Are You Talking to Me? Taking the BS Out of Business Blogging

Blogging is nothing new, yet it is still highly underrated and misunderstood by Corporate America. Note, this isn’t written for the legions of social media-savvy professionals, this is aimed at those looking for the right way to participate.

Although many of the same tools and strategies that make blogging so popular and influential are now starting to force new channels of business-to-business communications, most corporations are either slow to respond or treat it as the bastard step child of marketing.

Today this channel is largely untapped, but I believe it is set to explode – all it needs is a little dedication, belief, support, and most importantly – transparency.

Transparency is the key to social media. Believe it or not, many of the companies that run blogs today aren’t written by the names associated with the posts.

What? Gasp? Are executives letting junior personnel write these seemingly genuine words that are no more real than the quotes in company press releases?

You bet….I hear about it all the time. And, I think it’s complete BS.

Whereas content was king in Web 1.0, now participation is king!

Leveraging social media in B2B and B2C
True corporate blogging represents a tremendous opportunity for B2B and B2C looking for a voice; searching for a way to communicate with customers; desiring an untraditional platform for conversations; unmasking predispositions and helping to mold perceptions.

While Geoffrey Moore’s books Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado inspired a generation of innovative marketing strategies, 2000’s Cluetrain Manifesto predicted a shift in how companies will ultimately engage with customers. The Manifesto predicted the phenomena known as social media and the notion that markets are conversations and participation is marketing.

Put more simply, you can’t market “to” customers, you must engage “with” them. Blogging is considered one form of social media, and it has become a viable, respected and a tremendously influential channel for corporate communications and customer relations.

Businesses are learning to experiment with executive and corporate blogs as a means to tap into this rich and evolving vein of CRM, leveraging the power of social media and the prospect of sparking new conversations within markets. However, many simply drop the ball and treat blogging like any other marcom program. Many also fall into the category of online newsletters and sales pitches – which is simply one-way communications.

To truly leverage the impact of social media, the conversation must be two-way. It’s the idea of making the conversation interactive – allowing visitors to read, communicate and share with company executives and peers – that make corporate blogging effective, and very compelling.

It’s not about selling, it’s about dialogue
Companies truly concerned with their customers (and influencers) at an emotional level can strive to build a bridge without toll booths, increasing traffic and ultimately, sales and loyalty. One way to facilitate this bridge is to dedicate a portion of the company website to engage with people directly.

The “people” I refer to, is layered by customers, employees, peers, channel partners, decision makers, and competitors, so it’s important to address each of them, acknowledging that crossover exists.

Remember, people blog, not companies! Make sure that you start real conversations… and have something to bring to the table.

In addition, it’s important to designate frequent posts to each of the influencer groups.

Frequency + quality + focus = loyalty, sales, and resonance.

The key to social media is not to propagate or pontificate. Instead of using the corporate blog as an arm of marketing, identify customer pain points and deliver the painkiller in a direct, personal, and believable fashion. Try segmenting information across each market to make the interaction more personal and believable.

Don’t try to tie metrics to the bottomline!

It’s all about opening up the corporate kimono – exposing the soul and personality of the company to facilitate genuine communication.

One of the many resources on corporate blogging is Naked Conversations, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. It explicitly spells out why and how to leverage a corporate blog to cultivate target markets at national and global levels, and its associated return on investment. Another must-read author is Debbie Weil. I too am writing a book on social tools, so stay tuned.

Defining the path
When thinking about how to leverage social media and blogging strategies, first sit down with the executive and communications team, including business, marketing, public-relations and Web managers and tell them to read this post, among the many others out there, as well as the books listed above!

Honestly, everything they bring to the table will try to refute everything you’re trying to explain.

To quote the narrative in James Cameron’s Titanic when referring to the captain’s mistakes, “26 years of experience working against him. He figures anything big enough to sink the ship they’re going to see in time to turn. But the ship’s too big, with too small a rudder… it can’t corner worth shit. Everything he knows is wrong.”

If you need backup, call Shel Israel, Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Heuer, Brian Oberkirch, Debbie Weil, Todd Defren, or me, to come in and help you ensure that you don’t insult the people you’re trying to reach.

This is about conversations – people talking to people – not about “corporate communications.” It takes a new level of engagement. So, engage or die!

Update:
John Cass asks “Are You a Sanctimonious PR 2.0 Professional?
Sterling Hager Discusses “Sanctimonious 2.0″ – Also follows up with Part II
Kari Hanson on Ghost Posting

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  • geoff

    Great entry. How true. I had a conversation with a client today about the very same thing. Engage, not sell.

    GL

  • T.J.

    Right on, Brian. It seems much more important to cultivate relationships and establidh dialogue than to sell, sell, sell the product.

  • Brian Solis

    Geoff, TJ, thank you. Geoff, I think we’ll have many more of these conversations with clients.

    TJ, who knew right? It’s astonishing at just how difficult it is to get them to embrace the idea of conversations versus selling – and without tying it to the bottom line.

  • geektastik

    Thanks very much for your feedback on my post about this. I completely agree that the key is transparency and participation/engagement.

    We evangelists do, I think, have to temper our enthusiasm with the acknowledgment that blogging is not always the right decision for everyone, even for companies with nothing to hid.

    Instead, we should keep in mind the strengths of blogging and the end-goals it achieves, and look to find the best tools that most effectively achieve those goals.

    I think that will often point to blogging and other “social tools,” but no single tool with fit every need – however much my geekiness wishes it did :D

  • Anonymous

    Do you think company’s should socially bookmark posts or stories covertly?

  • Amanda

    Are conversations always good?

    Hmmmmmm, no.

    Are conversations sometimes risky?

    When talking to strangers… sure.

    Do conversations help in making stuff?

    Hmmmmmm, no. Actually, the distraction can be somewhat disruptive.

    As it is all based on the idea that flat is better than hierarchy, is that universally true?

    Not if psychology, anthropology and all of human history means anything.

    Is there any ROI to this Conversational Marketing thing?

    No. It is more avocation than vocation.

    Has any of the professed experts of CM ever run a multimillion-dollar enterprise?

    No.

    Has any of the authors of the Cluetain Manifesto ever run a multimillion-dollar enterprise?

    No.

    So, other than you trying to hawk some rationale for your business, what is your article about Brian?

    I appreciate the chat.

    Regards,

    Amanda Chapel
    Managing Editor
    Strumpette.com

  • Brian Solis

    “Amanda” thank you so much for stopping by.

    Not sure if you knew this, but I don’t sell blogging or conversational marketing services per se. I leave that to all of the rapidly emerging, and incredibly savvy, “social media” consultants and agencies. In fact, I don’t blog to sell anything.

    I think we share a passion for calling out the bullshit to help people keep things legit, while helping others learn from the mistakes of their peers.

    It seems to me, of all the marketing/PR bloggers out there, that you (strumpette) would appreciate that I am simply trying to keep companies (and the people that work there) from hawking their goods/services through their blogs – and more importantly, helping to prevent them from insulting the people that might read their blogs.

    I thought that point was pretty clear throughout the post…but just for you, I’ll take another look at it.

    You bring up interesting and highly philosophical points, many of which inspire a new post aimed at conversational marketers.

    Thanks for stopping by. The chat was pleasant – as always. Looking forward to continuing the chat over at your place.

  • Pingback: Ghost Blogging in Public Relations—Ethical? | Kelsey Stewart

ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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