Let’s Get Started!

Ok, so you read my earlier post and watched the part of the video. You’re convinced that you should be involved and want to know what you need to download or buy to get started. Well, not so fast!

Hopefully, you picked up on the conversation in the video about how you need to think about the what, where, why, who and how of blogging and social media before you just throw something up. Remember Chris Pirillo saying companies were saying they want to be “Web 2.0 compliant, Like it is a standard”.

I like to think of this as the proverbial three legged stool where one leg is “Concepts”, another is “Strategy” and the third is “Tools”. You should work this through in that order. You should take some time and understand the basic concepts starting with blogging. Follow a couple of Blogs and get or use an RSS reader (RSS another concept to understand).

Listen to some Podcasts; you don’t need an iPod or mp3 player to listen to them. You can use your computer to listen. If you have iTunes, look at what they have available as Podcasts. If you don’t have iTunes, download it; it’s free as are the vast majority Podcasts (Ricky Gervais, the comedian, has put a charge on his newer casts). Listen to how businesses are using Podcasts and think about how they may or may not fit into your business.

Check out a few companies to see what they are doing. One business site that is a must see is Cisco. They have gone full bore into social networking and building communities on their site. There are other technology oriented companies like HP, IBM and Microsoft who have a large number of the technical staff blogging about their products.

Once you have the concepts down, you need to develop a strategy around the what, where, why, who and how.

  • What is it that you want to accomplish?
  • How do you expect to fit this into your current operations and how might it change the way your functional organizations work?
  • What is your corporate policy regarding blogging and what is allowed and what should remain sensitive or proprietary?
  • Who in your organization do you think will be good representatives to be online talking about the business?
    • Start with your engineering and product managment teams.
    • Will the CEO participate? Customers really like the idea of having access to the business leader.
    • What about Customer Service, are you thinking about changing the way you communicate with customers using social network tools? Maybe you can replace static FAQ’s with a blog where everyone can see the questions, all the answers and even ask new questions?
    • Should you put up a Wiki (a collaborative workspace) where customers, distribution partners, industry experts can help you build your next generation products? You can controll access if you need to.
  • Where will this new tools/applications exist?
    • Do you put up a new, complementary web site that sits behind your firewall or use a hosted solution?
    • Do you add capabilities to your current web site?
    • What about access to your current documentation? Do you already have some Content Management System or will you need to build one?
  • What metrics will we use to see how effective this is in meeting our goals?

Hopefully, as you  read through this list you begin to see what you just don’t throw something together and get it up without thinking through the above issues.

Once you have your strategy, you will know what you you need to accomplish and you can begin to look at tools and systems that will meet your needs. Luckily, a number of companies have developed suites of applications/tools that were created with the idea that they will be used in businesses and there are more coming to market every month.

In the next few posts, I will cover some of the tools. If you have any questions, make sure to ask them using Comments. A good source of learning the concepts is Wikipedia. This is lots of content and descriptions tools and applications. You can also leave me some contact information and I can send you some papers my company has developed on the subject.

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5 Responses to “Let’s Get Started!”


  1. 1 oldude59 March 6, 2007 at 3:41 am

    What you have here is a wonderfully concise formula for establishing a corporate outlook on “blogging and social media”. What I think you may yet explore is the ongoing learning environment required to engage both the technology and the community that is formed around the operation. I’m sure it’s my own chaotic iterative sense of learning through experimentation that I am suggesting.

    The notion that I sense is needed even in the largest organizations is agility. In addition, in my practice the initial stage of conceptualization should produce as its first product a communication strategy – “what do we want the world to hear us say”.

    In your analysis you place the emphasis on “product” – why so? By doing that, it makes sense that engineers should speak and not human resources or marketing or the CEO. If it where knowledge instead of product – who would then speak? In the case of product – the firm is the expert. In the case of knowledge – the firm is the learner. I suggest that a more fruitful conversation, which I believe is the core of social media and blogging, can be achieved by the learner over the expert.

  2. 2 socalbuzz March 6, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    I see that you picked up on my bias towards products, which comes from a career with a very large technology company and involved with all aspects of delivering products to customers. That said, I do believe that these concepts are relevant for any type of business, product, service, consumer, B2B.

