Assuming you worked at a largish technology/media company and had the chance sit down with your interested CEO or company founder to help educate them about weblogs, what would you say?
You'd probably discuss what blogs are, how we use them, where they're headed, what opportunities they create, and so on. That's some of the obvious and general stuff.
Are there particular things you'd emphasize? Examples you'd point at? Predictions you'd make? Details or points you'd want to make crystal clear?
I have a lot of my own ideas on this (as you might expect) but don't want to bias responses. I will post my thoughts on it in a few days.
Posted by jzawodn at October 28, 2004 05:51 PM
What would I say ??
wheeewwwwwwwwww.."blogs are the nth position in terms of bottom line wealth. This locus or sweet spot which converges to create value streams between customers, employees, services and products. Now, where would you like to start ??"
I'd say for pros...
-quick medium, good for keeping track of ideas
-with the publication aspect it's good for brainstorming, team efforts, etc.
-can help managers keep up with the progress of their teams
-a good way to keep a real-time timeline of a project
-an easy way to see where a project diverged/went off track, since it's all documented.
-if the blog is leaked corporate secrets might be lost.
-if the contributors aren't professional it can degenerate into a dramathon
I'd answer the implicit question that a lot of people might have - why aren't blogs going to be like the personal websites that sprung up in the mid 90s then faded?
After that I'd place blogs in the context of RSS, broadband adoption, mobility and wikis. And I'd make sure that I brought up blog related services like Technorati, Pubsub, Waypath, etc. and RSS related services like del.icio.us and Flicker.
I have a powerpoint presentation for that purpose.
while mellissa spoke about the internal use of blogs, i think that the business-folk would be more interested in their external use. the best analogy that i've come up with to describe the potential of blogs to my c-level friends has been: "it's like owning your own tv station AND your own nielsen. you get to communicate your ideas, values, concepts, and products directly to your consumer -- 24/7 --, and you are able to see how they react to those ideas, values, &c."
there's that famous lord leverhulme quotation, "half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the problem is i do not know which half," and you can tell them that blogs circumvent this difficulty because blogs allow you to react and iterate through different ideas so quickly.
also, a segment of the american consumerate (can you believe this isn't a word yet?) is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and i believe that normal marketing does not sell well to them. blogs (when done correctly), however, are perfectly suited to speak, sell, and listen to this segment of the population. like moskowitz and his spaghetti sauces, blogs can be another facet of your product push (or product point, to use the blogger parlance).
but most importantly, the increasing uptake of blogs points to a rebalancing of power within the corporation-consumer equation, and companies need to be prepared to deal with this:
firstly, in order to take advantage of blogs and associated technologies, a company must assume the same values that watermark this bleeding-edge subset of society. they have to stop being: lumbering, closed, greedy, dishonest, etc. basically, they have to stop being antisocial, because blogs et al. are really technologies that enable and enhance the social aspects of our lives. (i'm not suggesting that remaining 'antisocial' leads to financial ruin; rather, without an associated cultural shift towards sociability, a corporation's blog strategy will be a resource sink since reputation and trust are a large component of social software.)
secondly, i would say that blogs are heralding an era of increasing commoditization. brands won't really matter when you have people whom you trust saying, 'hey, you've never heard of this product or manufacturer, but it's great'. or, 'whoa, i know that i really liked this company's prior product, but their latest one really sucks'. (see cory doctrow's appologies for recommending danger's sidekick on boingboing). i guess commoditization is inherent to every industry (a la c. christensen's work), but i think blogs will really accelerate this process. companies need to be prepared for this.
for specific examples, i would point to the snap.com EULA situation, and the pubsub/dantz/emc/slashdot "real time pr" situation.
The key thing about them when explaining to a CEO, in my opinion, is their unfettered nature. It's reasonable for a company to limit the subject matter ("Don't talk about New Secret Project X until it's announced to the public") but not what's written about unscreened subject matter. Something which pretends to be a weblog but is instead a marketing puff piece *does not work*; you don't ge tthe interaction, the feedback, the community-building, the responses that you do from something real. At that point it just becomes a series of poorly-written press releases. This is *critical*, and it's something that businesses in general seem to have a hard time understanding: individual employees don't, but the idea of letting an individual employee talk about the business without the words being flavoured and measured for public consumption is a difficult one. Most employees will be sensible: you don't slag off the company you work for massively, mainly because you must like it to some extent or you wouldn't work there. (Some people are not like this, I agree, but they are unlikely to be motivated to write a weblog anyway.)
