Scenario: Translucent, Inc. had an image problem. They wanted their customers to understand what they stood for, but were unable to communicate their values effectively. At one point a major glitch occurred in their best selling product and it took months for the PR manager to set things straight.
It’s astounding to me to think about Google and then picture them buying Sprint, a “real company” in my eyes. Google’s a search company and Sprint makes things and builds things and has advertising and all the things “real companies” seem to have. But to put things in perspective, Google has a market cap of over $200 billion which is more than 4x the market cap of Sprint Nextel, so Google is certainly a larger company.
Google’s Open Handset Alliance announced last week had a lot of hand-waiving and fun illustrations, but was short on actual product. Phones running Google’s Android platform are nearly a year away from being in consumer’s hands, so there are a lot of questions still up in the air. If Google were to acquire Sprint Nextel, it would certainly give more credibility to their hand in the poker game of their cellphone “alliance” and might open up some additional avenues in regards to generating revenue.
So many people hate the telecom industry and cable companies that if Google were to purchase Sprint and use their infrastructure to build out a high-speed, long-distance wireless network, I can see many people ditching Comcast or TimeWarner and jumping on the Google bandwagon. Broadband pipes are so locally saturated in the major metropolitan areas that wireless alternatives might be a good fit for people fed up with lobbyists having a larger impact on their cable companies then their own petitions. Personally I’d love to see Google sell a WiMAX set-top widget that would coordinate with a cellphone widget to push WiMAX speeds to me wherever I am. Unfortunately with Google pursuing the handset alliance it seems if these pipe dreams (no pun intended) come true, iPhone users will be left out in the cold. At least until a 3G iPhone appears and by then anything is possible.
The latest buzz in the search world is that Yahoo! has unveiled their new Search Assist functionality which is probably an attempt to reclaim the search crown that Google forcefully took many years ago.
“That sums up Yahoo! Search in a nutshell; the whole point is we want to get you from “to do” to “done.” Whatever it is you want to do: research a topic, find a website, plan a vacation, research a medical condition, view a funny video, or any of the other billions of queries we get from users — their intents expressed via a few keywords in a search box.”
Yahoo!’s new Search Assist feature is essentially a metadata browser that pulls up related phrases and information that may be useful to someone who has just entered a query. They show how it automatically drops in live Yahoo! Videos, Flickr images, and more right into your search results list, but how does this actually help them take down Google? Google is a verb, their search algorithm and datastore are far superior to Yahoo!’s, and to prove it it was only back in 2004 that Yahoo! decided not to use Google anymore for their own search results, because prior to then for a few years, they used Google. Yahoo! has been paying the price of their initial folly for awhile now (the folly being that “search” is not just another feature tacked onto their portal like “stocks” and “horoscopes” and is a utility in its own right) and this is their attempt to pull some users away from Google’s grasp.
The problem is that this doesn’t solve The Problem and that would be answering people’s questions in a real life scenario — who cares about videos and images when I just want an answer? To show an example, a commenter brought up this comparison:
See the difference? Google identifies what I’m trying to find and helps me solve the problem complete with a map. Yahoo! doesn’t help me find anything. Screw the Search Assist and the videos and the images, just solve my problem. And Google does that just fine.
There have been a number of notable articles in recent years about corporate blogging, but most of them suffer from the same problem that blogging has always had: it’s different to help a large group of people understand concepts that are fuzzy and inconsistent. The business community generally accepts that corporate blogging is here to stay, but what they mean by “corporate blogging” can differ wildly from one individual to another.
While I feel that this situation is normal (and to some extent, probably desirable), I thought it might be interesting to try to impose some clarity onto the situation, based on my understanding of corporate blogging as I’ve watched it evolve in the past several years. With that in mind, I present the Corporate Blogging Genome, a simple way to classify and identify corporate blogs by their nature and type.
(Please don’t take this too seriously — this is definitely a mental exercise more than a proposed scheme for pigeonholing the varied and complicated world of corporate blogging!)
How It Works
There are four basic parameters (Audience, Emphasis, Control, and Formality), each of which has two possible options (e.g., a corporate blog’s target audience can be Internal or External).
Once you’ve identified where your corporate blog falls within each of those four parameters, you’ll take the first letter of each of your choices and string them together into a single four-letter code.
That code is your Corporate Blogging Genome. It won’t directly boost sales or seal your exist strategy, but it will help you understand your blog and focus your efforts accordingly, which can have great indirect benefits on your business.
On to the details!
Audience: Employees or Public?
The most important question (and unfortunately one of the least asked) is “Who is the blog for?”
- Employees: Knowledge blogs, project blogs, internal goof-off blogs, etc., all fall into this category.
- Public: Primarily oriented toward expressing something within the company (announcements, ideas, opinions, etc.) to the outside world.
