Stowe Boyd (BlueWhale Labs) moderated a panel of Anil Dash (Six Apart), Suw Charman (consultant), Sam Weber (KnowNow) and Oliver Young (Forrester) on whether businesses can use blogs in a business setting and how so.
Suw went first with a monologue:
A blog is just another tool. There may need to overcome some stigma that a blog is a diary. [I posted previously on overcoming this perception.]
Identify the needs that blog could solve. Customers want to know more about you as a person and your company as a whole. The blog can allow a more personal connection. Ultimately, business is about personal interaction. A blog can be used to provide that personal insight. [Do you know more about me than you did before reading this blog?] People generally want to share their expertise and people are always looking for expertise. The blog can be used as a marketing tool. You can use the blog as a place to interact with the community interested in what you are doing. [Law firms may have an issue with this. You would need to be careful about inadvertently creating an attorney-client relationship.]
The semi-official blog is what scares companies the most. They will show the warts and problems as well as the successes and will stray off message. The CEO blog is also a possible problem because the CEO may be too busy to provide the steady stream of information needed for a blog (never mind ghost-writing).
Decreasing occupational spam is a great reason for using internal blogs. People should not need to use their email inbox as a storage tool for internal communication.
Then onto some panel discussion:
Oliver mentioned a research report asking IT managers whether they saw a business value for blogs, wikis and other technologies. Blogs came in at the bottom of the list with only 17% saying that they would have value. Anil saw this as a glass half full: 17% saw value.
Oliver pointed out that you need to be careful about using the wrong tool. ("If you have a hammer a lot of stuff starts looking like nails.") Oliver pointed out that blogs need RSS and need to be indexed by the enterprise search to be useful ("You need the whole toolbelt, not just the hammer.")
Companies need to set blogging policies, particularly in financial services and legal services where there are regulations to follow and legal implications to information in blogs.
Blogging can amplify bad judgment. Your user can stand on a street corner with a megaphone saying stupid things, but you do not blame the megaphone. Don't blame the blog for bad behavior. Stowe's blogging policy: "Don't say anything stupid."
The organization probably has lots of valuable information stored in their email, but others cannot access this. The tools for searching blogs are great, but there are no tools for the users to search another person's email.
Sam finds external blogs to be of great value.
One problem is how to get blogs adopted, just as email had problems being adopted 10 years ago. One solution is to use email as an on-ramp, cc the blog or have the email contain a link to the blog entry.
Stowe threw out the proposition that blogs by themselves are not enough. You need the aggregation tools and prioritization tools. You need the tagging and RSS feeds to help manage the information. You need to be able to separate the blowhards from the experts. (It is not about quantity, its about quality.)
You need to figure out when to use email and when to use a blog so users know when to use the right tool.
Tips and techniques for moving from emails to blogs:
- Highlight great posts and make a feed of these great posts (move them to the intranet homepage)
- Have a top-level corporate initiative.
- Start with a project team that matches well with a blog use.
- Look for behaviors in email that could be better done with a blog and target that user.
Stowe thinks that to become a blogger, first you need to read blogs.