I am visiting New York for the BlogHer Business conference. The conference will answer the question: How can Businesses Succeed in a Social Media World?
The Day Two track: “How Do I Get It Right the First Time?” has three sessions that will be live blogged. Listed below is information for session two. Speaker bios and the full list of live-blog links are listed on the BlogHer site. The other two sessions of this track are listed here and here (Silicon Valley Moms Blog).
They will take a closer look at these questions:
- Who should blog for your company?
- How do you enact “authenticity”?
Here are my apologies in advance (thanks Jen Lemen for the
idea): for misspelling, missed names and other tragedies of being in a rush.
Everything is a serious approximation of what was said.
Maria Niles: Welcome everyone, we will going to get started.
Nicki Dugan. I run the corporate blog Yodel Anecdotal. The
corporate blog is the umbrella and the product blogs are vertical. 55 employees contribute to the blogs.
Lynne Johnson: I have a personal blog for 6 years, I am
Senior Editor of the FastCompany website but I also manage the staff blog (news related).
We also have FC expert blogs where we recruit technology, leadership, and so
on. It is my job to put our guidelines and help the blog sound like
Karen Walrond: I am with Weblogs Inc, My blog chookooloonks
chronicles how my daughter came into my life. Weblogs inc’s products are our blogs (including Engadget, Styledash,
Blogging Baby, Slashfood). We make money on advertising.
Nina Belcher: I am a lawyer that represents clients that are
afraid to blog. They ask “How could that not blow up on us?”. How can blogging
help larger companies?
Nicki Dugan: It was hard to talk our legal team into doing a
blog, because there is so little control you have about what comes back to you.
I told them that people are already talking about us, blogs give us a chance to
join in on the conversation. We have guidelines and a review process. We worked in partnership with the legal team,
and tried to be edgy. The more reverent we are the more well received it will
be. It took a couple of weeks to click for them that it was not such a scary
place. We had an innocent blog posting
about a new feature, Digg fashion thumbs up and thumbs down on new features.
Digg fans felt that we stole something from them. The comments started to turn the tide: “Isn’t
it a good idea that Yahoo gave users a voice in product features”. It turned
into a positive experience.
Karen: I was also a lawyer, and I keep hearing
people say “those darn lawyers”. But I am also a blogger so I see both sides.
The authenticity of voice is very powerful. You should not just get anyone off
the street to blog for your company. You need someone that has a good
understanding of what the goals of the corporations are (even if they are not
writing about the goals). So they know what is risky, then the corporation
needs to let the writer go – you need to offer them a certain amount of trust.
There are SEC guidelines that require training, but trust is important.
Audience member: Could FastCompany get away with not
Lynne: Our staff blog has been around for 3 or 4 years and
is about the first of its type. Most magazines like Wired and 2.0 had blogs. On
our homepage, the blogs are foremost. We are about daily news and keeping
Audience member: What is it like to manage a stable of
bloggers? What are the issues involved, like personalities, production?
Karen: For me it has been different, we have more freedom
because we are not the voice of the corporation. We recruit people that are
passionate and who can write, then let them go. They know how often they need
to write and are all over the world. One
blogger talks about financing college and the other about potty training. The
whole company is virtual (all of us work out of our homes). But it works
because we have a common platform; we instant message each other all day.
Lynne: Our blogs are journalistic because it is based from
the magazines. Our interns needs more training because they may want to write about
topics like Britney Spears. Instead, I say how about writing about the ‘brand” of Britney
Spears. Our expert’s blogs are all over the place, from all walks of life. They
might be a professor, tech, or business experts. It has been interesting to
manage. I may need to send them emails if they plug their own product. I ask
them to make the blog post more news related. We offer a wider distribution network then their own blog. I don’t edit
blogs but I do minor changes to make it more search engine friendly. I have not
had to mess with them much because they are experts.
