Category Archives: Social networks

The role of the social media strategist

As always, some thought-provoking research is coming out of the Altimeter group around the maturing (and increasingly frustrating) role of the social media strategist. At the crux of Jeremiah Owyang’s report is the notion that the growing challenges of the social media strategist role could push him/her into a reactive corner, just responding to the increasingly demanding needs of the business (being little more than a ‘social media helpdesk’). Less strategy, more blind execution.

Here at IBM there are a number of strategists dotted around the organization (although with a strong cluster around the marketing function), and I’m sure most would agree with Jeremiah’s research. Indeed, brand social media strategist Steve Lazarus was one of those interviewed. So, what is it exactly that keeps us so busy? (I say ‘us’ as I hold a tangential role currently). I’d broadly categorize the functions performed as follows, with the caveat that the functions can vary depending on the position in the organization and personal aptitudes:

Role of the social media strategist

Training/education

Due to limitations in resource and product knowledge, it’s unrealistic to expect social media strategists to engage in all conversations across all channels. Adopting the ‘teach a man to fish’ maxim, it can make sense for the strategists to engage product experts across the organization and teach them how to become proficient in social media communications. This could take the form of education on the use of tools, the sharing of best practice and what’s worked in the past, discussing how to react to potential scenarios, the list goes on. In fact this post on Bloomberg BusinessWeek does a good job of listing ways of engaging employees. As a trainer and educator, the strategist moves into the role of a facilitator rather than a practitioner.

Analytics – monitoring, ROI and energizing practitioners

There are various components to analytics, each with its own specificities.

Strategists can monitor the social space for conversations around the brand. If there are any conversations requiring immediate attention (eg. a crisis looming), they can pull together the experts/execs that can respond. Monitoring also helps define the social landscape and strategy that makes most sense.

Analytics can also be employed to prove the ROI of social media efforts. This could be looking at increased share of voice on a given topic measuring traffic delivered to a campaign web page from Facebook and Twitter, or calculating the value of the traffic delivered to a blog ranking prominently for target terms on Google (obviating the need for paid advertising).

A further role of the strategist can be to feed analytics back into the organization to help energize practitioners. As an example, showing bloggers how much traffic their posts are attracting can help generate posts more frequently!

Process optimization and workflow

Social media touches many parts of the organization. You may have customer feedback that could help product development and should be forwarded to product management. Maybe there are support issues/discussions happening on external forums which require the input of the support team. Organizational processes should be put in place to deal with these kinds of scenarios. For instance interlocks need to be built between functions like marketing and support which traditionally have existed at opposite ends of the organization.

In addition, workflow tools need to be put in place to track individual conversations and issues to ensure these are dealt with effectively. This could be as simple as a spreadsheet recording each issue together with the response (when deemed necessary), but as these issues grow in number and complexity, more powerful tools will be required.

Web marketing integration

As Jeremiah points out in another part of his analysis, 2011 will see an increase in the integration of social elements into websites[

http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/11/07/analysis-2011-corporate-social-strategy-will-focus-on-corporate-website-integration/

]. In its simplest form this could be the addition of Facebook Like or Tweet This buttons on web pages. Whilst some web marketers may be savvy to this, in many cases social media strategists can offer valuable insights on what conversations should be highlighted and the format used to display social elements (eg. a sidebar showing the latest 5 entries from a blog may be more effective than a mere button).

As the mobile space continues to become more important, consistency and tie-ups across mobile, web and social presences will also need to be managed effectively. For instance, adding QR codes on event web pages could help attendees transfer information from the PC to their smartphone.

Corporate sponsorship

With employees engaging more and more in social media on behalf of their company, someone needs to make sure the management/executive team are cool with this and hopefully promote this interactivity. A strategist may propose and promote an incentive program for employees. They may also gently advise the executive on where their involvement would make most sense. As one social media strategist here at IBM explained it, a major part of his role involved keeping the corporate forces out of employee social interactions (unless of course there are policy violations requiring intervention).

Social media campaign marketer

A strategist can help bolster campaigns undertaken by the marketing team. This could take the form of creating a social media kit around around a campaign that is then emailed to experts and evangelists across the organization. Or maybe a YouTube strategy developed in conjunction with an agency would make sense. The role in this instance is one of energizing employees and major stakeholders to supplement the work of the marketing team.

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These, to my mind, are the core functions of the social media strategist. In addition, a strategist will also have to juggle a number of managerial/administrative demands, as any manager in the organization has to perform: eg. collaborating with internal/external teams, reporting on performance, people management.

