Blogging: Start Slow But Start Now

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Can a company survive without blogging? Sure, in much the same way a company can do without a website.


The development of blogs is really astonishing. In 1999 the number of blogs was assessed at under fifty. Five years later a study estimated that by 2005 over ten million blogs would have been created. And the growth goes on.[1] The main reasons for this dramatic proliferation of blogs are the low barriers to entry and the easy usability. At present any individual with Internet access can go to the Internet and set up a weblog with a hosting service in less than ten minutes.


written by Andreas Lothspeich and Anna Martin

Have you ever thought about why you don’t do it?

Have you ever thought about writing a blog? For companies it is a good possibility to get easily and without any big affords in the minds of their customers. But why don’t they do it? The main explanation is that many CEO’s don’t know exactly what weblogs are and how to use them in their company. Furthermore they undervalue the big influence of weblogs in the society. According to Carol Darr, director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University, recently observed “Many people don’t take into account how influential bloggers are. Blogs are getting an increasing readership.”[2] So a company can reach a huge target group when using weblogs to communicate their products and the brand.

Chart 1: Growth of the “Blogosphere”

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schreiberin.jpg Do you want to join the community?

Write a diary entry and reach everyone who is interested

What means the term “weblog” exactly? Weblog or shortly called blog is a composition of the words “World Wide Web” and “logbook”. According to Peacock this term describes “a website that maintains an ongoing chronicle of information. They are continually updated and they are usually websites written in a diary- or journal type style, offering commentary on topics as diverse as politics, entertainment, technology, or just everyday life.” Users of weblogs are called blogger.[4]

Especially private blogging in which the bloggers write about their everyday life or their opinions on different matters became very popular. With weblogs the bloggers can stay in contact with their family and friends especially when they do not live in the same city or country and they can create a type of self-portrayal. On this way blogging became a way to communicate and to reflect while writing.

Chart 2: Why individuals write weblogs [5]

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Another term which is often used in this context is blogosphere, which means the entirety of weblogs and their interconnections. Through this linking among each other it emerges a multitude of communities which display a social network. This creation is supported by a usual part of weblogs: the “blogroll”. Many bloggers maintain the blogroll on a permanent position on their website. It is a list of blogs that they frequently read or especially admire, with click able links to general web addresses of those blogs.[6]

strassenmann.jpg Don’t know how to use it for your company?

Corporate Blogging

Weblogs for companies are called “corporate blogs”. They are personal or topical news services which were published as a website by a company or by the support of their employees. The corporate blogs have to be updated with new entries. Similar to the private weblogs they have to be displayed in reverse chronological order and the users can make comments on the articles.

present.jpg Make a present to your employees

Guess how you can give a pleasure to your employees. Establish an internal blog. Internal blogs exist “behind the firewall” and are only available from employees of the own company. The most important reason to establish an internal weblog is to provide a platform where the employees can share their knowledge and can directly communicate with each other. This is a so-called knowledge-blog. For example if several employees from different locations work in a project team together, a weblog is a good alternative to do continual interchange. Team members can easily keep the whole team informed on project progress and new articles about changes or news provide the ability to quickly update the entire team. Wouldn’t that be also interesting for your company?

Many companies provide also weblogs to create a sense of community in their company and to allow a free discussion of issues. CEOs can use internal weblogs as a good source of information about the opinions and attitudes of their employees. Especially when the participants think that they are private among themselves they express their opinions more directly as they would do to a supervisor.

handshake.jpg Get in touch with your customer – build up an external weblog

External blogs are accessible to the whole world in the Internet. In these weblogs employees, spokesman or customers share their views with the public. Their major intention is to support marketing activities and develop a community based around the products or the brand of a company.

The main difference to private blogging is that the company wants to receive a benefit from blogging instead of just presenting itself. Weblogs are often used to announce new products or services. Especially for branches which have usually no contact to their customers it is really interesting and profitable to get information from them.[7]

According to Zerfaß there exist major types of corporate weblogs:

A customer relationship weblog provides information about the company in general and the reader can write commentaries on different news. In contrast to traditional medias like newspapers or magazines the news can be published directly to the reader. The main aim of this weblogs is the maintenance of the customer relationship. There is also the opportunity to provide a window into daily life of the organization, for example when an employee tells about his insights and experiences.[8]

In addition to an internet website a company can establish a service weblog on which product information are provided. Customers can advance opinions or ask questions about several products. The user or the company can comment all questions and help to solve the problems. This enables the company to discover development potentials and to improve upcoming faults.