Been there done that and got them to launch it.
Most top level execs know, even now, of blogs only as a passing fad. Most queries start and end at the question of how much money it would eventually generate.
Internal blogging is the hardest to sell.
Regardless of the points you make, the vocabulary that you end borrowing would include combinations of message boards, readers opinions and opinionated content.
Important points I stressed on are:
1) Don't do it just because everyone is doing it.
2) Do it only if you know what you want out of it and if you can do it well.
3) There will be material posted that you would not necessarily like.
4) 1 being true, what would your course of action be.
5) It is something that needs constant nurturing, giving users the tools is just one part of the story, keeping them enthused is a totally different cup of tea.
6) It is tool that reflects more or less about how comfortable your company is in communicating with others.
While everyone is focused on the way blogs can put a face on an otherwise faceless company, I think it's clear that the most profound impact of weblog adoption in the enterprise will be in capturing corporate knowledge. (I hesitate to use that word given its KM connotations--Bill Gates calls it "corporate IQ".)
I don't have to tell someone who works at Yahoo the value of indexing information. Weblogs introduce the possibility of indexing the informal information stored in the heads of the people who comprise the corporation. Imagine how much easier it would be to get a new hire up to speed if they could spend their first few days reading the archives of their team-members' blogs. Imagine how much information is lost every time someone leaves--information that's stored nowhere but in their wetware. Blogs allow you to tap that information store. Imagine how much awareness a CEO could get about his own company by "walking the factory floor" via an aggregator. Suddenly the thoughts of his company are directly visible to him without the filters of traditional reporting structures. Weblog use within the enterprise is going to enable a quantum change in the way that companies "think".
Getting everyone in a company to maintain a weblog is a daunting challenge--you have to change the way people work. But Microsoft is well on the way. Yahoo seems like a great candidate. Good luck.
Tell them about the technology. Blogs, wikis, and related standards (RSS, RDF, Atom) are a new layer of web infrastructure that makes it really easy for anybody or anything to publish anything from just about anywhere (from a web UI, mobile phone-cam, office suite, build script, instant messenger, etc.) and really easy to parse, process, and notify based on that content.
Tell them how people are using the technology. People are using blogs, wikis, and those related standards to converse with each other, write interesting things, challenge the mass media, share audio/video/pictures, and collaborate to build a better web of knowledge for all to share. Get them fired up by showing them cool blog apps like del.icio.us, BlogLines, Flickr, Wikipedia, Javablogs.com, iPodder, NetNewswire, SonicBreakdown, Nokia Lifeblog, etc.
If Yahoo's CEO doesn't know anything about blogs, you guys are in *trouble*.
Aristus: it's worse than that. If the CEOs don't start blogging, then the world will start making bloggers CEOs. Heh.
In Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,
he speaks to the spread of ideas and of people as Mavens (the trusted experts), Salesmen (the cheerleaders and persuaders), and Connectors (the propagators).
Blogging provides a conduit (a medium) for the Gladwell's mavens, salesmen and connectors to operate over the geographically indifferent Internet. This conduit is not intrusive, but rather thrives on the notion of referral, reference and relationships. It is a very efficient and self correcting "machine" for the spread of ideas of any sort.
Your trackback acceptance may be broken again...
Aristus, you are assuming Yahoo!'s CEO doesn't know anything about blogs. My guess is Jeremy is tasked with telling him something he doesn't know -- a much more difficult (but rewarding) task.
I think its important to view it from the other angle. Just because you are ecstatic about a technology does not mean the company should start jumping around in ecstasy. So, you will have to explain how it will affect the company's bottom line and prove the case, including a time period in which the financial impact can be demonstrated. I don't care if its the greatest thing since sliced bread, I need to see the financial advantage.
Then I'll have to consider the risk of controlling the content to avoid IP leaks. But to arrive at the decision, I need an intelligent discussion. What I don't need to hear are - history, surveys, philosophies, books, postulations, predictions, other companies' names, or tacky one-liners.