It’s worth pointing out that the role of the strategist can be significantly different to that of the social media evangelist. An evangelist tends to be much more hands-on: many in this role excel at using the different social media channels to get the message out. Whilst they may have considerable following on their Twitter account or blog, they may be less proficient at energizing others in the organization to get involved, or analyzing conversations and defining processes to deal with these.

As Jeremiah points out in his report, the role of the strategist is due to change in the near future. We may see something in the social space akin to what has happened to web marketing over the last ten years: a splintering of roles and responsibilities. Some may focus on developing processes and implementing tools to help the organization effectively deal with its social ecosystem. Others may extract value by focussing solely on integration between web and social.  Others could focus more exclusively on training.

On a positive note, this role is definitely not going away. There is a supply imbalance for the social media strategist skillset with more companies chasing the rare individuals who have the requisite skills and experience. Against this, the fact that social strategists are a rare commodity means that they are stretched in their roles and risk falling into becoming what Jeremiah calls the ‘Social Media Helpdesk’.

I can see two main ways the social media strategist can avoid this. One is to facilitate rather than execute. For example, spend time ‘persuading’ knowledgeable experts to blog, rather than blogging yourself. The other is to pick a specialty and follow this. eg. become a trainer and focus on this area. Teach the web marketing department how to integrate social aspects, rather than get buried in the weeds yourself.

Do you agree?

(The original post from Jeremiah)

Rebooting the news: what this means for marketers

I’ve recently been turned on to the Rebooting the News podcast hosted by web/media luminaries Dave Winer and Jay Rosen. Their experience is manifest in the low key, dare I say low-fi, approach to podcasting. If you’re looking for scripted professionalism, you’ll have to look elsewhere. This is the rumpled jacket Columbo of broadcasting. What you will find is a couple of guys who share a common interest, but often a different viewpoint, speaking their mind.

That common interest is the effect of technology on media and journalism. Not surprising given that Dave Winer is attributed (among other things) with the creation of RSS, the engine which revolutionized blog publishing, and Jay Rosen is a journalism professor and strong proponent of public and  citizen-based journalism.

So, why would a B2B tech marketing dude like me be interested in the impact of technology on the media industry? Because I feel the lines between marketing and media are in danger of blurring, or should I say, melting. As social media continues to seep into every crevice of our lives, marketers can no longer broadcast messages as we once did. We need to be more relevant. More informational. More like a news outlet than a brochure. For this reason I feel there is much we can learn from the massive transformations underway in the mainstream news industry. They arguably have had a lot more experience than us marketers in creating emersive, engaging information-rich content.

In a recent issue of Rebooting the News hosted live at the Online News Association annual convention, Dave and Jay layout the major themes they have covered on the show. Although aimed at news outlets like the New York Times, some of the issues strike me as deserving of special attention in the context of online marketing…

Give traffic away

A key factor in building successful online information systems has been the notion of giving your traffic away. Google is perhaps one of the most extreme examples of this. We go there in droves to find answers. But the answers we find aren’t generally on Google. It drives us elsewhere for the answers – few of the links presented to us on search results pages are on the Google domain. It’s effectively an algorithmic curator, desperately trying to retrieve the best, most relevant content on the web and deliver it to us. Dave Winer points out that the major news outlets have not picked up on the value of this service. They still act as know-it-all walled gardens, reluctant to link off their own domain. Looking for further information on a particular news story? The only links proffered are from other stories across the same publication. There could be more background on Wikipedia and explanatory videos on YouTube: but you’ll have to go find them yourselves.

The same argument can be leveled at corporate websites. We talk about how social media breaks down the walls of the enterprise, connecting the pieces between our ecosystem. A company has suppliers, partners, customers, industry analysts, press, all now apparently in closer communion. However, how much of this ecosystem do we expose on our pages? For instance, on a page explaining the application of a software product, we could link to a partner blog showing an innovative implementation, commentary form a respected analyst, or customer testimonials from Twitter (Radian6 offer this on their homepage). Each serves to bolster up and add color to the claims we make on our pages.

Rebooting the News: give visitors away

Why isn’t this happening? I can think of a few reasons: we spend so much time working on the content of our pages we forget to work in the inter-relationships with other relevant pages out there on the web. Perhaps more importantly, we are currently not incentivized to do this. As web marketers, our performance is measured in terms of behavior of our visitors on our site. We use engagement metrics that are specific to our site: like average number of page views and registrations completed. If we start sending our traffic away, the numbers by which we prove ourselves will tank. External links do also need additional curation. Relationships tear, whereas links can be more permanent. If you no longer deal with a partner and they have stripped your reference from their site, you’ll need to update your links accordingly.

