Tag Archive for 'blog'

Consequences of Forrester Limiting Analyst Blogging Activities

ForresterForrester has recently made a decision to limit blogging activities by analysts to Forrester branded blogs for any topics related to their research coverage area. Forrester analysts can continue to blog about vacations or other personal topics on their own blogs, but they will only be able to blog on the Forrester website for topics that they also cover as part of their role as a research analyst.

SageCircle has a more in-depth analysis of the issue, including an official statement from Forrester. According to SageCircle:

“Forrester CEO George Colony is well aware of that savvy analysts can build their personal brands via their positions as Forrester analysts amplified by social media (see the post on “Altimeter Envy”). As a consequence, a Forrester policy that tries to restrict analysts’ personally-branded research blogs works to reduce the possibility that the analysts will build a valuable personal brand leading to their departure. In addition, forcing analysts to only blog on Forrester-branded blogs concentrates intellectual property onto Forrester properties increasing the value of the Forrester brand.”

“Because there are relatively few analysts at Forrester and large firms that have personally-branded research blogs, this new policy will likely have relatively little short term impact. However, policies like this might hamper future analyst recruiting efforts limiting the type of individuals wanting a job at a firm.” (Quoted from SageCircle)

Given the current economic situation, I agree that this decision is unlikely to have much short-term impact on Forrester, but the long-term effects could be devastating. I suspect that several of their analysts will leave over this decision, although they may wait until the economy starts to improve before making the jump. I also think that they will have a hard time recruiting top talent. Very few people who have built active blogs in their areas of expertise will be willing to give them up. I know that I would never consider working for Forrester under these restrictions.

With that said, I understand why Forrester is making this decision, but I don’t agree with it. I suspect that it is in part an overreaction to several recent high-profile departures from Forrester, including people like Jeremiah Owyang and Charlene Li. While the desire to have all of the content written by Forrester analysts in one place is understandable, there are other ways to pull in the content than by limiting blogging on other websites.

I have been reading Jeremiah’s blog for a long time, and I frequently ran across Forrester research through his blog that I might not have found otherwise. Allowing people to continue to blog in places where they already have a following drives more people to Forrester’s research. Yes, their analysts continue to build a name for themselves, which also reflects positively on Forrester, but they also provide valuable exposure to the research outside of Forrester’s traditional channels. Dennis Howlett at ZDNet provides some more insight into the value that bloggers with an established following brought to Forrester in increased revenue over the past year or so.

It was interesting to read Augie Ray’s perspective. He recently joined Forrester as an analyst, and here are a few of his thoughts on the issue:

“Am I thrilled at the prospect of giving up Experience: The Blog, my personal/professional blog?  Well no—it’s become part of my digital identity and represents thousands of hours of time and effort.  But I also understand Forrester’s reasons for the changes.  There are obvious benefits to the company of aggregating intellectual property on Forrester.com, including Search Engine relevance and creating a marketing platform that demonstrates the breadth and depth of analysts’ brainpower and coverage.”

“I’ll be sad to see Experience: The Blog go, but I’m also looking forward to digging into the new Forrester blog platform.  There, I will continue to do what I’ve been doing for years on my personal blog:  Sharing news, offering insights, connecting with others, asking for input, and—most importantly—continuing to build my reputation within my field.” (Quoted from Experience: The Blog)

This decision is generating some high profile criticism, and I hope they reconsider this decision. These types of restrictions just aren’t practical in today’s environment where our jobs and personal lives are becoming blended, particularly through social content on blogs and Twitter.

Fall Sale: Companies and Communities Book Discount

In celebration of the beginning of fall, I wanted to offer you a discount on my book, Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy.

For the next week, you can get the paperback version of the book for $12.99, which is $3.00 off the regular price of $15.99 by using the discount code QYW8QS6W and purchasing it directly from the publisher. This deal will end on October 6, 2009.

As always, you can still get the PDF version of the book for only $9.99 if you prefer to have a searchable copy that you can carry around on your computer.

Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy is focused on helping your company get real business value out of participating in online communities and social media. This 85 page eBook or 130 page book contains practical advice and suggestions for how companies can engage with online communities and social media sites. You can download an excerpt of the book or learn more about it before you decide to buy a copy.

