Category Archives: Corporate Blogging Advice

New year, new app: Wibiya social bookmarking

WibiyaIt’s getting easier and easier to add those nifty social features that make it easy for anyone to Tweet a post, grab your RSS feeds, visit your Facebook page, and all the other features that supplement a bulk-standard blog.

Wibiya is a service that allows you to add all this functionality to a toolbar at the foot of your blog within minutes. Literally minutes.

I run WordPress and the steps were this simple:

  1. Setup an account on Wibiya
  2. Choose your theme
  3. Choose which applications you want on your toolbar
  4. Download the WordPress plugin
  5. Upload the WordPress plugin to your blog
  6. Activate the plugin and enter the ID in the settings (under ‘Appearance’)
  7. View your blog to see the new features you’ve now added!

At this stage, you can go back to Wibiya and change the theme or add any new features as necessary. You can see it in action at the foot of this blog.

One big advantage of using a toolbar like this is that if you relegate these elements to this footer toolbar, you can save some real estate on your navigation: all those links to the RSS feed, Twitter, and other services can be dropped (I’ll keep mine for the time being).

One thing that would be nice to see is some kind of API so that the applications listed on the bar could come from popular services such as ShareThis or potentially Disqus.  It will be interesting to see how this service develops…

(BTW, I should point out that Wibiya is not a new service in 2010 – however it is a new feature on CagedEther 🙂

Who needs press releases when we’ve got blogs?

So, Twitter recently announced that it is going to roll the popular retweeting service (a way of forwarding Tweets around originally developed by Twitter users, not the company) into the core Twitter application and its API.

Great news for all us Twitter nerds out there, but rather than issuing a press release for this announcement, Twitter decided to use its blog. You can find the full post here including this neat little image explaining the feature:

So much less stuffy than a press release – it even reads like it’s been written by a human. Bizarre.

Coincidentally, this week at SES San Jose, Beth Murphy, Sr. Director of Marketing & Communications at Digg stated that the popular news aggregator uses a blog for all their press releases. For instance, when they announced their new ad platform, the blog was the medium of choice, and once again, rather than a dense page of text, they showed as well as telling:

Is the idea of the blog announcement restricted to the uber-trendy social media apps who live to break the mold?

Not quite.

The mighty Google has been using its blogs for major announcements for some time. You could say this isn’t surprising given that they own the Blogger platform. You can see the announcement for Google Chrome OS here. This release is a bit more sedate than the earlier release for the Google Chrome Browser which included a nifty cartoon:

A key advantage to using a blog for posting releases is that the medium is perfectly suited to attract other bloggers. Blog releases can have trackbacks, pings and RSS feeds: the nifty gadgets that hold the blogosphere together. In addition, you also have the option to sew a bunch of social features into the pages, allowing visitors to instantly pass the news on via Twitter, Facebook or other social networks du jour.

So, all well and good, but do the press like it? After all, without getting into a debate on the demise of the traditional print media, that’s still the coverage most execs and PR managers are looking for. In some ways a blog post can work better than a press release: there’s still a certain cachet around information that appears on a blog. Getting back to that straightforward Google Chrome OS release, the BBC kicked off an opinion piece on the matter with this sentence:

It’s a few hours since Google used its company blog to announce its entry into the operating systems market, and already opinion is strongly divided.

Somehow, the fact that it appeared on a blog has more weight and authenticity than the humble press release (maybe a question of voice?) and gets woven into the story.

Tips on using a blog to release announcements

  • Use relevant images (and other media) as much as possible to get your point across
  • Consider whether or not you want comments to enabled for these posts (interestingly, all the above announcements have comments disabled)
  • Remember search engine optimization: make sure you prominently mention target keywords
  • If you have a page that lists all the press releases on your site, make sure you add blog releases here too
  • Publicize the RSS feed: a great way for interested parties to keep up with your releases
  • Make the content easy to distribute by adding ‘share’ links to popular social networks
  • In addition to posting to the blog, push the content across the traditional news wires too

So, the next time you have a release to put out, why not think about telling a more imaginative story on your blog?

The Dirty Little Secret of Social Media: Longevity

In what seems like a lifetime ago (about 4 years past), I worked search marketing on the agency side. As an account manager, I spent many a meeting reassuring hyperactive marketing execs that great Google rankings (well, this also included Yahoo and Microsoft back then) were just around the proverbial corner. With search, the grunt work happened up-front and once the content was put in place and scooped up by the mighty indexing engines, the rankings and associated traffic would largely drizzle down like snow in pre-war Narnia. You just had to wait for the reward.

This didn’t always reflect the way the campaigns were sold, mainly for the following reasons:

  • The demand to offer short term results
  • The desire of the agency to garner a long term maintenance contract
  • The lack of a crystal ball to tell us exactly when the results would come in

The same can be true of marketing-led social media campaigns.

