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Council, Shmouncil!

It's friday, the day I dump my junk mail box and have a chuckle at the latest Nigerian money laundering scams, and the artfully constructed emails exhorting me to take action to "have the beautiful breasts you've always dreamed of".  I'm not sure which of these is these is the most laughable.  Perhaps this morning it's the newly formed Blog Council that's burning up the charts on TechMeme, rather than something in my inbox. To recap: a bunch of really big companies have announced that they have this new, exclusive club, where they can all meet in private (out of the sight of bloggers presumably) to discuss their blogging strategies.  Big name brands, like GM and Coke are part of the inaugural group.  No little guys allowed.

Why is this happening now?  One word: desperation.  Earlier this week I spoke at the Canadian Institute Social Media conference in Toronto and showed this slide:

image

The numbers shown are the number of links into the various web sites of the bloggers and brands mentioned, as catalogued by Google.  Google uses these links as one of the factors to determine how important a site is when ranking it.  In simple terms, if Bell Canada and I publish on similar topics on our respective sites, Google is likely to rank a result from Saunderslog.com higher than Bell Canada.  Bell is a huge brand, 125 years old, and one of the largest companies in the country, yet the one man band called Saunderslog.com might beat it in the search engine rankings.   It's got to be concerning to them that folks like me, Michael Geist, and Mathew Ingram all have the same clout in the search engine as they do.

At the Social Media conference there were a bunch of presentations from big companies that really do get it.  Yahoo's Hunter Madsen, and Scotia Bank's Michael Seaton were particularly inspiring. These are folks that are engaging their customers, one to one, online, and in ways that are truly effective.  They're forging customer and brand loyalty one customer at a time on a scale that's never been possible before. That's the power of social media and blogging.

And the Blog Council?  It's laughable, but it's also pathetic that the stewards of American business and some of the largest brands in the world have come to this point.  Good heavens, people!  Get a grip!  You don't need a cozy little exclusive club to figure out what to do with blogs.  Just get on the net, start talking to your customers and advocates, and start interacting with people outside the strictures of twentieth century command and control marketing.

Council, Shmouncil!

{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Michel Savoie December 7, 2007, 9:00 am

    Hello Alec,

    Being a blogger myself, as well as being a blogger for a corporation (RBC), I would say that yes, while this council seems like a bunch of guys in suits getting together to talk strategy, personally, I would appreciate being able to get together in this kind of environment (keep in mind that I'm not the guy in the suit, I'm 22, and a computer engineer by trade… There are no marketing wheels turning in my head).

    The reason that I would appreciate this kind of environment is because blogging on behalf of a company presents a different set of challenges than blogging as an individual, and I would like to discuss these challenges with other people who have been through the same thing… It's not like I can go out to my local Starbucks and ask random people how they've dealt with concerns about corporate reputation and brand value, or how they've convinced their legal department that linking to other sites on the internet is not evil, but necessary. Yeah, in some way, it seems like they're creating an exclusive club, but it's also about sharing similar experience in an environment where companies are treading very carefully.

    As much as I would just love to get out there and blog my heart out as I would do on my own, I cant, because there is a whole corporate bureaucracy behind how I communicate with people. It kinda sucks, but it's the reality of changing the way the company is communicating.

    Cheers,

    Michel

  • Aswath December 7, 2007, 9:03 am

    Blogging and "exclusive club, where they can all meet in private" – do they go together?

    Blog Council itself doesn't seem to be having a blog. Does it say something?

  • Mathew Ingram December 7, 2007, 9:16 am

    An excellent point, Alec. And nice to know that I'm still in the lead :-) Now I just have to take down that bugger Cuban.

  • Brad Templeton December 7, 2007, 4:02 pm

    Another thing you can do is go to bloglines, and some of the other feed aggregators. They list how many people actually subscribe to each feed.

    A few caveats:

    a) Sometimes sites have 2 or more versions of the same feed because they define multiple aliases or forms. They don't combine that yet.

    b) Sites on the top of their list can be viewed, which makes it more likely people will subscribe to them. Indeed, all searches are sorted by number of subcribers, making it self-reinforcing.

