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Welcome to my BLOG

Welcome to my new social media blog. Here I will be making daily and weekly posts on issues concerning the social media world with a concentrated focus on the internal management functions of blogging within an organization. I’ll be seeking and providing the most current up to date information about the topics so you and your organization can fully reap the benefits of the blogosphere in a competent, successful and organized manner. To do this I will try and find as many real-world practical examples to help turn these strategies and ideas into a more tangible experience. See you all soon – Dave

obama-logoToday I want to change things up a bit (no pun intended) and take a focus on the revolutionary campaign of Barack Obama who utilized social media tools like no other presidential candidate has in the past, by making it an interactive experience.  In my mind, Obama largely won the election because he was able to connect with the American public (particularly the youth) through the Web 2.0 applications.  His website is both updated often with additional content to keep the user coming back for more on a regular basis.

What makes this so revolutionary in the world of politics is these are the people who really truly need to be connected to the masses.  Politicians have yet to fully understand the enormous benefits of Web 2.0 when it comes to communicating their campaign goals/objectives to their voters.  It wouldn’t be difficult to predict within the next year or two there’s going to be a massive growth in the number of politicians with blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, etc.   One of the biggest problems facing politicians is connecting with their constituent base and what better way to do that than engaging them on a platform that more and more people are becoming familiar with, which is Web 2.0 based communication applications.

But blogs didn’t only help to connect Obama to people it also helped newspapers.  An article in Advertising Age entitled, “One-way media lost the election as cable, interactive dominated,” back in November stated that during Election Day, CNN, MSNBC and Yahoo News were up 50%, 103% and 50% respectively.  These stats are of course a great increase but pale in comparison to the growth of political blogs including: The HuffingtonPost, Politico and Real Clear Politics which gerw 474%, 344% and 489%, respectively from the previous year.  It’s easy to see how blogging is begining to chip into traditioanl forms of one-way media, and best of all they can be managed by people just like your or me, as long as we’re willing and able to find the right information.

An article from Ragan Communications identifies the steps the Obama administration used to keep constitutents informed and educated, which ultimately made it a huge success.  This article is a great way to sum up the last couple weeks of posts because it outlines all the most important criteria and guidelines for what makes a blog solid i.e. constant feedback, great use of video, passionate employees, etc.  Basically a lot of the topics we’ve been covering the last couple weeks so if you’ve missed any of the previous posts this would be a great article that summarizes important content to get you up to date.

usa_today_logoIn this week our company focus we’ll be looking at how one paper is coping with decreased sales in a time where many are predicting the fall of print newspapers. USA Today has taken advantage of the digital age by utilizing blogs to reach consumers in a niche market. Notice that I said blogs not blog, for USA Today has a variety that covers topics anywhere from politics and current events to airline travel and golfing. They even have an “Idol Chatter” blog where they discuss the recent developments on American Idol, so they have literally taken the idea of targeting a niche market to the top degree.

What’s great about the way USA Today utilizes the social medium of blogging is the ease of availability and user friendliness. The user, who in many cases might not be considered as adept to using these tools as many of the younger generation take for granted, has the ability to access the various blogs in a fairly straightforward and simple way.  The Today’s online managing editor, Chet Czarniak, believes the blogs serve three purposes the print medium couldn’t convey.  Chet knows blogs will allow readers to 1) delve deeper into the stories 2) stay on top of breaking news (previously not possible with print) and 3) engage and interact in new and exciting ways not only with the writers, but with other readers.

Hopefully other newspapers will soon get the hint that they to have a more interactive marketing approach when it comes to reaching their publics.  USA Today is helping to set the standard for one newspapers will look like in the future, which are places where readers and writers will be able to develop relationships that will ultimately lead to more personable accounts of issues and stories that may very well affect all of us.

To see a full list and description of their blogs check out the article from Ragan Communications on “How to pitch USA Today’s bloggers.” Hope the article was of interest.  See you all soon!

mcdonalds_logo_tmThis week our company focus will be on the fast-food giant McDonald’s, which I’m sure all of us have had a personal relationship with at some point in the past, whether we enjoyed it or not.  Often our experience depended on the customer service, which in many instances, at least in the world of the fast food industry, can make or break your dining experience.  In the case of McDonald’s, their employee base numbers around 750,000 individuals, with each and every one coming from a different background and often from varying arrays of life from all over the country, and more accurately the world.  McDonald’s has surely mastered the art of the quick bite and now they are in the midst of trying to conquer internal communications with their new employee blog StationM.