    I would like to put a different spin on your thought regarding “what do we want the world to hear us say” This new world is really about “listening to what the world is saying about us”. Not an insignificant difference. It is about changing our business from being a monologue by creating a dialogue.

    If you listen to customers and find out what they want, they are tired of advertisements or FAQ’s on web sites that have been sanitized by six or seven levels of management before they are published. The corporation where I worked even had a legal review.

    You bought a product or used a service and had a less than satisfactory experience. You are really upset but can’t seem to get someone to listen to you at the company. You start working out your frustration by telling everyone you know, and maybe embellish the story as you tell it again and again and again…

    Same scenario but the company has a new type of web site with lots of capabilities to communicate with various people, Directly.

    You can tell the developer about your experience,
    You can get ideas about how to fix or get around the problem,
    You might find out that you are telling them something they didn’t know or hadn’t thought of.

    In other words you get to target your frustration in the right direction. You benefit, the company benefits, other customers benefit.

    By the way, when you do this, you have a lot of experts and one is the customer who is commenting on your product, service or knowledge base. Clearly, the intent is for the company to learn everything they can about the how market feels about them and their products and services, and you don’t have to wait for three months while you hire a firm to do a survey and read their sanitized report of what customers were saying three months ago.

    Lastly, I believe in experimentation. If I described how I got into blogging and podcasting, you would understand that I did exactly what you suggest. So, why do I feel that more thought and planning needs to go into bringing social networking into their business? Well, you will be creating a platform for your customers, suppliers, industry analysts, and your internal team a place to learn and a have voice back into the company. You don’t get to many chances to get it right. So, if you didn’t think this through, chose the wrong tools, didn’t have enough computing capacity to do the job right, or any other misstep you might have, you have just wasted an opportunity and gave the community more negative things to talk about while increasing their frustration.

    Hope this makes sense?

  3. 3 oldude59 March 7, 2007 at 2:06 am

    Let me make my point regarding “what we want the world to hear us say” this way.

    I found your blog because I was looking for a voice to engage regarding corporate blogging. The tone of that voice needed to express itself in terms that invited me into a conversation – which you have proven that assessment as correct. But first you defined your “voice” and because I was listening we are now in conversation – how long, to what depth is yet to be determine. Your voice spoke with anticipation of someone like me listening. In this way, you are a product of my listening.

    The specific areas that matter most to corporation are those that tend to impact an organization’s “voice”. The information flows to the public effect its “reputation”. In this context, voice is the method by which the firm’s customers or organizational members express their dissatisfaction directly to management, to some other authority to which management is subordinated, or through general protest addressed to anyone who cares to listen.

    If you are interested, I wrote an essay regarding “voice” which can be found at http://www.s-ox.com/dsp_getFeatureDetails.cfm?CID=6891.

    The point being that you began this conversation out of your intent to write and be noticed and then listen for responses. But you took the first step and because you did – it was formed in an expressed voice that I was listening – hence our conversation.

    What does that means in a corporate sense – lots. The juxtaposition I was making in my earlier comment was that instead of product and expertise I was suggesting learning and knowledge gathering. Most corporations I think will find it very difficult to be agile enough in the beginning of their blogging experience to speak with a grace that invites honest discussion. That is one reason I would have the CEO blog early so as to spread the learning sensitivity down through the organization. What would be more encouraging to a young or minor corporate staff person than to see the CEO handle with grace someone’s outrage regarding a product of service flaw. The point being that blogging as we are discussing is representative of very different frame of corporate communication. It is going to fundamentally change how information flows take shape and how they will convey corporate intent. Therefore, the process of establishing corporate blogging is not just another distribution channel for marketing or engineering but more in line with a total corporate life having a new sense of person hood.

    For in the end – blogging will unfold like a game that inevitably moves beyond its own rules and finally leaves them behind. Thus, the essential basis of this space is not the exalted emotions related to the act of composition or the insertion of a subject into language or even the immortality of the transformed victim. Rather, it is primarily concerned with creating an opening where the corporate person hood endlessly evaporates and a new collective, unknowable truth appears – community.

  4. 4 socalbuzz March 7, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Levy:

    Before answering, I spent some time reading through the linked paper you sent, and I can see where you are developing your point of view. Among the first things you learn when interacting with blogosphere is that they value authenticity.

