Saw this in the Vancouver Sun today….
Businesses get logged on to the value of blogging
Instant messaging gains recognition as significant marketing tool
Derek Sankey, CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, March 18, 2006
CALGARY — That weblog you’ve been writing in your spare time has just turned into one of the hottest new career skills, based on the growing number of companies that are using business blogs as a new marketing and communications tool.
Instant messaging in the workplace and the use of blogs is on the rise and communications professionals like Leona Hobbs say companies need to pay more attention to how business is changing.
“Business . . . is about conversation and dialogue,” says Hobbs, who has lectured around the country about the topic. “When the nature of how a conversation changes, business needs to adapt to the technology.”
Blogging has become such a popular trend that entire communities of people are talking about companies without their knowledge.
“It forces you to really hone in on core communications fundamentals: know your audience really well,” says Hobbs, a marketing communications specialist with a technology focus.
Katherine Fletcher, who spoke about the topic of business blogs to a group at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce recently, highlights the fact that “companies are starting to pay attention to the trend, but aren’t sure where to start.”
“There’s almost like a viral capacity to blogs,” says Fletcher, managing director of iStudio, an Ontario-based interactive communications company. “They can have much more impact than some traditional online communications tools, like websites.”
Properly used and monitored, Fletcher says companies can use blogs in very effective manners. She points to examples such as IBM, which has encouraged thousands of its employees to blog to build better communication among employees and, therefore, better productivity.
Instead of racing to set up the first blog you can think of, Fletcher and Hobbs agree it requires the same measured approach as any other communications strategy — it’s just a new tool and potentially a new way to reach customers.
“It really rests on a savvy communications professional and other people in the organization to be aware of what’s happening in the blogosphere,” says Hobbs.
Blogging communities have given rise to virtual cities, where authors write passionately and are well-known among other bloggers in some cases. There is inherent risk of failure if you don’t take the correct strategy to reach this group.
There have been several examples of negative and positive blogs, from sites dedicated to hating and loving different corporations for one reason or another. If you can tap into the “evangelists,” as Hobbs calls them, you might offer them sneak peeks at the newest release of your product or use their feedback in development.
You also have to monitor the “vigilantes” that lay waste to the company name, if for no other reason than to be aware of public perceptions of your brand, says Fletcher.
It requires skill to know where to go, how to develop a blogging strategy, and the phenomenon is adding a new layer to marketing and communications functions.
Transparency is crucial and most people who are blogging can easily tell if there isn’t any meaningful intent. “If you’re a flogger, rather than a blogger . . . it becomes evident quickly, you lose readership and you get a negative [perception],” says Fletcher.
Internally, it can allow teams in different offices to communicate frequently about problems on similar projects, in which the sharing of knowledge is expedited, says Hobbs.
Some employees have used audio postings such as podcasts to promote a more personal message. Instant messaging systems on the internal network are also becoming more common.
America Online is developing a version of its instant messaging service for workplace use, boosting security and management features of its original program, to be released soon.
Once you locate blogs of interest — there are plenty of blog search engines such as pubsub.com, blogpulse.com and technorati.com — companies must then evaluate credibility and other factors, says Hobbs.
You can then monitor blogs using technology called Really Simple Syndication (RSS), which feeds all of the blogs about a specified topic or name into one place.
“Our entire way of communicating as humans is changing,” says Hobbs. “Hopefully, it will just become another part of what we think about as communications people, but it’s a big learning curve for everyone.”