Most of these posts have been around how we're rolling out the platform, getting communities to form, justifying, and so on.
And, as I was thinking about things the other day, I realized I hadn't exposed all of you to another major theme of what we've been working on -- building a corps of proficient, outside-the-firewall bloggers doing so on behalf of the corporation.
And, once again, I think we've hit upon a pretty good approach -- one that I don't see being employed too much by other companies.
So -- let me share.
Opinions On Corporate Blogging Vary Widely
I think that's because there are very few good corporate bloggers to go look at. Most of them are pretty sad, IMHO. The mindset isn't right, they're re-hashed corporate propoganda, they're updated infrequently, and so on.
Conversely, I see a few effective corporate blogging efforts out there. I happen to think EMC's is one of them, but there are others.
As an example, check out the roster we've been able to build up over the last year.
If you spend any time cruising them, you'll notice that they're lively, entertaining, updated on a reasonably frequent basis, have unique points of view, and so on. All interesing individuals in their own right; yet flying under the EMC flag.
Not bad, from where I sit.
Compare them with this and this from competitors in our industry -- the picture is very different: infrequently updated, narrow and corporate points of view, no one's having any fun, or so on. Sure, there's a glimmer of light here and there, but -- overall -- it's not a happy offering.
Or, perhaps this interesting twist from Dell. Rather than build their own corporate bloggers on this strategic topic, they're essentially paying people to blog on their behalf.
From my point of view, it looks like some marketing person thought have a bunch of corporate bloggers would be a good idea. They were right -- sort of -- but something quintessential was missing in the execution.
I think we've figured out that "magic something".
Are Corporate Blogs Effective?
Yes and yes.
One view is at a business level: as part of any marketing or communication campaign, they've turned out to be amazingly effective, at least for us.
We get our message and point-of-view out, quickly and effectively. It's received -- and reacted to quickly -- by employees, customers, partners, analysts, press and competitors.
Disagree with what a competitor is doing? Have your say! Want to crow about the latest product or corporate achievement? Have at it! Want to ruminate about the future of things? Blog on!
Lots of people in our world like reading this stuff. Now that we've been doing it for a while, we can't imagine it any other way.
The other view is at the individual level: everyone who's blogging for the company will say -- unequivocally -- that it's helped them dramatically in their careers.
Everyone knows who they are. Their points of view are widely known and acknowledged. They find that the practice of blogging not only makes them better communicators, but they have far more to say than before.
It's that Big Career Promotion you do for yourself ...
What We've Learned #1 -- Motivations
People blog proficiently for one reason and one reason only: they want to.
There is a certain corporate mindset that -- if you badger people enough, or bribe them enough, or make it sound important enough -- they'll blog proficiently outside the firewall on the corporation's behalf.
I can categorically state that this does not work. Anyone who's started on this basis for us hasn't done well. However, most everyone who's shown a self-generated passion for blogging has done very, very well.
Sure, there are lots of bright, passionate people at EMC who have some incredible things to say, but they're not comfortable with the idea yet, for whatever reason.
Key point: find people who want to blog already, and work with them. Don't spend too many cycles trying to get people who don't want to do it to somehow want to do it. They'll blog when they're ready -- if ever.
What We've Learned #2 -- Title or Role Has Nothing To Do With It
Some of our best bloggers have non-descript titles in the organization. In that regard, it's the great organizational leveler. Just because you have a big title or a big role in the organization doesn't magically embue you with the ability (or passion!) to blog effectively.
Not only that, but -- if you think about it -- there's a better connection between people with similar roles and functions. Maybe the best CEO blog should be written for other CEOs -- and not the masses!
Key point: a good blog is a good blog, whoever writes it. Keep that in mind if you've got a certain status-seeking mentality to your approach.
What We've Learned #3 -- Have A Place To Practice
Speaking from personal experience, learning how to blog proficiently is not the easiest thing I've ever done. I go back and look at my first 5-10 posts, and I think -- sheesh! -- was I bad, or what?
