Thursday, May 18, 2006

In Mesh we trust

This week's Mesh Web 2.0 conference on “social media” has been blogged pretty thoroughly, so I’ll just offer a few thoughts after attending three sessions on Tuesday. They mostly (as you might gather from the previous post, below) dealt with blogging.

At a panel on corporate blogging, Jeremy Wright of B5Media made the useful observation that the most important progress is being made not in external blogs (e.g., the CEO writes a weblog for customers and the rest of the outside word), but in private, internal blogs. These aren’t promotional media but management tools.

Companies find internal blogs very useful for informing and motivating employees, conveying ongoing workplace and corporate information, polling employees and/or giving them a chance to vent, and to manage projects. Wright said he has several clients that love blogs and only use them for that.

A panel on “Engaging the Blogosphere” discussed how to get more companies experimenting with and using blogs. There was a lot of talk about “convincing” businesses to blog. But there are two problems with that: blogs involve, um, writing, which many organizations are not good at, or which scares them; and they represnet an ongoing infinite commitment, not just a one-off effort like a website. Hence, said Ottawa PR guy Joe Thornley, “You can't convince people to start blogs.” Because even if you succeed, and they start one, it will likely wither and die very quickly, like my plants, for lack of attention, care and warmth.

(Joe's blog ProPR includes some detailed posts about the conference with lots of verbatim quotes, saving me the trouble of writing it up.)

I talked afterward with Nathan Rudyk, a “social media”-oriented PR consultant in Ottawa (and an old buddy who worked at PROFIT Magazine before I did). He is helping lots of companies jump on the blogwagon, and he had an interesting perspective on what drives them. The first step, surprisingly enough, is often podcasting. It’s easy to do, it’s a series of one-off projects rather than an ongoing, evolving print product, and clients seem to love ’em.

And according to Nathan, you can get almost anyone to sit still to be interviewed for a podcast (his company has already nabbed Steve Ballmer).

I think there's something else at work here. I think the printed word (even in cyberspace) scares people more than voice recordings do. There's something permanent (and way too easy to copy) about text. “Smoking guns” are almost always documents, not recordings.

Podcasting is conversation. It’s informal, loose, kind of showbizy, sorta fun. The printed word, however, is an obligation, a line drawn in the sand forever, the bane of lawyers and regulators. It’s still too scary for many people to cozy up to.

Time to get over it, folks. Print (i.e., the words in your blog) is warm, accessible, searchable, linkable, and powerful. Fear must give way to passion, excitement and the need to explore the full potential of your (or your company's) relationships.

Lots more follow-up resources from Mesh at http://www.socialtext.net/mesh/index.cgi

1 comment:

Joseph Thornley said...

Hi Rick,
Like Nathan, we are finding that corporate executives are more likely to enter social media through podcasts thans they are a blog. With blogging, the writer has to make a longterm commitment to spend time writing posts and responding to comments. Many execs find that daunting.
Podcasts, however, are something which execs feel more comfortable with. We work with several: they pick the topics, make themselves available for a taped discussion and we assemble and produce the clips, music, etc. Then, their ongoing commitment is simply to the comments on the podcast blog.

Thanks for the link!