Corporate Blogging: The Ecology of Participation

Stowe Boyd moderated a panel at Enterprise 2.0 of Anil Dash, Suw Charman, Sam Weber and Oliver Young that dealt with the challenge of corporations embracing blogging.

Suw Charman suggested that the interested question is not whether enterprises can introduce blogs (the answer is yes) but HOW they should do this. Asking whether blogs can be used in corporations is a bit like asking whether pen and paper can be used in business.

The question is what do you want to use them for. What problem do we have that blogs can solve? The answer will be different from company to company and within different groups and levels within companies. The answer comes down to what people need and want.

Internal blogs can meet the need that employees have to know their fellow workers, identify those with information they need and share information with others.

External blogs can fill the need that customers have to peer behind the curtains of the companies that they deal with. Companies can use this to build relationships with customers and to develop a presence within the community.

Blogs are like a hammer. You can build virtually anything with it. A blog can be anything you want it to be. It can put a human face on the company. Ask for customer input on new products. Provide a place for fans to find out information about the product or service. Distribute essential information to employees as an alternative to email (reducing email spam, hurray!), distributing news and background information.

Culture is the key issue in introducing blogs into a corporation. Both ensuring that the culture of blogging and the expectation of the community is understood and ensuring that the corporate culture is able to embrace these expectations and mores.

Oliver Young suggested that a recent Forrester Research study showed that the business value of blogs is still rated fairly low.

Six Apart‘s Anil Dash responded that this is not surprising given how early we are in the cycle of the development of blogs. To even get 17% is an extraordinary success.

Young suggested that part of the problem may be that too many people have unrealistic or unfocussed expectations of blogs. Consequently, it’s not surprising if they become frustrated.

One of the audience members interjected that the “Discoverability” of blogs raises their risk factor. Many corporations are wary of encouraging employees to post information because of the potential that well-intentioned writings may later cause problems.

Charman pointed out that this makes the case for a blog policy that makes it clear to employees about what is or is not acceptable. She also noted that many banks have implemented Wikis instead of blogs because Wikis have a change history.

Oliver Young noted that firms that don’t introduce corporate blogs are not risk free. It is difficult to imagine that there are any companies that do not have any employees who blog – whether the company knows it or not. So, education about social media and a blogging policy should be undertaken by all companies, even those who are not contemplating introducing corporate blogs.