Facebook marketers beware. It’s two-way. And public.

Every corporate blogger project job description, whether it’s a blogger job, or a broader online communications position, includes some reference to “social media marketing”, often specific to Facebook, MySpace, or other social media platforms.  Corporate blogging is migrating toward using social media platforms for traditional marketing techniques, and skill within Facebook is at a premium.

However, it is entirely likely that corporate blog projects are wandering into Facebook with blinders on.

For example – I’ve been “friending” random famous people on Facebook, out of curiosity on a number of levels.  I want to see if, say, Denzel Washington, or Bob Woodard actually checks his Facebook page.  I learned that some famous people do.

Chatted with CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin once, just to ask if it was really him or his assistant – I’m pretty sure Rachel Maddow and Bob Woodward didn’t friend me themselves – Toobin was there, and said it was him.  That was pretty cool.

I’ve discovered that said famous people are using Facebook entirely to market themselves.  There is simply no reason for Warren Lazarow, world famous venture capital attorney, to friend me back other than to build his list.  Which he did.

Which brings me to The New York Times columnist Matt Bai.

Like Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, CNN’s Rick Sanchez, and MSBNC’s Rachel Maddow, I friended Matt Bai purely out of a political blogger’s interest in his work, and out of curiosity to see if he’d friend back.  He did.  Neither of us know each other from Adam.  But now we’re “friends” on Facebook, which means I can email him, post items to his “Wall” on Facebook, invite him to events, etc., so that all our friends can see it.

I posted on Matt’s Facebook Wall (a hybrid of a blog and email) a hard criticism of a recent column.  Matt took offense, and proceeded to respond via my Facebook Wall.  It led to an exchange which got cumbersome, so I posted all the comments from both our Facebook Walls to my blog, so they were all in one place.

Matt didn’t like that.

Second, serious bloggers don’t post other people’s private communications on their blogs.

My response.

second, this is not private. it’s my wall on facebook, through which you reach 317 other people. you reach more now through my blog. i’d think that would be where you’d want to respond, i.e., in the forum in which i made the criticism.

The conversation between Matt and I was available to the combined total of 777 people on Facebook.  It is not the first time I posted blog criticism of my Facebook “friends” on Facebook, and said “friends” took offense.  Sometimes, I’m even more mischievous than this with my not so friendly “friends”, who use Facebook to merely build their list, unaware that some of their “friends” aren’t really friends at all.

Herein lies the warning to corporate bloggers who seek to use Facebook for marketing purposes.

First of all, IT IS PUBLIC. True, it is not Googlable, and true, it is limited access, but every person who is in your Facebook friendlist, and their friends, will see what you do.  If you use Facebook merely to build a list to which you will market, you are completely missing the point of Facebook and walking into a trap.

Second, the point of Facebook is to INTERACT. Social media is about being SOCIAL with MEDIA, and that means that if you engage in Facebook, you should expect people to talk back to you.  Yes, Facebook will help you build a powerful targeted list, but that list is not static.  It will engage. And it will likely engage, at some point, unpredictably, outside your marketing strategy, and perhaps with critical intent.

Matt Bai certainly “friended” me as a marketing tool, as I’m sure any high profile columnist at any newspaper would do with any random person who friended them.  When Matt Bai found out that his Facebook list could talk back to him, put his comments on a blog, and make a fool of him for thinking Facebook is somehow “private communication”, I’m sure he was a bit surprised.

Corporate bloggers who use Facebook for marketing have a lesson to learn here.

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August 26, 2008 at 3:06 pm Leave a comment

Real time crisis lesson for corporate bloggers – how NOT to handle it

As anyone who’s seen the about page on my political blog will know, I’m a pretty controversial blogger.  Part of that controversy has played out in the last few weeks in the context of corporate blogging.  It’s a good lesson for corporate blog conduct.

The corporations involved are the public broadcasting entity in Cleveland, Ideastream, which is the merged entity of Cleveland’s NPR and PBS affiliate stations, and by extension, Nordson, a major manufacturing company based in Cleveland whose CEO chairs Ideastream’s board.  Long story short, I got some video of one of their top executives lying, and refusing to answer a legitimate question which was the subject of a cover story in the local alternative weekly.  Said top executive behaves incredibly unprofessionally on the video.  The video gets posted on Youtube.  In various and increasingly entertaining versions.

