Jul 14, 2009

I Want You

Do you read blogs? If so you might be able to help me with my research.

My aim is to gain greater perspective on the things that blog-readers value; and how corporate blogs can be brought in line with these values.

So if you fancy yourself as a bit of an information connoisseur who regularly reads blogs I’d love it if you could share some of your thoughts and insights about corporate blogs with me.

If you’re interested in participating in the study please contact me on:

corporateblogs@live.com or @CorprteBlogStdy

You will be given a $20NZ voucher in appreciation for your time.

It would be great if you were located in Dunedin, but if not then all I require is that you have a Skype connection and a webcam.

May 23, 2009

Is it Wrong for Bloggers Accept Perks?

This isn't exactly related to my research question but nonetheless it's very interesting.

In the 'real world' perks are a part of everyday business, for example movie or restaurant reviewers are given perks all the time. There's a bit of a fuss when a doctor subscribes unproven medicine in order to garner gifts...but on the whole perks go largely unnoticed in day-to-day business.

But will the online community demand/reward a higher moral code?

We tend to trust that bloggers' are giving us their unadulterated opinion but it seems that this unbiased viewpoint is being challenged by corporates trying to swing the buzz in their favor e.g.
Moms get freebies to appraise

Is this OK, or is it threatening something that we all hold dear....the truth. I used ask500 to test the water on this (pie chart above) and the results were varied to say the least. One third of the 85 respondents wanted the gift or perk disclosed by the blogger while almost the same amount saw no problem with it....hmmm.

These the two comments that the ask500 poll got:

"Is it OK when your doctor receives cash bonuses and trips to Disneyworld in exchange for prescribing a new, poorly tested drug?....in principle, how would you feel?

If you are going to accept bribes, no matter what they are called, you should say so when blogging.

Bloggers are not news people. They like to SAY they are, but they are not. Anyone with a computer can be a blogger.

Even though the newspapers are disappearing, I think we'll still see people gravitate to those same newspaper's websites for their news. They've just got to keep promoting themselves as LEGITIMATE news sources to help people weed through the opinion-piece-without-evidence free-speech artists

I have to admit I was surprised by this...I had an inkling that the online community would demand more from bloggers'. In the past we've seen the online community force Kevin Rose (founder of Digg) to put his company in the firring line to uphold what the community saw as right. Perhaps there just hasn't been a catalyst for this backlash yet, or perhaps we don't actually see bloggers as impartial?

As more and more bloggers' are tempted to endorse products/services and as a result the integrity of blogs/bloggers' comes under scrutiny it wouldn't surprise me if a similar forceful demand is placed on bloggers' in the near future. Or then again may be no one cares that much?

It seems from both the votes and the comment above that regardless of how this issue evolves, transparency will be a crucial element in allowing bloggers' to continue accepting gifts.

It will certainly be interesting to see how it evolves.
Do you have an issue with bloggers' accepting gifts?

Apr 12, 2009

Online Relationship Marketing

There are numerous definitions of RM one of the more favoured descriptions states that; Relationship marketing is to identify, establish, maintain, enhance and when necessary also to terminate relationships with customers and other stakeholders, at a profit, so that the objectives of all parties are met, and that this is done by a mutual exchange and fulfillment of promises (Grönroos, 1994). Gummesson (1994) expands on this, by stating; RM recognizes that everyone is a part-time marketer and that marketing is not confined to the full-time marketers of the marketing and sales departments. It recognizes that both the customer and the seller can be active. They should see each other as partners in a win-win relationship, this co-operative atmosphere between buyer and seller, which in turn sets a stage for mutual adaptation (Metcalf, Frear, & Krishnan, 1990).

Now it doesn't take a genius to see that the above descriptions of RM are becoming increasingly evident in our connected world. It is clear that the amount of online data available prior to purchase, and during interaction with consumers as well as the ease and speed of online CRM communication tools such as email, tweets, and blogs posts allow businesses to 'manage' customer relationships in a much more effective and ‘personally customised’ way than ever before. But are the advances in communication, information gathering, and customisability of online retail offerings just features of online retailing or do they fundamentally challenge conceptual framework of RM?

