Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More blogging about blogs

First, allow me to state up front and clearly that I truly appreciate the response to my last blog post on blogs. It’s that kind of discourse that I’d love to have on this and other subjects as a way of learning what others are thinking. The valuable time that folks read—and sometimes even respond to—my ramblings humbles me. Since I’m unconvinced of the business value of blogs and am still testing that hypothesis, I struggle with appropriate knowledge (read: useful) to be shared. So please do continue to read if you find value in this, and definitely respond if you don’t.

Before I continue, let me also restate my basic premise about blogs: They’re not ready for business prime time (but I will modify that statement later in this post). I’m no fortune teller, and I don’t even play one on television, but I have been known to be on the bleeding edge on more than several occasions—and been wrong—so there’s precedent here if I’m wrong again.

Sidebar: In thinking of how I’ve arrived at the conclusion I’m often on the bleeding edge, I offer these examples of what I’ve purchased in the past:

  • First fully automated shutter controlled 35mm SLR – Konica – no longer in the SLR business
  • First “portable IBM PC compatible computer” – Columbia Data Systems – company defunct
  • Early consumer videotape recorder (Betamax) – well, you know that story
  • First front wheel drive car since the re-introduction in 1966 – Olds Toronado – company defunct
  • First satellite phone company – Iridium – if you’re still holding their stock (like my son bought based upon my recommendation) use it for scratch paper
  • Early laptop computer – Texas Instruments Travelpro – got out of the business, sold it to Acer
  • Early compact PDA (PCMCIA card size) – Franklin REX – sold to Xircom and immediately discontinued

Bottom line: Before you buy anything technology related, make sure I haven’t already selected it—it’s sure to be a loser.

Having said that, I got a great response that I would like to re-post in its entirety as well as address each of the points the responder made about my blog misgivings. Others on the blogs-are-good side of the fence are also encouraged to respond, since enabling technologies for the next generation of knowledge workers is my academic research interest and I can always use more data points. So, below is the response to my blog about blogs, and my response to that is contained in [brackets]. Again, thanks for the response and insightful perspective.

RESPONSE:

It seems to me that you are missing some of the main rationales for blogs.

Your article seems to paint blogs as if they are just an extension of the traditional diary, but they are not . . . diaries are private, blogs are public.

[Beyond the obvious that diaries were intended to be private and blogs public, blogs still suffer from the same linear thinking, i.e., chronological order based upon the most recent thoughts. What is considered critical knowledge is purely from the perspective of the blogger, not in collaboration with the receiver, or the business.]

The purpose of a blog is to share thoughts, to build an audience, to communicate, to network, to connect with other people, etc. A blog can be a marketing tool, a social networking software tool, assist with dissemination of knowledge and, in some cases, stewardship of knowledge. Where appropriate in context, it could lead to lead generation and business opportunities.

[We’re in agreement with the above, that blogs can provide leads, connect people, market, and so on, but—because of the ad hoc nature of the blog posts, the value rendered is limited in my humble opinion. The fact remains, that even if blogs are used as knowledge stewarding devices, they still suffer from the same problem as more formal knowledge stewarding devices, valuable content needs to be put into them. I would go on to argue that for formal systems, say Lessons Learned databases for example, their structured nature not only ensures that certain valuable information is made explicit and stewarded, it also ensures that every “post” is considered of value. How many blog posts can be said to be of value? 100%? 50%? 10%?]

So, from the supply side there could be quite a bit 'in it for me'. Looking around, I can see some people have put considerable thought into their blogging strategy and carefully monitor their metrics and the value they add to their readership.

See http://nano-marketing.viabloga.com/news/forrester-sees-roi-in-the-blog-adventure for more discussion of how blogs can add business value (but bear in mind there has been some discussion around this article in the blogosphere you might want to chase up)

[While I read the nano-marketing article regarding blog ROI, I also attempted to go to the source, Forrester, for the full-text article. With no success there, I then went to an electronic library and found another article I found of interest. In this article, the writer states, “Most blogs are a complete waste of time. They’re often personal labours of love, heavy on personality and light on useful content” (source: Holloway, A. (25 Dec 2006 – 14 Jan 2007). To blog, or not to blog?, Canadian Business, 80(1), p. 15. Retrieved March 12, 2007 from ProQuest electronic database.) By the way, if you were expecting me to reference a quote that doesn’t support my own bias, get real!

Back to the nano-marketing article, GM was cited in it as having calculated a 99% ROI in 2005 from its consumer facing blogging efforts. How they determined that I won’t dispute. However, it does help me focus my argument a bit more. That blogs are not ready for business prime time—as an internal knowledge sharing tool. Use it for marketing and consumer feedback, fine. I happen to be in the business of helping organizations manage their internal knowledge needs, and here I am adamant that their value has yet to be realized. (more on that in my next post if I remember to write about it)

By the way, another side note here. The suggestion that I research other blogs about the value of blogs was well intended, but I simply didn’t feel I had the time available to do that. Still a problem (trust, time, incentive) for knowledge management systems in general, and still a problem for blogs I argue. And, as long as I’m on the subject of other blogs, if I remember correctly, I stated that there are some 60-million blogs out there. If even 1/10 of 1% are business related, that leaves me with 60,000 potential useful blogs to read. If even 1/10 of 1% of those are any good, then I have only 60 blogs to read. But, will I read even 12 per day? WOW! I just realized, if you’re reading my blog—THANKS!]

At the end of the day, a blog is a content management system that because it is simple to use is used, and doubles to serve many business functions e.g. networking, lead generation, information sharing, idea sourcing / sharing, etc.

