Tag Archive for 'blogging'

The Right Mix: Listening and Creating Content

Whether you are managing an online community or a social media program for your organization, having the right mix of listening and creating content is important. Without listening to feedback, you are just creating content in a vacuum without gaining any insights from other people. If you just listen and create nothing, you are all but invisible and aren’t contributing anything to the discussion or even acknowledging that you are listening. The right balance differs for each organization, and it will probably take some time to find the right balance for you and your organization.

Last week, I spoke on this topic as part of a panel session at the Portland Tech America Social Networks & the Enterprise Unite event. I used one slide to summarize my ideas, but I wanted to go into a little more depth here about the topic.

Listening and Creating Content

Listen First

Social media and online communities are all about the people, and people have conversations. They don’t share marketing messages. This means that people from traditional marketing backgrounds need to think a little differently about how they participate in communities by shifting the focus to conversations, and that initial focus should be much more heavily weighted to listening, rather than talking.

Spend some time initially focusing on learning what people are saying about you, your organization, your industry and your competition. By paying attention to these conversations, you can learn so many unexpected ideas.

  • People are probably using your products or services in new and innovative ways that you never intended.
  • People are sharing interesting new ideas about your industry that you can use to improve your personal knowledge or improve some aspect of your organization.
  • Your competition is probably sharing something that you want to know, and it can be worth the effort to see what individual employees at your competitors are saying online.

Listening Tools

One of the big questions is how to set up the right listening posts and filter the information down to something manageable that you can make sense of and process. The tools to monitor conversations range from free to fairly pricey depending on your situation.

  • Free and Easy: I recommend that you start with some free tools that require very little expertise to get a better feel for what you want to monitor. Use TweetDeck or a similar application for realtime monitoring of Twitter, and keep this even if you move to a more robust monitoring solution, since most of the existing solutions don’t do a great job of realtime monitoring. Start with some Twitter searches using advanced operators and set up some Google alerts or Google news / blog searches with RSS feeds. All of this will give you a better feel for the volume of results and some ideas for what you need to filter out of your standard keyword searches. For smaller companies, you might find that this is all you ever need.
  • Free with Knowledge Required:  There are also plenty of free tools or do it yourself approaches that are still free, but they require some time to set up and some specialized knowledge to use. My favorite DIY tool is Yahoo Pipes. If you know how to use it, you can do more advance filtering than you can with the large expensive packages. This requires some time and a bigger learning curve; however, the biggest downside to most of these DIY approaches is that they don’t do a good job of counting results, looking at trends over time or providing pretty charts for your management staff.
  • Paid Tools: The real benefit of these tools is that they are relatively easy to use, they do a good job of counting and charting mentions over time, and many of them provide additional workflow tools to help you manage responses. I have the most experience using Radian6, but there are many other available options. The cost can be worth it for many companies who have complex filtering needs, large volumes of responses, or who want something easy to use.

As a side note, I use Radian6 for monitoring some large volume projects, but I also use TweetDeck for realtime monitoring, and I use Yahoo Pipes to fill in the gaps for specialty monitoring needs. I also have large numbers of RSS feeds that I read regularly.

All of this information can also used as ideas for content, and to be more responsive to your customers or other people who have questions about your organization. You can answer questions or join those conversations, which brings us into creating content.

Creating Content

Creating content in online communities and social media should be so much more than just company messages and press releases. This is an opportunity to show how much your employees know and give them place to showcase their industry expertise where they can talk about industry trends, experiences, ideas and the topics they are passionate about. Writing this type of thought leadership content gets the attention of other people within your industry who link to your content and bring in additional potential customers, which can help improve search engine optimization over the longer term.

Much of this content will probably take the form of blog posts, and it can be daunting for people to have to come up with great content on a regular basis. This is why I recommend that organizations have group blogs where several people with different perspectives all contribute to make sure that one person isn’t bearing the whole load. There are also some tips and tricks for coming up with ideas for blog posts that include writing short posts, reusing other content, reacting to what others are saying, using research, doing interviews, and more.

One of the biggest ways to make sure your content makes an impact is to make it personal. Talk about how you or your job has been impacted by a particular trend or idea. The reality is that people will be reading and responding to whatever you write, and people react more forcefully when they see some kind of personal connection. You want to sound like a real person with thoughts and ideas, and not like a corporate drone.

Getting Started

After the talk someone asked me how she would know when she has done enough listening that she should start to participate and create content. You’ll know when you are ready because you’ll start to feel comfortable listening. You’ll know the language and abbreviations being used and will be eager to jump in. I recommend that you start small and participate gently at first. Start with one forum or one tool (like Twitter), and don’t do too much at first. Follow a couple of people (not hundreds or thousands) and start participating a little. After you really get started, then you’ll need to continue to find the right balance between listening and creating and make sure that you remember to continue to do both.

I did a longer presentation with similar content at WebVisions last year, so you might also find this presentation interesting if you want a little more information.