The key point here is that this effort in giving traffic away can offer the kind of third party validation that could inch your prospects closer to that all-important sale. We just need the processes, tools and discipline to be able to apply this in a consistent manner.

News updates and background knowledge

Dave and Jay also describe how the web gives us unprecedented access to the back story around any given article. As stories unfold, news articles can be plotted as markers on the timeline of the lifespan of the story. Often readers will pick up an article half way along this timeline. The beauty of the web is that an article can link to content further back on the timeline tracing the story’s evolution and context (and multiple perspectives). Unfortunately, this theory isn’t often applied.

We can relate this to corporate websites too. When we build content or put up an asset, we can contextualize it. Want to go more in-depth? Check out the experts on our forums. On the other end of the spectrum, here’s some 101 resources for all you newbies. We’ve also got blogs, YouTube videos and Wikipedia pages crammed with more details. (Check out this post from Jeremiah Owyang on the subject of linking social media content to corporate websites). Again, all this makes for a richer, more immersive experience for the visitor.

Wrap up

I understand that in Rebooting the News, Dave and Jay are trying to improve the flow of information and the communications process in a democracy. Maybe I’m soiling their pretexts by reducing them to the grubby world of commerce, but I feel their recommendations do bleed over into the world of online marketing, and if adopted can improve the overall web experience for those seeking information in this domain.

Do you agree?

Developing IBM’s largest Twitter profile: grassroots marketing the @developerWorks way

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Frank Carlos, a grassroots marketing expert on the IBM developerWorks team. Among his many accomplishments has been the development of the @developerWorks Twitter profile which has amassed a princely 33,000 followers.

@developerWorks on Twitter

In my mind, this makes Frank something close to the Ashton Kutcher of the B2B tech world.

So, how did he do it? A few lessons came out of the conversation with Frank.

Curation is the key

The @developerWorks twitter account works as a syndication channel: posting links to content from across the developerWorks site. However, rather than just automatically spewing out the contents of an RSS feed, Frank takes the role of editor, curating the content and only posting the pieces he thinks make most sense. This resonates with Paul Gillin’s claim in B2B Magazine that curation is the new creation and as the amount of information out there on the web grows exponentially, we find real value from those who can pick through the haystack and just hand us the needles.

Let’s be clear though, the role of curator involves some serious graft. Frank points out that he posts over 20 tweets a day. Every day. Obviously, in order to do this you need a large network of content to pick from.

Focus on the audience

developerWorks is an IBM resource for developers and IT professionals, allowing them to build skills around the gamut of technologies that IBM solutions touch. It covers IBM’s own platforms and tools such as WebSphere, Rational, Tivoli and Information Management. There is also a mass of content on popular programming languages and applications, including PHP, Java, Ruby, Android and HTML5, and it is in these areas where the @developerWorks account is focused. (As an aside, a recent developerWorks study shows just how important these technologies are to the developerWorks audience).

Going after popular topics is a shrewd play that has obviously paid off for the @developerWorks account. Just picking a random selection from today:

@developerWorks tweet sample

Here you can see posts covering Cloud, JavaServer, Ubuntu, RedHat, Scala.

Sure, many of the tweets are related to IBM solutions, but the relationship is made with popular tech topics of the day. The message here is if you know there is a popular theme related to your offerings, exploit that relationship!

Let folks know you’re out there

There are a few attention-grabbing tactics that have been employed to publicize the @developerWorks account: none of which have cost a dime to implement (well, beyond the internal resource).

The first, is the choice of a somewhat unusual URL shortener to post links: StumbleUpon. The advantage of this service over other shorteners such as bit.ly or the newer goo.gl is that the links are automatically added to the StumbleUpon network and Frank points out that his links receive a good chunk of traffic directly from the StumbleUpon channel.

Another technique used by @developerWorks is that of following people in the networks where you want prominence. Using the Android example, you can search on people using the ‘#android’ hashtag and follow those that appear to be tweeting on-topic. Following them also puts you on their radar. If you’re putting out quality content in that area, there’s a good chance they will follow you back.

The use of hashtags in tweets is a great way of associating your content with topics/subjects. How do you find the right hashtag? One way is just a simple search on Twitter, such as this one for ‘#android‘. What you are looking for is a hashtag with a hive of existing conversation around it. And, yep, the mighty Mashable has a primer if you want to know more on making the most of hashtags.

