Will new Blog Council help big companies get small conversations?

I was just reading the blogs this morning (I have a Fast Company column due and am avoiding working on it) but the news about a new blog council caught my eye. In particular, I see Dave Taylor’s response and tend to agree with him. I’m pretty skeptical. Why? Cause I’ve done enough speaking to enough corporations now that if they don’t get why they should be talking with their customers already I don’t get how hanging out at yet another boring industry conference is going to help them to get it.

And, actually, if your company needs help “getting it” then you shouldn’t be hanging out with other companies, but should be hanging out with the teams who are helping the political campaigns. Oh, sorry, I just plugged my column I wrote a while back for this month’s Fast Company.

But, seriously, here’s where corporations go wrong: they don’t get the value of seemingly unimportant conversations.

Here’s a test. Visit a Best Buy store. Now imagine that store without ANY human beings inside. What do you have? A bankrupt store.

So why when I visit BestBuy.com don’t I see any people? Hear any conversations? Is there any wonder why Amazon has a P/E ratio much higher than Best Buy? (Amazon puts real people on its Web site — it’s ironic that an Internet focused company “gets” the value of people and their conversations better than a “brick and mortar” store does since without people a brick and mortar store would simply not exist).

Demonstrates that the industry has a LONG way to go before it understands the real value that seemingly unimportant conversations have.

Every company I’ve spoken to, from Loreal to Target to Boeing gets that you need to pay attention to the New York Times. I don’t know of a single corporation who won’t return a journalist’s phone calls from the New York Times.

But, how many companies respond to a kid in Australia who only has three readers? How many companies respond to comments made on people’s Facebook walls? How many companies meet regularly with bloggers (the BBC and Microsoft are tonight at our blogger dinner in London — no “blog council” was needed to demonstrate to them why having conversations with bloggers are important).

If this council changes THAT in any noticeable way, I’ll cheer them on. But, like Dave Taylor (who also has been around the block dealing with companies) I’m pretty skeptical.

Comments

  1. [...] Scoble and Dave Taylor (who both know a bit about corporate blogging) are both skeptical about the value-add here. I think I have to agree with their skepticism. Last 5 posts in BloggingNo Money In The Long Tail of the Blogosphere? – November 29th, 2007Who Owns Your Content? – October 22nd, 2007How Do You Become a Famous Blogger? – October 11th, 2007Your Business Really Should Be Blogging – October 7th, 2007″Blogmenter” – October 4th, 2007 [...]

  2. Most conversations are daily drivel, only a few ever arise to the level of caring about, whiny ego-snot bloggers included, in fact, doubled.

  3. Most conversations are daily drivel, only a few ever arise to the level of caring about, whiny ego-snot bloggers included, in fact, doubled.

  4. Christopher: when I worked the camera store counter I engaged in all conversations, not only those ones I thought were going to be “important.”

    I made more than my fair share of sales because of that attitude.

    If you’re in business and you are only going to engage in “important” conversations you’ll probably leave a lot of money on the table. Heck, look at Amazon’s P/E ratio compared to Best Buy.

    But, there are ways to bring the really good conversations up to the top. Look at Amazon there again. My book has 30+ reviews on it. Why are some higher than others?

  5. Christopher: when I worked the camera store counter I engaged in all conversations, not only those ones I thought were going to be “important.”

    I made more than my fair share of sales because of that attitude.

    If you’re in business and you are only going to engage in “important” conversations you’ll probably leave a lot of money on the table. Heck, look at Amazon’s P/E ratio compared to Best Buy.

    But, there are ways to bring the really good conversations up to the top. Look at Amazon there again. My book has 30+ reviews on it. Why are some higher than others?

  6. “Now imagine that store without ANY human beings inside.”

    Wouldn’t that be BestBuy.com?

    Maybe I’m not the typical consumer, but when I go to a store, I usually know what I’m looking for, thank you. The only “conversation” I want to have is” “can I ring that up for you?”. followed by “Thank you” Likewise when I go to a commercial web site, I could give a rat’s ass about what some random person thought about a product. As long as the site has inventory at a reasonable price, they’ll have my business. Beyond that, leave me alone. I know where to find you.

  7. “Now imagine that store without ANY human beings inside.”

    Wouldn’t that be BestBuy.com?

