I recently got into a conversation about corporate blogging. The sort of conversation that starts with ‘what is a blog?’ and ends with ‘it’ll never work here’. And, as always, the killer argument for corporate blogging popped into my head 5 minutes too late.
A tractor in a field yesterday
Many years ago, I used to work for Case, the company that builds big red tractors. It was great work, especially as people understood what you did – none of this ‘I work in computers’ malarchy. Only problem was that we were working in Navan Ireland, with most of our colleagues based in Racine, just north of Chicago.
Not too much of a problem for the first 15 or so people – people who worked out of Chicago for the first 4 or 5 months. We were able to build up personal relationships with a colleagues. We could ask later ‘how are the kids?’ or ‘are you still playing football?’. Small things, but make the real work discussions a lot easier.
The problem came with employees 15-100 – the ones that didn’t spend any amount of time in the US. Technically great people, but didn’t ‘click’ in the same way with Chicago. As a result, small misunderstandings became big misunderstandings, and projects got delayed.
And that’s where corporate blogging comes in. It allows people in far flung offices to connect. Doesn’t matter what you blog about – personal life, or some small project that’s happening in your local office. Chances are somebody else in the company will pick up on it and vital connections will be made.
And if you’re in the market for a big red tractor, click on the photo above. 125 BHP, Diesel Engine, a bargain at 16,500 Euro.
Don’t you hate it when you spend months (or years) working on a pet project / book / mad take over the world idea, then somebody comes out with something even better?
Yep, it’s just happened to me. Years working on the idea of the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ (even prior to web 2.0 in the shape of Red-Piranha). Month’s working on a Masters Dissertation on applying Web 2 techniques to the Finance industry (pdf link). And somebody comes out and does it even better.
Not just better. But much much better. The sort of better as in ‘If I had this earlier, I’d have just copied it and changed the words around a bit’. The book is available from Manning as ‘Collective Intelligence in Action‘. A free, first chapter (Understanding Collective Intelligence) is available here (pdf).
So what’s it about? We’ve all heard about the Wisdom of Crowds idea. But what if you need to actually implement it on your website? This book shows you how to (using both concepts and practical code, as well as the theory behind all of it that I was missing). It includes
- Intelligent, learning search, using Lucene.
- Extracting data from blogs using web-crawling.
- Executing Real time feedback on facebook-like sites.
- Scalable data-mining techniques to manage the torrent of information
- Making personalised recommendations based on all of the information.
Disclaimer:Manning provided me with a free review copy of the book – but no strings attached. And , maybe if I’m nice enough to the Author (Satnam), I can persuade him to talk about making millions using JBoss Drools and Complex Event processing in the book.
At what other awards could you mingle with the
Oscar nominees before the event? See them preparing the acceptance speeches, display their pre-show nerves and ask them for tips on the secret of their success? At the Irish Blog Awards – Business Blogger Meetup next Saturday March 1st , of course.
Details : The blog awards kick off at 7.30pm. So lets do it one hour earlier at 6.30pm. Same venue , Alexander Hotel, has a nice big foyer area. There’s no food at the awards themselves , but the hotel does a waiter service in the lobby if you’re just up ‘from the country’. Just look out for me (I’ve been told I look like my photo on the top right. Which is not a good thing) , or any of the nominees (although I suspect Rowan and Michele aren’t as cartoonish in real life).
You don’t have to be a nominee to come along. Just come along and talk about what has worked for you as a Business Blogger.
Update: I would put good money on Kieran from Ice Cream Ireland turning up in full ice-cream-man gear. Click here to encourage him. It does solve the problem of ‘you-dont-really-look-like-your-photo’.
Inside sources (who declined to be named) are suggesting that the longlist for the ‘Best Irish Business Blog’ will look something like this …
The fact that this information was given to me (in ready to paste HTML) has nothing, absolutely nothing , to do with the fact that FirstPartners.net are sponsoring the Best Business blog award.
Did we mention that we’re sponsoring the Best Irish Business Blogger award at the Irish Blog awards on March 1st? We’ve written a guide to business blogging in Ireland, and I’m really looking forward to see who the winner is on the night.
In case you’re looking at the blog award nomination form and wondering who to fill in the business section, may I be as bold as to suggest a couple of possibilities? If I’ve missed your blog , leave a comment.
Or you could follow our suggestions for Best Political Blogger.
Denise Fay of Achieve Marketing is finally blogging over at achievemarketing.ie. The guide to Business Blogging in Ireland is a direct result of Denise’s Marketing Session at the Ballymascanlon Hotel, Dundalk, but even so , it’s taken 6 months of
intimidation sorry encouragement since the Barcamp Belfast meetup to get Denise to this point (she insists on using her time to look after customers).
A couple of things that I’ve learnt if you want to get people in your business network blogging:
- Everybody wants the site traffic, but not everybody can / wants to make the effort. Not everybody is suited to writing stuff (but then again, they’re probably a natural at professional networking). Denise writes press releases already , so not only does she have interesting stories to tell, but she has those stories already written down.
