What does a successful internal blogging community look like?

31 07 2008

The other day at work I was asked what a successful blogging community in the corporation would look like.

I was asked in particular whether it was an appropriate use of company time and resources for someone to write a blog if no one reads it; and whether the posts themselves should have business value.

My view is that blogging in itself has business value, partly because it encourages better written communication and we all write in our jobs. So you might not read my internal blog but if my writing is better because I blog, the benefits will be felt in my emails, strategy papers, reports and so on.

Mostly, however, getting people in at work into blogging is going to help the company move with the times. Even if you’re writing (or reading) completely off business topics (and we have an all-users blog internally for exactly this), you’re using a tool that is daily demonstrating its influence on people and those people are our customers. It’s common now for news stories to break on blogs or for customers to launch successful campaigns for or against brands in blogs. If we don’t use the tools our customers use, we can’t communicate effectively with them.

We’d think a company that didn’t use email, websites or the telephone incredibly backward. Blogs are getting there: Technorati (a blog search engine) tracks 112 million blogs; and 36% of Australians aged 35-44 read blogs (that climbs to 56% for adults under 24 and only falls to 30% for those 45-54).*

A successful blogosphere inside our little listed company is to me one that provides a safe environment for as many people as possible to try blogging either as readers or authors. It is a bonus if that community offers thought leadership and insights, which I believe ours does. Another bonus is the networking opportunities that blogs afford. There are many people in the company to whom I can now turn to for information and advice whom I would not otherwise have met.

A vibrant blogging community also has an employee retention value because it contributes to a community feel in the organisation – just like morning teas, social clubs or other employee-engagement activities that otherwise don’t have business value. How long would we keep employees if we brought back clocking-in machines or introduced a uniform?

This isn’t cutting-edge stuff, either: blogging as a term has been around since 1997 (cf Wikipedia) but we didn’t have blogs in our company until 10 years later and we still have no external blog.

Just to demonstrate how mainstream this all is: the UK prime minister’s website is about to be re-launched, built in WordPress (open source blogging software). I found out about the PM’s new site from a blog; and you can see screenshots of the beta on the prime minister’s Flickr page; or you can hear and see more from the PM on Twitter and YouTube (not available on the AMP network).

Kevin Rudd used similar tools during last year’s election to great effect through his (now disabled) Kevin07 website.

Politicians get elected by talking to people so they’re experts in going where the people are. We make our money talking to people, so shouldn’t we be where the people are, too? A successful corproate blogosphere is one that helps us do that by building the skills we’ll need.

These tools – Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube are all free and all used by millions of people. We’ll fall behind if we’re not among them. Yes, sometimes we might wish the world would slow down because we’ve only just got to grips with the last thing but it won’t so we need to speed up.

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