How Brands and their evangelists should manage blogs

By mdangeard, published at 16 September 2008 - 7:44pm, last updated 8 years 48 weeks ago.

Just like with the internet websites of web1.0, companies are slowly getting into social media and web2.0: many companies today have blogs, and try to establish a presence in the blogosphere through them, with the help of evangelists who monitor what is going on and mix with the crowd to spread messages. As a sign of this, Inc Magazine reports that "31% of the CEOs of their Inc500 companies maintain a blog or social network and for the most part they love them."

Having a blog is a great step forward.
Having evangelists is even better.
The next thing is to try to manage this social media effort and retain within the enterprise the IP that is being created by the evangelists working for the company.

Because the thing with Social Media is that many people/companies have blogs, many people comment of other's people blog, and evangelists tend to have their own blogs in addition to blogging on the company website. Even regular employees (non-evangelists) have blogs, and they may also do great work for the company there. So the reality is that conversations are happening all over the place, and there is no real central place where the company can measure what is going on, and analyze the results of the work being done over time. And there is no point is trying to bring the conversations back into a central place, because it is not going to happen. People want to do what they do where they are, not where you tell them to.

So the next option is to at least gather in a central place references to all these conversations, thus allowing readers on the company website to travel from one discussion to another other easily. And because references to these conversations are kept in a central place, you can also measure what is happening: how many posts, how many comments in how many blogs, and how many visitors on these blogs. Data which accumulates over time to also show you the trends of your influence and your impact on the blogosphere.
Think about it as something like Delicious, except designed for blogs because bookmarks are not enough, what you want with blogs are the RSS feeds that keep the flow of posts going.

A service I use to do all this for my Entrepreneur Commons project is eCairn (www.ecairn.com - and as a disclaimer you should know that yes I am connected to this company).

Within eCairn, I started building a list of blogs that talk about entrepreneurs, VCs and funding in general. And I monitor this list on a regular basis, sometimes commenting on the blogs when it is relevant. When I do, I can tag that post, as a way to keep track of the fact that I did comment on this blog in case I want to go back.
(the RSS feed for these posts where I commented is http://conversation.ecairn.com/post/feed?key=Qf4X4Cxiw392Ri6oWewwulHfA4H6E9Nn&title=Get+the+filter%27s+RSS+feed&with_filter=49, and it is also exposed in a widget on this blog)

Doing this, I started participating in conversations happening here and there. I sometime receive replies to my comments, and I also reply to other people's comments. Everytime I do this, I add the person's blog to my list, because if they said something that was relevant to me here, they may do it again.

Over time my selection of blogs has grown from something that was based on the declared intent of the blog (blogs about entrepreneurship, VCs or funding) to a selection of blogs that includes more of the same, plus blogs from knowledgeable people who do not always blog about these specific subject, but have shown interest and some level of expertise on the subject at one point or another.

And this evolution can be tracked: I know how many blogs I started from, where I am today and how I got there; I know how many posts I found relevant through my browsing, how many I commented on, and how many new bloggers I got involved with (through their blog) from these conversations.
I can do this by myself, and I already get more than a regular RSS reader would give me, and I can include other people to do it with me: we are now several partners working on the Entrepreneur Commons project from within the eCairn service.

For any company I believe that it should be the next step forward, as a way to track what is happening on a given product, or what is happening with the brand in general. The value you get from being able to manage this process is huge, I see it as the real promise of Social Media delivered: the eCairn tool allows monitoring and engagement, the perfect backoffice tool for a marketing team.

Imagine for example that you launch a campaign:
- you can immediately measure the effect of that campaign in the blogosphere, you can reinforce the message by commenting as appropriate on blogs (or do damage control if not all goes as expected). And you can correlate the campaign to a measure of the buzz generated.
- you can do all this as a coordinated effort, with a complete team of people involved, so that you can handle as much as you want. And when people move on to another job, the info from what they have done stays with the company. They may control their own blog, and the audience around it, but you keep track of the relevant posts that were made, the bloggers that were engaged, etc...

Outside of specific campaign, you can also do on-going work of maintaining a presence in the blogosphere, and build up the audience through engagement with bloggers. You can measure how many blogs you engaged on, which is another great indicator of the work being done by the marketing team (who they talk to, who they know, and how influential these people are - from the traffic of their blog, which gives me a feel for my addressable audience).

As I commented recently on a post from Open Forum, in addition to what the author calls the Web triumvirate (website - blog - support discussion board or forums), companies should seriously consider now adding a fourth pillar: proactive Customer Service in the form of blog monitoring and bloggers engagement - call it Blogosphere Relationship Management