Firsthand Blogging Accounts Of Healing and Conservation, Live From The Rainforest

My amigo Dr. Todd Pesek has just set up his new blog, Healing Space. His first post is here.

Denise and I have been helping him get it set up and launched. It’s kinda like what Hugh did with English Cut, but in the rainforest.

If you’re interested in health or conservation, Todd is someone who should be on your radar. Got his M.D. from the the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Founded his company Earth Healers to do eco-learning tours and to find ways to bridge the gap between standard “Western” healing and things that have been learned by indigenous cultures over the past few millenia. Is a director of the Naturaleza Foundation, which concentrates on global health/wellness, sustainable agriculture, education and cultural awareness. And is, in general, a helluva guy.

He’s also a listener and a learner. (At the risk of gross generalization, I’ve known plenty of people with similar credentials who were certain they knew it all, regardless of the topic…just ask ’em! Todd is not one of those people.) As such, when we were setting up his blog, he wanted to be certain that he would be able to engage in conversation with folks who came to the site via his comments.

I assured him that the blogosphere was not shy.

So, anyone up for going on a learning trip to Machu Picchu? Getting on a plane to Belize to find out firsthand about surviving in the jungle? Going on a biodiversity retreat in Guatemala? If so, give Todd a shout.

(Subscribed. His RSS feed is here: Healing Space.)

Live From The Gleacher Center

In the session at Ahead of the Curve.

Stowe just finished up a great overview on blogs, blogging and podcasting, and now Bill Flitter is just finishing his presentation. The big take-away for me … RSS is still too complex. It’s too complex to explain … too complex to subscribe … too complex to “show” what an RSS feed is … too complex to communicate how and why it matters.

Once we get beyond the early-adopter crowd, what are the capabilities and metaphors that are needed to enable RSS to become so ubiquitous that we don’t need to go through the nitty-gritty details? (In other words…I don’t want to know how the internal combustion engine operates, I just want to reliably get to my destination.) Back in August, 2005, Chris Selland wrote:

“RSS is still very much the realm of early adopters (which is why only early-adopter-focused companies like Audible, Woot and HDNet are using it). But as RSS readers become more powerful and more ubiquitous – and particularly as they become more closely entwined with e-mail applications – expect the use of RSS to dramatically accelerate – much of it at the expense of e-mail.”

This is still on-target.

Randy Moss is now up presenting the first part of the social networking discussion, and talking about directed apophenia, and leading into a group exercise. Everyone in the room is up at the front of the room, showing their connections to the others in the room, via past experiences, hobbies, hometowns, schools, products/brands they are passionate about, and the like. (By the way, Randy’s book recommendation of the day: The Hidden Power of Social Networks by Rob Cross.)

A social network visualization exercise at the Chicago AMA (American Marketing Association) meeting

Randy: “It’s critical for organizations to host communities. If a company does this, they’re the good guy, they are the one who is providing the network for individuals to connect.” (bravo!)

Michael Sevilla from Umbria is now presenting a state of the blogosphere preso. Now moving into a discussion of promoters and detractors, and is highlighting the Qwest’s Terms of Service flap. (Michael was affected by it.)

VERY interesting. Now going through things that one can do with OpinMind. For example, blog sentiment of Microsoft and Apple. (N.B. Kind of a neat tool, but it does not seem to have a deep listing of sources. Hopefully it’ll grow more over time.)


(top photo: UChicago)

Thoughts For The Beginning Blogger

One of our clients is starting to charge full-force down the blogging path and asked for some feedback on the posts they were working on. Not going to get into the details of what they’re working on quite yet, but had some thoughts that I was sending over based on reading the initial bits that were being put together. About halfway through, realized that these items were fairly relevant across-the-board, so here they are. What would you add to this as far as suggestions for someone just starting down the blogging path?


First off … Every successful blog eventually has a voice and a corresponding “positioning” (sorry for the marketingspeak) that is applied to it by its readers. The voice of the blog will evolve and, just like positioning in the pure marketing sense, a “tone” of the blog will be applied to you by your subscribers. This will take some time, but if you have a feeling as to how you would *like* to be positioned, you can certainly help it along via the choice of name, categories, commonly-used phrases, etc. Think about what you want the blog’s mojo to be: is it an inside look at the tales of a startup? Is it a viewpoint and *the* reference on long-tail software, or perhaps SaaS? Something else?

Think about your blog’s tagline. (The tagline WILL be reproduced elsewhere, so try to make it capture the core of whatever theme you want to tie everything together.) If the theme is still evolving, it may take a couple of months for the right tagline to present itself…and it will probably uncerimoniously assault you in the shower in the pre-caffeinated hours one morning. But it will show up. Write it down and integrate it when it does.

The positioning and general mojo are ultimately critical…but short-term irrelevant. Just write. Then write some more. It’ll evolve, and don’t force it. It took about four months after inception for the Social Customer blog to find its voice.

Additionally, a well-conceived and executed “About” page is a must, as is a picture. A well-written post will trigger a click to the About page which will, if also well-executed, trigger a click back to the mothership. Make the About page personal. It’s you!