- Blogging probably seems natural to you now, but you forget how much you’ve learned. Set aside some time to go through the basics with your victim. 1 hr should be enough if you’ve done the ground work (i.e. have wordpress already setup). Get a blogpost out within the first 10 minutes (to show how easy it is). Then work your way through the other tabs in wordpress. Concepts (like categories, linking , trackbacks, url structure) will naturally flow in the conversation.
- I was lucky that Denise had already setup Google Analytics for some of her clients. Even so the latest version of wordpress makes setting up analytics easy , and those charts are so damn addictive!
- I found that a combination of having the new blog (Achieve Marketing) and my one (People and Technology) open at the same , and flicking between the the old and new blogs worked well. Some stuff like themes, archived blogposts, spam prevention is easier to understand on a blog that’s been in use for a while.
To set the background, Denise is very knowledgable about her area (Marketing), has people to get the techie stuff done and definitely knows more about the web than she admits, but would in no way be classed as a ‘techie’!
JBoss have kindly allowed me to write on their Blog about Drools (although I am still waiting for them to come to their senses). The other guys get to talk about Unifying Rules and Processes and Business Rules WebApps. And I get to talk about pigeons. Yep, Pigeons; birds that fly, sometimes useful for carrying messages and have one hidden talent.
A Random Pigeon Photo
During the cold war, the Soviets (allegedly) trained pigeons to inspect ball-bearings on the production line . The Pigeons would sit in comfortable little boxes while the shiny silver ball bearings steamed past on a conveyor belt. If the pigeon spotted any that were defective, they would peck a button and the broken bearing was gone. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, all the pigeons have been gainfully re-employed over at Google.
Thankfully the pigeons didn’t go to work at a Bank in the City (have you ever seen anything with feathers drive a Ferrari?) . While the pigeons would be very good at responding to simple market events events (Market up , sell; Market Down , Buy). more complex analysis escapes them; For example ; if the market is down for the 30 mins, and Shares in Acme corp are down more than 10% than the average ,and I have seen 3 buy orders for that share in the last 60 seconds = I think the market is about to turn = buy shares in Acme corp.
Never mind pigeons; most humans would find that difficult – think about trying to read the stock ticker prices (the ones you see rolling across the screen at MSNBC) for all stocks, while trying to hold the buy and sell information for the last 30 minutes in your head. And do that not only for one , but for the couple of hundred different types of shares in the market. And while keeping an eye on your own trading position so that you’re not exposed to one sector of the market (e.g. keeping enough cash , not too many property or technology shares. No wonder most traders make their millions and burn out before they’re 30 – that sort of Complex Event Processing (CEP) will wear you out.
Most IT applications are like pigeons; they can only handle simple events. Press Button. Do something.
The way to make millions is to design applications that can handle these complex events, and apply sophisticated business rules to the (evolving) situation. And do it quickly enough (milliseconds) to seize the opportunity before somebody else does. A keep on doing it as long as the market is open.
Funnily enough, Complex Event Processing is part of the vision for Drools. With enough support, I’m sure we could convince the guys to stand up at JavaPolis and use a set of Pigeons on his slides. I suppose it’s better than using pictures of lego people to explain how to do projects using Agile.
At yesterday’s Plato marketing training event, the topic of business blogging came up. Seems like our 100,000+ unique visitors is nothing in the blogging world, but most Small to Medium Irish Business (SME’s) would kill for that kind of traffic. So since I’m an ‘expert’ (and when exactly did that happen ?!) here’s the 10 minute guide to get your business on it’s way.
Plato rules presume that member companies remain confidential (until they choose to break cover!). So, if you want to leave a comment below (feel free to link back to your website) I’ll be happy to apply the advice below to your business. I don’t sell blogging advice (although there is a business idea!) – more Irish Business Bloggers there are the better (all, hopefully, linking from their websites back to here!)
What is blogging?
- A Blog is a new way of doing that same old things. You already network, talk (and listen!) to your customers and are passionate about publicising the thing you love (your business idea). A Blog just helps you do the same things online.
- A Blog is the easiest way to update a website. If you can email (remember how scary that used to be?) you can blog. And yes, I can give examples to back that one up. And that’s you updating it, not paying some web design company to do it.
- A Blog is the quickest way to get a good website. If you haven’t a website, a blog is the quickest way to get one. It does most of the Vodoo Search Engine stuff out of the box. Likewise, a blog can easily added to your existing website.
- A Blog is an online Diary. Think one of those reality TV shows. But about your business. And without Jade Goody in it. There is a reason that ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Blogs’ score highest in the ratings – they’re all about people. Remember ; People don’t buy your business, they buy you.
- A Blog lets you have conversations with your customers. It allows customers to say what they think about you on your website.Scary? Yes. But not as scary as not hearing what they are saying about you.Yes you can delete offensive comments, but I’ve only had to remove 2 out of 700 comments in the last 3 years.