And here’s where the lesson begins.

Recognizing that having a top executive of a media organization, on video, responding to “tell the truth” with the answer “why,” constitutes a real threat to the company’s credibility, the company proceeds to freak.  Out.   Ideastream employees (perhaps one, perhaps more) began harrasing my blog in response, repeatedly, with lies, threats (both physical and otherwise), innuendo, and the standard stream of profanity that anonymous commenters in defense of their non-anonymous reputations will always deploy.  As I tried to identify these people, another senior executive cops to it, or uses that executive’s name to do so, and then the threats die down.

Now, I have no idea who these people really are.  However, any blogger worth their salt will have a stats package that tracks visitors, and I can say with total certainty that Ideastream staff, and staff from Nordson, have been watching my blog like a hawk ever since the episode began.  During work hours, and after hours.

How much is this costing both Ideastream and Nordson? The amount includes at least the hours senior staff at both companies have spent in meetings trying to get a handle on it, the hours spent with legal staff, the hours the perpetrating employees have spent issuing the threats, the hours spent monitoring, etc. Etc.  Etc.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The reason one of the ongoing costs of this episode is constant monitoring of my blog is that both Ideastream, and Nordson, recognize they’ve really stepped in it.  Ideastream certainly, and perhaps also Nordson, have left themselves open to liability, both criminal and civil, the cost and litigation of which now lie solely in the hands of the blogger, me.

Any company that acts in this way in response to a blog controversy simply puts the leverage and the ultimate resolution of the issue into the hands of the blogger, who can use that leverage at his/her discretion, depending on how litigious that blogger may be and how agressive a lawyer that blogger can find to pursue his/her cause, i.e., THE TRUTH.

WHICH, IF IT HAD BEEN OFFERED VOLUNTARILY IN THE FIRST PLACE, THE CORPORATION(S) WOULD NOT NOW BE INCURRING DEFINABLE COSTS ON A DAILY BASIS, and undefinable costs into the foreseeable future.

The lesson for corporate bloggers?  Authenticity, and truth, are the currency of the new social media and blogosphere landscape.  Corporations who enter the blogosphere intending to not use this currency are bringing a knife to a gunfight.  Bloggers who care enough about your company to make it their business to learn truth about your company are not simply going to go away if you do not offer them that truth, and then proceed to threaten them.  The cost of doing your business will go up if your company acts in such a manner.

Discuss.

June 15, 2008 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

B2B story on corporate blogging

I found this bit interesting.

BtoB recently interviewed key bloggers and social media experts at these companies to take the pulse of corporate blogging. The conversations reveal the following trends: the emergence of “chief blogger” as a corporate job title; the globalization and segmentation of corporate blogs; the emergence of accepted metrics for measuring the success of blogging efforts (see sidebar, page 48); and mixed feelings about CEO blogs.

The article proves my essential point about corporate blogs – very few corporate blogs think about any of this before setting up the blog.  There’s a lot of “emerging” going on.  A “chief blogger” as a corporate job title shouldn’t “emerge” after you’ve got a blog.  It should exist before the blog is launched.  Segmentation, metrics, and mixed feelings, all should be aired out long before the blog is launched, not encountered as it “emerges” on your corporate blogosphere presence.  That costs money.

Another story appeared in my home paper, about blogging, and it points out a lot of the pitfalls and opportunities.

The greatest benefit a good blog or community forum can offer is suggestions, said Scott O’Leary, managing director of customer experience for Continental Airlines…

But blogs have forced her to play another role. Now she coaches her clients on how to handle negative blog postings about their businesses.  People are more likely to take the trouble to post comments when they’re upset about something….

Still, participating in blogs is time-consuming, and he was skeptical about starting his own blog until a year ago. He expected two-way conversations. That doesn’t happen much….

Expectations?  Most businesses enter the blogosphere without having spent any significant time blogging, or reading blogs, or even learning about them.  How can they have “expectations”?

In the political blogosphere, one enters the fray out of interest, and an expectation that you will engage.  That has set the basic rule set for the blogosphere as a whole.  I learned early on in my political blogging that whatever you say, someone will be out there to disagree, agree, argue, or applaud.  That kind of environment necessarily forces the blogger to expect very little, other than the conversation, and the social interaction such a new media delivers.