Like a merry-go-round that you continually tug with the same force while it slowly gathers momentum, social media campaigns can often need more than a year of development and careful nurturing before they come to fruition. You build a platform, seed content and promote the hell out of it, but meanwhile have to appease the executive whilst you act, measure, and patiently wait. Whether you’re setting up a blog, forum, social network, Twitter profile, YouTube channel or whatever, if you’re not one of the legendary few to achieve instant cult status, be prepared for the toil.

Then, after months or more, if you got your planning and strategy right upfront, the crowd gathers and the chatter grows. Now you have a successful social media campaign on your hands and you have graphs pointing in the right direction to show the powers-that-be.

socialMediaResults

How long does the glow hold?

Depending on the nature of the campaign, you may find yourself having to do little more to keep those page views coming. Not that I’d recommend it, but you can put a social network out to pasture and (almost in spite of yourselves) still see information grazers stumble by. In 2002 we froze an academic/business community we had spent two years building and it still continued to out-rank our corporate site on Google for our core target keywords for at least six years after.

So where’s the issue?

With all the attendant hype around social media at the moment, this activity is often bolted on to that lead generation machine within the marketing department that’s charged with building the sales pipeline. I’ve heard rightful skepticism within field marketing departments that claims over-hyped social media is heavily lubed in snake oil. I can definitely see where this point of view comes from. Marketing circles are abuzz with talk of how you’ll achieve greater results than ever before by using social media. The statement is expressed in the present, rather than future tense. I’ve seen networks shut down because of this.

Greatest treasures lie in the murkiest depths

On those grounds, should social media be foresaken? You can probably guess my response, but I think not. Social media marketing campaigns are at their most effective when they are stripped of the constraints of short-term lead generation. Most efforts work on creating Awareness and Thought Leadership:

Social Media Lead Generation

(Note there are social media activities that go beyond the point of sale, but these are often driven by other departments, such as support.)

As you can see above, there is little crossover between social media and lead generation across the sales cycle. So measuring success based on lead generation metrics will show few results. Just like the PR function which is measured on metrics other than the prospects it brings to the pipe, so social media campaigns need to develop their own yardsticks – whether it be the added visibility or the kind of engagement metrics online news sites are measured against. This will feed the sales pipe, but indirectly, just like PR. Now for the icing on the cake: few other marketing initiatives show such on-going returns. With social media you’re often building an asset that will show little depreciation over time.

More tortoise than hare

Try and keep social media campaigns away from the demands of lead generation. Have goals but make sure the top brass aren’t expecting to see results in the same quarter. Chances are, they’ll be paltry. But keep in it for the long haul and assuming all the pieces come together, manifold results will head your way.

Dealing with negative bloggers

Frank Strong has put together a great post detailing the strategy that Ragan used to influence a blogger who was a sole negative voice in an otherwise sea of positive feedback on a new product launch.

The team involved brainstormed and came up with a multi-faceted approach involving a number of actions. The ones that resonated with me are:

  • Can you directly approach the blogger and open a dialogue? If so, use this route.
  • Posting anonymous comments on the post in question is not a good strategy and often will incite the situation.
  • Isolate the blogger by educating peers. Screenshots and user case studies help lend weight to your argument. Empower other bloggers who share your opinion and they may fight the battle for you.
  • Target bloggers in the skeptic’s sphere of influence.
  • Ask analysts to make presentations or webcasts (perhaps the smaller houses rather than Gartner/Forrester).

One issue Frank doesn’t get into is whether they first assessed whether it was worth getting involved at all. At the beginning of the year we had a similar incident. When discussing the problem, one possible course of action was just to ignore a single voice of dissent. Getting involved can highlight this voice and make it more prominent than it would otherwise be. We decided to act- but indirectly through our relationship with analysts.

Have you had any experience in dealing with negative feedback from bloggers you can share?

eBay’s Richard Brewer-Hay on social media and corporate blogging

ebay_rbhLooking over past blog posts, I’ve noticed that I do have a penchant for hyperbole. However, if you have a little over six minutes of your time to spare and want tips on running social media programs for a large brand, then don your headphones and listen to this short video from Richard recorded at TWTRCON.

Main points:

  • eBay has a full time corporate blogger! How many other brands can claim the same? Richard views his role as that of an internal reporter and spends a lot of time finding out what the eBay community wants to know and then running interviews at the corporate level.
  • Consistency is important when it comes to maintaining a blog. Richard tries to get out at least four posts a week.
  • Many in the industry talk of being transparent and honest. Most people are referring to external communications, but this applies just as much internally. Brand, legal and corporate communications departments all have to understand what you are putting out there.
  • eBay have been among the first to start a social media corporate disclosure program: eg. earnings releases are published on Twitter
  • They are undertaking a social media audit to isolate all social media properties. Twitter questions: Do you use Twitter for business? What’s your handle? Blog questions: Do you blog for the business? What are your goals, messaging, objectives? How do you measure these?
  • eBay are aware there are ‘disparate places where conversations are happening’. They are looking to setup a central platform to pull all this communication together.

