Why companies should use blogs

7 Keys to Getting Your Employees to Recycle

Posted on June 19, 2007 by Roland

Recycling is one of those few good habits that we know we should adopt but we still keep putting it off. We make up excuses for our lethargic approach towards it, like "it's complicated" or "we don't know how to do it".

To summarize, it is hard to get yourself to recycle, let alone your employees. Everyone is busy around the workplace so the extra load of work seems very hard for your employees to take. But whenever you have to inspire others to do good, you should start by becoming a role model yourself.

Keeping all that in mind, we have compiled a list of 7 steps which will motivate your employees towards recycling and healthy office waste removal which will result in an environmental friendly office atmosphere.

1. Education

First and foremost, you need to educate your employees about the significance and importance of recycling. Make a presentation about how adopting environmental friendly habits can serve the world. Put together some charts backed up by facts and figures.

After you are done with the presentation, don’t just dump those factsheets. Put them to good use by placing those charts around the waste disposal facility so that the workers in your office notice them every time they pass by it.

2. Motivation

After you have educated your employees about the positive impacts that recycling has on our environment, the next step is to motivate them towards recycling. Now the facts alone may motivate some of your employees but not all of them.

So in addition to the intrinsic rewards you should offer them extrinsic rewards too. For example, you can give bonus to a person who played an important role in recycling in your office so that other employees get motivated to follow his footsteps too. You can also arrange a party for your employees as a reward for recycling.


Interview: Motorola CTO Padmasree Warrior

Posted on June 19, 2007 by Roland

Padmasree Warrior is not an ordinary blogger. As Motorola’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), she handles an R&D budget of about $4 billion and defines the technology strategy for more than 22,000 Motorola engineers all over the world. Despite her busy schedule, she started a very interesting blog in September 2006, “Bits at the Edge.” As someone on her staff told me that she often reads my “Emerging Technology Trends” blog, I wanted to know more about her and especially why one of the world’s technology leaders wanted to be present online in such a personal way. She was kind enough to answer my questions. Below are selected excerpts of the friendly and open exchange I had with her last week.

Motorola CTO Padmasree WarriorYou can see on the left an official photo of Padmasree Warrior (Credit: Motorola).

Roland: First of all, let me thank you for spending some of your precious time with me. I would like to start with something which is at the boundary of viral marketing, which can include your blog, and traditional marketing. Why are you unable to generate the same kind of buzz around your new phones the way Apple is doing with its to-be-released iPhone?

Padmasree: We are doing pretty well with our new product portfolio that launched in May.

Roland: Will you buy an iPhone yourself?

Padmasree: Sure. I’m a tech enthusiast and am curious to see it. I’ll test it out.

Roland: Now, let’s return to your blog. Why did you start it? Did you have internal or external goals for it?

Padmasree: I just thought it was important for me to talk about issues that matter to the industry and also share things that I am most passionate about. I want to build a bridge to connect people inside and outside our company. Of course, it was a personal decision, first and foremost. I want to have a vehicle to generate discussion across and over the boundaries of a large corporation, in a thoughtful yet fun way.

Roland: Were you frightened by the risks of negative or offensive comments and their potential effects on you or your company?

Padmasree: I was not. When I insisted that my blog be readable by the entire world, naturally some concerns were raised within the company, but we were able to work it out.

Roland: By the way, are your blog comments filtered?

Padmasree: Not really: they’re “moderated.” With the help of my staff, we remove what is obvious spam or derogatory comments. Otherwise, all the other comments — even the ones which disagree with my views — are posted.

Roland: On a related subject, as Motorola is a public company, how do you deal with financial matters on your blog, especially during so-called “quiet periods”?

Padmasree: There is a fine line here. My blog is not a channel for new product announcements. I seldom write about financials. I am sensitive to the fact that my blog is read across the globe, by people with diverse backgrounds and interpretations may vary based on cultural and regional nuances. My blog is simply about what I find important in my life.

Roland: What kind of reactions do you receive on your blog?

Padmasree: They’re mostly positive. And sometimes they are surprising. During a recent trip to Japan, I learned that not only all the Motorola employees but everyone I talked to from the media has read my blog.

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Roland: This leads me to another topic. How many readers do you have? And where are they coming from?

Padmasree: The readers come from all over the world, both inside and outside the company. You might be surprised to learn that I’ve entirely designed my blog myself — including the sidebars.

Roland: Apparently, you’ve anticipated my next question. Time is often an issue for serious bloggers. And there is no doubt you’re one: the quality and the length of your posts can attest. So how do you handle this? Do you write your posts? Or do you ask someone in your staff to transcribe your ideas?

Padmasree: I personally write everything that is published on my blog. I do not delegate the task of translating my thoughts and opinions to anyone else. I am very insistent and particular about this. By the way, when I present or speak, I write the slides myself. And regarding time, I would like to be able to publish more than I do. So, I mainly write during plane trips — or even at night.

