Tag Archives: blog advice

Interview with senior tech blogger James Taylor

At our recent DIALOG user conference I managed to catch up with marketer/IT consultant/uber-blogger James Taylor. He was there as a live blogger and attracted awe from the other journalists for the pace at which he could get out informative yet opinionated posts. Beyond that, James is one of the early adopters of corporate blogging as a marketing tool and is an authority blogger on the subject of business rules (and the larger discipline of business intelligence).

Live blogging

James is what you could call a veteran (if such a term is applicable in this nascent industry) in the area of live blogging and it shows: he is one of those rare writers who can cover sessions real-time. James claims it’s all about ‘how quickly you can edit’. Getting thoughts down isn’t a problem, but organizing these into a coherent flow is the hard part. It’s easier when the presenter has a clear structure but can be more troublesome for panel events where the sequence works well live, but not so well on paper.

From emailer to blogger

James was effectively blogging before the medium existed. Whilst holding a senior marketing role at Fair Isaac, he began sending out his interpretation of articles he found online via email to the sales and marketing organization. Keeping the distribution list organized was a problem with this approach. As blogging was emerging as a communications tool, James realized that this would be perfect to deal with his distribution problem. The blog was rapidly picked up by the inside sales team and officially went live in 2005. By mid 2006, the blog was outranking the corporate website on Google for key terms like ‘business rules’ and ‘brms’ (as it continues to do to this day).

A lot of this success he puts down to not trying to position the blog as a promotional tool for his own company, but rather was more interested in participating in the growing online discussion. Many companies fall foul of this distinction:

“A problem many corporations run into is confusing blog technology with a blog.”

James explains you can use the blogging technology to put out press releases, event notifications or other news that has inherent corporate bias. This is a different approach to an individual who writes about an industry or who tends to write posts that are responses to other articles. This naturally is not promotion. Following on from this idea, James believes “to write a blog you have to read other blogs”. Blogging is all about being engaged in a conversation online. This cannot be automated.

That doesn’t mean that you should ignore expertise within the organization: sales engineers are a good source of information as they are technical but also clued in to the customer base and what are their needs and pain points.

Blog management

So, what advice for the blog owner/manager? Given a blog’s reliance on search engines to deliver traffic, the blog owner should ensure that the blog takes in SEO (search engine optimization) best practices and that the bloggers are aware of target keywords the blog should be ranked for. A good point given that most corporate blogs still receive the majority of their traffic from the Google.

When it comes to structure and layout, corporations will have to start acting more like media: showing the content that changes and injecting more personality. Most corporate blogs could segment more and move away from the traditional single scrolling page, especially as these blogs generally cover a number of topics or subject areas. For instance, you could follow the approach of USA Today and include channels for each author of a multi-author blog. On the subject of personalization, having a photo of each author is a good idea.

Just as traditional media generally demarks editorial and advertising content, on corporate blogs the corporate messaging (eg. PR section) should be separated from the personality-led blogging.

Maintaining a blog requires both resource and widespread organizational acceptance. So if senior people are willing to participate, this really helps.

Use of Twitter

James’ view is that few companies write interesting Twitter feeds. Many offer little value on top of already-existing RSS feeds. This makes sense given that the tool is great for aggregation and output. Developing good content is the tricky bit.

James suggests setting up internal feeds and then being the traffic cop – that is moving content where it should go and deciding what should jump the firewall.

Measuring blog value

When it comes to measuring success, do not get obsessed about the metrics: concentrate more on building up your place in the blogging community and thinking whether something should pique interest. If you get this part right then the traffic will come. Having said that, James does keep an eye on where his blog ranks for key searches (and I presume occasionally pepper keywords into content for lower-ranked terms).

Deriving an exact ROI for a blog can be tricky. One of James’ blog objectives is to drive up sales of his book [link]. However this is tricky to calculate. The only thing James can say is he is surprised at the number of inbound leads for his consulting business that come through the blog.

For more information, read James’ EDM blog. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Write consistently good blog posts | Corporate blogging news digest

David Caolo offers some great tips as much on writing as on blogging. Don’t over-edit in the early stages, be prepared for inspiration from anywhere and setup a writing den, are gems in this list.
Tips for consistently good blog posts

News highlights

Twitter will remain online free for all (Which? News)
It looks like there will not be a paid ‘pro’ version of Twitter. So how exactly will it generate revenue? Ads on twitter.com could force people onto 3rd party clients. Ads in Twitter feeds could force people off the network, full stop.

Crowdsourcing journalism: but can corporations play a part? (Recovering Journalist)
This list focusses on grassroots use of social networks to go beyond what was previously available through traditional media channels. Would we ever get to a stage where corporations could create similar environments (say, to challenge existing industry analysts)?

Twitter Is What You Make It (NYTimes.com)
A great post if you are new to the medium. Number one rule of Twitter: there are no rules. As Ewan Williams (the creator of the popular microblogging platform) points out, you really can use the service for anything.