    I attended three conferences on blogging last year and one question that was asked at each was “What if the CEO is too busy, should you pay someone else to write the blog?” The answer was always the same, “It probably will not come off as authentic and, if the blogosphere picks that up, they will hammer the company.”

    I agree that having the CEO amongst the initial set of bloggers makes perfect sense and the organization needs to understand that sounding authentic means not having posts go through a number of reviews before it is cleared for publication.

    I generally have the CEO learn an RSS reader and follow a nubmer of CEO/C-Suite Blogs to get an idea of how others handle blogging. I also recommend that they follow people in their industry or complementary industries if they find few bloggers in their industry.

    I then suggest that they Comment on blogs, which helps them create their voice. I don’t mean this to become a year lon journey. This might take four or six weeks.

    However, just as some people are good speakers, some CEO’s are great writers not just eloquent prose, but able to write well to their audience. For others, this might not be a good idea. So, the CEO needs to identify who of his direct reports should take on this responsibility. As an example, look at GM.

    I also think that conversations are constantly going on about your business. If not, you have a different problem like being too small to be noticed. Some converstaions you can control; others you have no control of and if you do not create a place for these conversations to take place, then you lose out. Blogs, along with other social networking tools, are just such a place.

    I also think that one major obstacle to overcome is when the company realizes that, once they introduce social networking, they give up control. This is where the Marketing and PR departments start to try and kill the idea and Legal and members of the board beging to get nervous.

    There are some pretty interesting (I was about to use successful instead of interesting, but realize the they are too new to claim success) examples of companies who have embraced blogging but not the leadership team. Companies like Cisco, Microsoft, IBM and others have active social networking sites but the leadership team does not participate.

    So, I think there are at least two major elements needed:
    1. As you talk about, making sure the right message and voice is getting out to the public.
    2. Creating an effective listening environment where your enterprise members can share informantion; both good and bad.

    Number 2 is extremely important to business, in part, because the Word of Mouth network has become extremely efficient. For example, Hilary Clinton announces she is running for President on a Saturday morning, and seven minutes later her profile on Wikipedia is updated.

    Robert Scoble tells 15 people at dinner on a Saturday evening that he had made a decision to leave Microsoft to get their take but asked that they not say anything until he had a chance to talk with his manager on Monday. Sunday afternoon he was being called by CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and a number of other publications. It was estimated that he got 50M media impression over the next few days. He wasn’t even having dinner with the so called A=list bloggers. His words, not mine, “Just some tech geeks who were at a conference he attended”.

    While I think that blogging can be effective in providing a voice for the CEO both internally and externally. I do not believe that it will have much impact on poor leadership or any other management ills inside a company. Like they always with new systems “Garbage In, Garbage Out”.

    Your thoughts?

    Jim

  5. 5 oldude59 March 8, 2007 at 2:59 am

    Jim,

    What will people say if we keep meeting like this? 🙂

    What strikes me about the two points you make is that they are interconnected. In fact, I see them as part of an iterative process of experimentation and development before execution.

    The sense I read in your post is that for many, you are a “trusted adviser” that has access to C levels within organizations. My suggestion is that the process of education that is given to the C level needs to pre-stage a conversation that is then executed downward as part of the preparation towards “corporate blogging”. In this way, general principles can be arrived at so as to prevent the kind of fears that can and should be expected from taking a full blogging strategy. As you can possibly imagine the struggles that HR and legal will have concerned with the possibilities of disgruntled staff with audiences would be for their carping – half truths or outright lies.

    I would strongly attempt to make the adoption of such tactics as blogging and social media an element of culture change within the organization. In fact, I would tie the process into the organizational S-OX compliance policy and code of ethics. In this way, the organization, including the Board, as a stake in maintaining a sense of decorum within its execution of corporate behavior.

    Given, this approach for those that do blog can be seen from various angles – ombudsman could receive anonymous information – PR could test and manage messaging – others could develop communities for various activities such that the organization has both inputs for general and specialized exchanges and even defensive tactics. Its one thing to be defined by the blogging community – its another to define yourself. There it is again – “what do you want the world to hear you say”.

    You know Jim, if you are considering putting such a project together to produce such – I’d like to work with you in its development, in a more formal and defined way. In fact, if you would like to work in a “walled garden” I have one available at Jot wiki.

    By the way, do you think that such a process would be perceived as a valuable product?


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