Roland: Of course — and without any puns intended — you’re a mobile warrior. What do you carry in your bag when you take a plane?

Padmasree: Right now, I’m using our Q 9h smart phone. It’s quad-band and I can do everything I need with during trips.

Roland: What did you learn the most from this first year of blogging?

Padmasree: Blogging is stimulating, fun and to be honest, time consuming. But in the end, the time and effort are well worth it, because technology is all about building human connections. For example, I’ve learned so much acting as a Mentor that it was almost overwhelming. I hope to continue this kind of activity and to spread its power with the help of my blog.

Roland: So will you continue to blog for a long time? Or will you write a book?

Padmasree: I would like to write a book, but I definitively do not have enough time for that right now. A blog is easier to handle.

Roland: Padmasree, thank you again for this conversation. And I sure hope to meet you during your next trip to France.

[Disclaimer: I have absolutely no financial connection with Motorola. I don’t even own a Motorola phone. And this interview has been reviewed by Padmasree Warrior for fact-checking.]

Sources: Conversation with Padmasree Warrior, June 12, 2007; and various websites

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Social media and the Inc. 500

Posted on January 11, 2007 by Roland

A few months ago, in “Blogging takes lots of time,” I introduced you to the research work of Nora Ganim Barnes, Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Now, with her colleague Eric Mattson, she has just completed a study of the Inc. 500 and their use of social media. Their report is aptly named “The Hype is Real: Social Media Invades the Inc. 500.”

First, what is the Inc. 500 list? Each year, Inc. magazine produces the Inc. 500, a list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. So it’s very different from the Fortune 500 list. [Note: I’m not including any URLs to the Inc. magazine because — at least today — you cannot skip a recurring ad on their home page. If you want to see the list, use Google with a “inc 500 list” query. And on the results page, click on the cached version. Sometimes, I’m wondering if some companies really want to annoy you or make business.]

Now, here is an introductory quote from the authors of the study: “The Inc. 500 are thoroughly involved in social media at an adoption rate more than twice that of the Fortune 500. Best yet, this is probably the most valid study on corporate blogging etc. done to date, with a very low error level of just +/- 3%.”

Here is a link to the full report (PDF format, 5 pages, 122 KB).And below is a chart showing how the companies which were surveyed are using social media tools (Credit: Nora Ganim Barnes and Eric Mattson).

Actual usage of social media

The companies were asked if they were using the six social media discussed above and, if yes, for how long they had been using them. Again, the results are surprising. While familiarity is related to adoption, even the least familiar media of wikis has 17% adoption. All six forms of social media are far more widespread than anticipated.

As the researchers say, “The social media revolution is here. The hype is real.”

Source: Nora Ganim Barnes and Eric Mattson, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, January 2007

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Travelocity’s Window Seat blog

Posted on December 24, 2006 by Roland

Travelocity logo.In this holiday period, it’s perfectly appropriate that Travelocity, one of the largest online travel sites, decided to start a blog. It is called “The Window Seat” and is buried in the corporate website. I’ve looked deeply inside this blog, which started in November 2006, but was officially launched on December 18. And I’m very disappointed by what I’ve found. But read more…

The birth of this blog has been mentioned both in a press release and in this welcome postwritten by “Travelocity editor-at-large,” Amy Ziff. Here is what she wrote that day.

When I first imagined this blog, I pictured a place that would speak to me like a seasoned traveler as well as a friend. I envisioned a place where travelers from all over the globe could partake in the discussion. Thus, The Window Seat is a community by and for travelers. It exists for us to log our impressions about travel and learn from others. Over time, with your help, it will be an honest and relevant resource for the latest travel news, insider destination information and travel advice.

She also mentioned that there will be regular contributors. And this is where things start to look pretty bad. If I am correct, 23 posts have been published by 5 authors since the beginning of the blog. But where is the list of these contributors with their bios? Nowhere in sight — except if it’s well hidden.

And is there a blogging policy? Yes, in a way. There is a link to the general Travelocity’s Terms of use that you might enjoy if you’re a lawyer.

What about posting a comment on this blog? You’ll be welcome by this very ambiguous message.

If you haven’t left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won’t appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.

Is there a document telling you what is the process for approval? None that I’ve found.

So what about the blog contents? I have to admit that I was so disappointed by Travelocity’s lack of transparency that I didn’t really read the posts. And if Travelocity doesn’t understand what transparency means for a blog, how will you trust this company when booking a trip?

Source: Travelocity’s Window Seat blog

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Interview: Pierre Vandeginste

Posted on December 18, 2006 by Roland

Pierre VandeginstePierre Vandeginste is an independent journalist who has been writing about science and new technologies for 24 years in science magazines such as La Recherche as well as news magazines like Marianne or L’Evénement du jeudi, trade magazines (01 Informatique, SVM) and at times for newspapers such as Le Monde or Libération and recently the business newspaper Les Échos. Three months ago, he started his Aïe! Tech blog focused on the same subjects and which rapidly became one of the best resources available in French. I was intrigued by the name of his blog, which sounds like ‘High-tech,’ but really means ‘Ouch! Tech.’ So I’ve asked him why he chose this name — and many other things. Below are selected excerpts of the long conversation we had together (in French).

