Dawn Foster and Marshall Kirkpatrick Discuss Community Management at the Business Leader NW Blog Pavilion

Dawn Fostermarshallwithhatbig

Luke Lefler posted the round table discussion about community management we did yesterday with Dawn Foster and Marshall Kirkpatrick.

Community management is a growing practice as companies further adopt social applications to reach online.

The two discuss:

  • What does community management mean?
  • How business is adopting community management practices
  • Who does the work of community management
  • Trends in community management
  • Community managers to watch

Thanks to Luke - he recorded the discussions here at the Blog Pavilion. He has been a huge help. I’d recommend him highly if you are looking for someone to help you get a podcast started or need help with production or editing your show.

My Top Ten List For What I’d Love The Speakers To Say On Stage At Business Leader NW

My top ten list for what I’d love the the speakers to say at Business Leader NW:

  1. The way you networked before is still alive and well. It’s just on Twitter, Facebook and your blog
  2. Leaders emerge from online communities. Look for people in your company who demonstrate a keen sense for adding to conversations. Get ready. They may work in the mail room
  3. Banning blogs and blocking services like Facebook is a sign that you have a sick company culture
  4. Giving is an online community practice that pays huge benefits to the companies that learn how to treat their knowledge as a gift they may provide their customers
  5. We’re in the first year of a 15 year cycle. The companies that adjust to the new social wave will kick butt
  6. Leadership comes with how well your employees can filter information from the community, package and distribute
  7. Markets really are conversations
  8. Embrace open source practices
  9. Buy all your employees a Flip camera and ask them to post a video about the company. Then ask the employees to comment on what their colleagues posted
  10. Make sure your managers get the memo. The social web is here to stay

Tags For Business Leader NW

Tags are useful for finding relevant information on a topic. For instance, tags are popular on Flickr to identify photos taken at a conference.

Please use these tags for Business Leader NW:
blnw
blogpavilion
businessleadernw

Popular tags so far on the blog have also included:
leadership
business blogging
corporate blog

On Twitter, please use #blnw.

Thanks!

Bring Your Couch To The Blog Pavilion

We have the standard black rug, some tables and chairs. But tomorrow morning, the blog pavilion is going to have a different look. Can you help make that happen?

Can you bring something from the house? A cool lamp perhaps or that couch that you love. An end table would be nice. How about a nice comfy chair?

The blog pavilion needs some love.

See you in the morning. :)

One Company’s Journey of Understanding Blogging

HHK Pro Keys

Creative Commons License photo credit: dh

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with a president of a company and four other directors/managers who had previously committed to blogging on their company’s blog.  They were to take weekly turns posting, only committing themselves to blog once every five weeks - rotating.  This wasn’t happening (obviously, or this would be a really pointless blog post!).

They walked in the meeting with comments that they were going to be in trouble, sent to the principles office, and get their hands slapped - all in fun, but with a touch of seriousness.  The inevitable had come: Time to face the fact that they committed and were not doing it.

In the meeting I reminded them of their commitment, reminded them of why they committed in the first place and left it up to them.  Why were they not doing as they had committed?  One person said he thought blogs were pointless and a huge time waster - a rambling of someone’s thoughts.  He didn’t have time nor the desire to blog.  He was the only one fully against it.

The others knew they should, but just didn’t know what to write about.  So, we started (again) going through different topics they could (and should) write about.  What would the customers be interested in? There is a new version of the software coming out.  Write about that.  There is an update all customers should have.  And that.  There is a contest they are promoting.  And that.  They went to an industry conference and learn some great information.  And that.  As we talked, they realized that up until this time there was not a way to get this kind of information out to the customer.  Not only have they totally missed communicating to their customers in the past, but that they really need to step up and do it now.  They suddenly realized how valuable it would be for their company. They also saw how feedback from their customers would, on these topics, be very beneficial.

Not that we had not talked about that before, but this time it sunk in deeper.  Let’s hope it sunk in deep enough to keep commitments.  And then, from there, it will spread.  “Wow.  If I have this information for our customers and it increases the communication with them, I wonder how much it would increase with my employees?!  And maybe even business partners?”

It will take some time (be patient) but it will get there.

For you - start evangelizing within your company now because it just doesn’t magically happen. It takes time.

Be the leader of communications that go beyond the traditional org chart.

Killer Content for Your Business Blog

Many corporate blogs are neglected, dull, and unimaginative while filled with press release content, marketing fluff, and old content. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Corporate blogs can be interesting and useful with a little focus and time devoted to it. Here are a few tips to help turn your boring corporate blog into something successful.

Content Roadmap

Most companies should create and maintain some type of content roadmap. The content roadmap will usually map out the next 4 weeks of blog posts with an author identified for each post. This helps to ensure that the blog topics are strategically aligned with corporate goals, varied across topics and types of content, and frequent enough to keep the blog active. The person responsible for the blog can work with authors to help identify topics and then make sure that the author has access to everything needed to complete the post (data, technical assistance, etc.)