The defining human quality of social interaction is its unpredictability.  The best way to prepare for that is to set the goals for your corporate blog presence before you start the blog.

June 9, 2008 at 8:51 pm Leave a comment

Kodak – how not to engage the blogopshere

Dealing with corporate bloggers is like dealing with political bloggers 4 years ago. They are easily offended, they ask you to do more work in order to “get it”, and then they go home.

In response to my Kodak blog review, here’s what I got from Kodak’s…umm….trying hard not to laugh when I type this…..

Director, Brand Communications and New Media
Corporate Marketing & Business Development

Titles with 11 words are such a great start to blogosphere conversation. Anyway, here’s the email.

Tom from Kodak here. Your review of Kodak’s blog was kind of harsh, but hey,
that is your take. We have been doing this since September of 2006 and have been
getting all kinds of positive feedback by the people who come by. We have published
each and business day since then which is no small feat and no, it is not a big budget
item for us – we do it on our own time

[That shows. Moving on.]

I did want to point out a few things to you to make sure you get the whole
picture. Our product blog is at http://pluggedin.kodak.com you might want
to check that out to see more of the product level information.

If you had dug deeper you would have found more variety.

Stop right there. You NEVER tell a blogger to dig deeper. It assumes they didn’t dig, assumes the accuracy of your own opinion, and assumes that a blogger isn’t paying attention. A blogger will spend however much time at your corporate blog as they want, which is likely to be about 5 seconds on average. You telling them to spend more time is a non-starter. Corporate blog projects enter the blogosphere with this level of arrogance all the time, and it still remains a hallmark of the lesser political bloggers.

We aren’t
just a travelogue as you suggest. Check out some examples of some
posts I highlighted at our 1-year anniversary:
http://tomhoehn.1000words.kodak.com/default.asp?item=671879
You make me think that we must consider providing a link to top posts
from the main page to help new visitors get a good sense of the breadth
(thanks for the idea ;-).

If you want to know more about what makes me tick you can see the posts I have
contributed here:
http://tomhoehn.1000words.kodak.com

If this helps to sway your opinion, great. If not, at least you had more
information to make your evaluation.

No one in the blogosphere wants to know what makes a marketing PR guy with an 11 word title “tick”. They know what makes you tick. Money. What they visit your blog for is information about your company that they may not be able to get elsewhere. My email response.


thanks for the response. just a couple things.

i’m doing this project in order to pitch myself for blog consulting to corporate blogs. i’ve gotten some response from potential clients, and would be happy to discuss this with you if Kodak is interested.

on the ugh-ness, while i agree that a little digging would be useful, bloggers don’t dig much beyond the front page unless they have a specific issue they are looking for. your front page, on a daily basis, is the impression that is left.

again, if you’d like to discuss consulting further, let me know. thanks again for the response.

tim

Note that I am completely upfront with my purpose immediately. There is no spin, no hidden agenda, nothing that could leave Tom with the wrong impression. Tom’s response to my blog post did the opposite, as does Kodak’s blog.

Within this example are several learning points for corporate bloggers and companies seeking to start a corporate blog presence, and I’d be happy to elaborate on it as a consultant. In the meantime, I will just point out that – nothing personal against Kodak – this episode is a completely predictable and fine example of how not to go about engaging in the blogosphere.

Which is fine, because that’s what I’m trying to help out with.

June 2, 2008 at 3:14 pm Leave a comment

Corporate blog assignment – See Obama v. Clinton.

As it appears the end of the Democratic primary is upon us, I’ve had some corporate communication types ask me, “What does this mean? For me?” The question inherently recognizes that something is going on in the American body politic, and that it must mean something for business. And that it probably has something to do with blogs.

Completely self-serving for a political blogger? Sure. Still true? Care to chance it? Didn’t think so. Here’s a tiny, tiny bit of what I think this all means for corporate blogs, and why the victory of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton is the perfect analogy any corporation needs to study before they enter the blogosphere.

There is money to be had. Lots.

The figures raised online for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are staggering – they now approach half a billion dollars. How did this happen? And what does it mean for my business?

