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You are here: Home » The Marketing Diary » The Different Marketing Approach » Business Blogging: What's The Big Deal? Enough Already ...

April 21, 2005

Business Blogging: What's The Big Deal? Enough Already ...

Blogging certainly is a hot topic lately, with debates about it surfacing in about every place you can imagine, and most especially on blogs about blogging (there seems to be a great deal of those as well).

Most debates focus on "what goes and what doesn't" for business blogging, such as the latest character blog discussions. But while we're all seeing (and many "doing") much talk about blogs, I haven't actually seen any conclusive blog case studies with proven results that without doubt show how blogs impact businesses.

Of course, we can all share our opinions, but how about some metrics that actually prove the point?

Anyway, one discussion we haven't been seeing a lot of lately is the question of whether business blogging is at all something of interest to companies.

Here however is an article titled "Enough With the Blogging Already", published yesterday on the Darwin Magazine site, which takes a rather negative aspect of the relation between business and blogs.

It certainly raises some interesting points. And then, here's the response article (republished here with the author's permission) that counters Graeme's views.

This is one debate I'm not going in to myself, but let me just say that both authors raise some valid points.

Pros and Cons of Business Blogging
by Dudu Mimran, StrategicBoard.com

Bubblegeneration points in a post Interesting take on blogging on a Graeme Thickins article on Darwin - Online Feature - Enough With the Blogging Already that expresses a well thought and well explained perspective on blogging in general and on what does it mean for the business world if at all. Graeme's perspective covers all the objections the business world has for blogging in his opinion. And, instead of just writing a short opposing opinion, I took the liberty as a blogger to address each specific point raised for the sake of equilibrium (there are 10 bullets so please bear with me). My comments are written after each bullet and are directed in a personal manner to ease my writing (Bullets are quoted as they appear in the original article).

"Here's why that won't happen: 1) Business doesn't do "passion." That, according to the experts, is the prime requirement for launching and successfully building a voice with a blog. On the contrary, business is about logic, predictability, executing a strategy, even-temperedness, a steady hand ? and, yes, earning a profit (something absent in the field of blogging). Name one successful CEO known for passion who's lasted beyond a short flameout period (okay, besides Steve Jobs)."

Dudu: The "passion" needed for launching a blog or adopting any new thing has always been a subjective matter. Most of the businesses practice basic conservatism by trying new business practices, emerging technologies and applications only at a later stage where there seems to be good proof that it works without the high risks (Risks of reputation, wasted resources, wasted direction and more). Blogging is indeed in its early days and it is being shaped every new day with new tools and applications. As an enabling technology in its early days the level of adoption and level of curiosity raised by this concept are extremely high even in comparison to past innovations.

Businesses will jump the wagon when the value of specific blogging related applications will be visible enough and early adopters are the ones who make it visible by simply trying. Launching a corporate blog today is a nice concept but still it is in its early days - most businesses that do launch a blog today are not perfectly sure what to do with it and are basically experimenting different uses for it such as: product announcements, non-formal employee- customer communications, product/service/brand feedback, Get to know the CEO opportunity and more?

"2) Business doesn't like gossip. The blogosphere is well known as a caldron of innuendo and over-the-back-fence chatter. (That's not to say some political blogs haven't helped get to the truth in some notable instances. But we're talking business here.) The fact remains that business people still have two big questions when it comes to this blogging phenomenon: Who would I trust out there? And, what would I get out of slogging through all this uncontrolled chit-chat?"

Dudu: Gossip has always been here and always affected business life. It does not really matter whether businesses like gossip or not (If we summarize all that is happening on the blogosphere as gossip for a second), the only thing that matters is whether customers, partners and opinion leaders as independent individuals are affected by this kind of gossip and that seems obvious.

"3) Business doesn't like doing public experiments. Again, this seems to be one of the favorite recent themes of the hypesters: that businesses should start blathering with their "corporate voice." But a mainstream business doesn't let just one person speak for all its interests. And that applies even to the CEO ? or, I should say, especially to the CEO in the current climate of ethics lapses and Sarbanes-Oxley."

Dudu: See no. 1

"4) Business doesn't bare its soul, and certainly not its personal diary. In fact, companies don't do diaries, unless they happen to be one-person firms that do blogs. It should come as no surprise that business does not choose to hang out its dirty laundry for all to see, which is exactly what some proponents of blogs say companies should do. (I'm not making this up.)"