Check out this excellent short video on eBay’s social media strategy

‘Groundswell’ author on integrating social media into your business strategy

imageCharlene Li, co-author of the excellent ‘Groundswell: Winning In A World Transformed By Social Technologies’, will be presenting a one-hour webcast on social media trends, how to create customers who evangelize for your company, and how to establish and support relationships between and among your customers.

According to the blurb:

Corporate executives are faced with a growing challenge: how to
respond to the growing influence of online social technologies, such as
blogs and networking sites, where people can discuss products,
companies, write their own reviews and find their own deals.

Drawing upon a wealth of data accumulated by Forrester Research as
well as original research, co-author of the business best-seller,
Groundswell: Winning In A World Transformed By Social Technologies,
Charlene Li, details how to turn this social media threat into a new
business opportunity. Li covers the social media trend and more
importantly, specifies what companies can do to turn this trend into a
competitive advantage.

Sign up now (Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 1:00 PM EDT/10:00 AM PDT)

The art of lifestreaming on Facebook or Twitter

Do we need to be taught how to share our personal feelings with friends and followers on Facebook/Twitter? Apparently USA Today thinks so.

On one level this seems somewhat strange: it’s like being ‘taught’ how to write a personal diary by an over-pedantic English teacher (use “you are” rather than “you’re”). On the other hand, these pointers could help drive up the signal to noise ratio of life streams that often fall foul of the TMI (too much information) trap.  that is the bane of many a life stream.

George Orwell struck a wonderful balance by clausing his five tips to help writers, with a sixth:

“Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous.”

The first commenter on the USA Today article takes Orwell’s dictum to heart:

“Just took a big ol’ dump.”

Does social media need to be personal? | Corporate blogging news digest

One of the so-called rules of social media is that you should adopt a personal voice. After all the medium is all about helping companies look less monolithic and to engage on a one-to-one basis, right? Well, not necessarily, according to Ann All’s article in IT Business Edge. Content is content, and as long as you are producing unique, interesting subject matter, you may still find an engaged audience lapping it up. Ann points out that the IT Business Edge profile on Twitter and Facebook fan page are little more than warmed-up RSS feeds. This is fine for their audience: it’s more about putting links to useful articles on the networks where their audience congregates.

I’d say I largely subscribe to this view, and some of our own corporate Twitter accounts are not conversational: they just point followers to useful content, eg. BRMS Updates. With practically no promotional effort, we’re getting at least 1 new follower per day. And the followers know what to expect. If we do need to engage with our audience on a more personal level, we’ll probably open up a fresh profile to handle this.

After all, is social media really that different from the traditional media that went before it? After all, our media is as diverse as we are. Some of it is informal, some of it entertaining, whereas some is a mix. All of it can enjoy a share of the limelight.

So rather than concentrate on ensuring a ‘personal voice’, think about who your audience are and what value you can pass on. By all means, think about using a vivacious personal tone rather than turgid lackluster corporate-speak, but there are times when you just need to get the information out there and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use a direct, formal approach if this will work for your audience.

News highlights

Blog takeup still low among Fortune 500
Findings from the Society for New Communications Research shows that blog take-up still low at the corporate level. Many companies are still trying to work out what are the relative merits to launching and maintaining a corporate blog.

Roundtable with social media luminaries (Marketing Nirvana)
Mario Sundar offers a video of a recent roundtable featuring some top names in social media. Some good points here if you are new to social media (aren’t we all?).

Inside social media at HP: a closer look at HP’s Community Core Team
HP has a central group that pulls together web marketing professionals from across the company to discuss initiatives and share best practices. Could this be a model for other large businesses?

What Twitter Looks Like For Twitter Employees (screenshots of the backend)
How do you monitor the most hyped microblogging platform on the planet? This is what Twitter does.

Beware: corporate blogging is no guaranteed goldmine (Unspun)
Just because you start a corporate blog doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed traffic (and the potential value that comes with all those people). There’s some nuggets of advice nestled in the gloom of this post.

A Brilliant Social Media Presentation (Kyle Lacy)
It’s amazing just how powerful can be the juxtaposition of contradictory symbols. Check out the wonderfully crafted old school design in this Slideshare presentation. You may well snag those doubters and luddites.

Corporate Blogging Pitfalls (Buildify)
Struggling drawing up corporate blogging guidelines? Think of potential pitfalls and build the list out from there.

HOW TO: Track Social Media Analytics (Mashable)
Mashable picks up on how you might track social media. This often gets tricky as much of your social media efforts maybe concentrated on 3rd party networks (Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and so to some degree you are at their mercy.

6 Guides for Better Business Blogging (WATBlog.com) – Web, Advertising and Technology Blog in India
Maneesh Madambath offers his pick of articles and papers on how to improve your blogging strategy.

Technorati: State of the Blogosphere 2008 (The Culture Mind)
Every year Technorati releases its State of the Blogosphere report. The Culture Mind do a great job of dissecting this and pulling out some choice findings. Such as just how savvy bloggers are and how they measure success

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