Spontaneous Posts

Now that you have a content roadmap, you should also diverge from it frequently to allow for serendipitous blogging on hot topics or new ideas that people are passionate enough about to want to talk about them immediately. Monitor popular blogs, news sources, and events in your industry and respond to what others are saying. Join the conversation without waiting for the topic to come up on the content roadmap.

Thought Leadership

The best blogs have content that focuses on thought leadership. Blog about the things in your industry where your employees have expertise that can be shared with the world. Don’t just talk about your products; focus on your entire industry. Get people to discuss a variety of topics and new ideas. Don’t get stuck in a rut where all of your posts have essentially the same or similar content. You are not a thought leader if all of your posts are simply variations on a single idea. Chime in with your thoughts on a variety of topics across your industry.

Conversations

Always monitor and respond to comments on your blog. People get frustrated with blogs where people ask questions or provide feedback in the comments without any response or acknowledgment. Even worse are those companies that moderate every comment and delete anything that they do not agree with. Let people comment and disagree with your ideas. Some of the most interesting conversations happen in the comments of a blog post. You should also monitor what people are saying about you on other blogs, forums, Twitter, etc. and respond where appropriate.

Blogs are Fun

Have fun with your blog, and don’t be so serious all of the time. You can include interesting things that are happening within your company that aren’t necessarily work related (photos from a company ski trip). Admit it; you would rather read a blog post with great content and some humor mixed in, instead of something with great content that drones on and on like an old, boring college lecture. Make the content interesting and fun enough that people will look forward to reading your posts.

How to be a Mobile Software Forty-Niner

The year 2008 is the beginning of a gold rush of mobile applications.
The iPhone app store has over 20,000 apps and there are numerous stories
of developers ’striking it rich’ through good timing and luck. My focus is on Google’s Open Source operating system, Android. Launched in October 2008 with the T-Mobile G1, it has sold at least 300,000 units last year.

The Android Market

The Android market, the most popular place to download applications, was launched with the phone in October 2008. The mechanism to process purchases was not in place, so all the apps were no-cost. As an experiment I created a simple utility application in January called “WhatIsMyIp?” that displays the IP address that T-Mobile assigns to the phone. There were 1500 downloads in the first week, and 1000 downloads the next week. After two weeks I took down the app from the market.

On Feb 20th, 2009 the market began to publish paid apps. This has been a highly anticipated event for Android developers as they too can try for a piece of the pie. Since the market did not let me convert the app from free to paid, I renamed the app to ScanMyIp and uploaded it again with a $1 price. For the 3 days the paid-apps have been available at the time of this writing, there has been no purchases of this app. Spending a dollar and going through the checkout process needs to provide more value than this simple utility.

Learning from iPhone

Since the quality and value of mobile applications varies widely, its very important for customers to get a taste of what they are buying. Its popular to create a free ‘lite’ version and a paid ‘full’ or ‘pro’ version of the app. The Android Market has one difference to the App Store in this area - all applications come with a 24 hour money-back guarantee. So even without a lite version, there is a small window to try out the app. Now that the iPhone application market is maturing, people are looking at how to create lasting value from a mobile app. Pinch Media says the average shelf life of an iPhone app is 30 days.

The model I am using for the real android project, IceCondor, is to use the lite/full version of the app in the app store, in addition to a web-service that supports the application. The web service works like flickr in that a certain amount of usage is free, and with a yearly or monthly fee, usage becomes almost unlimited.

Another difference between Android and the iPhone is that Android allows for the Internet model of application distribution. Its possible to provide a link on a web page to directly install an android application. You can charge or not charge, how ever you like. Its the installed based of the Android Market app on every phone that makes the Market so valuable.

Business Blog Pavillion

My name is Don Park. I am a Portland-area software developer and entrepreneur with a focus on mobile applications. I’ll be at the Business Blog Pavillion on the floor of the Business Leaders NW conference on Wednesday Feb 25th from 1pm-5pm if you would like to discuss any of this further. Follow me on twitter at @donpdonp.

Corporate Blogging Tips

One of my earlier posts focused on why companies should have a blog, so let’s move past the question of should we blog and on to the discussion of how to write more effective corporate blogs.

Guiding Principles

At this point, I suggest reading my Social Media and Social Networking Best Practices for Business post. Specifically, I covered these guiding principles, which apply not just to blogging, but to other forms of social media as well:

  • Be sincere
  • Focus on the individuals
  • Not all about you
  • Be part of the community
  • Everyone’s a peer

Each of these 5 guiding principles has already been described in detail in my other post, so I won’t spend much more time on them here, but they are important for corporate bloggers to keep in mind.

Strategy and Vision

Blogs are still just another piece of the corporate communications puzzle (although an increasingly important piece), so spending some quality time thinking about what you want to achieve with your overall communication strategy and how blogging fits into that strategy is a good place for companies to start. You don’t want to use your blog to just pimp your products or talk about press releases. A blog can be used for so much more. Think about the areas where you want to lead the industry and the topics that you want people to think about when they think of your company. Use your blog to become a thought leader in the industry by sharing your expertise on those broad topics that are important and relevant to your company.