    Maybe I’m not the typical consumer, but when I go to a store, I usually know what I’m looking for, thank you. The only “conversation” I want to have is” “can I ring that up for you?”. followed by “Thank you” Likewise when I go to a commercial web site, I could give a rat’s ass about what some random person thought about a product. As long as the site has inventory at a reasonable price, they’ll have my business. Beyond that, leave me alone. I know where to find you.

  8. I disagree. It is also about engaging what we call blogging, but just applying what normal users and small businesses experience, is not enough.

    There is a different need in these organisations, and ‘any blogging experience’ is not the place to learn from, they need specific, different help.

    Which is not offered much, hence the need to go on with that.

    Now if they are successful with this, is yet another story. ;)

  9. I disagree. It is also about engaging what we call blogging, but just applying what normal users and small businesses experience, is not enough.

    There is a different need in these organisations, and ‘any blogging experience’ is not the place to learn from, they need specific, different help.

    Which is not offered much, hence the need to go on with that.

    Now if they are successful with this, is yet another story. ;)

  10. Robert…In it’s original incarnation (2000), the BBY.com site was all about people, people having fun, smart shopping, being your smart friend (in fact this was central). In fact there was a long video produced to introduce the site and the concept to all employees. I tell a little of the story here so you can get somewhat of an idea of what it was like and the philosophy…
    http://www.geise.com/index.php/portfolio/C185/online/

    Now it seems to just be an extension of the Sunday supplement, sell, sell, sell.

  11. Robert…In it’s original incarnation (2000), the BBY.com site was all about people, people having fun, smart shopping, being your smart friend (in fact this was central). In fact there was a long video produced to introduce the site and the concept to all employees. I tell a little of the story here so you can get somewhat of an idea of what it was like and the philosophy…
    http://www.geise.com/index.php/portfolio/C185/online/

    Now it seems to just be an extension of the Sunday supplement, sell, sell, sell.

  12. I’m a little skeptical as well. What this experiment does prove however is that large corporations are taking notice of the blogosphere. By incorporating blogging into their operations, they are expressing the importance of such a medium. This is definitely a positive step that will hopefully bringing blogging into the mainstream.

    Cheers,
    Aidan
    http://www.MappingTheWeb.com

  13. I’m a little skeptical as well. What this experiment does prove however is that large corporations are taking notice of the blogosphere. By incorporating blogging into their operations, they are expressing the importance of such a medium. This is definitely a positive step that will hopefully bringing blogging into the mainstream.

    Cheers,
    Aidan
    http://www.MappingTheWeb.com

  14. To be honest, I don’t think the creation of a council will have a dramatic impact on corporate blogging. The fact there’s some structure happpening doesn’t address issues such as why corporations blog, who writes them, and how you deal with things like disclosure rules and Sarbannes-Oxley.

    Mark

  15. To be honest, I don’t think the creation of a council will have a dramatic impact on corporate blogging. The fact there’s some structure happpening doesn’t address issues such as why corporations blog, who writes them, and how you deal with things like disclosure rules and Sarbannes-Oxley.

    Mark

  16. Great points. The funny thing about that kid in Australia… One of those three could be a NY Times reporter (or Robert Scoble), and companies that ignore the blog will have hurt themselves by dismissing it as too small. Influence is not solely determined by size.

  17. Great points. The funny thing about that kid in Australia… One of those three could be a NY Times reporter (or Robert Scoble), and companies that ignore the blog will have hurt themselves by dismissing it as too small. Influence is not solely determined by size.

  18. The “people in shopping” thing – that’s why I think we need to have wi-fi in retail badly. If I’m thinking of buying something, I go online to check what people say. I’ve sat with my mobile for five or ten minutes logging on to review sites looking up products that I’m thinking about buying. Why doesn’t the shop simply have free wi-fi so I can logon with my PDA and check? I mean, what possible reason is there not to do so? Shops are already setting up paid wi-fi from BT and the like, but it should be free so I can comparison shop and read reviews.

    I’m not likely to not buy it from the shop – the reason I buy retail is when I need something almost immediately.

  19. The “people in shopping” thing – that’s why I think we need to have wi-fi in retail badly. If I’m thinking of buying something, I go online to check what people say. I’ve sat with my mobile for five or ten minutes logging on to review sites looking up products that I’m thinking about buying. Why doesn’t the shop simply have free wi-fi so I can logon with my PDA and check? I mean, what possible reason is there not to do so? Shops are already setting up paid wi-fi from BT and the like, but it should be free so I can comparison shop and read reviews.