Nicki: Someone either comes to pitch a post or I need to go
out to find a person to blog about. 90% of the issue is finding the right voice
(no “we” – more personal). I tell them I care about what you say, but people
outside want to know who the individuals are, what keeps them out at night –
“who are you and why are you presenting that opinion”. That should be different
then what is in a press release.
Nicki: We are all voyeuristic at heart – that is what draws
you into the post. It is not about the big company, it is the individual that
is interesting. You should write something the same way you would write a
conversation. People that read press releases are used to seeing things a
Karen: Many of our freelance writers are authors themselves.
For example, I am a big fan of Bill Bryson. I would love to meet him or read
his blog. Instead of just reading about them, you connect with the person
behind the words. Instead of “I had eggs today” write about “I met a person who
said X, and that resonated with me because….”. We often get featured at the AOL
welcome page. This helps people feel like they are relating to people instead
of a conversation (you mean you can’t potty train your child at 2, I did it at
Lynne: I see the same at the FC blogs. Jory Des Jardins
talks about books that she read or things that interesting her. People are more
engaged with that style of writing instead of news. For example, I talked about
a company that makes “green/eco” skateboards. When I blogged about it I started
by telling the story of that I started skateboarding.
Elisa Camahort: There is an audience for everything. I
decided to blog about becoming a vegan. I had 0 readers. Then I published my
food diary – and got a whole community of readers. It feels like it is my own
little neighborhood. The business reason is that people care about what people
use, buy, eat…
Audience Member: Squarespace is a web hosting company. We
just started a blog to speak to our customers. I found that we needed an extra
person to help contribute to our blog. We turned to our PR firm. We had that
luxury because we are an established firm. My question is: how do you decided
who is going to write?
Nicki: We launched our blog to present a wider range of
voices. You may find great writers in unexpected places. We want those who have
their sleeves rolled up working with products. We are happy to work with them
on learning the blog writing style.
Maria: I blog for Kleenex and they found me from the
Karen: See if there is anyone already talking about your
company. That is the person that you may want to hire for blogging.
Elisa Camahort: We have a job listing form on the BlogHer
Audience member: What
Nicki: There have been some people that are so busy they
don’t have the time to write themselves. So we have, on occasion, used a ghost
writer. But we make sure the post has the original voice. I recommend that you
use ghost writers sparingly. You can also have someone structure a post, and
then the blogger goes in and writes it.
Audience member: Do you get more traffic when the posts are
written from the “I” perspective?
Lynne: The most traffic comes from the most intriguing posts.
For example, there is a company called Wikio. The title of the post was “Can
Wikio Make Digg S*** it’s pants?”. That got lots of traffic and comments, it
generated a discussion.
Nicki: Some of the formulas are: Controversy, unexpected or
just a hot topic and something the blogger feels passionate about.
Karen: I think personal posts engaged commenters far more
then announcements. If we blog about an announcement for New York then we get
traffic, but if you really want to get people talking you need to add personal opinion
it really gets the conversation going – “When I went to New York, I stayed at
XYZ hotel and really enjoyed it….
Lynne: The way to get someone to speak (comment) is to make
sure they feel comfortable.
Audience member: How do you ensure that bloggers do not go
for the lowest common denominator? Going to the lowest level so they can joke
with the readers?
Nicki: The whole idea is to peel back the curtain to let the
world see the personal side, letting our hair down.
Audience member: I have a business job and a personal blog
but wonder where I draw the line about being too personal (like potty
training). Is my kid going to think I am sharing too much?
Karen: I decided that
I will stop writing about my daughter before her fifth birthday (I did it when
she was three). That was right for me. People love to read about Britney Spears.
If you rant you need to do it in a thoughtful, intelligent way. If you say “XYZ
is a stupid company”, then that is not engaging. But if you say “I don’t like
XYZ company because of these reasons……”. That is engaging. If you are smart
about how you argue or vent then the commenters are thoughtful and smart (not always).
