Communication Issues and Corporate Blogs

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about Why Your Company Should Have a Blog. In the comments of that post, we had an interesting discussion about some of the communication issues that can result when you have employees blogging. I decided to elaborate a bit and turn it into a full post about how to minimize communication issues on corporate blogs.

Jason Mauer, Developer Evangelist at Microsoft, made this point in the comments:

One issue Microsoft has run into: as blogs turn into more of an official voice with announcements coming through blogs instead of customary PR channels (press releases, etc), people can’t tell the difference between when someone is talking as an official mouthpiece of the company, or when they’re just stating their own opinion. One recent example is the release of an open source CMS app called Oxite. The team that built it had good intentions, but when they released it the community interpreted it as some sort of best practices guidance from MS about how to do a MVC-style web app on .NET, which it definitely is not (at least at this point). (Quoted from Fast Wonder Blog Comments)

Managing communications can be easier when you have a single company blog with fewer authors. It can get very tricky when managing corporate communications for a company the size of Microsoft or Intel with many blogs and many people communicating with the outside world.

Many companies use their blogs as a way to make announcements and other official communications for the outside world. For your readers, it can be difficult to know whether a blog post is an official announcement or something less formal. In companies, like Microsoft, with bloggers spanning across many blogs, it can help to educate people to clearly state whether something is opinion or official statement. When I worked at Intel, my blog and this blog had disclaimers at the top of the sidebar making it clear that the posts were my opinions and not official statements. It can also help to educate bloggers about including clarification within the text of certain types of posts. For example, a short paragraph about why the team released the open source CMS app along with a note about how it wasn’t the best example of how to do a MVC-style web app on .NET might have diffused your issue. We get so wrapped up in our work that we don’t always take the time to think about how what we do will be perceived by people outside of the company, but it can help to give bloggers a little training with things to think about. Lightweight social media guidelines might also help in some situations.

I suspect that this is mainly an issue for larger companies or ones that tightly control communications. I’ve worked at several smaller companies where this issue never really came up at all. In other words, don’t sweat the communications issues unless you really think that it might be an issue at your company.

Summary: A few tips for managing communications

  • Include disclaimers in the sidebars for blogs that contain opinions and not official statements.
  • Clarify whether a blog post is an announcement or something less official if readers might be confused.
  • Train bloggers to think about how their posts might be perceived by those outside the company.
  • Put a very lightweight set of social media guidelines in place.
I’d love to hear more examples of communication issues that you have encountered or steps that have worked for you to avoid misunderstandings in blogs.

Pipes within Pipes: A 2 Minute Yahoo Pipes Video Demo

We’ve talked about many different uses for Yahoo Pipes in previous 2 minute Yahoo Pipes demos, but you can also use most existing Yahoo Pipes within other pipes. In this demo, we’ll use a couple of pipes I’ve previously created as the input into a new Yahoo Pipe, and we’ll introduce the union operator as a way to pull several inputs together.

More Details

  • The Demo Pipe. A copy of the Pipes within Pipes demo pipe click “View Source” to see the modules.
  • Union Module. Pull several inputs together into a single output.
  • Unique Module. Use this to prevent duplicate results when multiple search queries might return the same results by filtering on
  • Sort Module. Sort by date in descending order to make sure things are sorted in a logical manner.
  • Pipe Output. The final module in every Yahoo Pipe.

I’ve created many Yahoo Pipes, and most of them have been published on my Yahoo Pipes and RSS Hacks page where you can also learn more about my Yahoo Pipes Training courses.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts

Blogging Elsewhere

Here is this week’s summary of links to my posts appearing on other blogs:

GigaOM’s WebWorkerDaily


Portland Data Plumbing User Group (pdpug)

If you want a feed of all of my blog posts across multiple sites, you can also subscribe to my über feed.

Recent Links on Ma.gnolia

A few interesting things this week …

How to: Build a Social Media Cheat Sheet for Any Topic – ReadWriteWeb

Tags: , , , , ,

49 Amazing Social Media, Web 2.0 And Internet Stats

Tags: , , ,

AboutUs completes Series A Funding; our plans for the future

Tags: , , , , ,

Shizzow for Android – Matthew Gifford

Tags: , ,

The Winnie the Pooh Guide to Blogging — Copyblogger

Tags: , , ,

Gyminee: Tracking and Social Networking for Nutrition and Fitness

I rarely do reviews of individual sites here on this blog, but I wanted to make an exception for Gyminee. I made a commitment to getting back in shape about 3 months ago, and I have been inconsistent at best at tracking my progress until Todd recently found Gyminee. I really liked the idea of being able to track my workouts / nutrition, but I was even more excited to find that I had several friends in Portland already using Gyminee. I committed to using Gyminee diligently for one week to see how I liked it, and a couple of people asked me to do a quick review of it after a week, so here we go!

Gyminee has a freemium business model. You can make great use of the service for free, but they also offer pro accounts for people who want a few extra features (similar to the Flickr model). You get to set your own goals (weight loss, resting heart rate, arm size, etc.) and track your progress toward meeting the goals. You can track every workout and everything you eat in Gyminee, and it calculates calories in vs. calories out along with a bunch of other measurements in a daily dashboard.