Of the ones written above, only Codey's comes even close to a substantial argument.
After reading that thread I could not resist that thought... You go and tell your boss that once your weblog is well promoted we could do polls that allow us to do better products, better positioning, blah-blah! And this is "a good thing" (tm), though.
With two latest posts Jeremy's blog is clearly targeting for "Ask Slashdot" fame.
Use analogies, man, analogies. Something like "Writing blog is like haveing sex in public. A good one attracts a lot of people..." You can end the conversation with - "Oh man, you can only watch so much."
And by the way, tell him you understand safe sex is very important.
if you have a read of"the power of now" book by vivek ranadive , CEO of Tibco, published during the boom times, he mentions that the future sucessful corporate will be more like a jazz band (that saxophone sololist is a solo player - but by god do you need him in your band) than a classical orchestra (all conducted by the CEO). Although his vision of a Tibco connected world hasnt happened, a lot of that vision is coming to fruition in the shape of the blogosphere.
Guess I'm getting a lot of deja view nowadays.
It boils down to this Jeremy - if you need to explain blogs to the CE0 , just show the Sun Bloggers site to him. If Sun are doing it, then just ask, WHY are they doing it? Heck, even Microsoft are doing it (Scobelizer, Channel 9 stuff). And to top it all off , Google have a blog and they bought blogger.com.
And to top ALL of that off, here is me , knowing that a certain Mr Zawodny works for Yahoo - thereby putting the Yahoo brand in my brain a heck of a lot more than any advertising. Ok, Mr Zawodny is his own person on his blog, but that Yahoo brand still shines through.
Open up Yahoo is what i say - i'd love to find out whats going on at Yahoo - day to day stuff. Is it cool to work there? What are the ups and downs on competing against Google? What's the coffee like there? Yahoo used to be ultra-cool way back around 1995 to 1999 until it got an attack of portalitis.
I really think that Yahoo really need to turn the boat around and become hip again - the brand is still strong and its still in everyones mindset. And it's not an evil brand. But it's lost its way - having Yahoo folks blogging away would do a heck of lot for re-connecting Yahoo to the folks that made it hip in the first place - it's users.
Random thoughts loosely organized:
1) On business blogging and public access: Don't. I don't foresee myself collecting RSS feeds from corporation blogs any more than I like listening to radio or T.V. commercials (the mute button is my friend).
2) On blogging for internal use: Don't. Wiki's would be the way to go.
3) As for CEO's and upper management "getting in touch" with folks via an internal blogging system, I see two problems: An H.R. nightmare with the Work vs. Blogging ratio. How much is allowed? How do you measure productivity? Better have a Corporate Weblog Policy ready - like your comment policy here - to appease this audience. Your CEO will appreciate that there will be "guidelines" in place. Otherwise he/she will not feel in control. (Heaven forbid)
4) There have been good ideas and substantial theories posted here, but I haven't seen any "measurable" propositions which link blogging to *shareholder* value (myself included).
5) Again, growing ideas, organizing projects etc would be better served via Wikis. I believe this has a brighter future than blogging in the work place.
You might want to review and/or pass this on to your CEO:
CEO Blogger's Club
Hi Jeremy, here are some late-night... er, early morning (I can't believe I haven't gone to bed yet) thoughts:
I'd point to the picture of his kids that's sitting on his desk and ask how they're doing. I'd ask him what his hobbies are. I'd see if there's something we were both passionate about (besides the company we work for, naturally) and talk about that.
And I'd tell him that's what blogs let us do- have a two-way conversation with a human being. It's not all business. It's about stuff that we share a mutual interest in. It's a lot more genuine... and it's a lot more fun too.
Everyone's already fed up with the marketing and pr bullshit. Especially young people. And they're the ones that are the most wired into technology and the Web. I believe that they're the ones that will turn to blogs for genuine conversation more than anyone else.
Ah, that's all I got for now... think I need to read Cluetrain a couple more times?
I would write an entry on my blog in answer to the question. I would then be annoyed the Serendipity and Movable Type don't play nice on TrackBacks. Being annoued about TrackBack and relating that to RSS I would change my mind and not tell my CEO shit.
However, my attempted TrackBack is here:
http://www.jinda-metal.com display rack