    I’m not likely to not buy it from the shop – the reason I buy retail is when I need something almost immediately.

  20. Perhaps the most troubling thing re this group’s anouncement — here we are talking about it, and implicitly about its members, and no one that’s on the bloody thing is weighing in with their POV.

  21. Perhaps the most troubling thing re this group’s anouncement — here we are talking about it, and implicitly about its members, and no one that’s on the bloody thing is weighing in with their POV.

  22. Great discussion all around … thanks for pushing us.

    This is about AND, not OR. Our members are already actively involved in the many blogosphere discussions, conferences, etc. AND we want a place to address issues that are unique to huge companies.

    How do you manage blogs in more than one language? What do you do when 2000 employees have personal blogs? How to train thousand of employees on blog etiquette?

    Conversation is important. That’s why were adding a new conversation.

    Call me, anyone. Glad to talk: 312-932-9000

    Andy Sernovitz
    (“Disaster” is my pro wrestling name)

  23. Great discussion all around … thanks for pushing us.

    This is about AND, not OR. Our members are already actively involved in the many blogosphere discussions, conferences, etc. AND we want a place to address issues that are unique to huge companies.

    How do you manage blogs in more than one language? What do you do when 2000 employees have personal blogs? How to train thousand of employees on blog etiquette?

    Conversation is important. That’s why were adding a new conversation.

    Call me, anyone. Glad to talk: 312-932-9000

    Andy Sernovitz
    (“Disaster” is my pro wrestling name)

  24. I think it’s important to point out that Dell and others on the Blog Council are already listening and participating in conversations. We view this new organization as an additional forum to meet with peers, and to hopefully provide additional focus for those of us who want to engage, learn and improve. Time will tell as to impact, but in the interim let’s give it a chance to evolve into something uniquely positive.

  25. I think it’s important to point out that Dell and others on the Blog Council are already listening and participating in conversations. We view this new organization as an additional forum to meet with peers, and to hopefully provide additional focus for those of us who want to engage, learn and improve. Time will tell as to impact, but in the interim let’s give it a chance to evolve into something uniquely positive.

  26. [...] Good point from Robert Scoble: […] Here’s a test. Visit a Best Buy store. Now imagine that store without ANY human beings inside. What do you have? A bankrupt store. So why when I visit BestBuy.com [their website] don’t I see any people? Hear any conversations? Is there any wonder why Amazon has a P/E ratio much higher than Best Buy? (Amazon puts real people on its Web site — it’s ironic that an Internet focused company “gets” the value of people and their conversations better than a “brick and mortar” store does since without people a brick and mortar store would simply not exist).  […] [...]

  27. The Blog Council needs to learn how to blog themselves before they can help others and promote “best practices in corporate blogging.” What’s next, teaching Tiger Woods Golf?

  28. The Blog Council needs to learn how to blog themselves before they can help others and promote “best practices in corporate blogging.” What’s next, teaching Tiger Woods Golf?

  29. Robert; The only thing you didn’t make clear is that this group is for companies that already have blogs and social media (DELL, Microsoft), not for those that want to get into social media. They want to network with peers. I think it is way to early to be uber critical of this group. Just my POV.

  30. Robert; The only thing you didn’t make clear is that this group is for companies that already have blogs and social media (DELL, Microsoft), not for those that want to get into social media. They want to network with peers. I think it is way to early to be uber critical of this group. Just my POV.

  31. Robert, it’s ironic to see you writing about “speaking… to corporations.” I don’t believe you have *ever* spoken to a corporation. Corporations are legal fictions. They’re inert–they don’t understand anything. They do, however, employ people, some of whom “get it” and many who don’t.

    If memory serves, you became known by putting a human face on a rather large corporation.

    So, a group of people from large corporations are going to get together and work on common issues as a community. What’s the problem with that?

  32. Robert, it’s ironic to see you writing about “speaking… to corporations.” I don’t believe you have *ever* spoken to a corporation. Corporations are legal fictions. They’re inert–they don’t understand anything. They do, however, employ people, some of whom “get it” and many who don’t.

    If memory serves, you became known by putting a human face on a rather large corporation.

    So, a group of people from large corporations are going to get together and work on common issues as a community. What’s the problem with that?