Social media and the internet, largely fueled by blogs and the opinion-leaders of the blogosphere, have created a new arena in which peer-reviewed recommendations create a critical mass from which huge sums of money flow almost without effort. Barack Obama led the way, through pioneering use of the internet, and Hillary Clinton simply had to follow.

An example. Early in the contest, political bloggers criticized the Obama campaign for a lack of “outreach” to blogs, while the Clinton campaign made a point of holding blogger conference calls, advertising on blogs, and cluing in opinion-leading bloggers to insider stuff. Obama’s approach was bottom-up; raise the money, build the lists, connect everyone, and the rest will come. Clinton’s was top-down; work the opinion-leaders, pay them off with ads, and get them to lead their readers.

We know which one worked. Major bloggers took a step back from the heavy handed approach, and simultaneously began to see their readership leading them. The dollars started to pile up, as friends encouraged friends to donate. Soon the major bloggers’ hands were forced by their own readers. A tipping point can’t be readily identified right now, but the ecosystem created by the Obama campaign became so powerful that he now raises money every time he breathes, at the rate of $54 per second.

That is the power of social media, given the chance to operate on authenticity.

Old world vs. The Blogosphere

The sale of goods and services doesn’t engender much passion normally. Politics does, and politics is in the DNA of the blogosphere. When a corporation meets the blogosphere, the company will inevitably intersect with a thriving community of veteran advocates ready to engage on their terms, not the company’s. Navigating these waters is treacherous business.

Just ask Bill Clinton. It’s been widely commented that Bill Clinton simply was not ready for the new media cycle, driven in large part by the blogosphere. He has misinterpreted his own misunderstanding for a bias toward his wife. Wrong. The one way conversation with the media which Bill Clinton (read: your company) was used to is gone. Anyone re-entering politics after last engaging in national politics in 1996 will find a universe of voices who talk back, who weren’t even imaginable in 1996, and who don’t respect the old rules.

The same will hold true for any company that enters the blogosphere today. The new rules will seem almost unfair, but are reality. If Bill Clinton, a master politician, was surprised by what met him and his wife in the blogosphere, imagine how your company’s board will react.

Example. I once talked to a manager at a major software company about blogs, and she was dismissive in an almost rude tone. Then one day one of her employees posted something negative about her company on a blog. She was enraged. Human resources went to battle stations. The president of the company got involved.

I just laughed, and this enraged her more. My response was that you may not know what a blog is, or care about it, until your name appears on one. That’ll get you to read blogs. Real fast. And from that point on, constantly. In the political blogosphere, hand to hand combat like this was the rule from the day the first blog launched. There isn’t a single battle a political blogger worth his salt hasn’t seen, from all sides, many times. The way a corporate blog presence engages this kind of combat will decide who wins.

Authenticity rules. From now on.

The repeated attempts to tar Barack Obama as a Muslim terrorist, then as a Christian radical, all were fed by the blogosphere. Emails and Youtubes were picked up by opinion-leading bloggers and gave the story an undercurrent that eventually crashed in waves over the mainstream media. Barack Obama engaged the controversy with an authenticity that is hard to put a finger on, but that was simply required by the situation.

This will happen to your company. If not soon, then soon enough. The blogosphere is a place where controversy, lies, and smears spread like wildfire. And when this happens, to your company, perhaps because of something on your blog, authenticity in the blogosphere will be the only way out.

It was the only way out for Barack Obama. Herein lies a paradox. In the old one-way-conversation world, not only would the Muslim/Wright controversies likely not have occurred (first half of paradox) but if they had, (second half) they would have sunk his campaign. In the new world, dominated and led by a blogosphere that hunts down lies like white blood cells to destroy them, a conversation began instead of a firing squad. And in that conversation, if Barack Obama had displayed one scintilla of phoniness, he’d have been done. Finished.

—–

These are just a few thoughts that have been springing into my mind lately, now that Barack Obama is going to be the Democratic nominee. People dismiss the talk of change, but being dismissive of something that is moving under your feet is usually a mistake.

June 2, 2008 at 1:24 am Leave a comment

Kodak’s blog, A Thousand Words, but one will do

Here’s one word – ugh.

