#truManchester Live Blog: Battle of the Bloggers

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Posted by Jonathan Campbell,
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Glenn Le Santo kicks off the discussion; it appears that nearly everyone on this track this morning has a blog of some description so I guess we are preaching to the converted.

We all know why we should blog so lets move on to the how?  Corporate blogs should be written like a private blog and should absolutely be linked to the corporate web-site, it drives traffic and provides fresh content.  Traditional marketing people want to control the brand whereas blogs are giving control to the masses.  Other people can say stuff in a public space in a way that they never have before.

Where would record companies have got if they didnt let the artists become bigger than the label?  Its OK for the blogger to become better known than the company/ product he represents.  But does it depend on the product you represent?  No football player is bigger than the team, for example.  Nonetheless the football stars bring traffic to the club, if Wayne Rooney moved to Portsmouth, the club would become more popular.

If you are B2B do you really want someone who becomes bigger than the brand?  Amanda Hite wants to know where are these examples of bloggers becoming bigger than the brand?  Lots of talk about it but where are the real life examples that we claim to be so afraid of?  What about Richard Branson, he is at least as big as the brand of Virgin, his company?

If you bring a blog inside the corporate space there does need to be editorial control. Why you blog is no longer up for discussion, if you don’t do it, your competitors will do it.  Who is creating the buzz and excitement for your business?

If a business has a section where they are allowing their employees to blog, it needs control, it needs a strategy, management etc.  If its going to happen on any scale in your company space you need professionalism.  Jennifer started her own blog whilst working for a company and when she left, she brought her blog with her and her former employer was pissed at her as in hindsight they would have preferred if she had of blogged under the company name and not her own.  This is exactly the point, companies need to start taking more control of these blogs.  Jennifer argues that she would have never started writing the blog if it wasnt her own.

The most active bloggers are those who run their own companies; if you are a large corporate you need to have oversight of the blog even if your employees have personal blogs but are seen to be representing your brand.  Amanda suggest lets take it back to before there were blogs and people just had businesses in a community and talked about it, they take their commentary and opinion with them if they change jobs, so what is different about blogging?  You always take your personal opinions with you, its hard to see the logic of imposing rules on your own opinion on a personal blog.

The line is that your personal blog is yours but does not and should not represent your company; your corporate blog is separate and should be the forum to discuss your business. If you have a “star” recruiter, build up their brand and sell it as a company competitive advantage rather than hiding them away; it helps with retention and aligns that person to your brand to both of your benefit.  The root of the problem is not social media, employees have always been able to walk away with confidential data, their rolodex, customer lists etc.  Controlling the social media is not the issue, its a talent retention issue.

Not everyone should blog, they may not be community builders, they may not have a voice and they may not have writing skills.  Contrasting opinion says no, this is rubbish, everyone has something interesting to say, you may not think its interesting every day but other people may really want to know what you are saying.

Jennifer subscribes to 300 blogs but some of them she just never reads, others she waits in anticipation for the next post. The content needs to be quality.  Glenn agrees, you need writers to help you produce a quality blog.  One of the group works for a large company and they have multiple employees contributing to their blog; the diversity of voices it what makes it work, they proof for spelling etc but they dont try to alter the style.  Glenn isnt arguing against this, magazines have many different voices, most professional content is ghost written.  What would you do if you had a key employee who was illiterate?  Maybe they could video blog?? Bill mentioned SalesRecruiter in Texas who has a hugely successful blog, she only talks about sales recruitment.  If you werent in that bubble, you woulnt find it interesting but she writes for a specific audience and they love it.  Recruiters can get carried away with recruiter stuff but maybe our audience doesnt care about these things, we need to focus on what are audience wants (not to self: does Select People’s audience care about this blog post???).

When you’re starting out, it doesnt have to be perfect, you are not trying to be a professional journalist.  Bill Boorman writes his personal blog for himself, he doesnt care if anyone else reads it!!! (Really Bill??)

You need to decide what the purpose of your blog is, establish your audience and then you build the rules. Really good bloggers always take a stand, they present an opinion and that is appealing even if you dont agree with it.  You connect with the blogger’s personality and what they say causes you to think (the example being discussed is Lori of PunkRockHR). In a corporate blog it is hard to stand out.  Bill thinks that are truly very few personal blogs; if you own a company and have a blog you are thinking corporate, you’re trying to achieve something, you are selling your company at the end of the day.

Jobsite’s only blogging rule is that they ask their bloggers to send their draft through to be reviewed but they dont change the overall style and content. Cheryl, the Communications Manager is essentially the Editor.  Being an editor does not necessarily mean that you change things, if you have a good team of writers than you dont need to change it, you’re just reviewing.

Some of the best blogging advice that Bill has ever received is to give your blog an identity, a focus. Bill has 4 blogs each one with a separate purpose; the audience then become familiar with what you are talking about.

What about the ROI?  You need to have a strategy first before you can start measuring this.  Lot of talk about blogging for the sake of blogging. Some objectives include driving traffic to your site, establish yourself as an expert, you may get invited to speak at events based on your voice.  Some debate on the length and frequency, long blogs that are interesting will be read.  Glen Cathey’s 1000 word posts will be read because he has seen as the expert; he only posts once or twice a month but people dont mind, it works for him.  Glen has thousands of subscribers but he is an expert at searching. If Glen writes a post you know its worth reading.

Lori in PunkRockHR writes 300 word posts, they generate discussion and debate. It only takes her 15 minutes a day. Amanda’s business shares responsibility for blogging but they dont measure the SEO benefit etc, their aim is to have a voice in the community.  As a newbie to blogging, Bill offers the opinion that you cant be worried about the quality and getting it perfect, just start.  His most popular had no text, it was just an image.  If your goal is eyeballs on the website then its about your title, your keywords, etc.  If your goal is just to let your audience get to know you, then you maybe dont care so much about these issues.  Corporates might be more focused on SEO, so their focus needs to be different.

Its more about establishing your company values and then when you speak or write on behalf of your company you need to ensure it matches your stated values.  Call it social media or communications guidelines, whatever, you need to show people what the guidelines are, give them examples of the type of content you want to see.

Glenn’s opinion on SEO is not to write for Google, write for the reader and SEO will take care of itself.  Audience members disagree, you need to balance the two.  Google’s algorithm has changed recently, tracks long tail key words rather than just number of hits.  Audience member writes his articles based on what he wants to be searched by.

No-one has mentioned the evolving audience of blog readers; they are changing, there are so many people who are only starting to read blogs for the first time, the readership is evolving and their expectations are changing. A lot of young people are now reading blogs, audience member’s 8 year old son has started a blog discussing Lego!  Know your reader, have your subscriber options prominently placed on your blog (I think we are guilty of not doing this, whoops!).

If you have a Posterous blog, you can Facebook like it and Facebook comment from the blog, the technology is evolving and making it easier to write and to consume.

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