Blogs Becoming Important to Business

Trying not to be shamelessly self-aggrandizing here... this week’s Fortune magazine carries an amusing and cautionary story on the inevitability and importance of blogs.

Why There’s No Escaping the Blog talks about the freewheeling bloggers who can make or break your business with the supremely accessible and downright viral nature of online self-publishing, and also about how corporations are approaching and even embracing the blog.

It mentions Robert Scoble, Microsoft’s "software evangelist" whose own blog, Scobleizer, opines daily on issues in the tech world—especially the world of Microsoft. As Fortune says, it’s “nothing too profound or insightful, yet Scobleizer has given the Microsoft monolith something it has long lacked: an approachable human face.”

For example, Scoble didn’t get defensive on Microsoft’s part, but rather agreed when a rush of criticism of MSN’s newly offered blog interface, Spaces, saturated the blogosphere. The onslaught bloomed mostly from the seed of one rather hilarious blog entry on BoingBoing that poked fun at the decency feature of the interface, which wouldn’t allow certain words in a blog title (“Pornography and the Law” was right out), but did allow others (“Smoking Crack: A Guide for Teens” was OK). His representing the company without mindless rah-rah probably helped Microsoft through the barrage. Scoble told Fortune, "I get comments on my blog saying, ’I didn’t like Microsoft before, but at least they’re listening to us.’ The blog is the best relationship generator you’ve ever seen."

So, a blog can be terrific for relationships. But, as Fortune says, “it can also be much more: a company’s worst PR nightmare, its best chance to talk with new and old customers, an ideal way to send out information, and the hardest way to control it.” In fact, employees have reportedly been fired at Starbucks, Harvard University, Delta and Friendster for blogs their bosses deemed offensive, though those organizations are not commenting. Most companies are so far ignoring the blog phenomenon, but that will get harder to do.

As proof, Fortune recounts as “the clearest sign of blogger muscle” the case of Kryptonite, the company whose famously tough bike locks were brought low by a blog that explained they could be picked with a ballpoint pen. The biking blogger just wanted to alert other cyclists, but with ten busy blog days before the company responded, Kryptonite’s parent, Ingersoll-Rand, said it expects the disturbance to cost $10 million.

Naturally, people find a way to make a buck out of controlling, or at least monitoring the free and fecund blog spin. BuzzMetrics, for instance, offers “Word of Mouth Research and Planning” as well as other online chatter tracking services. Marketing and external relations types should be all over this. There are some so far free services, too, such as Intelliseek’s BlogPulse.com, with which you can watch trends or see where your brands turn up in the blogosphere. Have fun!

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