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.”

I.love.it. 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)

Marketing, From The Customer’s Point Of View

Want to come out and connect with others who are thinking about how social media are changing marketing and customer relationships? You may be interested in attending one of the upcoming sessions of How Consumer Controlled Media Is Re-Shaping Your Online Go-To-Market Strategy.

The program is being hosted by the American Marketing Association, and we’ll start out our 3 city tour in Chicago, IL on October 28th.

Who else will be speaking? Check it out…

Podcasting/Video Blogs
Stowe Boyd, President, Corante, Get Real

Bill Flitter, Chief Marketing Officer, Pheedo, Pheedo Blog

Word of Mouth Marketing
Pete Blackshaw, Chief Marketing and Customer Satisfaction Officer, Intelliseek (New York session)
Andy Sernovitz, CEO, Word of Mouth Marketing Association, WOMMA (Chicago session)

Interactive Social Networking
Randal Moss, Project Specialist, American Cancer Society’s Futuring and Innovation Center

Social Networking
Christopher Carfi, Principal, Cerado, and author of The Social Customer Manifesto. (Chicago and Scottsdale sessions)
David Teten, CEO of Nitron Advisors (New York session)

Power Law Structure
Judith T. Meskill, Principal, Meskill.net, Judith Meskill’s Knowledge Notes

Session dates:

  • October 28 – Chicago
  • November 11 – Scottsdale
  • December 2 – New York

More info here, including how to register.

Hope to see you in Chicago, Scottsdale, or New York!

Information Is Social

Outsell has just published their 2006 Information Industry Outlook report (free reg. req’d), which is chock-full of great findings on how individuals and enterprises are using information their day-to-day and business lives. One of the headlines that jumped out of the report: Information is Social and Peer-to-Peer. Outsell:

“Now, instead of looking ‘up’ to oracles, users are looking sideways – to peers and to social contexts on the Internet, where published information is instantly unveiled, vetted, praised, condemned, corrected, and altered through the ‘wisdom of the masses.'”

This subsection of the report goes on to note the following items as evidence:

  • The increasing reliance on colleagues and peers as a source of information
  • Blogs and other social publishing media are becoming a key resource for knowledge workers
  • The emergence of open models in scientific publishing
  • Instant verification (or refutation) of news and peer reaction to events
  • Credibility derives from scrutiny of peers
  • Youth are sharing and remixing information and will continue to do so (and adults do, too)
  • Information intermediaries are still relevant in order to relieve users from the information glut

The points above are from pp. 10-11 of the report, which runs about 30 pages.

Corporate Blogging, Wikis, RSS All On The Fast Track, Says Gartner

Gartner has published their most recent “Hype Cycle” report, this one covering emerging technologies. The report covers 44 technologies, and prognosticates when they will reach the “plateau of productivity”…that is, mainstream business use and acceptance. Corporate blogging and RSS are flagged as technologies that will take “less than two years” to reach the plateau, with wikis on their tail in the 2-5 year window.

The interesting thing about Gartner’s analysis of all three of these technologies is that all are still positioned as being before the “trough of disillusionment” — that is, the inevitable backlash to their initial hype is yet to come. (n.b. Podcasting’s hype is still on the upswing, according to this, if you can believe it…)

Opinion (mine, not Gartner’s): Of these technologies, RSS is going to be the one that is going to have the greatest challenge slogging through the trough to true mass-market (i.e. not early-adopter) usage. Until there is a truly “zero-training” method of publishing, finding, and subscribing to RSS feeds (which might not even be called RSS feeds in a couple of years), RSS will have a challenge crossing the chasm, to use Geoffrey Moore’s terminology.

(hat tip: Steve Rubel for the initial link. Of course we went out, did some research, and dug a bit deeper to find the details ::poke:: But that’s what we do.)