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.

Tips for Using WordPress as a Corporate Blogging Platform

There are some big advantages to using a single blogging platform for all of your corporate blogging activities. In this case, I’m going to talk about how to use a single WordPress installation as your corporate blog, but similar tips probably apply to other platforms. Keep in mind that these tips are for corporate blogs, not individual bloggers.

Advantages

  • Gives people a single place to find blogs from the various groups or people within your organization.
  • Take advantage of having all of this together on your domain to get better Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your corporate website. Having blogs on sites like blogspot.com will probably have a negative impact on your SEO as people create links to content that is off your domain.
  • Centralized management of the blogs to make it easier for people to blog while maintaining branding that is consistent with your corporate branding guidelines.
  • You have one WordPress installation, but it can look like a single unified blog with multiple topic areas or it can look like multiple blogs depending on how you want to position it.

Tips for using WordPress

  • In most cases, you should be hosting it yourself using the WordPress.org download, and integrate it into the rest of your online presence.
  • Replace the built-in feeds with Feedburner feeds to get better analytics on your subscribers and don’t forget to integrate your analytics package to track traffic on your blog.
  • Use WordPress categories to separate the different topics into channels and allow people to subscribe to specific topics using the built-in category feeds to create Feedburner feeds.
  • Use full names as author’s display names and allow people to subscribe to specific people using the built-in author feeds to create Feedburner feeds.
  • Go easy on the plugins. As you add more plugins, the stability and performance will usually start to degrade, and you can end up with conflicts between plugins that generate strange behaviors. In general, if you can do what you need to do with a couple of lines of PHP, don’t use a plugin. For example, I always embed the Feedburner feeds and Google Analytics in the PHP header and footer files, instead of using plugins for those functions.
  • Use themes to make your blog look unique and to highlight high profile authors or important categories.

Webtrends Example

Webtrends is one of the best examples of using existing WordPress functionality to create a really great blog. All of the main functionality they are using is built into WordPress, but they have done some extensive design work on the theme to make it look unique.

http://blogs.webtrends.com/

  • Featured articles at the top of the page provide focus and highlight important blog posts.
  • Focused topics: Inside Webtrends, Best Practices, and Industry News. Behind the scenes, they are using categories to create channels or sub-blogs based on topics. Notice how you can get a feed for just a particular topic or for the entire blog.
  • Recent Posts: All of the most recent posts regardless of the category.

http://www.webtrends.com/blogs

This is just another view of the same blog as above, but it is focused on their executive bloggers using authors instead of categories to display posts (and feeds) for each of their executives. You might use something like this if you had a couple of high profile people blogging for your company.

  • The main blog is linked at the top.
  • The most recent post for each executive along with an RSS feed is displayed.

While they are using the default functionality in WordPress, they have some extensive work on the theme / design to make it look the way it does. However, the categories, users, and feeds are all built-in functionality existing in WordPress.

Summary

This blog post assumes that you’ve already selected WordPress, so I tried to focus on just a few tips, but there are many, many more tips for corporate blogging and using WordPress.

However, it is important to spend some time upfront thinking about your goals for the blog and the strategic topics that you want to be the focus of your blogging efforts. After you have your goals and strategy defined, then you should start thinking about picking a blogging platform and getting started.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts

Demystifying Social Media Tools and Techniques

I was in Eugene today to talk to the Willamette Valley AMA about social media. The presentation was similar to the one that I gave earlier this year at WebVisions, but with a few more details on how to use some of the various tools. Here are the topics that I covered and a copy of my slides.

  • Guiding Principles & Strategy for Participation
  • Social Media Activities / Tools
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • FriendFeed
    • Blogging
  • Monitoring
    • RSS
    • Monitoring Twitter
    • Yahoo Pipes
  • Managing your social media efforts

Contact me if you would like to have me train your company on online communities or social media.

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.

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?

Are More Companies Turning to Social Media in this Economy?

Certain social media activities (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) can provide tremendous value to companies for very little cost, especially when compared to traditional advertising. If done right, social media can give your company a voice that people will pay attention to because they want hear what you have to say, and the costs can be significantly lower than some of the other options.

I’ve been a little concerned about my timing for starting a new consulting practice. I launched the consulting arm of Fast Wonder on June 23rd, and as everyone knows, the economy has recently taken a turn for the worse. As soon as the economy tanked, I had a couple of smaller clients pull out of deals; however, I’ve noticed an upswing over the past 2 weeks in people calling or emailing me to ask about my consulting services.

Yesterday, I came up with this hypothesis: Companies are pulling back and reassessing their strategies and spending in light of the economic situation. During this reassessment, some companies are deciding to increase their social media presence as a way to stretch already thin budgets. Even with consulting fees to help them get started, they are still spending a lot less than they would for even a single, small, traditional marketing campaign.