A Thousand Words is a place for stories from the people of Kodak. We love what we do, and we want to share our stories about imaging and its power to influence our world. We invite you to join our conversation with stories of your own.

I really like to get into the nitty gritty of a blog and find good points and bad points, but Kodak’s blog is nothing but corporate puffery.  The obligatory “we do charity stuff” post.

The results were impressive at the end of the day.  I think that the team completed most if not all the needed painting and landscaping that our hosts required.  Participating in this team gives as sense of helping the community.

Shoot me now.

The rest of Kodak’s blog is basically a travelogue of its employees.

“These photos were taken while visiting my fiancee’s family for the first time.”

Well, la deee da.  Almost nothing about the company itself.  No news, no responses to news, which is odd given that Kodak is a company in a major transition from film based business to digital.  That’s interesting.  Your employee’s travels – not intersting.  Tell them to get their own blog, it’s free.

Since starting this project on corporate blogs, I’ve been truly stunned at the end results of so many corporations’ very expensive blog projects.  Did anyone ever sit down and have a strategic discussion for their 24/7/365 internet presence?   And who are the PR firms advising companies on blogs?  I’d ask for my money back if I were Kodak.

May 30, 2008 at 10:40 pm 1 comment

Johnson & Johnson’s blog, JNJBTW – good meets bad

Pharmaceutical companies face a labyrinth of issues when starting a blog, which is why it’s not surprising to see that there’s only one that I know of. JNJBTW.

Not many companies in America today are as despised as big pharma. They get sued, they get attacked by politicians, they have to justify enormous profits in the face of a health care system that is positively Dickensian. And yet, media is evolving, and blogs are becoming so mandatory, that even big pharma has to make a move into the blogosphere, and social media as a whole. It simply isn’t an option to hide their heads in the sand anymore.

JNJ’s blog shows just what a good corporate blog can be, and the pitfalls, all in one. Let’s start with the bad news. Like any big company starting a blog, JNJ’s internal debate about blog strategy, the purpose of a blog in the first place, and where they want it to go, is apparent on the blog itself.

Sporadic posting, random staff showing up to post frippery, and the inevitable self-congratulatory pat on the back are pretty regular. It’s a symptom of the larger issue, that JNJ appears to have spent a real long time putting this together, and once it’s live, 26/7/365, JNJ kinda looked around and said, “now what?”

But JNJ does what any company as controversial as big pharma simply must do if they plan a blog. They address controversy head on. There is a category for “Litigation“, much of which details the ins and outs of a JNJ lawsuit against the Red Cross over trademark and copyright. Getting sued by a major charitable organization is a PR nightmare – being the plaintiff against a major charitable organization is another level altogether.

The first post on the Red Cross suit is pitch perfect from the beginning.

As a former journalist, I appreciated how undeniably juicy the story would be: Johnson & Johnson sues the American Red Cross and other parties over…. What?! … the use of the RED CROSS?!

It was almost too easy.

I also know that companies, like Johnson & Johnson, built on innovation and long-lived brands must resolutely defend their rights in these innovations, and in these brands.

Too many companies in controversial sectors refuse to treat such matters with the authenticity that the blogosphere demands. Conversation is no longer one-way. A reporter writing a story and the company responding, all being the sole discussion of the matter, is history.

Conversation is two-way, from the instant a story hits. If a company, with a blog, does not enter the discussion honestly, and in a way that allows the viral nature of social media to decide for itself how it thinks, based on honest facts, the company will dig it’s hole ever deeper. Staff time will be sucked up, lawyers will bill hours, and the story could get even worse, spiralling.

It is the authenticity of JNJ’s blog that really saves it from the dustbin of pathological puffery that passes for blog content on most corporate blogs. The frippery posts get no comments at all. The litigation posts, obviously, get a lot of comments. But the comments are in a context of the honest discussion of an issue, a discussion begun by JNJ. That is a net plus, any way you slice it.

Sure, JNJBTW will lurch from marketing speak, to weeks of silence, to multiple authors posting incongruously over time…these are the result of any corporate blog failing to spend the time to get a strategy in place long term. But if there’s an authentic voice on the blog that readers rely on for the real take from the company, all the other process issues kinda fade.

May 26, 2008 at 5:40 pm Leave a comment

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