Dudu: Above the variety of valuable blogging uses mentioned in no. 1, in my opinion a basic employee blog from a specific department can contribute for the business success (I am not talking about miss-using the blog for the sake of the employee's personal interests) ? The contribution is a new kind of transparency of who are the people behind the corporate walls that make the goods and services I buy. As a potential customer, getting to know my supplier's employees in different departments such as customer service, sales, tech support and production creates for me more confidence about my relationship with the vendor as well as a unique non-bureaucratic effective channel for creating discussions that can not take place anywhere else. A higher transparency in a customer- supplier relationship creates a higher confidence for both sides. Needless to say on the effect it has on the employee motivation where you let them be a bit more important and influencing in their professional life ? It can also be a good employee retention policy.

"5) Business is already time-strapped and blogs burn time like nobody's business. Roger McNamee, famed Silicon Valley VC and private equity investor, recently appeared on CNBC business news. When asked where he thought the next big investment ideas and business opportunities would be, he said: "People don't have enough time." So, who has time to waste?"

Dudu: It all depends on the value you get from it. I agree that just writing down whatever crosses your mind can be a waste of time. Evolving your product roadmap based on customer feedback communicated via a blog can become a real competitive edge.

"6) Businesses already communicate well in various ways. And they don't just do that willy-nilly. They carefully manage and account for their communications, especially those deemed to be "business records," which includes e-mail and instant messaging. They must also comply with government regulations covering some of these forms of communications ? archiving e-mail, for example ? or face severe penalties and fines if they screw up. You'll understand, then, why they're not exactly clamoring for a new form."

Dudu: Blogging as a business practice will require a set of policy enforcement tools that will regulate this communication channel as happened in the past with other communication channels. The need to regulate a new communication channel does not automatically make it worthless. Regulating blogging does not seem to be a mission impossible and we will just have to wait for few more innovators and startups to deal with it at the right time.

"7) Businesses are advertisers, and advertisers don't like blogs. Take it from an expert, Peter Horan, CEO of About.com (recently acquired by the New York Times Co.): "Advertisers don't want to advertise on someone's personal home page, they don't like advertising in forums, they don't like advertising in blogs. It's a media business. Media is about getting to critical mass and about getting advertiser support." (From an excellent interview by Mark Glaser appearing on USC's Online Journalism Review, in which Horan is also quick to point out that About.com's business is not a blogging model, as many might think.)"

Dudu: If I was personally part of a specific traditional media business I would be confused as well and maybe reluctant to the change blogging brings the way normal people react to big changes. Still, if we imagine a highly influential blog then I don't see any good reason for not advertising to a highly segmented audience. The dominant form of advertising in the blogosphere will take shape when we will be at a higher level of blogging adoption. Web-based advertising models for example evolved over a long period of time and are widely used and accepted today.

"8) Business and politics don't mix well. If companies ever do politics, it's usually through their industry associations (which have lobbyists to play that game) while they do business. Only a tiny fraction of businesses employ their own lobbyists or government relations people. Most won't be online participating in endless chatter about what happened in today's city council meeting."

Dudu: Blogs like any other communication method such as: email, IM and web site pages can serve different purposes for different audiences. I can see a world where political blogging can take place together with active business related blogging.

"9) Business writing style and blogger style don't even come close. Editing is the major missing ingredient in the latter. Most of the content of the blogosphere is badly lacking in proper usage, punctuation, organization and more. And there seems to be an unstated blogger's creed of "Why say something in 100 words when you can say it in 1,200?" Once people see the alternative, they realize they actually do prefer copy that's readable, coherent and to the point ? puh-lease, to the point!"

Dudu: Today's state of the publishing industry is a result of a long and hard work that achieved truly high standards (Not always) and blogging as a publishing medium will evolve. Blogging as a platform for other applications will evolve as well to accommodate a different and relevant set of high standards. Blogging today may not always create the same high quality results traditional media has but still it brings a unique voice with a unique intrinsic value. [Without blogging I could not voice my opposing opinion today, which may be in high quality or not but still exists and brings different information to the table]].

"10) Businesses have other ways of dealing with promoting their stances. The corporate communications and public relations profession is remarkably quiet in all the rah-rah hype of blogging. Here's but one example of their lack of buy-in: the League of American Communications Professionals recently published a newsletter on the topic of "Converting a Corporate Cause to a Grassroots Campaign via the Web." The b-word never even appeared."

Dudu: See no. 7

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