Audience: We talked about impact of social media in the
public, but how about internal blogging?
Lynne: We do not do internal blogging. The CEO is very open
and sends emails out to the company.
Nicki: Yahoo does not have internal blogging but we do use
wiki’s. For those of you who don’t know what a wiki is: It is a document that
multi people can go to update. We also have an internet that has information
across the business.
Karen: It is not encouraged, but not discouraged that our
bloggers have their own personal blogs.
Audience Member: How do you decide to do a blog on a
particular topic? Who owns the intellectual property?
Karen: Who owns the intellectual property? The writers do,
but it is exclusive for a certain period of time for Weblogs, Inc blog. We do
have people that scrape the content, but that is not right. There are times
that articles are allowed to be reprinted, with approval.
Karen: How do you decide to discuss a certain topic? It is a
marketing decision? For example, we have StyleDash. We also discuss if we need
male StyleDash or home StyleDash. We monitor the buzz. It is a group decision,
usually above my head.
Lynne: We have an exclusive period (two weeks), but the
bloggers own the intellectual property. I wanted people to be able to post it
on their own sites. People can make their own books, but we can also make “the
best of” book.
Jory: Do you engage women differently then men?
Nicki: I have not seen a trend but most of our commenters
are men. We had a post on Yahoo about a women who had written a book about
being a football widow and that attracted women.
Karen: For our lifestyle section (like blogging baby) are
mostly visited by women. Our travel site
is adventure based, and more men read that.
Jory Des Jardins: Is there a way to get a better mix of
women and men to your blog?
Karen: I don’t find that women/men respond to tone. I do
think that the gender of the writer helps. I think that the fact that we have
male writers on blogging baby attracts dads. The female writers on our travel
site attract women. The mix of writers does have an effect.
Lynne: I do notice with the expert blogs (that have head
shots), that interaction is race based as well as gender based. We have this
one guy who talks about urban entertainment. Those in urban entertainment
respond to him. Those in general entertainment do not.
Karen: Blogging Baby has a mostly white female audience. I
found this out during a Flickr photo contest, where all the pictures except for
a few were white. I have no idea on how you attract a mix of races, I would
like to find out how…
Audience member: My experience is that the design can affect
what type of gender and race is attracted to the site.
Audience member: Have you met your goals from the social
media tools, and what have been the surprises?
Nicki: We set low expectations because we were not sure if a
corporate blog would be interesting. I am really pleased with the results, we
blew past our RSS feed expectations. We are not happy with the level of
comments. Maybe we could be more controversial to attract commenters. Once you have the right formula, more
subscribe to RSS feeds which brings regular traffic.
Lynne: I am also disappointed with comments. We may think
about taking away the email address signatures so people don’t reply via email.
We want FastCompany to be a community. We have family of friends, which is a
place for groups to meet up – a hub for activity. As we move to do redesigns of
the site we want to bring it all together: community around business issues.
Audience Member: I am noticing that feed readers are
becoming a trend. But the issue is that some don’t click through to the site.
Lynne: I think you are right, we met our RSS goals. Our
point is to have community and interaction around business issues on the site.
Audience: Some users read, but do not want to comment.
Nicki: We struggle to find the right business metrics for
blogs. How much traffic, are you being talked about (i.e. Technorati). I may
not get a comment from John Batelle, but he just linked to my blog post. Or we
were in the front page of Techmeme…. That is also a measure of success.
Maria: What is the one best tip to encourage a company to embrace
Karen: The power of blogging is that it puts a face on your
company. If I were a company and I needed a blogger, I would look for a smart
blogger that can quickly learn what the company goals are.
Lynne: They can’t not do it! You have to convince them that
if they want to be where the people are, then they need to blog.
Nicki: Just look at then numbers of people doing it. But
make sure you have the resources to feed the beast (post at least three times a
week)? If you have pressure from within, pushback if you don’t have the right
resources. It is the way the world is going…..