Control: Open or Closed?
Companies can get understandably nervous about spilling their guts online, so some blogs are definitely more tightly controlled than others.
- Open: Open blogs can generally be edited by a large group of people (sometimes the entire staff), giving everyone the ability to share their ideas.
- Closed: Closed blogs are limited to a very small group or a single individual, typically the CEO or a marketing/PR person. (This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and can often be an appropriate choice for a company.)
Emphasis: Random or Targeted?
Blogs can cover almost any subject imaginable, so providing some clear (or intentionally unclear!) direction is essential for keeping things on the right track.
- Random: Free-form blog that can cover any subject under the sun: movies, politics, funny videos, etc.
- Targeted: These blogs focus on specific subjects, typically related to the company (e.g., industry articles) or a specific context within the company (e.g., a particular project)
Formality: Formal or Casual?
Just because it has a goofy name like “blog” doesn’t mean it has to be sloppy and haphazard! In recent years, blogs have become a signficant source of high-quality information and resources, in part because many of them have begun to regard themselves more formally, taking the time to perform research and encourage high-quality writing.
- Formal: Features clear, well-written, and generally fact-oriented articles.
- Casual: Characterized by brief, loosely-written, and often opinionated posts.
So, what are you?
At Forty, our blog has evolved over the years, but is currently optimized as a POTF:
- Public: It’s geared toward business owners, rather than for our internal staff.
- Open: All employees are able to post articles to it.
- Targeted: We’ve removed all articles not related to issues faced by business owners, and that’s what we’ll be writing about in the future.
- Formal: We put a lot of time and effort into our articles, rather than just dashing them off.
(That certainly doesn’t mean that POTF is any kind of ideal — it’s just what we happen to do.)
How would you categorize your company’s blog?
A couple years ago, Elliot Back took the initiative to survey 33,000+ blogs to discover the most common words used in blog titles. While the blogosphere has evolved somewhat in recent years, his results are still fully relevant when searching for a name for your new blog.
Because your goal should be to differentiate yourself from other blogs out there, you need to think past your initial instincts when it comes to naming your blog. Most people will tend to come up with the same sorts of names, and by avoiding those same traps, you start to set yourself apart from the mob.
Here’s what Elliot found:
The top ten names to avoid:
This isn’t to say that using those words will necessarily damage your brand, but rather that if you find yourself coming back to these same keywords, you’re probably thinking in fairly predictable ways. Break out, go crazy, and get creative with your blog name!
(If you need some extra help, Wordlab is a great place to start.)
I had a conversation a few days ago with a potential client who indicated that they were interested in “trying out” blogging to see if it would boost their business.
Sounds reasonable, right?
The problem is that blogging, by its nature, isn’t the kind of thing that works well in short-term trials. Blogging is hard, confusing, subtle, complex, challenging, and relatively new (in the grand scheme of things). If you go into it with the mentality that you’re going to bail out if it doesn’t work, then you probably will bail out once things get a little hairy, and you’ll miss all the great benefits that come as a result of that initial sacrifice.
Blogging is a lot like marriage. The results can be spectacular, but you’ve got to go all in and stick with it through the rough times, or you’ll never make it to the good stuff.
Here are some things you can do right now to renew your commitment to blogging:
- Stop “trying it out”: Blogging works. It’s good for you, it’s good for your business, and it’s good for your customers. There’s ample precedent for this. Get rid of your foot-halfway-out-the-door mentality and just go for it.
- Schedule blogging time: It doesn’t have to be daily, but whatever your schedule is, stick to it. Put it on the calendar. Block out the time.
- Make it a reflex: Try blogging at the same time of day, in the same context. After your morning shower, on your lunch break, or before Ninja Warrior starts…it doesn’t matter when, it just matters that you set up triggers for your reflex. Pretty soon, your brain will start to get into blogging mode on its own.
- Enjoy the hard times: Every blogger has questioned themselves at some point. Maybe it’s when your stats tell you only have 8 regular readers (and half of them are you from various computers). Maybe it’s when you start getting negative comments and e-mails. Maybe it’s when your spouse points out your typos. Your reaction to these events depends entirely on your perspective. Having only a handful of regular readers means that you can establish a more personal relationship with them while you’re building your long-term archive (which future readers will eventually find). Receiving negative comments just means that you’re learning about what other people think, which will improve your ability to communicate with them in the future. And having someone point out your typos means that you just became a better writer. You can cry or you can celebrate; it’s totally up to you.
- Don’t take breaks: Taking a “break from blogging” is typically just a non-committal way to give up on it without burning bridges. If you’re going to quit, quit. Otherwise, get back in there and think of something to write. Writing is much more about determination than inspiration.
Your mom keeps asking when you’re going to settle down and really commit yourself to blogging. Make today that day!
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