CompuSchmooze April 2007 (2): Limits of Blogs for Businesses

CompuSchmooze? April 2007 (2): Limits of Blogs for Businesses
By Steven L. Lubetkin
Copyright © 2007 Steven L. Lubetkin. All rights reserved.
WORD COUNT: 691

Blogs and social networking websites may be the way many younger people connect with each other, but for most of us, they have a long way to go.

The mainstream news media have capitalized on the “blogging” craze by giving high visibility to blog authors and their postings, often out of proportion to the number of people who read blogs.

For those of you who don’t read them (and that will probably be most of you), blogs (or weblogs) are web-based diaries or journals written by (often) highly opinionated individuals. They are rarely reviewed by anyone, and seldom adhere to the standards we assume are being followed by traditional news organizations, such as fact-checking, editing, good grammar, and so on.

Blogs are supposed to be a conversation, where the blogger writes his or her opinion, and other people comment on it, or have a discussion about some issue. But there are more than 40 million blogs, so it’s sometimes hard to decide whose blog to read.
To get noticed, some blog authors have decided they need to have what amount to screaming matches, like you see on Fox News or Court TV when they are discussing some controversial case, like Anna Nicole Smith, or Michael Jackson.

Outrageous blogs get attention, and blogs and other social media, like consumer generated videos, have been responsible for fueling some high profile news stories recently.

It was a blog written by a liberal media watchdog organization that helped fan the flames regarding Don Imus’ racist comment about the Rutgers women’s basketball team by posting a video clip on their blog.

A YouTube.com posting of a racially charged temper tantrum has all but sunk Michael (“Kramer”) Richards comedy career, and former Sen. George Allen of Virginia lost his reelection bid, in part because of his strange decision to call his opponent’s videographer “Macaca” while that photographer’s camera was running. You have to wonder if Mel Gibson would still be raking it in if there was a video of his drunken, anti-Semitic tirade.

Because of the unfettered nature of blogs, some enthusiasts are encouraging businesses to create blogs as a way of opening a “genuine” conversation with their customers.

Some companies have done this with mixed success. General Motors has a blog called the GM Fast Lane Blog, in which at least some of the entries are being written by the company’s vice chairman, Bob Lutz. Lutz is a legendary car guy, an engineer who loves to chat with car and truck enthusiasts about engine design.

I’m sure that’s a fine hobby, and I am certain that GM can get a lot of useful consumer research information by having a blog. But you know, the company posted a $12 billion loss last year, and I’m pretty sure that some GM shareholders would rather see Mr. Lutz spending a little time with other senior managers to figure out how to avoid such a big red number this year, or at least reduce it a bit. Letting the market research people do the blogging might be a good idea.
Even the companies that have embraced blogging circle the wagons when there’s a real problem. Last year, Microsoft had a security problem in its software (so what else is new?)

Unfortunately, their primary blogger, Robert Scoble, who has even written a book about the importance of having honest, “naked” conversations with customers (the book is called Naked Conversations), went on radio silence about the security issue. His blog only referred readers to the official Microsoft statements. That’s hardly a “naked” conversation.

More recently, MySpace.com, the popular social networking website used by many teens and college students, decided to prevent its users from generating revenue by posting links to their own musical compositions or photos for sale. MySpace, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., says it is ensuring that copyrights are not being violated. But one MySpace.com diva, a singer called Tila Tequila, has been selling her own videos and songs online.

These incidents suggest that new forms of expression like these may be social media, but traditional companies are still having a very hard time not being anti-social.

2 Comments on CompuSchmooze April 2007 (2): Limits of Blogs for Businesses

  1. You really ought to actually read that book you mentioned by Robert Scoble and some other guy. You talk about blogs being so poorly researched and poorly read. You really should spend 10 minutes on a search engine actually finding out what currently is happening in blogging and social media. You should look at those insignificant numbers. If MySpace were a country it would be the world’s 5th largest. there are 71 million bloggers and the number continues to grow. there are bloggers in over half of the world’s largest companies. That’s just openers.

  2. I’m flattered that Shel Israel, widely regarded as a thought leader on blogging, is reading my postings. And in fairness, I should have credited Shel as the co-author of the “Naked Conversations” book with Scoble. There’s no question that blogs and social networking sites are posting large numbers. The question in my mind is who has time to read all of it, and does it really make sense for all CEOs to have a blog? My take is that it doesn’t. I know I’m being contrarian there, but it’s hard for me to explain to senior executives why it’s valuable for them to do this, especially when they probably won’t end up writing it all themselves. GM started with Bob Lutz blogging passionately, but now the blog is awash with postings from specially designated PR people at GM. That doesn’t seem so “naked” any more.Shel’s co-author, Robert Scoble, isn’t at Microsoft any more, where transparency is only in the eye of those who leave. They must be adherents of T.S. Elliot’s dictum, “Humankind cannot bear too much reality.”

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