Roland: Pourquoi avoir démarré un blog? 

Pierre: Après avoir fréquenté Calvacom et Compuserve dans les années quatre-vingts, j’ai découvert Internet en 1993 aux USA quand je vivais en tant que correspondant étranger à San Francisco. A l’époque, je participais à des communautés virtuelles telles que The Well ou le BMUG (Berkeley Macintosh User Group). Depuis, j’ai toujours songé à démarrer un site, mais ce n’est qu’en août 2006 que j’ai formulé un projet à la fois motivant et réaliste.

Roland: Quels étaient vos buts en démarrant ce blog?

Pierre: Ils étaient multiples. Je voulais bien sûr m’en servir comme d’une carte de visite, toucher de nouveaux publics — et trouver ainsi de nouvelles façons d’exercer mon activité de journaliste indépendant. Mais surtout, ce blog va me servir de bac à sable pour la préparation d’un livre à venir qui traitera bien entendu de hautes technologies.

Roland: Pourquoi avoir choisi un nom tel que ‘Aïe! Tech’ qui évoque à la fois ‘High-tech’ et ‘Ouch! Tech’?

Pierre: Comme vous l’avez compris, il y a une part d’ironie dans le choix de ce nom. Dans ce blog, tout comme dans le livre que j’ai en projet, je veux parler des chocs, des accrochages, des malentendus, entre technologie et société. Par exemple de ces phénomènes de “hype” qui produisent chroniquement des idoles (comme les systèmes experts) que l’on brûle deux ans plus tard, de ces fausses bonnes idées comme l’ordinateur sans clavier, de ces flops retentissants comme le Newton d’Apple ou Iridium (téléphonie satellitaire), des paranoïas (RFID, nanotechnologies), des faux gourous et des croyances mal placées. Ou encore des incompréhensions qui ont la vie dure: par exemple, je suis sidéré de voir que beaucoup de gens pensent qu’on peut savoir où ils sont parce qu’ils ont un GPS qui transmet leur position. Un GPS n’émet pas, il reçoit. C’est ce type de fausses croyances que je veux démonter.

Roland: Vous avez choisi une plate-forme de publication qui n’est pas très connue en France, Squarespace, et qui est payante. Pourquoi ce choix?

Pierre: Je voulais une plate-forme hébergée et complète. J’ai essayé 8 services, dont Blogger et Typepad. Après plusieurs semaines de tests, j’ai choisi Squarespace pour plusieurs raisons: aucune publicité, un bon support et une réelle élégance dans la conception et l’interface de publication. Payer $12 par mois pour un tel service me convient.

Roland: Que trouve-t-on sur votre blog qui a démarré le 28 août dernier?

Pierre: Je m’efforce d’approcher le rythme d’un billet quotidien sur les sujets les plus divers, des énergies renouvelables aux puces RFID et de l’espace aux nanotechnologies. En fait, mon blog fonctionne un peu sur le même principe qu’un des vôtres (Technology Trends) avec deux nuances de taille: le mien est publié en français et mes billets sont assez courts. Je ne cherche surtout pas à “couvrir” un secteur mais au contraire à proposer des trouvailles instructives, je dirais même édifiantes, pédagogiques. Et tout en fournissant des liens vers des explications plus fouillées, je favorise en général la réflexion, le commentaire. Je souhaite susciter le débat.

Roland: Etes-vous satisfait par l’audience de votre blog?

Pierre: Très honnêtement, je ne crois pas avoir de chiffres fiables à ma disposition. J’ai installé plusieurs types de compteurs qui me donnent des résultats si différents que cela en devient risible. Mais je pense avoir reçu entre 1 000 et 2 000 visiteurs en novembre, après trois douzaines de billets. Et autant pendant la première quinzaine de décembre.

Roland: Et avez-vous fait la connaissance de nouveaux amis via votre blog?

Pierre: J’ai en effet noué de nouveaux contacts, mais j’ai également retrouvé des amis perdus de vue et qui travaillent dans le domaine des arts graphiques. Cela a provoqué un phénomène curieux. Pendant quelques semaines, la majorité de mes visiteurs utilisaient des Macintosh.

Roland: Passez-vous beaucoup de temps pour écrire, animer et gérer votre blog?

Pierre: C’est très variable, mais j’y passe au minimum une heure par jour.

Roland: Une dernière question: quels seront les thèmes de votre futur livre?

Pierre: Il y aura des sections consacrées aux baguettes magiques, aux croyances, aux fausses bonnes idées… Mais il n’est pas encore figé.

Roland: Pierre, merci de m’avoir consacré du temps. Et bonne chance pour vos projets à venir.