  33. I engaged in all conversations

    So you talked about Sports, Soap Operas and the weather all day then? Deciding what conversations are important can be tricky, but going willy-nilly crazy is no answer either. I have had MANY clerks that were “engaged in [pointless] conversations”, while I am waiting, product in hand.

  34. I engaged in all conversations

    So you talked about Sports, Soap Operas and the weather all day then? Deciding what conversations are important can be tricky, but going willy-nilly crazy is no answer either. I have had MANY clerks that were “engaged in [pointless] conversations”, while I am waiting, product in hand.

  35. I’m more than a little disappointed in your assessment, Robert. As Kami correctly points out, this group isn’t about companies trying to get started, it’s a group dedicated to helping each other learn and grow in an environment that is comfortable to them.

    Why is this a bad thing?

    As someone who has been in a huge company doing exactly this kind of work, I’m actually pretty shocked that you have issue with this. Either you’re saying that the job you did at MS wasn’t that tough and you couldn’t/didn’t benefit from the advice of others in similar positions, or you’re saying that other people in similar positions don’t have anything relevant to offer anyone else.

  36. I’m more than a little disappointed in your assessment, Robert. As Kami correctly points out, this group isn’t about companies trying to get started, it’s a group dedicated to helping each other learn and grow in an environment that is comfortable to them.

    Why is this a bad thing?

    As someone who has been in a huge company doing exactly this kind of work, I’m actually pretty shocked that you have issue with this. Either you’re saying that the job you did at MS wasn’t that tough and you couldn’t/didn’t benefit from the advice of others in similar positions, or you’re saying that other people in similar positions don’t have anything relevant to offer anyone else.

  37. After needing help with an eSata RAID config and a subsystem enclosure, some dorkus manning the hard drive area at Fry’s was fully engaged in some ‘small’ conversation with another friend/customer — about Babylon 5 reruns, it went on forever, even buffeting my repeated attempts to cut in, so I decided to move along, eventually getting what I needed online.

    Not ALL conversations are equal, as the hours and hours of borrrring Scoble Show material can attest.

  38. After needing help with an eSata RAID config and a subsystem enclosure, some dorkus manning the hard drive area at Fry’s was fully engaged in some ‘small’ conversation with another friend/customer — about Babylon 5 reruns, it went on forever, even buffeting my repeated attempts to cut in, so I decided to move along, eventually getting what I needed online.

    Not ALL conversations are equal, as the hours and hours of borrrring Scoble Show material can attest.

  39. Jake: It’s because I’m skeptical, that’s all. There’s plenty of information sharing on blogs themselves about how to do this work and there was more than one public conference where corporate blogging was discussed.

    If this turns out to be a good thing, I’ll be happy to cheer it along.

    Me? I’m skeptical about it. Probably BECAUSE I worked inside a big company (two, actually) as a blogger.

    The thing we need is FEWER committees and MORE listeners.

    If this brings that about it’ll be a good thing.

  40. Jake: It’s because I’m skeptical, that’s all. There’s plenty of information sharing on blogs themselves about how to do this work and there was more than one public conference where corporate blogging was discussed.

    If this turns out to be a good thing, I’ll be happy to cheer it along.

    Me? I’m skeptical about it. Probably BECAUSE I worked inside a big company (two, actually) as a blogger.

    The thing we need is FEWER committees and MORE listeners.

    If this brings that about it’ll be a good thing.

  41. Nathan: > what’s the problem with that?

    No problem. Why are you so defensive?

    If this is a good thing, join up and make the world better and prove my skepticism unnecessary.

  42. Nathan: > what’s the problem with that?

    No problem. Why are you so defensive?

    If this is a good thing, join up and make the world better and prove my skepticism unnecessary.

  43. As I noted in my own post on this, I was involved in creating a similar group for the discussion of internal communications. Very large corporations (as you know) face some challenges that are unique. I think a group of bloggers or blog managers from very large corporations having a comfortable, informal, face-to-face get-together to talk about those unique issues is likely to yield good results. At least, it has in the ROI Employee Communications Forum.

  44. As I noted in my own post on this, I was involved in creating a similar group for the discussion of internal communications. Very large corporations (as you know) face some challenges that are unique. I think a group of bloggers or blog managers from very large corporations having a comfortable, informal, face-to-face get-together to talk about those unique issues is likely to yield good results. At least, it has in the ROI Employee Communications Forum.