A couple of other general thoughts:

– More links to other blogs inlined in the text! As a result of the current state of measurement and search tools, bloggers are narcissistic link whores (it’s all about the Googlejuice, baby). The more links you throw out to others, (a) the more likely someone will come to your blog (since they saw your blog show up in their vanity feed in Technorati) and (b) they may even put a reciprocal link in one of their posts in the next week, pointing to “hey….here’s a cool article on *x*” that shows how you can use whatever they are pimping in doing *x*. If you can’t link to a blog, link to a news article. If you can’t link to a news article, link to a product site. But link! As Anthony Kiedis so eloquently put it…give it away, give it away, give it away now. (However, for the love of all that is good and right in the world, please refrain from experimenting with RHCP tube sock attire. ::shudder::)

Last, but certainly not least, make sure you have an RSS feed that can be subscribed to on Day 1. Get readers on the drip. First one’s free…


Explosive Growth

Was on a call regarding the upcoming AMA Hot Topic session in Chicago (gratuitous plug: you can still register here), and a startling point was made (paraphrased).

“The number of new bloggers is growing so rapidly that we’re seeing a net decrease in the typical individual’s understanding of blogging, since the number of newcomers is expanding so wildly.”

(I think it might have been Stowe who said this, but there were a bunch of folks on the call.)

Two questions:

  • Are other folks seeing this as well?
  • If this is correct, the implications are tectonic…we need tools, education, and support that are an order-of-magnitude better and EASIER than the ones we have now if the trend is to continue.

What’s everyone else seeing?

Business Podcasting Article In The Baltimore Sun

The key line: “In what amounts to a nationwide social experiment, corporate America is testing whether this cheap and quirky medium proves useful in the battle to reach the public, communicate meaningfully with employees and keep costs down.”

link: Corporations go off a-podcasting

(Disclosure: I’m quoted in the article. Also, a huge guffaw out to Social Customer reader Dave Ritter who has the best line in the article, which was pulled from the comments here.)

The CEO Blogging Trail

Axel Schultze, CEO of BlueRoads, had the following answers to the questions I posed in this post. Schultze:

“Very good and valid questions. Some answers:

1) Also CEO’s are human beings and have peers. So executive blogging will find it’s peers.

2) The blog will not replace 1:1 connections and relations. But if a CEO like me has roughly 5,000 personal contacts and roughly 200,000 customer contacts, touching each and everybody in person every week is REALLY difficult.

3) Ghost-Written? No! While my press releases are prepared by PR agencies and news letters by marketing and other media by other people, at least my blog is my “normal voice” :-). And one can tell by my style, grammer and the little spelling errors here and there.


(n.b. Axel’s blog can be found here)

Point (2) is the gimme. And point (3) is spot-on.

Point (1), however, is the really interesting one. “Executive blogging will find its peers.” Hold that thought.

(context: I’m just off the plane, just back from Cambridge and Corante’s Symposium on Social Architecture. So, naturally, everything is getting filtered through that lens. More folks talking about CoranteSSA here.)

Blogs, of course, are social media. They let us connect, and converse, and interact in a human way.

Now, back to where we were. “Executive blogging will find its peers.” Hadn’t thought about the implication of that statement until I read Axel’s comment. When put through the “social” lens, what this means, to me at least, is that we’re going to start to see networks develop…visible networks…of executive bloggers. And what we’re going to see from there is the boardroom equivalent of the digital divide. One one side, we’ll see networks and clusters of interconnected executive bloggers (“peers”), who respect and challenge and publicly debate each others strategies, compliment and complement each others’ successes, and call each other out on their mis-steps.

On the flip side we’ll see the ossified companies, with their polished, impenetrable façades of business-as-usual.

Which side you think will be more successful in the long run?


What’s Preventing Wider Uptake Of CEO Blogging?

Chris Anderson’s solid thoughts on why “business blogging != executive blogging.” Anderson:

“The best business blogs come from the employees, not the bosses. They have more time, and are less prone to marketing gobbledygook and gnomic platitudes. And those kind of blogs are on the rise, not the decline.

The most successful business blogs are peer-to-peer: engineers, designers and managers within a company blogging about their own projects for the engineers, designers and other customers outside the company who use those products or care about that project.”

The second ‘graph really nails it…”the most successful business blogs are peer-to-peer.” And while I agree with most of his points in the post, I continue to wonder…what is it that prevents a typical (or, perhaps more approprately, a “prototypical”) CEO from connecting with customers in a natural manner? Is it because their blogs (like many speeches) would be ghost-written, and the individuals assigned to the task only know how to speak in generic, stilted terms? Is it because the prototypical CEO has neither the attention span nor interest in connecting with customers 1-on-1? Is it because they are stuck in a transactional mindset that doesn’t include actual conversations and relationships with their customers? Do they feel that, since they make 14x the annual income of their “average” customer (I made that statistic up), that they have nothing to talk about?

What is it?

(hat tip: dave)

Heavens To Marketroid!