StationM is a project designed in order to reach the type of employee that doesn’t necessarily sit in front of a computer all day at work, like many other companies have the luxury for their employees to have.  McDonald’s, on the other hand, realizes that a vast amount of their employees do not have access to a computer until they are home, with family or friends, so they created an employee blog in which, although much conversation focuses on the day-to-day comings and goings of the job, also has a familial feel to it, for everyone on it has something in common, they work at McDonalds.

StationM is fostering a medium for employees from all parts of the McDonald’s family to chime in and make their voices heard.  Although a company as big as McDonald’s might often be overlooked when it comes to organizational management due to their vast success, they have taken it upon themselves to utilize the up and rising social media tools to help connect the people that have made them one of the most well known and profitable businesses they are today.  StationM seems to be a growing center for discussion that has already made strides to fix employee problems with the way things run.  Ultimately, these types of conversations will lead to happier and most likely more productive employees.

From an article on PRWeek entitled, “McDonald’s adding variety of voices on staffs comm site,” we see that as part of their communications strategy, Station M decided they would add bloggers from different geographies.  George Hradecky, internal communications manager for McDonald’s USA commented on the strategy citing how it would be a more authentic representation of the company’s restaurant staff.

From the perspective of the blog management functions, the corp. comm. team will select the topics for the posts, while the bloggers help to fuel the content arising around daily issues at various restaurants.  This sounds like a great way to manage a blog, by having corporate communicators control the overall themes, allowing the lower-level employees, who have the real-world McDonald’s experience, control the content most likely to resonate with employees.

Hope you all enjoyed the article.  See you soon.

goodwill_logo2So our company focus for this week is going to concern a type of company we have yet to cover on this  blog and that is the non-profit organization of Goodwill.  Initially many might find that blogs for a non-profit organization wouldn’t really accomplish much, but for the case of Goodwill it has generated a considerable amount of success.  The blog focuses primarily on fashion and fashion trends, which is something that many might not have originally thought would be their main theme, but that’s exactly one of the reasons it has become such a hit.

Em Hall is the retail marketing manager for Goodwill in the DC area and she has been the driving force of the Goodwill’s blog success.  She is basically a one-woman team who moderates and manages the blog.  She considers herself the “Goodwill DC Fashionista” because she primarily focuses on the fashion aspect that the Goodwill stores can provide to their eclectic variety of customers.  Hall summarized their mission as providing information on vintage and contemporary fashions in shopping trends.  The mission statement was the essential characteristic behind the blog because it set up the context for what all the posts would be about.  This is one of the greatest challenges of having a successful blog, but once refined, having a solid theme is what sets apart the long lasting blogs from the hit and miss ones.  As a blog manager, creating an overall theme should be one, if not the, top priority before the blog even takes off.  Because Hall was able to focus on Goodwill, not as a discounted clothing store, but as a way for individuals to create and model up and coming fashions, she was able to turn the conversation into a different direction, one in which people were interested in sharing stories and ideas, though the blog.

Hall regards the blog as a product of Goodwill and because of this she set out an organized schedule of when to post, that being Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.  When organizing and managing a blog, it is so important to set out guidelines and achievable goals to reach in order to keep on schedule.  It is one of the foundations of a good blog and soon becomes a necessity when times get tough on thinking about a topic to write about.  All in all, the Goodwill blog has become one of the most surpring successes in the blogosphere so check it out and see what you think.  Hope to see you all soon.

dell_logo020307We all know Dell as being a major force in the computing industry.  It is a massive company that has been trying to become better communicators with their customers, which is something they previously have not be so adept at accomplishing, due primarily to the blogging works of Jeff Jarvis on his site BuzzMachine.com, which so aptly coined the phrase “Dell Hell” at the time.  Well times have changed and Dell has initiated a program called Ideastorm, which originated from Michael Dell in January 2007, with the purpose of increasing their social media skills, specifically in the blogosphere.  Dell is a direct company that is utilizing their new communication tools.  The way Ideastorm works is an idea is posted (marketing, sales, service, etc) then users vote positive or negative on the idea.  Following this, discussion and comments are circulated concerning the idea to work out tweaks and what not.  The final step is called Ideas in Action which finalizes the ideas.  They have 10,000 plus ideas and have implemented around roughly 200.  This project is immensely successful for Dell and is one of the reasons they have been headlined on many social media sites as being a company at the forefront that cares about consumers and their input.

Ideastorm is built on the software available at salesforce.com which is the same service that Starbucks uses for their similar consumer idea blog.  With Dell being the direct to consumer company that has made them the hugely successful business that they are, it is not necessarily the return on investments that is their primary focus.  They have followed their culture of being a company that is dynamic and democratic and this has proved to be immensely successful for both communication, innovations, and ultimately sales.  Ideastorm gets positive and negative feedback, but what Dell has understood, which many companies must be doing if they want to survive in this ever-changing economy, is to realize that all feedback is good feedback if you’re using it to better your business, goods, services, whatever it may be.