Source: Conversation between Pierre Vandeginste and Roland Piquepaille, December 2006

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Lonely Planet’s Travel Blog

Posted on December 6, 2006 by Roland

Lonely Planet logoIf you like to travel, you probably have several Lonely Planet guidebooks in your personal library. In fact, I just checked my bookshelves and I have a dozen of these guides. Not because they’re the best, but because they’re my preferred source of information when I want to discover a new country. And now, Lonely Planet has just launched its Travel Blog which will be written by 326 professional writers. Come with me and enjoy this trip provided by Lonely Planet as much as I did.

First, when you reach this new blog — launched on November 19, 2006 — you’re greeted by this: “326 Authors, 173 countries, and 400 travel-loving staff. We’re using our network to bring you the best in travel blogging - everything from breaking news and industry insight to incisive analysis of the issues that affect the way we travel today.” And their blogging policy is also pretty straightforward. So, let’s start with two good points for Lonely Planet (LP for the rest of this note).

Now, let’s look at the contents from a quantitative view. Since its launch two weeks ago, 15 articles have been posted on LP’s new blog. And because LP didn’t make a big hoopla about it, there are only 15 comments which have been posted — but you need to register, and many people are reluctant to do it. So this doesn’t mean much so far. Update (December 7, 2006): In fact, you don’t need to register, as an alert reader told me.

Still, as LP blog’s URL is well integrated into LP’s website (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/blogs/travel_blog/ to be precise), it’s highly possible that blog search engines have not found it yet. In fact, I’ve discovered LP’s blog through the Jaunted site, a ‘travel guide for globetrotters’ in this short story.

So let’s look now at where the LP’s blog has been in these last two weeks. Bloggers have been writing from various places in Africa, the Americas, Australia, and other places. And the posts carry the same feeling as the books: they’re are personal. In other words, LP scores some other good points here — at least in my opinion.

For example, take a look at this post about Hanoi eateries in Vietnam, and simply named “ Unphogettable.”

Vegetarianism is a great thing. But so are gigantic photos of slabs of dead animal… as are delicious noodle soups made from those very same animals. Phans of pho, welcome to chin and tai heaven. The Stickyrice blog is an exhaustive guide to the eateries of Hanoi, Vietnam. While its focus is pho, Stickyrice also covers stand-up snacks, ice-cold coffee and seasonal fruits.

Doesn’t give you the urge to go to Vietnam? And should I say that the LP blog also carries a very nice picture?

As a conclusion, if you enjoy traveling, you should read the Lonely Planet’s Travel Blog and subscribe to its RSS feed. Highly recommended blog!!!

Source: Lonely Planet’s Travel Blog, December 2006

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Interview: Viviane Champalaune

Posted on November 30, 2006 by Roland

Viviane ChampalauneViviane Champalaune is a 26-year-old woman who likes the sun and decided to live in Nice instead of Paris. With her partner, Sylvain Briant, a 28-year-old guy who also prefers to live on the Riviera, they built a ‘webmarketing’ agency named Wizz-U. And when they discovered the potential of blogs, they decided to create a service named Blogmarketing. In fact, they want to help companies which don’t have the time to run their own business blogs. And as this kind of service is still in its infancy in France, I’ve asked Viviane if she could give me more details about it. You can find below our exchange conducted via e-mail (in French).

Roland: Qu’est-ce qui vous a donné l’idée de lancer Blogmarketing?  

Viviane: Aussi loin que je me souvienne, j’ai toujours voulu être mon propre patron… C’est Sylvain qui m’a proposé l’idée de génie et c’est ensemble que nous avons créé Wizz-U. Cette idée lui trottait dans la tête depuis plusieurs mois et, n’ayant pas la possibilité de la développer chez son employeur, il m’a proposé de nous associer et de la lancer nous-mêmes.

Roland: Vous avez choisi d’unifier le site de Wizz-U avec Blogmarketing sous forme de blog: Pourquoi? Est-ce qu’un site web traditionnel vous paraissait trop cher ou simplement inutile?

Viviane: Wizz-U est à l’origine une agence de conseil en webmarketing (qui avait son site internet). Nous avons créé la solution Blogmarketing pour répondre aux attentes de nos clients et partenaires.
Nous avons choisi de nous concentrer sur Blogmarketing et d’unifier notre image et notre communication (d’où la suppression du site et le regroupement sur le blog).
Notre activité principale étant la création et l’animation éditoriale de blogs d’entreprise, il semblait logique de présenter notre prestation sous forme de blog… Il nous permet de vendre nos services, tout en montrant notre savoir-faire.

Roland: Pourquoi avez-vous choisi la plate-forme WordPress?