Think about who should be blogging on your corporate blog. It is easy to pick your top 5 executives, and give them access to the blog. In some cases, they might be the perfect people, but they aren’t always the best choice when it comes to accomplishing your goals for the blog. Go back to your discussion about your strategy for the blog and the topics that you want people to think about when they think of your company or your products. Who in your company has expertise in those areas? Do you have someone with great ideas? Are there any evangelists or other employees passionate about those topics? If so, recruit those people to contribute to your blogs. Someone passionate and smart, but outside of the senior management ranks probably has more time to spend on the blog and might just come up with some innovative and interesting ideas.

You should also branch out a little into the realm of unofficial / personal blogs. Encourage your employees to have their own blogs where they talk about their areas of expertise. I have blogged on various corporate blogs for companies and non-profit organizations that I am associated with, but I also continue to blog at Fast Wonder on various topics related to social media, online communities, and other technology topics. Having a personal blog has a number of benefits, including giving us an excuse to learn and research new ideas. Quite a few employees have similar blogs, and I like to believe that some people think that we have interesting things to say, and our companies benefit from having smart people discussing their expertise outside of official work channels. There is also a caution to go along with this. You don’t want to create a personal blog that is too focused on your company. If all you talk about is your company and you cover all of the same topics as your official blog, it just looks forced and insincere. You need to branch out and cover additional topics; show that you are a real person and not just a corporate shill.

Making it Happen

After the initial excitement wears off, it is easy for companies to neglect the corporate blog. We just forget to blog, and before long, no one has posted in a month (or two or three …) In some companies this isn’t a problem. If you already have a bunch of prolific bloggers neglect may not be an issue, but for the rest of you, and you know who you are, it really helps to have someone “in charge” of the blog. This person isn’t responsible for writing all of the content, but they can responsible for herding and nagging in addition to making sure that some specific strategic topics are being addressed on the blog. The role is part strategist and part mother hen (it isn’t all that different from managing communities), so you have to find someone who can think strategically about your industry and the right topics while they follow up obsessively to make sure people are actually posting to the blog.

Corporate blogging is a complex topic, and there will never be one magic formula that applies to all companies. Hopefully, these tips will help a few people make their corporate blogs even better. Keep in mind that you will make mistakes along the way. Learn from them, keep writing, and continue to make incremental improvements.

NonProfits Receive $25 For Every Person Who Registers For Business Leader NW

This is the first Business Leader NW event. I like their approach to the community. The organizers have made it a point to support nonprofits through registrations. For each person who registers, they will give $25 to a nonprofit.

The following nonprofits are participating:

School House Supplies: A Portland nonprofit that provides free school supplies for teachers.
Oregon Food Bank: Distributes food to regional food banks across Oregon and SW Washington.
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: the official charity for the conference - the foundation provides funding for research to fight cystic fibrosis.

Could you help in this effort by telling your community about it? Nonprofits need our help more than ever.  My goal is to get 50 people to register. That would be $1,250 to nonprofits. We all know that every bit counts.

A code for each participating nonprofit is provided. Registrants place the code in the “promo code” box at the bottom of the registration.

Registration link: http://bit.ly/10iOVW

Here are the codes you may choose from.  When registering, you or people in your community, may place this code in the promo box at the bottom of the registration form:

SHS199: School House Supplies
OFB199: Oregon Food Bank
CFF199: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Thanks. I hope to see you at the conference.

More Tips To Identify The Best Corporate Blogs

Two weeks ago, Alex identified ways that you can go about finding the best in corporate blogging.

This is a splendid idea, but what if you need to find the best corporate blogs in a certain category? Alltop, like Alex wrote, rocks, but there are several more ways:

1. Delicious

Think of Delicious as a curated version of Google. Sure, a general purpose search engine may work for finding resources most of the time, but when you’re trying to identify the best blogs in the field, a better metric that you can look at is how many other people like it?

2. Blog Directories: Technorati, BlogCatalog, IceRocket, Blogged

Much like how Yahoo! Yellow Pages function to businesses and individuals, blog directories serve to feature and list notable blogs in every categories. Some are more extensive than others, others are human curated, but all of them have a rating that compare blogs based on its frequency of posts, number of comments, and many other qualities. These ratings start your research in a fairly good place.

3. RSS Listing: BlogBridge Topic Guides

Another way to identify great blogs is by having industry experts who are keyed into the market trends and landscape do it for you. BlogBridge is a powerful RSS reader, but behind it lies a system of RSS feeds that they call “Topic Guide.”

Topic Guide allows you to not only see the top blogs in every category, from Dresses and Sewing to Drugs and Chemistry, but also subscribe to all of the blogs inside it in one click. See the blue button with the circle icon? Clicking one of those will give you an OPML file, which is a collection of RSS feeds that you can readily subscribe to inside your favorite reader.

4. Old School: Blogroll

So far, we’ve analyzed ways to measure popularity of blogs by how much other people rate them. But when all is said and done, my trustiest research tool is one that I get to find and modify myself. This is where the good ’ol Blogroll comes into play. Open almost any blog, and you’ll see a headline labeled exactly this on the sidebar. A blogroll is nothing more than a list of blogs that the author enjoys visiting. They can be extremely relevant to casual, but visiting them may yield places that you may not know exist before.