Prove the results of your work

Syndication is the core objective of the @developerWorks account. Frank keeps detailed records on each tweet and how many clicks it receives. As well as knowing that he drives 200,000 clickthroughs a month, he also can break that down by topic and IBM technology. All through the clever use of spreadsheets!

Much is talked about the ROI of social media. For syndication you can go beyond counting clicks and approximate the value of the channel by looking at how much it costs you to attract visitors using other channels. For instance, you can take your hashtags and find out how much it would cost you to get traffic for those terms through paid search on Google. You can take this a step further if you have a good connection between your web analytics and your CRM and calculate how many of these clicks have turned into customers.

Although I bring this up last, tracking the value of your work can be the most important piece. As you’re probably aware, if you can’t find a way to express the value of your efforts, you may find your management pulling the rug from under your campaign.

I should come clean and point out that one of the motivating factors in my decision to move to the developerWorks organization was wanting to be a part of a team that is making excellent use of social media in innovative and effective ways. Frank’s use of Twitter to build the @developerWorks profile is an excellent example of this.

WordPress as an intranet CMS – the Tech Liminal way

For some years the WordPress platform has been called a ‘lightweight content management system’. It’s functionality goes way beyond that of a standard blogging platform (driven by the large number of plugins and theme extensions), and with a bit of know-how you can mold it to fit your content management needs. That’s just what Anca Mosoiu from Tech Liminal did on a recent assignment to redesign the intranet for a Government organization. She ran through this case study at a recent WordPress Meetup and I caught up with her at her Oakland office and received answers to a number of questions that had been perplexing me since her presentation.

What are the main advantages WordPress offers in terms of improving information architecture?

Anca explains that before using WordPress, the intranet was a laundry list of largely static links. Updates to the homepage were handled by the webmaster. Deeper content was tied up in a wiki – content that had grown organically over time with very little structure and in some instances out of date.

WordPress helped impose an overarching organizational structure, removing much of the extraneous/duplicate content – at least from the homepage. It also allowed for the display of dynamic content by pulling out the latest content for different sections:

Underlying this framework is WordPress MU (multi-user) with a network of sites powering the different sections. MU by itself does not support a hierarchy: this was developed by Anca to permit the hierarchical organization of the sites, which is great for organizing deeper content, such as the different components of the HR department.

WordPress also relies heavily on Categories and Tags (and more recently custom taxonomies) for organizing its content – something Anca utilized to great effect with the display of announcements from across the different sites in the network.

One area that required custom development was the common network navigation (the top menu) shared by all sites in the network. The top menu was built to give people the sense of a site hierarchy. By applying the same theme to all of the sites in the network, visitors get the feeling they are always within the same website.

What are some useful customizations/plugins to consider for a WordPress intranet CMS?

A selection of the plugins Anca recommends:

TinyMCE Advanced
Tables are not easy to achieve in WordPress unless you have a good understanding of HTML. However tables are a common form of content organization in an Intranet, and this plugin does a great job of bridging the gap. In addition to tables, the plugin gives you much more choice over formatting choices.

WordPress MU LDAP plugin
Useful for connecting WordPress up to a database of users (using the popular Microsoft LDAP interface). For instance, it allows company employees to post comments on the site, and update relevant content, using the same password they use for other applications such as email .

WordPress MU Sitewide tags
This plugin, used for some time on the WordPress.com homepage, aggregates tags across all the sites into a common network cloud. As tag clouds are a great way of displaying large bodies of content in a meaningful way, this is a considerable navigational aid.

Customized link widget
Link lists are used in various places on the homepage to display important links. This widget developed by Anca’s team, allows you to set up custom classes for different link lists so you can alter the appearance of each list. It also allows you more control over the ordering of the links in the list.

What role does the intranet manager play?
The role should be more communications-based and less about the technnology. You ideally want someone who can help motivate the workforce into constantly generating relevant content. In addition, they should be able to help coach content providers and help fix minor issues that come up (such as post formatting). The individual should be able to form strong links with employees across the organization to make the intranet a lively, collaborative space.

Do you track how successful the implementation is? Eg. page views, frequency of posting
Tracking and analytics were set up as part of the site architecture from the beginning. The site has been only been up for a little over a month, currently having four users signed up to provide content. At the point of launch, new posts were being made at the rate of about one per day.