Although it might not seem so, not many resources are committed.  One individual, Communicator Vida Killian manages the site with an additional full time person reading the comments.  The genius behind it is the 40 Dell employees who monitor the blogosphere, whether they be engineers, marketers, etc, the fact of the matter is that dynmaic employees with varying expertises are all contributing their ideas and thoughts.  To commennt on the blog you must simply sign up and with subscriptions currently around 45,000 members it is obvious that Dell’s Ideastorm is a huge success.

Such a success that it gave birth to Dell EmployeeStorm, which is more of an internal site that gives Dell employees the opportunity to not only share, but discuss ideas for innovative Dell technologies.  It was the efforts of the company Cohn&Wolfe that helped to implement both the EmployeeStorm and IdeaStorm strategy, so check out their site.

Hope you enjoyed the article.  See you all soon!

Company Focus: IBM

ibm-logo7So we’ve already covered a lot of issues concerning blog management and organization, but we have yet to delve into the type of atmosphere where the rules and guidelines of the blog are not necessarily decided by the social media execs. What we’re talking about here is a new and innovative way to open up communication, creativity, trust and responsibility to a degree that in the past has been deemed as too risky and dangerous for the company to allow. However, IBM dove right in to the untouched waters.

Ethan McCarty, editor and chief of IBM’s intranet developed a set of guidelines with employees. Instead of going to the user community and dictating the rules IBM took on a more interactive and communal approach by asking the question: What are the rules going to be? McCarty says that this type of free-thought is what makes IBM the massive and successful company it is today with their blogging project encompassing 350,000 employees from all around the world.

This reflects IBM’s high level of trust and responsibility they have for their employees and is also a great way for the employees to feel as if they are contributing their own voices and ideas without feeling like a watchdog is monitoring their every post. IBM decided to go about pursuing this intranet blog after realizing that many of their employees were already blogging about the company with even an unofficial internal one already present. So IBM took the initiative and found those employees who were doing most of the blogging and got them involved in creating guidelines and contributing to user-generated content. By making it officially IBM, they were able to respond to their employees comments in a much more organized and relational fashion empowering not only the thousands of employees but more importantly empowering their ideas.

McCarty really hammered home the point of the importance and economic benefit of communication, which I think many companies need to take into very serious consideration when he said,”It’s a good way to find opportunities and sense threats…” Well that’s it for this post. See you all soon.

sonyMany people know and have heard of the electornics company Sony, but few comparatively know exactly how Sony has been getting their message out, at least in the past 18 months.  Prior to this year and a half period, Sony relied mostly on advertising and press releases to get their message out to consumers.  Now in the world of social media we know that this cannot be the only avenues for communication in this day in age.  With the continual rise of the Internet companies must operate on a more interactive level, not the traditional one-way communication streets that have previously be taken.  This is where the Sony Electronics Blog comes in to play.  In previous posts we have exained the question on whether or not CEO’s should blog and we did agree that it does add a level of authenticity to the brand, but in Sony’s case this simply wasn’t the answer.  Yea it would be great if the CEO blogged competently, interestingly and frequently, but the truth is that CEO’s don’t always have these interpersonal skills and quite frankly the time to commit to such an act.

In the article Sony blog improves public relations,  Andy Sernovitz, CEO of GasPedal and head of the Chicago-based Blog Council, was quoted saying, “I don’t actually think most CEOs should blog. Companies should blog, but there’s no reason to think that the CEO is the right person.  The person who blogs should be a person who has the time to do it right. More important, they should have a passion for the company, its products, and its customers. I’d rather have a passionate blog from the janitor than a weak effort from a busy CEO.”

I could not have put it any better.  This pretty much sums up the last post about the importance of passion I  made on this blog.  You need commitment and passion and of course the knowledge, but with these three attributes in place I think any blog has the potential to reach their customers on an intellectually stimulating level as well as personal.

This is why Sony handed over the efforts to an 18-year veteran who has a wide-ranging relationship with all the different sectors of company, which will be vital when needing their help and input when it comes to consumer questions and site content.  The man Clancy is certainly not the CEO, but he is better suited to run this type of operation.  If an individual inside the company can communicate internally then it makes sense that they’d be the best to communicate to the public externally.  Hope you enjoyed the post.  See you all soon!

Make Your Good Blog Great!