Community Managers and Bloggers: The Face of Your Company

When you are talking about online communities or social media efforts for a company, you need to think very carefully about who you put in charge. In particular, this applies to community managers, bloggers, and the people running your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) The people in these positions become the face of your company. You want someone who will do a great job of representing your company and who fits well within your corporate culture. In short, an actual full-time employee of your company.

Earlier this week, I ran across a blog post by Jackie Huba about The Intern Trap where she says:

“Would you let a company intern:

  • Man your customer service line?
  • Be your receptionist?
  • Be your spokesperson to the Wall Street Journal?
  • Be the main contact for your most talkative customers?

If not, then why do companies put, or think of putting, interns in charge of their social media presence?”

Quoted from Church of the Customer Blog

This doesn’t just apply to interns, either. I often see companies put consultants, public relations firms, and other outsiders in these key positions. As a result, the face of the company is someone who isn’t even a company employee.

These conversations come up frequently with clients. In general, I encourage clients to put employees in these key positions rather than putting someone from the outside into a role that has so much visibility. This doesn’t mean that your interns, public relations firms, and consultants can’t be involved, but I prefer to see them helping out behind the scenes rather than being front and center. Have them work on your content roadmap for your social media efforts, find data or quotes for a blog post, or provide feedback and suggestions for making a blog post better. Consultants can provide advice and mentoring for your community manager rather than managing the community themselves.

I also think that there are a few exceptions to this rule, especially when you are dealing with very large companies. In those cases, having someone on a contract basis or as an intern step up to help with some minor community moderation can help during times where you need a little help, but not enough for a full-time employee. Likewise, big companies with dozens of bloggers can bring in someone to write a few posts in their area of expertise as a way to add some additional content under the direction of company employees. In these cases, you are bringing someone in as a supporting role, rather than putting them in a position where they become the face of the company.

I’d love to hear some examples if your company has tried this (successfully or unsuccessfully).

Ideas for Corporate Blog Posts

When I talk to clients about writing regular blog posts and coming up with a content roadmap, the most common question is this: “How am I going to come up with that many ideas for blog posts?”

People seem to think that only the most brilliant, creative people can consistently come up with new ideas for blog posts. The reality is that there are some tricks for finding good blog content that I wanted to share.

Keep it Short

Blog posts should be more like conversations, not dissertations. The shorter the post, the more likely it is that people will finish reading it and remember the content. You can even break large posts into shorter multi-part posts, which means less writing for you.

Reuse and Recycle

Look within your company for existing content. Documentation, memos, intranet content, emails and other internal content can frequently be repurposed into a blog post for an external audience. Keep your eyes peeled for existing content that you can tweak to quickly make it into a blog post.

Highlight Existing Content

Linking to some existing piece of content is a quick and easy way to make a blog post that people will find useful. This could be a video, webinar, white paper or any other content that your readers would want to see.

React and Participate in the Conversation

When you read content written by other bloggers or in the mainstream press, think about your reaction to what you are reading. Do you agree or disagree, and do you have experiences that relate to the topic? These reactions and information about your related experiences can make great blog posts.

Use Research

When you read industry research or studies that are conducted at your company, think about how you might be able to use the research in a blog post. Post a few pieces of data or your reactions to the research as a blog post.

Quotes and Interviews

This is where you can pass the buck and get other people to write content for you. Ask a co-worker or industry expert a question or two that you can use as all or part of the content for a blog post.

The List Post

Readers respond well to list posts like “the top 3 ways to do X” or “the 5 tools I use for Y”. These can be fairly easy to write, since you don’t need to go into very much detail on each item.

What tips and tricks do you use to come up with blog posts?

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy (an eBook)

Many of you have heard me mention the elusive eBook that I’ve been working on for many, many months. Well, I finally kicked it into high gear this week to finish it!

Companies and CommunitiesCompanies and Communities is focused on helping your company get real business value out of participating in online communities and social media. This 80 page eBook contains practical advice and suggestions for how companies can engage with online communities and social media sites. It is available as a PDF download for $19.99.

The eBook includes:

  • Guiding Principles
  • Blogs and Blogging
  • Twitter
  • Social Networks (Facebook and MySpace)
  • Custom Corporate Communities
  • Community Management
  • and more

If you want a glimpse before you purchase, you can download an eighteen page excerpt, which contains the full table of contents and a few select sections from the 80 page eBook.