As our use of the Internet continues to evolve there are some Internet specific issues which seem to be emerging, obviously interaction is now a two way public affair, and corporates are much more accountable for their actions than ever before. But should this cause managers to re-think their communication strategies? Only if they were operating unethically prior to the social-web. But as for the company who has always strived to deliver greater value, sought feedback from stakeholders, and truly attempted to connect with it's consumers in a meaningful way does the web really change their RM principles...well no not really. They simply have a greater tools through which these relationships can be fostered.

The fact that human beings are the central part of the social-web means that the new advances and in technology do not fundamentally change relationship marketing, problems and issues experienced online are often merely extensions issues or consumer needs dealt with in the real world or companies failing to utilise these tools in an appropriate way.

Feb 25, 2009

Insights from Inteview 1

I've just finished transcribing and analysing my interview with @Ophil. At such an early stage in my research rather than putting my personal spin on it I though I'd just give you the highlights from @Ophil's interview and let you make up your own mind.

Ophil on what makes interesting content:
"Stuff that generates an interesting trail, showing me something that I hadn’t seen, yeah stuff I hadn’t stumbled across myself before."

Ophil on comments:
"Sometimes it is just enough that you want to give feedback to the blogger often enough the comments are about engaging in a conversation with a wider community of blog readers rather just the bloggers themselves, the absence of comments is kind of a measure of success. "Moderated or no comments doesn’t buy into the whole blog ideal, it becomes monological, I guess I believe it is a dialogical, a blog is about hey I’m gunna say something talk back to me ya know"

Ophil on the use of blogs:

"I don’t think that blogs are a medium for selling, blogs I think are not a conversion vehicle, you’re not trying to convince someone of your argument, I think that’s what a web page does.

Ophil on providing perspective:
"I have a personal belief that there is no new wheels, everything that you think of has probably got other people thinking of it as well. You can look at it as a way of enhancing credibility, as in 'look there’s other people who are thinking the same way as us but also see there are other perspectives of the same ideas and we’re open to them all.' Um so I think, I’m one of those people who thinks that, transparency to me is about not denying the existence of alternative explanations, so blogs are good to alerting you to that".

Ophil on risk mitigation:

"The act of mitigating risk is sort of the antithesis of a blog. If you can only say good thing or appropriate things, or stuff that fits the mainstream then that’s not a blog, if that’s what people believe and want to say, and if that’s the wrong thing for your corporation then they probably shouldn’t be working for you’re corporation". It's like Good to Greats famous saying it’s about getting the right people on the buss, the wrong people whether they blog incorrectly or treat customers badly it’s going to be revealed eventually".

Ophil on disclaimers:
"I’m not a big advocate of opt outs ya know, I’m not about disclaimers [such as] these views are not necessarily the views of the organisation...well then get your brand off it. I guess it comes back to that transparency thing. If you can’t trust your employees to blog how can you trust them to serve customers...if you feel like you have to disclaim any content of your blog then you probably shouldn't have one".

Hopefully the few quotes above have provided you with some degree of insight

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Feb 18, 2009

What Makes Google's Blog So Dam Good?

For some time now the Official Google Blog has been widely recognised as the pinnacle of corporate blogging. It beat rival blogs O’Reilly Radar, Yahoo! Search and the TomPeters blog in Technorati's 2006 world rankings. In 2009 it's the only "corporate blog" to make the Times top 25 blogs. So, what makes it so dam good?

The fundamental factor that makes the Official Google Blog successful is that Google's primary product is a complicated one which needs explaining....and that's precisely what the Google blog does.

It provides insightful, valuable and very usable content that almost everyone with a website would/should be interested in, and it keeps those who want to be "in the know" ahead of the curve, letting them know about Google's emerging services.

sample post:
These posts are designed to cover ways to make your website as successful as possible. Over the course of the next few weeks, our in-house Analytics guru, Avinash Kaushik, and others will demystify the world of website analytics and offer tips for getting the most out of your metrics. -Ed.

So surprise surprise the success of the Official Google Blog is directly related to the services which Google provides, hmmm funny that.

One of the interesting things I've come across in the early stages of my research is that if a company's primary site is interactive, personalised and self explanatory e.g. Amazon, or Facebook then having a blog doesn't add much to the average users relationship with that site. However, a blog can add great value to a readers experience with a company, if that company's site is static, non interactive, and they have a complicated market offering.