The Who, What, When , Where and Why of Irish Business Blogging
|Who should blog
- You, as the owner of your business. If you have people who are equally passionate, then (a) you’re very lucky and (b) you should let them write as well. But chances are, it’s going to be you.
- Blogging works very well for people in the professional services area. There are hundreds of people in IT, but blogging lets me stand out and gives me credibility.
- I’m confident (and can give examples) of ways of how Hotels and Tourism, Shops and Engineering Companies can blog successfully), but it’s a little be fuzzier (i.e. not direcly linked to my personal experience)
|What should they talk about
- Talk about what you love – your business. But remember who you’re talking to; your customers, and people who will either link to you online, or recommend you to new customers.
- I find a personal style works best. We’ve all seen the bland corporate website and we don’t believe them. Speak personally of your experience.
- Set your own red lines, and respect them. I don’t blog about my personal life (or lack of it!). I don’t reveal customer details. But outside of that, if it’s interesting, I’ll talk about anything it.
|When (or how much time is involved)
- Like all marketing , you’re in this for the long haul. It’s important that you measure using Google Analytics (free). You’ll be surprised at what works and what doesn’t.
- Blogging is cheap in money but expensive in your time. I reckon about 1hr per week for a post like this one, sometimes more, sometimes less.
- Don’t forget the extra time involved in publicising your blog; leaving useful comments / links on other sites back to yours. But you’d be doing this anyway as you surf the web.
|Where do people find out about your business /blog
- Those comments on other (relevent) sites and more popular blogs link back to yours. If somebody likes your comment, then they will often come back to your blog.Remember, useful comments not spam! – your comment /link should always add to the site you are leaving them on.
- Google loves blogs, because of all those incoming links.
- The links on the top left of the page allow you to subscribe to this blog as if it were an email newsletter. Some people like this. Most people prefer RSS; Like an email newsletter RSS notifies you of new content but, RSS gives you a summary of all the blogs you are interested in. And it doesn’t clog up your inbox. I use Google Reader, but there is plenty of choice out there.
- Because you’d like more business. You do want more business, right? The only question: ‘is blogging the best use of my time?’
Two main choices, the second one being better as it gives you more choice.
- Sign up for a free blogging account at Blogger.com (backed by Google)
- Ask your (existing / new) web host for the following. It should cost a lot less then Eur500 , including the first year’s hosting.
‘I’d like WordPress (free) setup on my website at www.mywebsitename/blog. Use one of the standard templates. Please add Google Analytics (free) to the this template. Please explain where I can get the number (from Google) that you will need for the analytics. When finished let me know the address, username and password to log into my blog.
Remember, blogging is cheap to try out (in money , if not in your time) . It’s still new enough to forgive people who make mistakes. Dive in , give it a go, and when (not if) you learn something new, tell me about it.
And after all that, you couldn’t be bothered blogging?
Try LinkedIn.com. As a business networking tool , it’s excellent, with more Irish business contacts than anywhere else.
Forget inflation, overpaid government ministers or a still bubbling Irish property market. The hot news (coming an inside contact) is that according to Webmarshal and Websense (Net nanny type products that many Corporates use to restrict access to certain websites), the biggest threat to Irish Economic Success is ….
… Damien Mulley (Warning: site may contain opinions on Irish Broadband and Comreg dangerous to corporate web filters).Paul Watson has more on his Websense issues.
Yes, who would have thought it. Apparently Damien, organizer of the Irish Blog awards and PR Guru by day, is actually a dangerous left wing subversive determined to undermine the economic foundations of the Irish state. Think a Cork version of Che Guevara. Or maybe I’m just jealous that this blog isn’t important enough to get banned. Well, it did get Frankie goes to Hollywood to number one in the UK Charts.
What is strange is that there are several other ‘higher profile’ sites that are not blocked. ‘Higher Profile’ includes one that is valued in Billion Dollar range. In general, the site of banned sites is ‘bought in’ from WebMarshals centrally maintained list , so I would expect this ban to have a substantial (but not crippling) effect on Damiens Google Analytics Stats. And that’s before we get into the ethics of not trusting well paid employees to manage their own time.
Do I have a better suggestion on how corporates can manage their web access? Yes; let all employees access any website. Then publish the web-surfing records (everything is recorded you know) on the company intranet. Amazing how much productivity will improve. As it is, any intelligent employee could find their way around the current set of net filters.
According to Justin Mason’s List, it’s this blog (People and Technology). We’re number 19 by incoming links, number 22 by bookmarks and number 45 by Technorati rank. No , I don’t understand the numbers either – just happy to be in the top 100.
Given that Tom is off to Spain, Grandad has Retired (allegedly) and Donncha’s page rank is being pummeled by Google, all I need is for Lucky the Laughing Assassin (of Twenty Major fame) to bump off both John and Michele and I’ll be well on my way to the top 10.
How much does it cost, Twenty?