The Power of Engagement: Making a Case for Business Blogging
It’s a brand-new world and a brand-new internet. You’ve probably heard that obnoxious buzzword, “Web 2.0” thrown around and nodded knowingly, hoping desperately that no one realized that you had no idea what it meant.
Relax. Web 2.0 is just a way of referring to the new interactivity and social collaboration emphasized now through new tools such as social networking sites, blogs, podcasts and wikis. The internet is now not just a place to check facts and get info from websites; it’s a place to gather, collaborate on projects and facilitate conversations with friends, colleagues and customers.
In the 2000 book, The Clutrain Manifesto, the authors observe that that the internet is no longer a one-way medium where you get to control the message. Web sites are one-way-you and your marketing department carefully choose the look and the message, and if someone disagrees, well, too bad. That person could send a private email to you, but no one else would be able to read and comment on her opinion or join in the conversation.
No more. The internet is now about two-way communication; it’s about facilitating conversation with and among your customers and users, not just giving them a one-way message. In short, markets are conversations. You no longer get to control the message, so relax and go with it.
Sound scary? It isn’t. We’re living in a world in which people are tired of getting a recorded message from China saying “We appreciate your patience.” When was the last time you had a real, human interaction with someone from a company you patronize? You probably can’t remember. In this age, your customers are craving just what you are: true engagement in a conversation with a real, human being who speaks in an authentic voice-just like YOU.
Have you done a Google or Technorati search on your company’s name or product lately? The conversation about you and your product is going on, with or without you. A few examples:
The Kryptonite Lock fiasco.
A blogger posted a story and video saying that Kryptonite’s $50 bike locks could be picked with a cheap ball-point pen. The story proliferated around the blogosphere in a matter of days, and Kryptonite’s delayed, impersonal and flimsy response did little to stem the tide. In the end, Kryptonite lost over $38 million and had to discontinue the product.
Moral of the story: Blogs are instantaneous. You can no longer wait days or weeks to respond. And bloggers expect spontaneous, non-massaged, honest responses from a real person, not a PR department. Just be quick and be you.
Influential blogger Jeff Jarvis wrote about his lemon experience with a new Dell he purchased. His experience was so outrageously bad that he began the Dell Hell blog (follow it here, in reverse chronological order), and his story was picked up by many mainstream news sources, including the New York Times, which did a profile on Dell’s customer service woes.
Moral of the story: Listen to all your customers-the news media are.
Southwest Airlines blog.
This group blog, “Nuts about Southwest” is written by employees of the company, from baggage handlers to marketing personnel. Ever wonder what Shelley, the Cultural Arts Representative’s, favorite holiday is? Find out here! Human and fun. Nothing “corporate” about it, so human voices abound.
Moral of the story: Give guidelines, but encourage employees to speak in authentic human voices. Be real.
So… should your company blog?
Maybe. Blogging is just a tool that can serve a purpose, like a press release, company newsletter or print ad. Much like you wouldn’t say “Hey, we want a TV commercial-go!”, you should also strategize any blogging you decide to implement. A few things to consider:
- What is the purpose of the blog-to engage customers, to improve customer service, to improve the company’s image, to put a human face on a company perceived as closed or stodgy, to address a specific PR issue?
- Who will blog?-the CEO, employees, the sales reps?
- Internal or external?-an internal blog can facilitate communication among members of a company that might never have the chance to speak (assembly line worker/CEO) and an external blog can show customers the human face of the company
- How will you blog?-establish blogging guidelines for all employees
But what if someone has a negative comment?
This seems to be the biggest fear among those considering blogging. Well, get used to it. Thing is, people are making these negative comments about you already-to their neighbors, at the grocery store, in their networking groups and on their own blogs. Now you have a chance to participate in the conversation; you can respect their experiences and points of view while humbly presenting your own.
Truth is, this is valuable stuff. Chances are you’d never hear about these customers and how they are representing your brand to others-now you can not only listen but learn and participate. If you join in the conversation and address or even resolve their issues with an honest, “Um… yeah, we messed that up, and we’re sorry. It’ll be fixed by next Tuesday,” you’ll gain the value of an authentic human interaction that no static website, press release or newsletter could EVER accomplish. Facing a challenge about your company or products is the best chance you have to engage in the conversation and come out… divinely human.