What are the key differences between designing an implementation for an Intranet vs. external consumption?
Anca points out that with an Intranet site, there are different priorities and constraints. One thing that can generally be guaranteed is the browser that will be used to view the site – there’s no need to cover every case, since everyone is standardized on Firefox. Contact information, personal names and email addresses can be published on the site without privacy concerns. There are less worries about security, because the site is behind a corporate firewall. This can also be a drawback, in that it provides disincentives to upgrade.

The site itself can be much more specific, since there are a fixed number of actual constituents and stakeholders. However, since there are these specific constituents, a fair amount of effort was expended getting everyone’s buy-in.

How long did it take to setup this implementation for the JGI Intranet?
All in all, the project lasted about 6 months. About 3 of those were focused largely on development, while the rest was focused on gathering support for the new site, inventorying content that would need to be added, and creating a design that would meet the needs of most of the organization.

Anca’s presentation on this project:

Anca Mosoiu is a partner in Tech Liminal, a web design/development agency and all-round tech-house based in central Oakland. They host regular Meetups to support East Bay bloggers (which I can testify has helped me breathe new life into Caged Ether).

Twitter profiles: what brands can learn from celebs like Khloe Kardashian

I better get the disclaimer out of the way first. I have no idea how I came across this. I checked into my personal computer around 11 yesterday morning to find this page staring me down on my browser:

If you must, check out this brazen masterpiece for yourself.

It could be I inadvertently clicked on some banner ad, or maybe in a semi-conscious flurry of activity, serendipitous surfing delivered me here, but for the sake of posterity, I’d like to blame my wife.

I actually had no idea who Khloe Kardashian was (honestly) and still only vaguely know: I understand she’s married to a renowned baller and comes with a pedigree only achievable from having a glamour model sister. The fact that she has a million and a half followers on Twitter makes me believe I live in a media-starved pit and need to get out more.

But that’s not why I’m writing. What caught my attention is how she deals with her fawning Twitterati. The esteemed Global Grind online gossip-mart hold her up as a paragon of tweeting. And this is where I realize I need to get off my lofty (read snobby) high horse and pay this article some attention. The report is crude and to the point, but I believe their analysis is fundamentally sound and bears some relation to the not-so-steamy world of big B2B business.

Let’s run through their criteria point-by-point, and draw comparisons with the B2B world:

Khloe responds to her fans. Do we, as B2B marketers monitor our Twitter @profiles and associated #hashtags for relevant queries and mentions with the same veracity? Or are we just seeing Twitter as another marketing broadcast channel?

Khloe sends pictures. Twitter is much more than a 140-character medium thanks to the humble ‘link’ which can grace any Tweet: a Twitter account is a showcase for your noteworthy content,  whether it be articles, audio, video or pictures (you may want to favor descriptive product screenshots over floss-bikini pool scenes).

Khloe chats with her family. Do you have an open conversation with your ecosystem, eg. suppliers, or even better, business partners? Show some of this intimacy on Twitter. You’ll display a strength that goes beyond your company walls, and also build the reputation of those nearest to you.

Khloe allows the world into her amazing life. This is pretty wide generalization, but there are a couple of takeaways here. Look over your Twitter channel and see if it gives a good representation of your brand: your personality, thoughts, aspirations and beliefs. Does the rich fabric of the life of your firm come across? Or do you appear as little more than a stream of press releases and marketing brochures?

Now I bring this up in light of a recent report by Wildfire, a UK PR agency, claiming that many companies are not as clued up as Khloe when it comes to Twitter:

“… only 3% of the tweets in the study were retweets and just 12% were replies. Shockingly, 43% of brands with a Twitter account had never replied to a tweet.”

The study they are referring to, believe it or not, consists of a sample of the fastest growing UK tech companies.

It looks like we as marketers have some way to go to really understand the rules of engagement on these emerging channels. The most clued-up celebs have realized that they need to break down the walls of PR agents and marketing hype and talk directly to their followers. How long will it take for us in the B2B tech industry to follow suit?

Social chat for your blog with Wibiya: friend or foe?

I currently use the Wibiya toolbar on Caged Ether to handle all my social bookmarking and to add other cool features such as the ability to instantly talk about my posts here through networks like Twitter.

I noticed that they have recently added a social chat feature:

I found this intriguing, although not necessarily life-changing.

