Sunday, October 5, 2008

Blog! What is it good for?

Effective adoption of web 2.0 technology is often a difficult task.

As an IT professional I am frequently asked what is the value of having a blog. Usually the person asking the question already thinks blogs are worthless. It brings to mind the first few lines of the song "War" by Edwin Starr "War/What is it good for?/Absolutely nothing/say it again y'all."

I think the root of the issue behind why some people assume blogs have no value is that they misunderstand how a blog should be used. Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff explain in their book Groundswell that a blog can be an effective tool to facilitate two-way communication with customers.

In my experience, getting people who are unfamiliar with web 2.0 to engage with one of these new technologies (like a blog) is often a big challenge. A recurring issue is getting the new user to understand that the new medium isn't simply a new way of doing something they are already doing... but on the internet. When people first started building web sites they basically put their brochure... on the internet. When they adopted email they were just sending letters... on the internet. But when they start thinking about a blog they often assume they will just be posting their press releases... on the internet. When this new user learns that the number of people that might read the blog are relatively low compared to the exposure they might get with a newspaper ad buy they look baffled. Many people think a blog is just another way to declare their message to the world. But as Li and Bernoff explain in "Groundswell" this is a misunderstanding.

What is a blog good for? Two-way communication. A blog is tool for having a conversation with customers about your company and your products. This doesn't neatly fit into any preconceived models for doing business. Li and Bernoff are advocates for a new way of operating companies. One that is face-to-face (business to consumer) rather than top-down (business over consumer).

When trying to implement a web 2.0 (or groundswell) technology I think it is critical to communicate that this new tool facilitates a new way of interacting with the customer.

Have you had an experience where you were trying to integrate a web 2.0 in your office and ran into people who "didn't get it"? If so, were you able to bring them around? How did you do it?

Here is live performance of Edwin Starr singing "WAR":

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