I put this question out to my Twitter followers on Friday:

Here are the responses:

  • PDXsays: @geekygirldawn Affirmative
  • wickedjava: @geekygirldawn completely think they are moving that direction because it’s more cost effective.
  • donmball: @geekygirldawn Maybe you’re just good at what you do. There’s always that!
  • MelWebster: @geekygirldawn Not sure, but as a small PR boutique, we have also seen an uptick lately in consulting opps.
  • unclenate: @geekygirldawn I certainly see the shift happening, PR 2.0 is making an impact. Most seem stuck on the ROI and value measurement question.
  • becnavich: @geekygirldawn I know i’ve seen a few blog posts on why companies SHOULD be turning to social media, but whether they will or not…?
  • msamye: @geekygirldawn Great topic for this afternoon’s @beerandblog.
  • jmelesky: @geekygirldawn i saw a move towards pay-per-performance in the ad space during the bust, so it wouldn’t surprise me if social is a new focus
  • Justin Kistner (on Facebook): I’m in talks with a company now is reallocating a large amount of their marketing budget to social media because they’re looking for more cost-effectiveness.

I also know that inquiries are not the same as deals, so the jury is still out on this question. I’d be curious to hear if other consultants have noticed the same trends? For those of you working inside of companies, is your company making any changes to their social media strategy in light of the economy?

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Social Media: A Different Approach for Businesses

Jeremiah Owyang’s recent post about The Many Challenges of the Social Media Industry got me thinking about how social media requires a different approach from the way that many companies approach traditional marketing or customer engagement. Jeremiah’s post seems to be more targeted at companies whose main products and services are based on social media, but I’m going to take some of the ideas that he discusses and outline how they can be applied to companies using social media as part of their strategy for engaging with customers or communities or users.

Profits

Jeremiah talks about a current lack of profits where few bloggers have been able to generate significant revenues from their content. Companies (and even most individual bloggers) should not be focused on generating revenue directly from social media efforts. I always tell companies to think about social media as being in the early awareness portion of the marketing funnel (you know, the part way at the top far away from the bottom of the funnel where you generate leads and make sales.)

Blogging, community engagement and other social media efforts should support other efforts that generate revenue. For example, this blog generates $0 revenue for me; however, it has made a big difference in my career. I’ve been invited to speak on panels, been offered jobs, and had consulting gigs come my way as a result of the expertise demonstrated on this blog. In other words, I receive a substantial financial benefit indirectly related to my blogging efforts, while receiving no direct revenue from the blog. Companies can get similar benefits by using blogs and social media to get the word out about the company. While generating revenue won’t happen directly, it should be an indirect benefit.

Noise

Jeremiah also points out that “excessive noise drowns out signal“, which is an increasing problem for individuals and companies who create content. This is actually two separate, but related issues: first, how can you create content that rises above the noise; and second, how can you find what others are saying about you online.

Content creation. Too many companies and individuals have blogs that no one would want to read. Company blogs are often little more than press releases and marketing fluff (see my “Are Corporate Blogs a Joke” post for more details), and many individual blogs have mostly regurgitated content with little original thought and analysis. The outstanding blogs (corporate or individual) focus on thought leadership with interesting original ideas and deep analysis of industry trends. The posts focused on interesting original content will get linked to more often and will show up more prominently in search results; therefore, rising above the noise.

Monitoring discussions. You also want to be able to monitor and respond quickly to what others are saying about you, your brand, your content, your competitors, your industry and more. You can buy expensive software to monitor all of this, or you set up a few Yahoo Pipes with RSS feeds to track what people are saying. I go the Yahoo Pipes route with searches of Twitter, blogs, and other places to find where people are discussing the content that I create.

Brandjacking

As Jeremiah points out, “brands –and individuals– can easily be brandjacked as others take their user name, domains, and assert themselves as someone else.” The best thing you can do to minimize the threat of being brandjacked is to be already participating in the community. Monitoring is also critical (see above), but even with monitoring, it can take a while go through the process of getting the content removed even if you find it quickly. By participating and having an active presence on places like Twitter and Facebook, it will be easier for people to figure out which is your official presence and which is the fake one. When you don’t already participate, it will be easier for people to assume that a brandjacked presence is the real one. The recent Exxon Mobile Twitter account is just one example.

Marketing and Communities

Jeremiah makes an excellent point about how “marketers move in without community consideration“. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how marketing should / should not participate in online communities, and there are important nuances that marketing should understand before engaging with online communities. I won’t elaborate in detail in this post, but I suggest that you look at my recent Online Communities and Marketing presentation for more information. This presentation offers some fairly comprehensive advice for how marketing can participate in online communities. It is also worth the time and effort to put employees (not just marketing) through at least a little training before you turn them loose on the community.

These are just a few of the examples from Jeremiah’s post, but I think that this post is long enough already. If I missed anything critical, please feel free to elaborate in the comments.

Related Fast Wonder blog posts: