Blogging Goes Mainstream: Is Your Company Ready?

Business_development_instituteOn May 3rd, the Business Development Institute in New York will be holding probably one of the biggest business blogging events ever held in New York - Blogging Goes Mainstream: Is Your Company Ready? The event is aimed at bringing together Fortune 500 executives and "forward thinking" sales, marketing and PR professionals. Here's how their sales promotion puts it:

This special executive event will examine the business implications of blogging and the impact this burgeoning communication medium is having on the business landscape. We will examine how leading organisations across a wide range of industries are tapping into the power of blogs to expand their reach into new or existing markets, drive real-time market intelligence, extend their brand and create transformational dialogues with customers, partners and employees.

[We will gather professionals] to explore the nuts and bolts of a building a corporate blogging strategy and how businesses of all types can leverage this new medium to drive new revenues, increase market share and gain critical brand exposure while influencing public opinion on their products and services.

RobertscobleThe keynote speaker is Robert Scoble (Scobleizer), the most prolific blogger on the web and Technical Evangelist for Microsoft. The advisory board includes some of the key players in the blogging arena like Charlene Li of Forrester Research, Stowe Boyd of Corante, Steve Rubel of Cooperkatz and Steve Hall of Adrants.

PR Agency to Develop Practice Focused on Blogs

Carat Interactive, a media agency, has decided to develop a new practice that will offer clients blog media and monitoring. According to John Cate, vice president and national media director at Carat Interactive:

"We see it as the fastest growing area of the Internet. We're interested in it, our clients are interested in it. We see it as a great opportunity for two-way communication between our clients and their consumers."

The Click website reports that the new venture will focus on: blog advertising, blog creation, and blog monitoring and reckons that, though other players in the PR industry have created practices that focus on blogs Carat Interactive may be the first media buying agency to go down this route.

Interview with John Zagula of Marketing Playbook (Part 2)

Here is the second (and final) part of an interview that I held with John Zagula of Marketing Playbook. As mentioned in the first part, John Zagula is a highly successful businessman who, with his business partner Richard Tong, has written a book on marketing, called the Marketing Playbook and set up a great business blog with the same name.  Like the first part the questions focus on the importance of the blog to building both awarenesss of their book and blog.

I'm sure that you have developed a whole new network of friends and colleagues – are there any stories you can share?
This really is true.  There are a lot of examples of folks I feel I really know because of blog interactions.  So I'll just highlight a few. As mentioned it has been great to get to know Hugh MacLeod.  What a great attitude.  Also, Ignition invests in consumer and media technology stuff amongst other things so having blogs (Geek Fishing , Tong Family , The Ludwigs) as a firm has been great for finding and vetting stuff of interest.  Mark Ramsey is a very cool guy who knows volumes about radio and what is happening in the wild, wooly world of digital music.  We did an interview with him  I think even before the book came out and then he reciprocated.  A lot of fun.  Also, even though we used to work in the same company it was great to finally meet Robert Scoble at our book launch party.  Great guy doing great things for Microsoft's image with his blog - [see Economist article].

Has the blog taking you down any new paths which you may otherwise not have envisaged?

My first girlfriend from college recently found me on my blog.  Really nice to hear from her.  There may be some others I would rather not hear from though.

How different is the blog today to when you first started?

Quite different actually and much the same. A lot less about the book I guess, we have already outlined a lot of the core concepts and
promoted the book a lot.  Now it's mostly about interesting stuff we see happening or folks writing about.

How have your traditional PR activities rated alongside the blog?

Really well actually.  We got some terrific traditional reviews.  And I have to admit, as much as I like the whole new realm of virtual relationships, I actually like being around real people.  So speaking and workshops have been great.

Any negatives associated with the blog?
Sure, the biggest is time.  Hard enough writing a book when you have a full time job, a spouse and kids, but add blogging to that and, well. Blogging is highly addictive.  I have got to believe there are a lot of blogging widows/widowers and orphans out there.

Also, don't do it if you are private or brittle person.  People are incredibly vocal.  And you are totally exposed to whatever they think – about you, your book, what you say on your site and what you do. And they can be sensitive too.  I learned a lot early on about blogging etiquette.

What would you say are the key elements in writing articles for blogs?
Boy it seems like there are all different kinds of blogs that all have different characterstics and points of interest.  It depends on what you are writing it for.  But whether for business purposes, for journaling, or whatever, it seems to me that the best blogs have a real voice of their own.  They reflect the real perspective and personality of the author.  They are different and fun and have a unique perspective.

But if you are trying to reach people and persuade them or market to them in your blog I guess I would stick the core concepts in the playbook.  Look at the playing field.  What are the gaps, in the market, in what is covered already, and in what people like and don't. Then try to target someone and be distinctive.  Do your XYZs (the only X that does/has Y in Z unique way).  Be something, fit in a category X.  Know your audience Y.  And have content that matters to them and is diffentiated Z.  Don't be overbearing though.  If a blog is just one big ad it gets boring pretty fast.

Finally, keep it going and read lots of other blogs.

How do you see blogs evolving?

It is already happening, further and further encroachment on traditional media.

Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of podcasting.  Now anyone can become a DJ, announcer nationally and internationally.

Any advice to would-be bloggers?

Be yourself.  Have fun.  Be open.  Go for it.  Don't worry too much about the critics.  But keep your life in balance.

Read Part 1 of the Marketing Playbook Interview

Seth Godin on Blogging

Clickz have just published an interesting article on Seth Godin and blogging - Questions for Seth Godin - which coincides with the launch of his latest book, All Marketers are Liars. Here is one of the questions that they asked in their 'interview' with him

Q.What sorts of lie do you think interactive media is great at telling? Which lies does the Web fail at?

A.The key word is "interactive." The Web is particularly bad at the vernacular of solidity and trust. You can't do with pixels what you can easily do with marble and pillars and arches. On the other hand, when the Web connects one human to another, it's quite powerful. Send an e-mail to a powerful blogger or author or executive or politician and get a note back in ten minutes... that has an impact that will last forever.

Interview with John Zagula of Marketing Playbook

The Marketing Playbook is one blog that I keep coming back to - probably since its launch last year. It offers a good mixture of interesting, marketing-related articles but there's more to the blog as the Marketing Playbook is also a widely read marketing book – both are written by two very successful and very readable, marketing guys: John Zagula and Richard Tong. Here is an overview of the book (in their words):

"Every company needs to figure out the best way to beat the competition. What do you do if the other guy is already dominating the market?
Should you challenge them head on or lie low for a while? Should you offer your customers high-end features or a low-end price? Or both?

During their years at Microsoft, John Zagula and Rich Tong answered such questions so effectively that they helped Microsoft Office and Windows grow from a 10 percent market share to 90 percent market share. As venture capitalists, Zagula and Tong have continued to test and perfect their system with hundreds of companies of all sizes and at all stages"

Their blog is a great example of how blogs can evolve: initially, it was used as a brilliant PR tool – giving people details on the book, John and Richard’s signings, interviews and even information on the book’s ranking on Amazon; whereas now it discusses a multitude of business issues.

I was so interested to see how the closely linked the blog and the book were, that last month I emailed John Zagula and invited him to take part in a question-and-answer session for Marketing Tom. John kindly agreed and I think that people will find his answers very illuminating and educative. Let me know what you think.

How did you get the idea of building a blog?
From people much smarter than me.

Being a blogger started before we wrote the book.  I was turned on to blogging by my colleague and co-author Rich Tong and colleague John Ludwig.  They both have very cool blogs in their own rights The Ludwigs and Tong Family

They also created a blog called Geek Fishing .  This is an informal site for the people in our company, Ignition Partners,to share interesting technical things they are finding out about.  The name of that blog came about because another colleague Adrian Smith built his own wireless web camera to check his crab pots from the shore.

My first blog was actually just an ongoing pile of stuff that interests me

It was only after we discovered not only that we were getting addicted to blogs as sources for our info but also that all of a sudden we had become recognized web authorities on topics like bike sprockets and the obscure German designers that we thought maybe we ought to use a blog in concert with our upcoming book.

Did you start a blog basically to promote the book or was there some other reason? was definitely started in concert with our book of the same title.  We started it though even before we had finished editing the book.  It was a great way to put down an outline of our basic concepts – the 5 plays, the ABCs of the playing field, and the XYZs of positioning, etc - and then to start tracking how current events related to these.

One of the most fun things to do was to watch the plays that companies in all kinds of industries were running now and how they were running them.

Since then the thing has taken on a life of its own. Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void had a great way of describing this whole process – that the book itself was just the beginning. That all products are conversations. And this was of course true with the book.  One of our fundamental goals is that the whole idea of a marketing playbook is that it is YOURS and that you use the basic principles to build your own playbook for your own playing field. Well, Hugh saw this as:

"a marketing book whose main message is transmitted through the actual marketing of itself… It's not just that the medium becomes the message, it's that the message also becomes the medium… the book project was conceived not
primarily as a commercial enterprise, but a way to "spread pollen" and start conversations with all sorts of people. No different than blogging."

How powerful a tool has the blog been in helping to spread word of
the book?

Terrifically helpful. It is really cool to see blog entries from places like Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, and China talking about the book
and its concepts.  Clearly it is a super simple way to give folks a summary of the ideas in the book and keep them up to date on what we are doing, thinking about, and what folks are saying about the book. And it has been great to see all the interesting marketing blogs out there share their opinions. Oh yeah, and it doesn't hurt that having a blog helps lift your rank in search engines either.

I will offer another of instalments of John's answers in the next few days.

Read Part 2 of the Interview with John Zagula


Weatherbug uses Blogs to Gather Customer Feedback

Img_wxbug_logo_whitebgI came across an interesting link today from the excellent weblog of Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba - Church of the Customer. They relate how the blog of WeatherBug invited its users to let them know how they used the application. For those of you who don't know about WeatherBug here's a brief overview (take from their About Us page):

WeatherBug is the number one weather Internet software application that
streams live local neighborhood conditions and severe weather alerts to
more than 60 million registered users. WeatherBug is ad supported,
which keeps the application free. In addition, an “ad-free” version of
WeatherBug, called WeatherBug Plus, is available for users for only

On its posting - Why do you use your WeatherBug? - the company asks its users:

Why do you use your WeatherBug?  Is it deciding what to wear in the
morning, scheduling your weekend plans, checking on vacation locations.....While you are at it, let us know what else you would like to see in WeatherBug and ask us anything.

It's actually great to go through the posts - 216 at last count - and see how much value the programme is actually giving to people. At the same time it is a fantastic marketing tool for WeatherBug which can be fed straight back into the development, and other relevant, teams at the company.

Yahoo! Set to Launch 360° – their New Blogging Tool

It looks like Yahoo! is set to launch a new blogging tool within the next month. Yahoo! 360° will initialy be made available to a restricted number of users from March 29th, having extensively tested the product in-house since last year. The new service will bring together Yahoo!'s existing services like IM Messaging, photo albums, local search and groups. The service is being touted as a 'Web log and social networking' service. Julie Herendeen, vice president for network services at Yahoo!, had this to say about the service:

"It's really about keeping connected to people you know," she said. "Yahoo 360 allows consumers to conveniently connect with the people they care about by creating and sharing blogs, photos and other content across Yahoo."

Herendeen said Yahoo had no immediate plans to add advertising to
the service. Given the number of people who have Yahoo! accounts - 165 million - the company could bring blogging to a far wider audience. At present, though, it is unclear whether they will be pitching the product at the 'teen' market or at older users. Here is Michael Liedtke's take on it in the E-commerce Times:

Expanding into social networking and blogging marks another significant step in Yahoo's push to make its Web site even more essential to the personal and professional pursuits of its users.

The service is also meant to encourage Yahoo's most frequent visitors to create and share more content, a process the company hopes will attract even more people to its site. If it can increase its audience's size and give visitors more reasons to stick around longer, Yahoo would become an even more attractive marketing vehicle for advertisers.

If you'd like to take part in the public beta test, fill in the Yahoo 360°beta test form.

Via: Online Marketing Blog

Related Web Articles
Yahoo Tests Blend of Blogging, Networking (E-Commerce News)

Yahoo 360 takes spin through blogosphere
Yahoo Gets Social (Red Herring)
Yahoo Finaly Hits Blog Scene (Internet News)

‘State of the Blogosphere’ from Technorati

Technorati boss David Sifry is writing an interesting series of reports called ‘The State of the Blogosphere’, on his Sifry’s Alerts blog - he posted on this subject in October at the Web 2.0 conference and, due to the dynamic nature of the industry, felt it was time for an update. Here are some facts gleaned from Technorati:

  • 7.8 million weblogs on Technorati, and 937 million links
  • this figure is double the number in October 2004
  • the blogosphere is doubling in size around every 5 months
  • in 20 months it has grown 16 times
  • 30-40,000 new blogs every day!!

The article
spends a fair bit of time discussing the impact that spam blogs have had on the industry and how Technorati is tackling the issue - the comments to this article also raise some interesting issues. The second instalment from David Sifry focuses on posting -
here is a flavour:

It is interesting to note that posting volume suffered a decline during the months of November and December, 2004. A large part of this decline is the reduction in postings about US politics after the election in early November.

I must say I had a very positive user experience from Technorati last year. Unlike Search Engines Technorati, and other blog search engines, offer visitors real-time results. Post now and your article will be listed within a quarter of an hour. Within a short time period of having written an article about Technorati for this blog, I received an email from David Sifry thanking me for writing about his company and advising me that my site didn't work in Firefox (it does now!). Bloggers can be such nice people!

Comment Spammers Getting Smarter

One of the great things about blogging is that it allows you to share your knowledge and easily develop a network of contacts, often relating to the subject you most blog about. Tools such as comments, which let people know what you think about what they've written; trackback, that let other bloggers know that you have written about them and blogroll, which is simply a list of links to your favourite blogs, make blogging a great social and business tool. Jennifer Rice on her blog, What's Your Brand Mantra?, says that people on her Blogroll had one of 3 charactersitics:

[Number 1] "They participated on my blog through comments and trackbacks. They already established themselves as part of my community, and I thought they had some smart things to say. I've met many of them in person, and have probably had email exchanges with almost all of them. (or even hired them, as was the case with Johnnie)."

Unfortunately, blogs have also become havens for those looking to improve their search engine rankings the unethical way. Following the principle that Google likes links from websites with high PR's (5 or 6 and above), they are now leaving comments across the blogosphere. Initially, I had all manner of comment spam from porn, poker and peddlars of Japanese cars. It was obvious to spot them as their comments usually consisted of strings of keywords or incoherent nonsense.

Recently though, I have been receiving comments which actually comment on the article in question. Here are two examples:

Marketing Tom Article: How People Read Google Search Results
Author - Online Degree
Comment: Finally some real scientific results!  While many of us who have multiple websites at various positions on Google's pages 1 and 2 felt some of this to be true, seeing it confirms the theory.  Great Stuff!

Marketing Tom Article: Developing Links - part 2
Author - Dolphin Gifts
Comment: We should also mention that there are tools that facilitate this process of determining who is linking to your competitors. I won't mention any by name but they can be very useful.

Aside from the URL, the clear indicator that it was spam came from the fact that both the above had the same IP address and both were posted within a few minutes of each other. The worrying part of this is that these people are now taking their time to read articles and leave messages which seem to be legitimate. Which begs the question of whether their comments should be deleted. I took the view that they should.