Viviane: WordPress est la plate-forme que nous utilisons et que nous recommandons à nos clients, pour plusieurs raisons :
- plate-forme “open source”
- entreprise sérieuse avec une bonne équipe
- plate-forme stable et bien entretenue
- de nombreux “plugins” possibles…
Cependant, si un client souhaite utiliser une autre plate-forme, nous sommes également à l’aise avec Typepad, Dotclear et d’autres…

Roland: Vous avez démarré ce blog il y a 4 mois en juillet 2006. Etes-vous satisfaite du résultat?

Viviane: Oui, je suis vraiment contente ! La sauce commence à prendre… Une communauté est en train de se former autour de Blogmarketing.
J’aimerais bien que les commentaires soient plus nombreux… mais bon, comme tous les blogueurs!

Roland: Et est-ce que ce blog vous a aidé à trouver d’autres clients?

Viviane: Oui, ce blog est en quelque sorte une carte de visite, une plaquette, un exemple…
Comme nous avons une clause de confidentialité avec nos clients et que nous publions en leur nom, nous ne pouvons (et ne voulons) pas communiquer sur leurs sociétés. Notre blog est donc important pour aider nos prospects à se faire une idée du résultat!

Roland: D’ailleurs, qui sont les clients de Blogmarketing?

Viviane: Nous n’avons pas de client type! Blogmarketing s’adapte à toutes les entreprises, à tous les secteurs…
Je peux cependant vous dire que nous travaillons déjà sur les secteurs suivants : nouvelles technos, solutions 2.0, beauté et bien-être, immobilier, collectivités…

Roland: Un blog d’entreprise nécessite beaucoup de temps — et de talents divers. Comment recrutez-vous les blogueurs pour vous aider?

Viviane: C’est bien pour ça que nous proposons l’animation de blogs, pour décharger les entreprises qui souhaitent avoir un blog mais qui n’ont pas le temps de s’en occuper…
Nous animons un certain nombre de blogs nous-mêmes (affinités avec le sujet) et nous faisons appel à des blogueurs spécialisés dans tel ou tel domaine, en fonction de nos besoins.

Roland: Par ailleurs, un blog de qualité coûte de l’argent, surtout en temps investi, et contrairement à certaines idées reçues. Quels sont vos arguments face à un responsable d’entreprise qui vous dit: “Je peux faire mon blog moi-même”?

Viviane: Je leur dis “allez-y!” et rappelez-moi dans trois mois!
Non, sans rire, il y a beaucoup de patrons qui ont des blogs perso et c’est très bien!
Blogmarketing a été conçu pour répondre à un besoin de l’entreprise. Et là, il y a beaucoup moins de patrons, dirigeants, collaborateurs… qui ont encore le temps de s’y investir.
Je dirais même plus : un patron qui s’investit sur son blog perso, qui prend des heures le week-end pour poster quelques billets sera plus à même de venir nous voir car il connaît l’investissement et lés bénéfices du blog.

Roland: Et vous, combien de temps y passez-vous?

Viviane: Beaucoup! Et j’adore ça!

Roland: Vous avez également lancé une série d’interviews que vous qualifiez d’”exclusives,” mais qui ne sont finalement que des réponses à un questionnaire unique quel que soit l’interviewé. Quel est le but de ces interviews?

Viviane: Oui, vous avez raison, nos “interviews” ne sont pas comparables aux vôtres… mais je pense que l’objectif est le même : donner la parole aux blogueurs!
Notre but est de montrer qu’il y a autant de blogs d’entreprises que d’entreprises et que chacun a des objectifs et des résultats différents.
C’est une façon de présenter des blogs que l’on aime bien en donnant la parole aux intéressés et de connaître et faire connaître des blogs et surtout des blogueurs.
Enfin, cela montre à nos visiteurs que l’on peut bloguer sur tout à condition de le faire bien!
Au fait, si vous souhaitez répondre à nos questions… vous connaissez mon adresse email!

Roland: Avez-vous une dernière remarque, ou un message à passer ici?

Viviane: Oui, je suis très contente que vous m’ayez contacté! Je vous remercie et j’attends avec impatience les prochaines interviews de femmes…
Je pense que je vais m’y mettre aussi sur Blogmarketing.

Roland: Viviane, merci pour vos réponses. Et je répondrai bientôt à votre questionnaire.


Sources: Conversation between Viviane Champalaune and Roland Piquepaille, November 2006

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Tips for launching your business blog

Posted on November 26, 2006 by Roland

After weeks or months of preparation, you think you’re ready to launch your business blog. You’ve found the theme, you’ve assembled the blogging team, the software platform has been tested internally and everything looks good. But think twice before officially launching your blog. You might be surprised later. Before telling the world that there is a new blog in town, here are some essential rules to remember.

Aviva Directory is a paid general Web directory which has been launched in 2005 by Jeffrey Behrendt, in Ottawa, Canada — at least if I’ve found the correct information. It has recently published 21 Surefire Tips for a Successful Blog Launch. Some of the tips mentioned there are crucial while others can be forgotten, mainly because they’re not specifically intended for business blogs. Their first tip can be applied to all kinds of blogs, but it is particularly important for corporate blogs.