Fitness Report

You can also set up custom workouts and favorite foods to make it easy to record your workouts and add foods that you eat regularly. I’ve also heard that the iPhone app for Gyminee is outstanding and makes it easy to track while on the go. One interesting feature is the add a new recipe where you can enter in your recipes, and it will calculate the nutritional properties (calories, protein, etc.) for you. I was talking a couple of people today, and we were talking about how you could use the recipe feature to record common meals to make them even easier to record. For example, you could create a favorite breakfast “recipe” containing a cup of cereal, a half cup of soymilk, and a banana that you could add as one meal.

While the tracking features are great, the real reason I’m covering it here on this blog is because of the social networking features. You can add your friends and track their workouts and progress to encourage each other to meet goals or create friendly competitions among friends. Anyone can create or join a group, Stumptown Stompers, for example, and they have forums for just about any topic. Users add the foods they eat, and other users can access those same foods, so after one person enters your favorite brand of cup of soup into Gyminee, all other users can find it and add it to their nutrition tracking. The community elements of the site make it much more than your typical workout tracking tool.


Now that I’ve told you everything I love about Gyminee, here are the negatives:

  • It’s a free service, but the ads and the up sell to a pro account can be obnoxious.
  • Tracking nutrition can be a huge time commitment, especially if you cook for yourself. Most prepackaged foods can be found already entered on the site to use, but your custom recipes have to be entered manually. I’d love to see more flexibility around ways to enter estimated calories for a meal without having to add a new food or recipe.
  • I would love to be able to set my own nutrition goals. It uses a very rudimentary calculation based on weight and exercise to set your nutrition goals for you. In my case the amount of protein it recommends is ridiculously high, and I have yet to meet their “goal” for my protein consumption, nor do I want to meet it. If you aren’t tracking nutrition or the goals don’t make sense for you, you can’t adjust them, so it shows your friends a big red ‘F’ (which is what I suspect is happening with maestrojed above).
    [Update 9:12 on 1/13/09: As Stephen points out in the comments, you can adjust these settings. My feedback now is that this should be more intuitive to the user. I was looking for it on the goals page, not the log page.]

Feel free to add me as a friend on Gyminee if you are using it. I would be curious to hear what other people think of it.

Using PostRank: 2 Minute Yahoo Pipes Demo

Yahoo Pipes can also be used with other services, like PostRank, for example. PostRank, originally called AideRSS, is a service that rates the posts on any blog by popularity using comments, links, bookmarks, tweets, and other measurements to give each post a rank from 1 – 10. Luckily for us, PostRank conveniently stores the rank right in the RSS feed allowing us to access it from Yahoo Pipes. In our last Yahoo Pipes demo, I showed you how to Modify RSS Feeds to work better for your purposes. I recommend watching the 2 minute demo about modifying RSS feeds if you haven’t already, since we will use those concepts again in this pipe.

More Details

  • The Demo Pipe. A copy of the Using PostRank demo pipe – click “View Source” to see the modules.
  • PostRank. Using the 2 feeds that we’ve been using for most of these demos, ReadWriteWeb and GigaOM, we analyze each of them using PostRank, filter by the best posts, and copy the RSS feed for the output.
  • Fetch Feed. Fetches the elements from 2 PostRank feeds for ReadWriteWeb and GigaOM from the previous step.
  • Sort Module. Sort by PostRank in descending order to keep the posts with the highest rank at the top.
  • Loop module with String Builder Module. Loops through each element in the feed and builds a string with item.postrank:postrank: item.title. This string is assigned back into item.title.
  • Pipe Output. The final module in every Yahoo Pipe.

I’ve created many Yahoo Pipes, and most of them have been published on my Yahoo Pipes and RSS Hacks page where you can also learn more about my Yahoo Pipes Training courses.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts

Blogging Elsewhere

I recently started a weekly summary with links to my posts appearing on other blogs. Here is this week’s update:

GigaOM’s WebWorkerDaily


Legion of Tech

In case you missed it, here is last week’s edition of Blogging Elsewhere.

Recent Links on Ma.gnolia

A few interesting things this week …

Vanity Fare – Strange Love Live


Social networking is starting (really) to make sense for business | InfoWorld | Analysis | 2008-12-29 | By Bill Snyder

Tags: ,

FOLLOW FAIL: The Top 10 Reasons I Will Not Follow You in Return on Twitter

Tags: ,

Employment Situation News Release

Tags: , ,

Report: Community Platforms Market Led by Jive Software and Telligent – ReadWriteWeb

Tags: , , , ,

SXSW Interactive Portland Meetup on January 19th

Are you planning to attend SXSW Interactive or considering attending?

