Corporate blogging and web2.0 – training wheels first

 The reaction of many execs in the business world to the idea that staff might be blogging is usually concern if not outright alarm.

Images of corporate embarrassment and even litigation fill their minds, and they may try to craft policies and build IT hurdles to prevent blogging.
This is however not an effective (nor in fact a desired) approach, and would remove a valuable marketing tool from the corporate arsenal.

Effectiveness
Policies against blogging are about as likely to prevent staff from using web2.0 social media as would outlawing tornados be a way to stop twisters.

Besides generational issues, there just isn’t any practical way to stop people from setting up a wordpress account at home and five minutes later posting something that would really throw a spanner in the corporate works. The risk of company secrets or something highly embarrassing getting out into the blogosphere is real, and there have been plenty horror stories – but it isn’t all bad news and we shouldn’t let the potential harm blind us to the great benefit that blogging can provide in terms of visibility and domain activity.

Desirability
In most firms, marketing is a big deal, and so are analyst’s perceptions of the firm’s intellectual dominance in their domain.
Blogging, tweeting, and all the other web2.0 social-networking mechanisms are a form of marketing that can be an adjuvant to traditional marketing, or even take off in a viral fashion as memes that dominate thinking and perception. They can significantly enhance perceptions of a firm, and can raise stock value as a result though analyst and market perception – the financial implications of niche dominance or at least niche prominence can be immense.

Failing to use this leverage to the firm’s advantage would be a pity and potentially crippling in the long-run.

The Challenge
The salient issue is that you don’t want staff to be learning the ropes and discovering the hazards by trial and error out in the public view – you want them to have a safe place to mature their online skills, and to enable them to learn from each other’s mistakes (and there will be mistakes).

There are many guides on corporate blogging available (such as the Execsummaries™ guides from SkillSoft), as well as many books, and courses that can be customised to fit your corporate culture, but the most important thing is to build a safe internal environment in which staff can blog under controlled conditions.
Internal blogs can be used as examples of both good online behaviour and bad – Mistakes give the Knowledge Management team, HR, Legal, and Marketing the opportunity to explain why a blog entry would have led to bad outcomes in the public view, and their commentary can be a valuable shaping agent in learning how to blog safely and to the advantage of the organisation (and the individual).

Conclusion
Blogging is here to stay and can be highly beneficial if staff are allowed a safe environment in which to hone the appropriate skills before venturing into the world.

That is my story and I am sticking to it.

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2 Responses to “Corporate blogging and web2.0 – training wheels first”

  1. Jeannette Paladino Says:

    You’re right on target about companies leveraging their employees’ use of social media. They are already out there and there is no use in trying to muzzle them. Jon Iawata, SVP of Communications at IBM, explains this in a very interesting videohttp://bit.ly/8Wji “Social Media as an Internal Tool.” He explains there are already company policies in place with guidelines about protecting the intellectual property of the organization. Worth viewing.

    • Matthew Loxton Says:

      Indeed Jeannette, we already know how to do this with patents and other IC, and also from a reputation-management perspective like in the entertainment industry.
      Of course the scale becomes larger, but isn’t that a problem we want to have? 🙂

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