Connect with your readers through an about page and welcome message. One of the best ways to make a lasting impact is to connect on a personal level with your readers. That means letting them know who you are and what your background is.I totally agree with this one. And you should do it. It’s always frustrating to have to click on a dozen of links before finding who writes a blog — if you’re interested of course.

It’s interesting that Aviva Directory — which is not a blog — doesn’t show the same transparency that it claims is essential: try to find who’s behind the site and you’ll see what I mean. But let’s move to an even more important advice.

Don’t get seen naked: Never launch a blog with fewer than 5 posts. In the blogosphere you typically get just one shot at impressing a visitor or fellow blogger. Too many new bloggers throw up two posts and then start working on promotion. In the world of blogging, you are selling yourself and your writing. If you can’t give people a fully dressed picture of what your blog is all about and what type of writing will be on it, then why should they throw a link your way, or subscribe to your RSS feed?

In fact even large companies forget this. This is why I’m usually waiting more than a week before reviewing a corporate blog after its official birth. But many people are not as patient as I am, and will never return to your blog if there are no valid or interesting contents.

The next tips are related to your RSS feeds. But let’s look only at the first one.

Make sure a link to your RSS feed is available above the fold. Though they won’t help your AdSense revenues much, subscribers are the lifeblood of any successful blog. These devotees are often the ones providing you with regular comments, and are far more likely to be webmasters themselves (meaning more links). It should be obvious to anyone launching a blog, but it’s amazing how many new bloggers do not make a link to their RSS feed readily available.

I totally agree with the importance of showing to your readers how to subscribe to your RSS feed. However, these RSS feeds come in various flavors, and the blogging platforms are not all very friendly with you when you need to find a link to your RSS feed.

But I disagree with Aviva about AdSense: this might be somewhat important for a personal blog, but is irrelevant for a business blog. What is instead important is to subscribe to your RSS feed yourself to see how the outside world can see you your blog. Will you include your full posts on only some excerpts in your RSS feeds? I’ll revisit this subject in a full note one day.

Let’s skip the tips about “social bookmarking” or “getting networked” and move to the “link building” section. The article says you should “submit your blog to blog directories and to general web directories such as DMOZ and Aviva.” I don’t know about Aviva, but if it’s important to tell DMOZ or Yahoo! that you have a new blog, it’s like sending a message in a bottle: you’ll have to wait for months before these directories accept you. And if they don’t, they will not tell you.

There is one big tip missing from the Aviva list: be sure to ping all the major blogging directories — and the search engines — when you post a new note. This is usually easily done through options available in your blogging software.

These are some essential tips but you might have additional ones not mentioned here. Do you have some other tips for launching a blog? Please tell me about them.

Sources: Aviva Directory, Ottawa, October 23, 2006

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Pearson’s wiki business book

Posted on November 21, 2006 by Roland

Our world has certainly changed if Pearson, the publishing giant behind the Financial Times, Les Echos or Penguin Books, has decided to use a wiki to create a new business book. According to the Wall Street Journal in U.K.’s Pearson Tests The Group Dynamic For a ‘Wiki’ Book (paid registration required), Pearson will collaborate with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School on a book exploring how businesses can use online communities, consumer-generated media such as blogs and other online services. [Update: An alert reader — connected with Shared Insights — wrote me to say that there was a free link to the Wall Street Journal article mentioned above.] But read more…

This book will be called “We Are Smarter Than Me” and will be written by people like you and me who will submit their contributions to the WeAreSmarter.orgwebsite whose motto is “Be an author of the first networked book on business.” The site contains the chapter headings and a few starting pages. Here is how the book will be written.

For instance, a chapter titled “We Can Research It,” tells an anecdote about an Australian man who started a mail-order brewery based on votes by 20,000 cellphone users on what makes an ideal beer. Other participants can then edit the contents or add anecdotes.

The wiki leaders expect business consultants and executives to contribute to the book site, which, like Wikipedia, doesn’t pay writers for their work. The site is open to anyone, but does ask contributors to supply information. WeAreSmarter expects to close submissions to the book wiki by the end of the first quarter next year and turn it over to paid ghostwriters to turn it into a 120-page business book aimed at the fast-growing airport bookstore market.

The contributors will not be paid but the book will not be free. It’s expected to be sold for $25.99. And all profits will be given to a charity chosen by the contributors.

The WeAreSmarter.org gives more details on the goals of the book.

The central premise of We Are Smarter Than Me is that large groups of people (”We”) can, and should, take responsibility for traditional business functions that are currently performed by companies, industries and experts (”Me”).

And here is an example taken in the real world.

Procter & Gamble is recruiting 600,000 housewives to help market its products through word of mouth. In return for much greater reach and impact, the company is giving up control of the marketing message, relying on its community of customers/marketers to craft their own message in the most appropriate fashion.

If you’re not familiar with this Procter & Gamble’s project, please visit its Vocalpoint website (free registration).