Amazon is a great example of an interactive website which also has a blog, Josh Catone seems to think that the Amazon web services blog is pretty great because it uses a brilliant personal voice. But I would beg to differ, it's not the voice that really makes a blog worth reading, it's the value of the content to the reader, and to be perfectly honest Amazon's blog doesn't add a whole lot of value to the customer's experience. This is because the average Amazon experience is personalised, interactive and not overly complicated.

A quick reality check will reveal that very few people read a corporate blog for fun. A crucial insight which I've gained in the last week is that it seems most people will read a corporate blog to achieve something...it seems simple I know, but consider what this mean for companies?

It means if you're going to start a corporate blog, start by asking this question...who are our readers going to be and how does having a blog help them, how does it add value to their lives and experiences with us? If you nail that then you're on a path towards success.

Are They All Becoming Corporate Blogs?

In the recent Times Top 25 Blogs 2009 The Official Google Blog was the only "corporate blog" to make the list. While this is certainly an achievement you could almost argue that other blogs which made the cut such as the Huffington Post or Mashable have become corporates in their own right...so where this distinction is drawn? What makes a Corporate Blog "Corporate"...is a successful blogging empire that makes serious coin now a corporation? Can successful blogs avoid being seen as "corporates" in the eyes of the reader? If so how? If they can't what will the affect of this be, will that corporate image tarnish the content, the perceived independence, and the trust in the blog? I'll Ask500, but would love to hear what you think?

Image from http://www.blogbiz.de/

Feb 13, 2009

Research Proposal Approved

So I've finally been given the green light from Otago University which means that this blog and its twitter account are about to go wild!

Over the last few weeks I've read a hell of a lot of articles, been playing around with Linux and working on a solution for one of the Internets biggest issues, but if this wasn't enough life is about to get a whole lot more intense....interviews interviews interviews.

This coming Tuesday my first dummy interview will get underway, I'll be talking to Phil Osborne who is a prolific blog reader and a lecturer at Otago Uni. He'll be my guinea pig for my interviewing technique and research methodology.

So you can start getting excited coz by next Wednesday you can expect to be fully informed on anything important that transpires....

After that the Snowball will begin and I'll start posting regularly about the insights I gain from the people I talk to :)

Feb 12, 2009

Research Design

I figured that it was quite possible that if you're interested in my research then you're probably interested in how exactly I'm going to go about gaining a insight into readers perceptions of corporate blogs. So I decided to dedicate a post to describing my research design.

I realize that most of you don't want too much info about my methodology because lets face it it's not the sexiest of topics, to keep things simple I've posted basic links about each technique.

Anyway the research design is as follows:
  • Snowball Sampling will be used to find participants.
  • Semi-Structured Interviews will be used to gather data.
  • The audio and visual data of these interviews will be recorded and Jing will be used to record any websites that participants decide to show me.
  • I will then personally transcribe all the data...fun times!
  • Two methods of Content Analysis will be used to analyze the data.
  • Thematic Analysis will be used to pick up any themes of interest.
  • Word frequency Analysis which is simply counting the number of times a word appears in a body of text - will also be used to triangulate the resulting themes from the Thematic Analysis and pick up any themes that may have been missed.

From all of the steps listed above I hope to be able to gain greater perspective on what it is that blog readers value and how corporate blogs can be brought in line with these values.

Please be aware that the embedded links in the above text are very simple explanations of each step in my methodology, if you have any question or would like a more in depth explanation of each technique please just ask.


Jan 24, 2009

A Readers Perspective on Corporate Blogs

If you've some how made your way to this blog then please know that I am just waiting on ethics approval from Otago University...then I will start diving into the world of corporate blogs, keeping you informed all the way!

FYI My research question:
Are the nine recommendations for corporate blogging identified by Cox et al (2008) a complete account of the important features that add value to a blog reader-company relationship?

Their nine (summarised) recommendations from their article "Blogs and the corporation: managing the risk, and reaping the benefits" are:

1. Using an Authentic Voice
2. Allow Comments but Monitor Them
3. Be Honest & Transparent,
4. Add Value/Offer Unique Opinions,
5. Referencing sources,
6. Welcome feedback
7. Don’t Patronise
8. Protect Confidential info
9. Use an Appropriate Disclaimer

Only time will tell whether these nine best practice recommendations hold true in the eyes of the blog reader. Buckle up coz it's guna be one hell of a ride