I was just talking to Hugh Forrest, SXSW Interactive Event Director, and he told me that they are organizing a meetup here in Portland on January 19th. I can say without hesitation that SXSW is my favorite event (outside of Portland). It is also affectionately known as spring break for geeks due to the large number of parties every evening, and the sessions never start before 10am to accommodate our late night partying.  The Austin BarCamp also runs in parallel to SXSW at a nearby location, so many of us hit BarCamp along with the main event. In other words, it’s a great event. You should join us at the meetup if you want to learn more:

January 19
6–8 p.m.
Fez Ballroom: 316 SW 11th

Here’s the catch: If you want to attend, you must RSVP to Please be sure to put Portland in the subject line of the email (they are doing a few of these in various cities).

This will give you an opportunity to learn more about SXSW from the people who organize it.  If you’ve never attended or were on the fence about attending, it’s a great opportunity to learn more. For those of us who already love SXSW, it gives us an opportunity to get to know some other Portland people who plan to attend.

On another note, a few of us plan to use Shizzow to keep up with each other at the event and find the best sessions, parties, lunches, etc. If you don’t already have an invite and would like one, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll hook you up with one.

Tons of Portland people attend SXSW, and I strongly encourage you to think about going. It’s in Austin (the cool part of Texas), really smart people attend, there are great parties, and the sessions are amazing.

Why Your Company Should Have a Blog

While doing some research for a consumer products client over the holidays, I was surprised to discover that almost half of this company’s competitors, distributors, and other related companies did not have any type of corporate blog presence. Since most of my clients are technology companies, I sometimes forget that companies in other industries aren’t as focused on social media technologies and blogs.

The research shows that more people are reading blogs, those people expect your company to have a social media presence, and blogs influence their purchasing decisions. Those sound like very compelling reasons for companies to start blogging or to improve their existing blog!

The Research

Cone Finds that Americans Expect Companies to Have a Presence in Social Media: September 25, 2008

Sixty percent of Americans use social media, and of those, 59 percent interact with companies on social media Web sites. One in four interacts more than once per week.

According to the survey, 93 percent of social media users believe a company should have a presence in social media, while an overwhelming 85 percent believe a company should not only be present but also interact with its consumers via social media. In fact, 56 percent of users feel both a stronger connection with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.

“The news here is that Americans are eager to deepen their brand relationships through social media,” explains Mike Hollywood, director of new media for Cone, “it isn’t an intrusion into their lives, but rather a welcome channel for discussion.” (Quoted from Cone: September 25, 2008)

Forrester Research: The Growth Of Social Technology Adoption on October 20, 2008

One in three online Americans now read blogs at least once a month, while 18% comment on them. Blog readers as a group grew by nearly 50% over this past year. (Quoted from Forrester Research: October 20, 2008)

BuzzLogic: Blog Influence on Consumer Purchases Eclipses Social Networks on October 28, 2008

Blogs influence purchases: One half (50 percent) of blog readers say they find blogs useful for purchase information.

According to the study, blogs factor in to critical stages of the purchase process, weighing most heavily at the actual moment of a purchase decision. When it comes to respondents who said they have trusted blog content for purchase decisions in the past, over half (52 percent) say blogs played a role in the critical moment they decided to move forward with a purchase. (Quoted from BuzzLogic: October 28, 2008)

Quick Summary: What This Means for Companies

For those of us who regularly consume information from blogs, we expect to be able to grab an RSS feed of your company’s blog to keep up with news and information relevant to your industry. The research above shows that the number of people who read blogs in growing, and these people expect you to have a blog. Not only are more people reading blogs, these blogs are influencing purchasing decisions, which is important for every company.

Additional Benefits

Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is probably one of the biggest advantages of having a corporate blog. Because blog content is updated frequently, blogs have some built-in search engine benefits. The blogging culture also encourages linking to other blogs, which can also improve your rankings in search results.

Thought Leadership. A great blog can position your company and key employees as thought leaders within the industry, which puts your company in a position of greater authority within your industry. The O’Reilly Radar blog is a great example of how O’Reilly employees and the company are seen as thought leaders, thus putting O’Reilly in a greater position of authority for books, events, and other products.

Should Every Company Have a Blog?

Yes and no. The benefits of blogging seem to be fairly clear; however, these benefits are only achieved when the blog is updated regularly with great content. Unfortunately, this can be a significant time commitment. For companies who are not willing to put in the time and effort, it is better not to have a blog than to have a blog that hasn’t been updated in months.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Can you commit to at least one post per week? (2-3 is better)
  • Do you have people who have interesting things to say and with good writing skills?
  • Is someone available to manage the process and make sure that the blog never gets neglected?

If the answer to any of the above questions is no, this might not be the right time for you to start a corporate blog.

If you are still on the fence, here are a few tricks to help overcome the above hurdles:

  • Start a group blog with several authors to spread the load across more people. With 4 authors, each person could write one post a month to meet the minimum requirement of one post per week. A dozen authors writing 2 posts per month would give you content for a post each business day.
  • Recruit bloggers from the lower ranks of the company who are smart and passionate about the industry. While the CEO might not have hours to spend blogging, someone further down the org chart might be able to carve out a little more time.
  • Manage the blog process by having someone who already manages content for other purposes also pick up management of the blog. A community manager is a good choice for this if you have one.

Recommended Reading