The initiators of the project have planned to invite members of their communities, which are much bigger than I would have thought: Wharton Business School (675,000 invitees), MIT Sloan School of Management (400,000 invitees), Pearson (500,000 invitees) and Shared Insights (250,000 invitees).

For more information, you might want to read this press release, “More Than a Million Invited to Write and Edit First Collaborative Book on Management Best Practices.”

But how many of these people will contribute? Let’s go back to the Wall Street Journal for an answer.

One of the big challenges will be finding ways to motivate the professional experts, many of whom make money by writing books themselves, says Mr. Malone of MIT. “The question is, can we create an incentive structure so they’ll put in some of their best thinking, or will this just be incidental thinking?”

All participaants will have to sign a Creative Commons license to avoid the issue of many individual copyrights.

Now, let’s wait until next year to see if the wiki process can be successful for such a project.

Sources: William M. Bulkeley, The Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2006; and various websites

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Tips for successful business blogs

Posted on November 16, 2006 by Roland

Two weeks ago, Northeastern University, Massachusetts, released the results of a survey about what makes a successful corporate blog?This study was done in collaboration with Backbone Media Inc. and looked at the factors that contribute to a successful business blog. Not surprisingly, these factors include transparency, lots of time and a company’s ability to engage in a dialogue with its customers. Another key factor is the blogger’s writing style who has to be at the same time entertaining and personal. But read more…

This “Blogging Success Study” has been conducted by Northeastern University Professor Walter Carl and his students.

The research team interviewed twenty corporate bloggers from companies of varied size and industry, and asked each blogger a series of standardized questions. Only bloggers who had been blogging for over one year and considered their blogging efforts successful were eligible to participate.

The team selected blogs from Adobe, Marqui, Microsoft and Stonyfield Farm among others. Here is a link to the — long — full report.

After doing all the interviews, the research team identified five factors for success.

  • Culture: If a company has particular cultural traits worth revealing or a bad reputation it wants to repudiate, blogging can be an attractive option.
  • Transparency: Critical to establishing credibility and trust with an audience. People want to see an honest portrayal of a company.
  • Time: It takes a lot of time to set up, research and write a quality blog. Companies need to identify a person who has the time or whose schedule is freed up to make the time.
  • Dialogue: A company’s ability and willingness to engage in a dialogue with their customer base about topics that the customer base is interested in is critical to its blogging success.
  • Entertaining writing style and personalization: A blogger’s writing style and how much they are willing to reveal about their life, experience and opinions brings human interest to a blog, helps build a personal connection with readers and will keep people reading.

Here is a quote from the full report about this personalization factor.

The bloggers in the study suggested that bloggers should write to entertain their readers and not just to give an opinion or inform. Success in part then can be said to come from the personality of the blogger. The personal writing style of a blogger will influence the interaction and reading habits of the audience.

And this “personality” can stem from humor, unique personal experience or passion expressed for their topic. The more entertaining a blogger is, the more captivating and riveting the content, the higher the chance for blogging success. In addition, attempts by a blogger to conduct a dialogue with their readership, other bloggers and the community at large will have a positive effect on the success of a blog.

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I also want to emphasize that it takes time and dedication to build a good business blog. Of course, you need time to write posts, but you also need time to reply to comments from readers, monitor other blogs, keep up with the latest industry news and build relationships with other bloggers within a community.

This study also looks at key issues which need to be solved before launching a business blog. These include having clear blogging goals in advance and practicing with an internal blog before going external.

As I noted above, there are no big surprises in this study. But it’s still good to hear that a business blog needs some real effort — and money — to be successful.

Sources: Northeastern University news release, November 2, 2006; and various websites

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Interview: Eric Kintz, VP of marketing at HP

Posted on November 8, 2006 by Roland

Eric KintzAs Vice President of Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence for HP, Eric Kintz leads HP’s marketing strategy worldwide. He’s also the author of The Marketing Excellence blog where he openly discusses industry trends and writes about the future of the marketing function in the high-tech industry. Despite his busy schedule, Eric was nice enough to answer my questions about blogging at HP and elsewhere. Below is this long interview conducted via e-mail.

Roland: IBM, Sun or Microsoft had legions of bloggers a long time before HP. Who took the decision to catch up these other companies and to start the blogging initiative at HP?

Eric: The way you’ve phrased your question is a bit leading. Most tech companies had legions of bloggers communicating with their peer groups. HP was no different. Employees from HP hosted blogs both internally and externally. In 2004 HP decided to provide a formal space within HP.com for those conversations to take place. I believe IBM made a similar decision later in 2005.

On HP’s side, we opened the formal blog platform because our business leaders saw an opportunity to extend the conversations they were having with customers to a much broader distribution. Our enterprise businesses took the lead with a number of executives launching their own blogs on hp.com. From there, platform use expanded to other business groups within the company.