Business Leader NW Supporting Non-Profits

Are you on the fence about attending Business Leader NW here at the Oregon Convention Center on February 25th & 26th?

Here are a few things that might entice you.

$25 of your entry fee goes to a non-profit (if you use a discount code below):

  • SHS199: School House Supplies. A Portland nonprofit that provides free school supplies for teachers.
  • OFB199: Oregon Food Bank. Distributes food to regional food banks across Oregon and SW Washington.
  • CFF199: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Provides funding for research to fight cystic fibrosis.

More details and links to registration on the BLNW blog.

Ask us questions in the BLNW Blogger Pavilion

From the BLNW blog:

The organizers are providing a 400 square foot space for a “Business Blogger Pavilion,” on the exhibit floor at the Oregon Convention Center. The pavilion will serve as a workshop for business people to meet with bloggers, web developers, technologists and a host of digital media and enterprise 2.0 experts. The goal is to connect the business community with bloggers and web experts. Bloggers will be featured in discussions at the pavilion on topics such as starting a business blog, marketing a business video and customer service 2.0.

I will be in the blogger pavilion, so please feel free to stop by and visit or ask us questions! I hope to see you there.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

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 intel.com 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.

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

Trust and Corporate Blogging

I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking on this blog and in other places about what to do and what not to do with a corporate blog. Here’s a short summary:

  • Don’t regurgitate press releases. Do focus on content relevant to your industry
  • It’s not all about you. It is a conversation.
  • Don’t focus on marketing messages. Have a personal tone.
  • Make sure the blog doesn’t get stale. A content roadmap can help you stay on track.

This morning I read Josh Bernoff’s Forrester Report, Time To Rethink Your Corporate Blogging Ideas, which focused on whether or not people trust corporate blogs. I was not surprised by the finding that only 16% of online consumers who read corporate blogs trust them. I don’t usually trust press releases, which tend to tell one side of the story (the company’s side) always in the best possible light and sometimes with so much spin you can’t find the meat of the announcement. Too many corporate blogs seem like a series of press releases, and I don’t trust those blogs. However, there are also many excellent corporate blogs written by people that I do trust.

I tend to agree with Richard MacManus on ReadWriteWeb:

To the larger point of whether corporate blogs are trustworthy, it depends on so many things that it’s difficult to make a sweeping judgement. For example, I trust some Microsoft blogs more than others – depending on the person blogging and perhaps even the department they work for. It depends on the style of blogging, the content that’s published, the way the blog is promoted, and so on. (Quoted from ReadWriteWeb)

Based on the recommendations in the report, I suspect that Josh agrees with us:

Like any other marketing channel, blogging can work. But it’s not about you; it’s about your customer. Our rule of thumb is that if the person reading the blog says, “Sure I don’t trust corporate blogs, but I don’t think of your blog that way,” then you’re on the right track. (Quoted from Time To Rethink Your Corporate Blogging Ideas)

Josh includes a few tips for improving the trust on your blog (his article has a few more tips and a paragraph with more explanation on each one):

  • Blog about the customer’s problem.
  • Blog to your hordes of fans.
  • Blog about issues at the core of a community.
  • For B2B companies, get your employees in on the act.

(Quoted from Time To Rethink Your Corporate Blogging Ideas)

The real message here is that trust has to be earned. Trust has to be earned for each new corporate blog and each individual blogger. Jeremiah Owyang put together an informal checklist to help you evaluate your current company blog. A great corporate blog can be a trusted source of information, but it takes real work and diligence to get to that point.

How’s your corporate blog performing?

Just Launched: Portland is Awesome

Yay! I just launched a new blog, Portland is Awesome, to celebrate all that is wonderful about Portland. We have so many great technology blogs, and group blogs run by big media, but Portland has such an independent (non-corporate) culture. I wanted to create something independent and fun to cover all of those other Portland topics.

If you want to be an author, send me an email (geekygirldawn on gmail) with your desired username and a link to your existing blog. Assuming that your writing style is a good fit for Portland is Awesome, I will get your account set up and you can start contributing!