Ragan Conference – Jeremiah Owyang

Jeremiah Owyang spoke to the topic of Community marketing: Turn executives into powerful evangelists for the company message.

Community Manager is a new role that is now appearing in many companies.

The role of PR is to be message enablers. This will involve learning the new communication tools and helping other executives and product managers to use them.

Community marketing is about giving up control and sharing it with the community. It is message enablement, not message control. It entails getting everyone in the company involved.

Community tools that Jeremiah uses:

  • Online forums/message boards. At little cost, you can provide an opportunity for your community to come together and express itself.
  • Blogs. The job of the communicator is to identify the people who should be and want to blog and then to guide and help them to successfully blog.
  • Wikis: A means to bring together the interests and knowledge of an entire sector or community. You can place yourself at the centre of a resource for the sector.
  • Podcasts: A great way to distribute information in a format that increases user involvement.
  • Images for PR: Capture and share images and video and upload it to share with the interested community.

When looking for corporate bloggers, look for these factors:

  • they are chatty
  • they are vocal
  • they are subject matter experts
  • they do not have to be an executive or famous. Shel Israel suggests that the best bloggers are product managers.
  • they should also be native to the Internet.
  • they should have the commitment and will to blog. Test them for one month: ask them to send you a practice blog post via email once a week for a month. This will allow you to see their writing style and their enthusiasm.
  • they have to have “thick skin.”

Community marketing opens you up to critics. (e.g. Network Storage blog) How do you respond?

Engage quickly. If someone complains about a specific problem, engage them quickly and let them know they have been heard and promise a substantial answer/action as soon as possible. Robert did this with the Network Storage blogger. Following direct outreach from Jeremiah, the Network Storage blog became more balanced in its views.

In effect, Jeremiah had applied media relations practices to blogger relations. He demonstrated that he was taking the critical blogger seriously and made a genuine effort to respond to his concerns. The results: a critic who became a balanced commentator.

You are giving up a little bit of control to gain much more in benefits of positive community perceptions. Be part of the community, not the object of the communities frustrations.

Once you have credible bloggers, they can play a useful role in the announcement of new initiatives and products. If they are enthused about what is being announced, that enthusiasm will come through in their posts.

In initiating these programs, Jeremiah took the initiative without involving the IT Department. The hosted nature and low cost of most social media tools makes it possible to move forward without the overhead of IT Department involvement. According to Jeremiah, “It is better to ask for foregiveness than to ask for permission, which will not be given.”

How do you measure ROI? Blog resonation: Who’s linking to your blog? Technorati wil tell you that. Resonation: You blog stats will show you how long people are staying at each visit and what are they reading. Comments: If people are commenting, you have engagement with your community.

Things that Jeremiah has tried that required adjustments-on-the-go:

  • Hitachi’s CTO is an outstanding writer. People thought that his site was ghost written and the company was criticized for this.
  • Analysts were reading between the lines of the CTO’s blog and making projections. Consequently, the CTO has to be very careful about what he says.