Steve Hall asks, what if there was a “Customer Conversations Department?” Hall:

“I’d…suggest the creation of an entirely new discipline headed by a director of customer/consumer conversation/dialog. The sole responsibility if this person/department would be to converse and listen to the consumers with no interest in selling product.

This is not achieved though doing surveys or hosting focus groups or through agency account planning efforts. It is achieved by talking to customers/consumers as one would if they were discussing a product at a cookout or dinner party. This is not stuff that can be rolled up neatly into a spreadsheet of a PowerPoint presentation. This is roll-the-sleeves-up, get-dirty-with-the-customer conversation.” But it shouldn’t be a “department.” It may need to start that way, but ultimately every person within an organization who comes in contact with a customer:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer Support
  • Product Marketing
  • Delivery
  • Executives
  • etc.

needs to feel this way. Why? Because, customers don’t interact with a silo’d “department.” And every customer has the ability to talk about his or her experience with the company via these crazy, newfangled blog thingers…regardless of which department was involved in the interaction.

Tom Hespos runs with this idea. Hespos:

“I think we can agree that comparatively few companies have made any sort of investment in opening and continuing meaningful dialogue with their customers online. We’ve got the broadcast model to thank for that. As you know, when you’re holding a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail. When folks are out there praising or panning a product or brand, corporations tend to look at the problem as a mass marketing problem. In reality, most of the panning can be dealt with effectively by empowering somebody to join the conversation, actually listen, and take the feedback to the company for incorporation. Most of the praise can be greatly amplified in the same way.”

and Doc pushes it further:

“This is a provocative proposition. What Tom’s talking about here is going way beyond the rogue Scoble, or even the hundreds (thousands?) inside companies like Microsoft and Sun. We’re talking here about changing marketing’s function (or a large part of it) from messaging to conversation.”

(Be sure to check out the spot-on comment from Mike Taht, which has a couple of great thoughts on what out-of-work marketers can put on their cardboard signs.)

This is the right direction. There are a few fundamental things that need to occur to keep this snowball rolling, however.

Per the comments from the others above, execs in organizations from the smallest to the largest need to get whupped upside the head with the clue mackerel, and understand what’s happening here.

Folks on the front lines need to get out of the “transactional” mindset, and start thinking about conversations, and relationships and communities.

Systems need to change. Existing (so-called) customer relationship management systems don’t get us there. Actually, I take that back. CRM systems could get us there, if the individuals using them started thinking about using the systems as tools to track persistent conversations over time (note: link is a PDF), as opposed to being tools that sales management uses to know how soon they need to warn Wall Street that they’re going to miss their quarter. (Don’t even get me started on the whole “living life one quarter at a time” mindset thing. Grrr.)

And, finally, from the “do-ocracyside of things, we, as customers, need to be rationally vocal when we are treated poorly (or ignored). As customers, we need to continue to let our service providers know when they are screwing up, through all means available. They can’t listen if we don’t talk, and write, and start voting with our wallets when they blow it.

So, my question to you…what do we need to do next to keep this going?

Links, all in one tidy place:

Related posts from The Social Customer Manifesto:

Who’s Listens To Blogs? Andreesen, Bradbury, Rhodes, Sifry, Wyman…

Alex Barnett pulls together a definitive Cluetrain / “markets are conversations” post.

Example one from Alex:

“The first of the three events this week is to do with splogs – spam via RSS feeds and blogs. I posted about my experience of the problem and called out:

“Question to the feed search engine folks…(David Sifry, Blake Rhodes, Bill Bob Wyman are you listening?)…how do we stop this? Can we? It can’t be good for your business if this kind of thing takes off, can it?”

Within 24 hours David, Blake and Bob each posted a comment on my blog, acknowledging the industry-wide issue and confirming their companies’ commitment to solving the problem.”

Ok, cool. But all the folks above are in the blog business, so maybe it’s not that surprising. Which leads to example 2…Alex wonders…what the heck does “Ning” do?

Alex: “I speculated on a couple of revenue models and wrote, tongue-in-cheek…’Good question…Marc Andreessen might but hasn’t share the biz-plan me yet. Are you there Marc?'”

A few hours later, what does he find? A comment from Andreesen.

“Alex — your description of what we are trying to do is very well said. It’s an experiment, but those are the goals.

We are going to see if we can generate enough revenue through a blend of advertising (like Google, Yahoo, etc.) and premium services to be able to support what we are doing, including the free developer accounts.”

Brilliant. The third? Alex notes a functional deficiency in FeedDemon, “The file can’t be exported (OPML, would be nice Nick?…anything!)” What does he find two days later in his comments from Nick Bradbury?

“Just wanted to let you know that I’ve added OPML export of the reports to the next build of FeedDemon – expect to see this in RC2.”

It’s so easy for a company to do this. Set up an RSS feed to listen. Listen to it. If a customer has a question or concern, take the few seconds required to answer it on their turf. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Scratch that. It’s not easy for a “company” to do this. It’s so easy for a person to do this. Companies (despite their legal existence as “entities”) really can’t do anything on their own. They don’t walk. They don’t talk. They don’t bathe. They can’t communicate.

People communicate. That’s where relationships happen. Between people.

(hat tip: Kevin Briody)