Many times corporations are skeptical about starting a blog or venturing out from the normal static “guidelines” of a blog to really make an impression on their customers.  Their blog is either boring, stale, written by passionless people, or outright non-existent.  But there are leading professionals in the industry that can help you to stimulate your audience by finding just what it is or maybe more importantly who it is that should be writing your corporate blog.  In fact writer  Michael Sebastian has done just that and outlined 10 Lessons for a Better Blog, which by no means are the standard criteria you might have become used to seeing on these types of lists.

Pay special attention to Lesson #2: Your blog should ooze voice and #3: Feature Passionate Employees.  Now in previous posts we have alluded to blog authorship being managed by specialized individuals who can properly answer consumer questions and by all means this still holds true, but the fact of the matter is this isn’t all you audience wants.  Although expertise is critical for a authentic blog experience it can also be heightened by writers who are incredibly passionate about the said company, which ultimately becomes contagious to the readers who in turn become passionate about the company, which is why we’re all creating a blog in the first place.  If you can get the audience to become passionate then you are creating better brand awareness and loyalty with dedicated customers who see your company/product as personal and worth buying/investing in to.

Key ideas of today’s post:

Convey frontline employee personalities on blog if they’re humorous and personable.  This adds credibility, transparency and authenticity.

Have passionate employees contribute to the blog.  Excitement is contagious.

See you all soon!

Should CEO’s blog?

When talking about corporate blogging inevitably the topic turns to discussing whether or not the CEO of the company should participate.   There are varied views on the issue throughout the social media world, but I believe we can all agree that if it’s done it should be professional and proper to the work environment, facilitating discussions and questions on professional corporate issues.  This was the case with Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of the Dow Chemical Company.  He decided to start a corporate internal blog for his global 46,000 employees spread throughout five continents so this was no small feat.

It is important to remember that when dealing with numbers like this precautions need to be taken because you are not dealing with a homogenous group of individuals.  In this case age varies as well as cultural and ethnic backgrounds which can sometimes become sticky situations if not properly handled.  For Andrew Liveris to overcome these obstacles Dow’s global employee communications team and Insidedge, Dow’s employee communications agency partner, teamed up to prep him about the possible pitfalls of the blogosphere.  One of the first things they told Liveris was that this wasn’t a decision to be quickly made because for blogs to be efficient they need to be updated on a consistent basis for the long run.  In this case it was decided that one post be made for every ten days minimum, so setting standards like this before one even begins to blog can be the difference between success and failure.

When it comes to the management function of the actual blog, Liveris writes all his own posts with minimal editing.  This is an important criteria for the employee base because there is nothing more inauthentic than finding out that a CEO’s corporate blog is hardly written by him or her.   Although there are individuals in the legal department that do review the posts I believe this to be a smart move rather than inauthentic because its sole purpose is to make sure that what is written won’t jeopardize the company or its legal standing in any such ways.  To round things up, having the CEO run their own internal blog can be a great tool for employee communications but it must be done professionally and that’s why outside help (Insidege) can often be beneficial when it comes to blog management.  See you all soon.

wellswachoManaging the blogging function in an organization can be especially difficult because many companies are unsure of which department it should reside in.  Whether it be the corporate communications department, marketing, advertising, etc. it often largely depends on how a particular company works internally.  Different strategies work for different businesses, but there are some particular general guidelines that can maximize the blogging efficiency and outcome when it comes to interactivity, transparency and authenticity.  An important step in achieving this is determining who in the company is best suited for answering consumer questions.  Basically, an underlying guideline is to ensure the bloggers are subject matter experts because nobody wants to hear feedback from someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Matters of blog management can sometimes become even more complicated in scenarios where companies are merging, as many seem to be during this time of economic recession.  This is what Wells Fargo is currently undergoing with their recent acquisition of Wachovia Bank and can sometimes be tricky to overcome from an organizational perspective.  Wells Fargo wanted to make sure their new Wachovia customers were familiarized with their bank and vice versa to ensure consumer confidence and comfort so they created a dual blog to spark dialogue and answer any questions.

The next question was who would manage the blog.  Wells Fargo decided to use a four-person social-media team devoted to blogging and other social networks.  To smooth the integration two individuals (one from each bank) moderated the blog offering different perspectives from each respective bank.  This choice to offer a dual perspective again increased consumer confidence and comfort and was a great way to ease both stakeholders into what might normally be a money-minded, nerve racking experience.  In times when posts require special expertise one of the two moderators will write the introduction to maintain continuity.  Little details like this are what make good blogs great.  Wells Fargo and Wachovia created a dedicated well thought out corporate blog with the right, qualified people answering consumer questions.