Roland: As this is your job, you’re writing mainly about marketing: how people react to your posts inside and outside HP? Are you pleased by their comments?

Eric: I have been surprised at how positively people have reacted to my blog both externally and internally. Externally I think bloggers have been appreciative of the fact that I have blogged about the future direction of marketing and how HP is responding to these trends vs. blogging about how great HP is. They also have appreciated that I was willing to engage in the blogosphere and learn from other bloggers, this is a humbling experience and I learn every day.

Internally, my blog has spread through word of mouth and has given me the opportunity to connect throughout the world with HP people who have a passion for web 2.0 and are driving innovation in all corners and levels of the organization. Here is one recent example of a HP viral marketing campaign that I discovered through my blog. I have also connected with HP Labs and discovered the great research they were conducting around word of mouth and social networks.

Roland: When did you start your blog? And can you give me some numbers (posts per month, number of visitors from inside and outside HP)?

Eric: I started my blog in April and my traffic has been increasing every month since. I have approximately 10,000 visitors every month, mostly from outside of HP. I post on average once a week, which allows me to focus on going deeper in the topics/insights vs. just reporting news or what other bloggers say. My blog was recently recognized as the #3 CMO blog by the Daily Fix Blog published by MarketingProfs.

Roland: Has this blog changed your work by reducing the ‘distance’ between you and your customers?

Eric: It has not changed my work per se, but it has allowed me to keep up to speed in a much more effective manner with the most critical marketing innovation developments by writing about new concepts, putting them to the test of the blogosphere and engaging with fellow bloggers.

One of the most interesting and rewarding experiences was getting recently together with leading marketing bloggers and sharing thoughts around the opportunities and challenges of blogging –- we wrote a joint post and cross-posted on all our blogs and it was really well received.

Roland: How many HP executives have a blog now?

Eric: Nine executives have a HP hosted blog but many more have their own blogs outside of the HP platform. A great example is Phil Mckinney, the Chief Technology Officer for our PC business[, who writes the Killer Innovations blog.

Roland: And how many HP employees blog outside from the official platform?

Eric: It is difficult to say as many have personal blogs talking about their family or hobbies. Clearly many employees have their own blog outside of the HP hosted platform; I think it is a great thing as it helps employees better understand what blogging is about and how they can use these new communication platforms in their work.

Roland: Is there a corporate blogging policy?

Eric: Yes, we do have a corporate blogging policy and guidelines in place. I strongly recommend that every large company have one, even if they don’t want to start their own blogging platform. The blogging policy is structured around 6 key guidelines and best practices to help HP employees make the most of blogging’s potential.

Roland: Time is often an issue with blogging: how do you find the time to do it? and how much time do you spend between reading, researching and writing? Is is part of your official job?

Eric: Time is clearly a very difficult issue, which I personally struggle with a lot. I tend to write on planes or in the evening. I usually take a few weeks to write a post, coming up with the initial idea though reading or by connecting with somebody and develop my thoughts over a period of time. Each post takes approximately 2-3 hours to write if you add up the various pieces. Blogging is not part of my official job but driving marketing innovation is and I view blogging as an enabler of that responsibility.

Roland: Besides writing about marketing issues, do you use your blog to stay in touch with other French people living in Silicon Valley?

Eric: Not really… Most people do not know that I am French! Shhhh… But it’s a great idea!

Roland: Besides that, are you happy to live in the U.S? And do you plan to return to France one day?

Eric: I really enjoy living in California. It has an amazing combination of business innovation and great outdoor lifestyle. I would have a hard time living elsewhere…

Roland: Are you hooked to blogs? Could you stop blogging tomorrow?

Eric: I am definitely hooked; I have come to realize how much quicker I get the information I need and learn about new trends. More and more mainstream media journalists get their news from blogs and it is already old news when I read it in the newspaper. I think I could stop blogging but I cannot stop reading blogs.

Roland: Do you plan to use sometimes your blog as a promotional tool, like Jonathan Schwartz does implicitly for Sun from time to time?

Eric: Do you mean for example when Jonathan blogs about publicity stunts? :) I do blog about HP initiatives when I think that we are doing something cool in marketing.

Roland: Where is going HP now that IBM sold its PC division to IBM? Do you want to be #1 and replace IBM?

Eric: According to financial analysts and some media, HP may well be the largest technology company by the end of this year. [For example, you can read “Tech Has A New Top Dog” (BusinessWeek Magazine, June 19, 2006 issue).]

Roland: Finally, do you have a message to deliver to my readers?

Eric: Learn more about the blogosphere (personally and as marketer), understand its power as well as its shortcomings. Is there too much hype? OF COURSE! However remember the hype surrounding the first wave of dot-coms, remember the craze, remember the crash but remember also that Google came out of this period and changed for ever the landscape of advertising.

Roland: Eric, thank you for taking the time for this conversation.

Sources: Eric Kintz, September-November 2006; and various websites

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  • Blogs
  • Business
  • HP

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