:33 PM
It doesn’t quite validate, actually. Good effort though. I’m a real stickler for this sort of thing, and it’s good to see MS adhering to standards (or at least attempting to). Matt Hamilton • 11/28/04; 6:43:51 PM
I too noticed (with some amusement but no real surprise) that it doesn’t validate, but unlike Matt, I’m not willing to give MS credit for making an effort. Anyone can stick a doctype at the top of a page. If it doesn’t validate, it doesn’t count for much.
Har har. Need more rope, to hang self with? :) Christopher Coulter • 11/28/04; 7:14:11 PM
Didn’t really take me long to come up with a response.
Google doesn’t validate either. Neither does the Mozilla homepage (or it didn’t last week anyways).
Validation isn’t the key. It’s the results of whatever non-validating code you have: what is the actual effect it’ll have. That is far more important.
If you check the 4 validation errors they’re minor and will have NO effect on anyone or anything.
Feel free to see for yourself here.
So, yes, they do deserve credit. Or, is credit only do for perfection?
Oh, and really these types of comments don’t hold weight without proof, RIGHT?
Here’s Yahoo’s (257).
Oh, and just for SOME REAL FUN.
Here’s SpreadFireFox.com. An astounding 22.
Bloody inconsiderate, shortsighted, hypocritical websites.
Does validation matter? Damn straight. But the number of truly valid XHTML Strict websites run by major corporations can probably counted on 1 hand. If SpreadFireFox can’t get it right, and Mozilla occasionally has issues… Can you really, really, in all good conscience slam Microsoft for 4 minor XHTML validation errors?