A product or brand weblog is publishing editorial content about a brand or a product. Its main aim is to support the establishment of a brand or a customer loyalty. This is especially interesting for companies which have normally no contact to their customers. For example if a company sells household articles which were distributed over retail trade, it will never get in any contact with the households. Through a product blog it can easily reach its target group and find improvement potential. Also small rather unknown companies can improve their popularity through their weblogs. In this way the stonyfield farm, a small biological company in England communicate their yogurts with four different weblogs to the consumers.

fluestertuete.jpg Listen, the CEO ist talking to you

In so-called CEO Blogs the managing director or the chairman of the board expresses in a personal weblog towards recent topics of the department field or to remarkable questions of the company or his life. They serve particularly to mention strategic positions and to give a more personal image of the company to the readers. They are positioned in the area between public relations and social communication.

Be one step ahead

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Why can you be more competitive because of blogging? There are many advantages which a company can profit from when it establishes a weblog. The most of them are improvements of marketing and public relations. With weblogs you can reach a broad range of people and get them informed about the latest news and issues. Besides, the reading of the blog is voluntarily and it seems not so obtrusive as a normal advertisement in the Internet.

They allow a direct and uncensored communication between the company and its customers and stakeholders and because of the direct contact the company can learn a lot about the wishes and thinking of their potential customers. The credibility and attractiveness of a company can be increased by writing of weblogs of satisfied employees.

Internal weblogs improve the work flows and spread news faster than it can be done by conventional methods such as meetings or emails.

But to use the whole advantage of weblogs it is necessary that there exist linking among the different entries and to the website. After that interesting topics can be easily found by the users.

And the most important question: What about the costs?

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In comparison with traditional advertisement the costs are relatively low. In general you can say that writing an entry in a weblog has the same costs like writing an Email. But with one email you can not reach the whole world.

Nevertheless there are maintenance costs because it has to be daily updated. Unfortunately, there is also a lack of control over the comments of the users. For example if one customer is really unsatisfied about one product he can mention it in a blog and lots of other consumers will read it and the company will get a negative image.

The big danger

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If you don’t want that your next public relation catastrophe emerges with the establishment of your first weblog you have to consider the following things. Through the easy way of communication and linking possibilities there exists a great power of weblogs. If there is an enormous interest in one weblog entry it can spread over the whole world in a very short time. And perhaps the topic deals about negative claims and your company and you don’t know it.

To be up to date about the topics of blogging, companies have to control the blogosphere through monitoring. But first of all the company has to decide whether it monitors the blogosphere itself or by a service company. That depends on the amount how many weblogs have to be controlled. If there are too many entries it is too expensive to do it yourself and it would be better to give it in the hands of a specialised company.

There are three main groups that should be monitored: Firstly your own employees. Within this group you have to differ between official and non-official blogging. Official blogging is when the employees blog in charge of the company in the internet to improve the image or present new products. There have to exist obvious regulation on what the employee is allowed to write and what not.

But more dangerous is the non-official blogging because the company has just little influence about the contents of the blogs. For this blogging behaviour of the employees there has to exist unequivocal guidelines concerning internal dates and free opinion.

Secondly there are the customers who write blogs. By monitoring them the marketing department gets a better impression about their products in the market. By doing this the marketing can turn out needs or new features that exist in the market. Also the position in the market can be distinguished on this way.

Another important group are the competitors. If they blog in the internet they are very communicative in the market so that the company can pull many information about them out of the blogs.

How to manage it

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All these kinds of blogging can harm the company by telling internal or false stories. For this reason it is useful to set up a crisis management that is specialised to react to such blogs.

Often the power of the blogosphere is underestimated and so the crisis management reacts to impulsive or just ignores it. To not let this happen. There has to be a clear strategy how to procedure with those blogs. The most attractive way to handle damaging blogs is to take the critic open-minded because only true and fact-based communication creates credibility and confidence. An example what damage can create a bad working crisis management is the fall of Jamba. Somebody wrote about internal data of the company in a blog that spread very fast until newspapers published the topic. Therefore Jamba fought very hard against these appointments and so the topic escalated. Employees of Jamba commented the blog in order to save the companies reputation. But because of using the same IP-address other bloggers identified them as Jamba members and so a quarrel emerged in the blog. If there was a good working crisis management it would have reacted in a much discreet way that no additional harm emerged.

Now hurry up! The train is leaving…

reviewers: Felicitas Bauer, Lisa Dürr, David Humbert

sources

(1) http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~farrell/blogpaperfinal.pdf, pg.5

(2) http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~farrell/blogpaperfinal.pdf, pg.6

(3) http://technorati.com/weblog/2006/02/81.html

(4) Peacock,J.(2005),Blogs:an introduction,Your guide to sharing your thoughts with the world,PC Today,7,96-99

(5) http://detersdrasticdietingdiaries.blog.co.uk/2006/07/23/
blogging_as_good_therapy_it_seems_so~982898

(6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blogosphere

(7) http://www.uwebc.org/opinionpapers/archives/docs/CorporateBlogging.pdf pg.2f

(8) http://www.zerfass.de/CorporateBlogs-AZ-270105.pdf

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