[Simplicity is good, but not at the expense of usability. If you’re at all familiar with Lotus Notes (no endorsement should be inferred here), you’d note that it is both a formidable content management system that can also accommodate blogs without losing its usability—for the retriever of knowledge. In general, the use of discussion forums—which I humbly submit is the “killer app” of knowledge sharing—is at least the equal of blogs, and can be structured to look like blogs if that’s what people need to see in order to use them. In fact, even with such structure, discussion forums are woefully underused.

In the case of this blog in particular, have you ever even attempted to find something posted more than a year ago? Would you even know that I only took it over last Spring and that any posts prior to that weren’t even mine? Did you notice that I purposely reused a phrase (“don’t need no stinkin’…”) in my last headline to see if you recalled seeing it in an earlier post? All problems of blogs I say.]

On the demand, side, it's like anything else - if you can provide content people are interested in, they'll read it and come back for more, and if they aren't, they probably won't subscribe.

[I think this is the most useful and spot on argument of the response. I sure hope to post something of value before the noise out there is simply the clanging of my un-read blog inside my head. So far it hasn’t provided me a lick of business value (e.g., leads, new markets, contracts!)]

I think you need to rethink your stand! ;) A blog can be a very useful business tool.

[Believe it or not, I really am open to ruminating on this subject—I just need more time. And, remember, I’ve already restated my position to include only those blogs intended for internal consumption.]

However, as a system it is very primitive. No one would design it that way . . . e.g. it is difficult to syndicate comments (you can't get an rss feed to see who's commented in other people's posts you are interested in).

[Therein lies the blog’s key weakness—it’s too primitive for organizational knowledge sharing.]

But I think you'll see this area grow in business value and uptake.

[No doubt you’re right there. I just think that time isn’t today.]

Wikis? Again, they are content management systems, and they are useful for quick and dirty solutions and for some purposes (e.g. you noted Wikipedia). But I think for the corporate world they need extra features. But who cares? The corporate world already has sophisticated content management systems, which are wikis by another name - just not open source. So sure, arguably wikis might not take off in the corporate world, but if content management systems already have, isn't the point moot?

[I promised to tackle the subject of wikis later, and I will but not before we have a full discussion on blogs. So anyone who’s bothered to come this far with me, thank you. Give me your take and make this a real discussion. Oh yeah, I did enjoy the irony of using Wikipedia as a source—I would never allow it to be used as a reference from one of my own students!]

3 comments:

Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon said...

Hi Jim,

First up thanks for taking the time to respond - and in such detail!

Secondly, I am time-pressed too, so I'll just respond to one aspect of your post now, and hopefully come back to the rest later.

What I'll respond to now is this: you write:

So far it hasn’t provided me a lick of business value (e.g., leads, new markets, contracts!

If you don't mind me doing so, I'll put this forward for consideration (I think your skin will be thick enough to handle it, and I mean it in the most generous possible way!): I think you might get more leads and business value out of your blog as a marketing tool if 'you put more of yourself into it' in two specific senses:

(i) you talk more about 'business value' and 'business opportunity' related things - what you do, what kinds of business opportunities you are interested in and develop at APQC, what your role is at APQC, the big areas of opportunity for you and APQC on the horizon, what your Ph.D is about, etc. i.e. talk more about your product (yourself and what you do). I think all of the above is why people come here :)

For example, I as just one example could probably have a very interested conversation with you about your Ph.D (and I would like to!) which may set us both in different directions but (while I have been reading your blog) I don't think you have really gone there and talked much about it.

I would also be really interested in hearing about what happens at APQC, your role there, etc. And given that I am interested in KM, if you start talking about what you do, you might find there might be some opportunities there. You never know. And if not me, then maybe that would happen with somebody else.

My suggestion: speak a little about what is on your heart and mind: get personal with your audience. Be frank, talk about what you are fired up about. Be specific. Talk about your interests, including (in an appropriate way) your business interests if you want to use the blog as a business marketing tool. My thought is: how could we connect if we don't really know what you do (in the business sense)? At the moment, your blog seems to me to be more general and philosophical, which is great - unless you wanted to use it to connect to leads and opportunities, in which case I think you'd get additional value in talking a little more about what you are really interested in in a business sense in a way that the kinds of people you'd really like to connect with would connect with.

So for example, if you wanted to get KM consulting work, talk a little about your KM consulting activity or plans or frameworks for KM consulting or something. If you want to connect with people academically for info about your Ph.D, talk about what your interested in, what problems you are facing etc for your Ph.D. Don't be too worried if maybe if the odd post is too technical for some people of your audience here - there would be others who would get very interested.

(ii) I know you could see this one coming, but I would also suggest if you wanted to use your blog as a marketing tool, then post more frequently, e.g. once a week. That way the people who drop by casually would see there is regular content coming and, if they like it, stop back for more.

I guess my point is that if a Blog is a marketing tool, it would help to apply marketing principles - focus on who your audience 'market' is and start a conversation they can (and will want to) engage with. Talk about what you do and what you are interested in - in both the personal and the business senses.

So, if you want to see if the Blog is ready for the prime time as a marketing tool . . . my challenge to you (should you choose to accept it) is to be creative in using your blog as a marketing tool by having genuine conversations about what you do and what you care about that include more of you in the conversation. Then we can assess how ready corporate blogs are for prime time as a marketing tool ;)

Just my 2c. And, yes - I may need to take my lessons to heart for my own blog as well. I am just learning too! ;)

Hope any of this is helpful . . .

Regards

Lauchlan

sandeep said...

i have just question blogs serve no value in the corporate world is true or false.
thanx

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