Advantages:

  • I can engage directly with readers and converse/share in a much more intimate form than the standard blog publishing/commenting system generally allows
  • Visitors can choose whatever network they prefer to login (currently the usual suspects  of Facebook/Twitter + a few others) yet regardless of network they can converse across the chat window
  • Chats can be public or private depending on the topic

Disadvantages:

  • You should be present to monitor the conversations – a potential time drag esp, exacerbated if you happen to be on a different time zone
  • Dealing with trolls and other undersirables who wonder into the chat room could be tricky if you can’t always man the chat room
  • Will anyone really want to stick around and chat, rather than just graze on your content and run?
  • It’s unclear whether the chats can be saved for perusal/analysis at a later time

This makes me think it’s too early to run out and proclaim this a killer app that will transform the world of online publishing. I can see where there could be real applications of this. Large news  sites could use this kind of service to interact more directly with their readership and could take opinions as quotes or at least as a measure of public sentiment). If you are running a big event with an active blog, this could serve as a community around which discussions can congeal.

Therein perhaps lies one of the problems with the Wibiya service. This toolbar tends to be used by smaller blogs (like this one) who may not have the manpower or application for such a service. But maybe Wibiya now has its sights targeted elsewhere.

Any thoughts? I’m afraid you’ll have to comment below: I’m not quite ready to pounce in with the Social Chat feature quite yet 😉

Create an online newsroom with attractive social media content

News evolves. We’ve gone from print to radio, TV and wait for it… the internet. The humble press release has had to evolve too. As an in-depth piece in Econsultancy points out about the emergence of TV:

Companies sprang up to service this need and PR people had to learn a new skill – video news.

So why is the Internet and the social media news release any different? It’s not a case of killing the press release. It’s just presenting your news in the format that gets the best results.

After all, from the position of a hard-pressed journalist, the easier a story is to construct, the greater the chance that it will make it to publication. As I’ve said earlier, the blog format works well as the canvas on which you can paint your story.

The entrance or portal into your news stories is equally important. On a quick scan of all the usual suspects in the tech field, I’d agree with Econsultancy that Cisco have done a neat job with their news room:

Journalists are spoilt with links to both the blog post AND press release on major stories. Both formats have heavy doses of videos and photos. The homepage has links to all the major networks: Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube et al. RSS feeds abound. As do embed scripts so you can pick up the content yourself. You can even personalize the experience so you only see the news most relevant to you (ideal for any company with a wide portfolio).

One thing strikes me about this Cisco example: what they have come up with looks suspiciously like a reputable publication’s online outlet. For instance, here is the current homepage of the BBC (a traditional UK TV/Radio outlet):

Similarities include the heavy treatment of a featured news story, powerful use of images, prominent display of video content.

So is this just an evolution in the humble press release?

One key difference with online news is that people are consuming news from beyond the traditional news outlets. So beyond attracting the press industry (I include bloggers/analysts here) with a rich newsroom, companies have a greater chance of going that step further and getting their message out directly to their target audience, bypassing journalists completely.

Still not convinced there is value in creating social media-rich online newsrooms?

Google’s use of its corporate blogs for handling announcements

Google recently acquired MetaWeb.

Interest was piqued in the tech industry press.

For instance Giga Om’s Liz Gannes tried to explain why the big G picked up this relatively unknown semantic web service:

The Register also picked up the news, gleaning information from a YouTube video on MetaWeb’s site, amongst other sources:

Where do they source their news? Both cite Google’s official blog:

Not too surprising given there’s no press release process in the Google world. Both GigaOm and The Register seem comfortable linking to the blog: both sites have arguably blurred the line between blog and news outlet, and I’d contend a blog has a certain that goes beyond a flat press release (which I’ve written about previously).

To Google’s credit, the blog post is:

  • More in-depth than a standard press release
  • Written informally
  • Detailed in its description of the benefits of the merger to Google and MetaWeb and customer base (webmasters/web users)
  • Attributed to a Director of Product Management
  • Open ended, with links to a video explaining what MetaWeb does (in ‘Plain English’ style)

There’s been a lot of talk about the SMR (social media release) but I’d say this approach although somewhat similar goes a step further too. SMR examples I’ve seen are essentially a press release with multimedia elements (eg. audio/video/images) listed on the sidebar. Blogs on the other hand offer a more fluid approach. Have some video? Embed it into the fabric of the post. Images likewise. Less clunky than having a specific multimedia section (although there’s no reason to keep this in addition).

So, next time you have something to say, why not get a product expert to crack open the blog editor and say something of real value – for journalists, analysts, your client base and the wider public. Think beyond the puffy press release, footnoted with a solitary link to the company website: frame a clearly explained story, and if you can, use audio and video to add color and create a compelling experience.

You may just find your message stretching further than you imagine.