Not only that, people need to get comfortable with writing publicly, exposing themselves to comments and criticism, taking feedback, frequent updates, keeping it interesting, and so on.
One of the big reasons I wanted an internal social media platform was to have a "sandbox" to groom future bloggers. Guess what: it worked!
Right now, I'd guess that we've got several hundred blogs on our internal platform. Not all are good, but some are absolutely amazing. There's clear value from what they're doing and sharing, even if they never, ever want to venture outside into the big world.
But some get the itch ...
Indeed, much of our "graduating class" that you see on the corporate site now came up through the ranks on our internal platform. And, trust me, we've got several dozen more that are showing proficiency, and could easily make the transition to the outside -- when they want to, that is.
What We've Learned #4 -- Keep Corporate Sensibilities To An Absolute Minimum
The biggest challenge of any corporate blogging initiative is "corporate" -- it has this nasty way of crushing all the pleasure out of what's essentially a fun activity.
Do we have a corporate blogging policy? Not really.
We have some informal guidelines designed to keep people out of trouble, but that's about it. Things like a disclaimer on your home page that clearly states that -- although you work for EMC -- it's a personal blog, and EMC doesn't review or approve any content here.
Or gentle reminders about treading very lightly on sensitive topics (e.g. future products, potential acquisitions, financial performance, etc.).
Sure, go ahead and be a bit edgy about something that really gets you going -- that's the fun! -- but, please remember, you're sort of representing the company out there.
We keep reminding each other -- and keeping each other in check -- on the best ways to handle particular situations. Community effects really, really help here.
People can lay out their web page any way they want to. There's no "corporate standard" for corporate blog layout -- they're individuals who happen to work at a cool company that wants them to blog.
We even sometimes get into polite arguments among ourselves -- publicly -- on interesting topics. Readers come away with the surprising understanding that -- just like any other large company -- there are different points of view. It's 100% authentic, and 100% transparent.
For all of you who are deathly afraid that SOMETHING BAD MIGHT HAPPEN if we let people blog unsupervised, I can say -- categorically -- it has not been a problem.
OK, we had one small incident where an engineering type got a bit confused between what we were working on internally, and what we had announced externally, but we corrected the post, and it was no big deal in the scheme of things.
Key point: if it isn't fun, people won't do it. I keep reminding people that oats are better before they go through the horse. And blogs are better before they go through a corporate mill.
What We've Learned #5 -- Build A Community Of Like-Minded People Who Share A Passion
In this case, the passion is blogging.
Our community provides advice on all sorts of topics that cover the entire spectrum of blogging activities -- from what should my blog be about to avoiding the "gang swarm" effect when all of our bloggers decide to react strongly to the exact same topic on the exact same day.
Newbie bloggers get all sorts of expert, compassionate help for free. And, even established bloggers need a bit of friendly feedback and coaching once in a while -- including me!
Key point: blogging is essentially a social activity, so keep it social!
Back To Business Value
I've kind of evolved into the "lead blogger" at EMC. People will toss around numbers that my blogging efforts -- alone --- are worth anywhere from $5m to $10m to much higher numbers -- in terms of equivalent marketing spend -- each year.
Guys, all I want is my 10%. Really, that's all ...
Now, I don't know how you'd go about measuring that precisely, but the point is clear: a single, proficient and passionate blogger is a very, very valuable asset in the marketing and PR mix.
Now, here's the great part: the more the merrier. Whether it's one, ten or a hundred proficient bloggers, the value to the corporation keeps increasing and increasing and increasing.
One of the side effects of our internal social software platform is that we've built an engine for producing a new crop of proficient, passionate bloggers on a regular basis -- as well as a mechanism for keeping the existing ones engaged and improving.
Now, I could have justified our entire internal investment for the platform on that basis alone -- and it'd be extremely ROI positive -- but, in our case, it's just another interesting side effect of the strategy we've chosen.
Something to think about, no?