Why Do Corporate Blogs Usually Fail? (HighTalk)
There’s a common thread through this post: stop talking about yourself but comment on your customers/industries: “To be successful corporate blogs need stop focusing inward and start to look outward.” I’d argue this isn’t necessarily true for technical blogs. For instance, experts that normally publish academic papers could well find an audience in the blogosphere. Still the core point is a good one: remember a blog is as much Media as Marketing.

What Corporate Blogging Isn’t (Comm Unplugged)
We see countless blogging tips but here are some major pitfalls to take into account. Don’t just copy, don’t just talk and make sure there is some light moderation. All good tips, although some of these are still contentious (eg. whether some form of ghost-writing can be legitimate).

Social Media Consultant or Snake Oil Salesman?(WebWorkerDaily)
Looking for a social media expert? Here are some pointers. Particularly interesting that there is a strong focus on blogging and Twitter: from the corporate perspective, these initiatives are currently hogging the limelight. Will they remain popular as time goes on?

Corporate Blogging Emerging in Pakistan
Last week we heard about the growth of blogging in Africa. This week a side we don’t normally hear about Pakistan: 1.9 million blog readers, and growing. Main point here: bear in mind this is a global phenomenon.

Your blog on the newsstand?
Aaron Kim on a move to present blogs on a different medium – namely paper. There are a number of projects that are taking the online world offline.

How soon do search results come to a new blog?
Douglas Karr of Compendium Blogware claims that according to their stats, it takes around 60 blog posts to start seeing a good level of traffic come through to your blog. So, don’t be discouraged in the early days of your corporate blog. Keep working on your craft and eventually the rewards will come.

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Beware what you say online | Corporate blogging news digest

A cautionary tale stuck out this week – one that warned against posting negative comments on social networks that even tangentially relate to your job.  James Andrews, a VP at a PR agency visited a client in Memphis and posted a derogatory Tweet about the town. The client found out and all hell broke lose.

As new technologies continue to redefine the role of corporate communications, PR specialists may find themselves becoming important educators for others around the organization. Whether it be conversing on corporate blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or any one of the growing legion of social networks, employees can have a significant effect on the value of the brand they represent and need to understand how to ensure their communication is beneficial.

Twitter is growing in prominence this year, and we’re seeing more and more advice on how to make the most of this medium.

News highlights

To what degree has traditional media embraced blogging?
Looking primarily at sports journalism, Benkoo offers a potted history of blogging and the wary eye traditional media has cast on this new upstart medium. Seems odd looking back on this now given the great many journalist blogs that exist out there.

Corporate blogs: can you spot the difference between personal posts and corporate posts
As more and more companies start using their blogs for official communications, it can be difficult to spot which posts are the official company line, and which are personal opinions of employees. At some point large corporate blog networks may be forced to take the same segmented approach used in the newspaper business: separating opinion from ‘hard news’. The difference here may be that the opinion takes the prime spot.

Top Delicious articles on blogging and online writing
He Blogs, She Blogs compiles a list of their top bookmarks, including tips on gaining RSS subscriptions and this excellent lighthearted look at writing for Twitter.

Beware of the false sense of obscurity: posting on social media sites
Scout Blogging picks up on a negative client-related tweet from a PR agency VP and offers caution about posting negative comments on social networks: you never know who is listening.

The 3 Stages of Twitter Acceptance
A short post, but in my humble experience this is right on. At first you really can’t see the point, but once you go full circle and get sucked in, that’s it.

IBM on Twitter: build relationships and share knowledge in and outside the enterprise
Interesting take on a Twitter corporate strategy:
“While the company never embarked on an official Twitter strategy, the result is consistent with IBM’s long term strategy for social media: to take a smaller centralized corporate presence in lieu of enabling all employees to engage on their own as part of their jobs in the platforms of their choice.”

Pushing out blog posts across social media – the Duct Tape Marketing approach
If you run a corporate blog, there are some great examples here of how you can automatically distribute your content across different networks (Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Stumble). I should point out that to compile this weekly digest, I use the Delicious bookmarking tool. The Delicious feed is picked up by Friendfeed, which drops all the content into Twitter. It sounds more complicated than it is, and now it is set up, it’s a real time-saver.

See the effect of your corporate blogging/social media efforts
Spy aggregates content from a number of social media sources into one ever-growing stream. But beware, if you pick the right topic, the constantly updating stream can be riveting.

Need to redesign your blog? Check out these tips from ProBlogger
Using the digital Photography School site as an example, ProBlogger go through the stages involved in redesigning the site, including 7-10 days of WordPress development (which seems a little on the high side).

Corporate blogging and the Gartner Hype Cycle
Webworx Factory cites that according to the Gartner Hype Cycle, corporate blogging was in the trough of disillusionment during 2008. Slope of enlightenment is the next step. Will we see this in 2009?

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