  • Alec December 7, 2007, 5:01 pm

    Exactly Brad. I just think this whole blog council thing completely misses the point.

  • Aydin Mirzaee December 7, 2007, 9:17 pm

    Alec, how did you get the numbers above? is there a tool you used?

    Aydin.

  • Alec December 8, 2007, 5:11 am

    Aydin – type the query link:saunderslog.com into googe. It will produce a list and count of sites linking to saunderslog.com. Similarly, site:saunderslog.com will produce a list and count of indexed pages for the site.

  • Aydin Mirzaee December 8, 2007, 12:29 pm

    thanks Alec :)

    Aydin.

  • Jake McKee December 11, 2007, 5:12 pm

    > "Why is this happening now? One word: desperation. "

    Bull. It's happening now because the introductory phase is over. For the firms involved in the Council, the "let's just listen" phase is over, and it's onto the "we've been listening, now we're trying to figure out what to do with that new knowledge".

    > "You don't need a cozy little exclusive club to figure out what to do with blogs. "

    Insulting description aside, brands of this size absolutely DO need a place to comfortably compare notes without a constant stream of criticism dogging them. Don't believe me? Reread your post.

    > " Just get on the net, start talking to your customers and advocates, and start interacting with people outside the strictures of twentieth century command and control marketing."

    You assume that these companies haven't been doing this already. Microsoft has how many corporate bloggers and has for how many years? Dell has been cranking along with their blogging efforts directly *because* they've already done what you're talking about.

    But then what?

    Getting started is the easy part, especially if your company never heard from you before. Listening IS the solution. But at some point, that becomes a given. At some point delivering minor feedback gives way to demands for major changes. If you think that listening alone will make that happen, (respectfully) you're deluded.

    Parents go to other parents and ask for feedback and ideas on child discipline. This doesn't happen in front of the children.

    Managers go to other managers to ask for feedback and ideas on employee management. This doesn't happen in front of the employee.

    Industry professionals ask other industry professionals for ideas and feedback. This doesn't happen in front of their boss.

    Why do you believe that the ONLY solution when it comes to blogging is 100% access into the process?

  • Alec December 11, 2007, 5:26 pm

    Hey Jake,

    Thanks for the viewpoint. FWIW, I was part of Microsoft's online brigade back in 1992. The company has been doing this kind of stuff for a very long time, and blogs are merely the next evolution.

    I'll quote something you're no doubt familiar with, since you wrote it:

    And if these conversations need a bit of air cover (in the form of privacy), then I’m all for it. Besides, it’s not the planning (private) that really matters, it’s the execution (public).

    That's the big contradiction, really, isn't it? A grand announcement (public) of a place for people to discuss behind closed doors (private). If you want a private organization to share information on best practices, then by all means have one. But unless your objective is to say "hey y'all, we're all part of the kool kids klub now", you wouldn't likely announce it with a press release, now would you?

    Inept, at best.

  • Jake McKee December 11, 2007, 6:19 pm

    Good point – but I fear that the announcement style (good, bad, indifferent) has thrown the discussion into a tailspin that has little to do with the actual activity.

    This group, like any social group, is only as good as its membership. They are hopefully limiting the group size to a manageable, reasonable amount of members, but I doubt that the 5 or 6 founding members is enough to really be helpful to the group at large.

    I think it's reasonable for them (beyond the kool kids vibe) to announce that they're having this organization. Hell, Facebook did the same when they launched, right? "We have this cool place to hang out, but only for college students". Seems to have worked out OK for them :)

  • Alec December 11, 2007, 6:48 pm

    I think Facebook is different, but then again, I don't know how they announced. Four years ago I was definitely NOT hanging out in a Harvard dorm with Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook is (or was) a semi-closed group –> if you were on the right campus, you could join. This is a private networking group that doesn't seem to want too many new members.

  • Jake McKee December 12, 2007, 7:29 am

    > "This is a private networking group that doesn’t seem to want too many new members."

    Don't most private networking groups find themselves not wanting to open up to thousands of people? If I played poker with my industry buddies every week, I doubt I'd be pleased if our group grew to be 4500 people. Kinda makes the group irrelevant, doesn't it?

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