Strategic Questions for Proficient Business Blogging

The Business Process Management Life-Cycle
Image via Wikipedia

There’s all sorts of advice on why and how to blog. Everything about blogging has already been blogged about. And yet, many businesses haven’t even scratched the surface to understand what blogging is actually about and what roles it may play in their overall strategy and presence – on and offline.

But all businesses have different going concerns and goals and strategies. Every media, communications and marketing strategy is different from the other.

While helping out a friend, I offered a bunch of questions for her to answer, figuring that the exercise of questioning may be more insightful and valuable than straight tips. I’m publishing an upgraded version of those questions here because there’s a ton of “expert” advice out there which you can find simply by Googling keywords related to blogging and business. The fact is, however, your business needs to do a deep self-assessment of its goals, culture, resources, tactics and strategies before just following a pre-fabricated set of instructions.

NOTE: when I use the word “blogging” I don’t just mean the publishing of content on a website. No, for me blogging is about proficiency in communications, ecosystem awareness, audience building and dialogue: from traditional to emerging media. Blogging involves a new set of skills which business should acquire and hone, to be overlayed on top of their bread-and-butter marketing and communication expertise. Blogging is a constant learning process. It’s also a way to reveal strengths and weaknesses inherent in organizations, their cultures and their processes – and thus the importance of questioning within the larger context of strategy.

With that in mind, here are the questions.

STRATEGIC QUESTIONS FOR PROFICIENT BUSINESS BLOGGING

  1. What’s the purpose? Biz development? Customer availability? A place to house your industrial expertise and knowledge? A place to create a community where ideas and questions can be explored openly? What value do you expect to provide or extract?
  2. Who is your audience(s)? Are you thinking that your only audience would be end-consumers? Or might they be industry influencers or vendors or the public? Will you be able to track the social footprint of your audience – who they are, where else on the Web they interact?
  3. What kinds of content are you delivering? Is it informational? Editorial? Inspirational? Industrially insightful? Action-calling? How might the kind(s) of content and information you publish influence your audience? Are you willing to let your audience help determine your content?
  4. What kinds of media will you provide on the blog? Text? Video? Audio? Slidedecks? Different media have different properties. Have you thought about the properties of traditional media and how they differ from emerging media? How much of your traditional marketing expertise evolved around the properties of print, radio and TV? Given that new media possess different properties, how might your marketing strategies need to adapt?
  5. Do you know what kinds of assets a blog can build? Leads? A small but relevant community of influencers? Street cred? Search engine ranking? Which do you need?
  6. How will you distribute your content? Have you developed other web real estate – outposts on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Slideshare? Which ones make the most sense to invest in? Can you build a visual map of your entire Web presence and how different Web and traditional presences relate to the bigger picture?
  7. If you successfully build your community, do you know how to leverage it? Will you be satisfied to just have visitors? Or will you engage with your community – not only on your blog but elsewhere? Will you continually monitor your efforts and make the best of the connections you make? Will you develop a system to reach your community beyond your blog – either via email or other media?
  8. Do you think blogging is just putting content on a website – or do you believe it is a spectrum of media skills? What’s your conception of blogging? Might there be more to blogging than what you think you know? What skills may you need to develop or build upon?
  9. Do you have a plan on how to distribute your blog content to traditional media (where else is your audience)? What are your overall communications and marketing strategies? How might emerging media not only play a part, but how might their proliferation impact your established strategies?
  10. How committed will you be? Is this going to be a chore “to be done” or will you intelligently integrate it into your business routine? Do you understand the skills and resources needed to become proficient? When thinking about resources, are you considering time and talent and networks?
  11. Do you have the stamina to sustain your efforts in the long-term? Investing in new media is about sustaining long-term capital. Given your resources, will you create the kind of working environment for your employees to enjoy the art of creating content, conversing across different networks and advancing the company’s objectives?
  12. Do you know how to make it easy (and enticing) for your audience to comment? Will you thank and comment back? Is sharing via email & other sources easy?
  13. Are you willing to fail? More importantly: how do you define failure? This is important to know because if you define failure appropriately, then you’re more likely to know what to do when you encounter it: in fact, you may see it as a huge opportunity.

There they are. Take your time answering these questions because they aren’t just about blogging: they’re about your understanding of how media and your business intertwine.

I listed 13 – which some believe is an unlucky number. So if you’re superstitious, you’ll have to come up with at least one more.

What questions do you think you need to ask yourself?

Tweet This Post

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sorry We Won’t Be Putting Pieces Together This Year

In crazy, upending, fast-changing times, the world starts to fall to pieces. Our ability to cheaply connect at the speed of light is disrupting many game boards – newspapers, traditional marketing, customer service, even personal friendship. Puzzles that were once figured out last century are breaking up.

Not everybody is paying attention to the Web. Many businesses still struggle with the staples of today’s daily communications media: blogs, Twitter, FaceBook and custom social network solutions. And they are staples: Twitter and blogging are now nothing new or shiny. They’re old news. Some of us still talk about these things in order to help the late comers. But there’s nothing original to say about them.

We live in a digital age: which is to say, many things are all or nothing. Some companies will thrive in their business fundamentals and on the Web. Others: they just won’t get through the next few years. The fact is there are many organizations that simply are too dysfunctional in their cultures; short-sighted in their visions; fear-laden in their uncertainties; or too busy to notice the lights have changed.

This doesn’t just go for businesses. It applies to me. To you. To your children. The world always changes. But sometimes, once-in-a-lifetime changes happen right during your lifetime. If you knew ten years ago how the world was going to be today, what difference would that knowledge have made for you?

You don’t know how 2020 will look like. But it won’t look like today.  What are you doing right now to clear your vision? What skills are you learning? What do you think you should unlearn?

Will you be putting the pieces together? What will you say when chaos and change come thrashing through your door? Sorry, we won’t be putting pieces together this year – come back later?

When it’s clear that the world you know so well is breaking apart, it’s time to re-frame your view of that world and start putting pieces together which you never before ever connected. A picture is worth a world. Sometimes it can even save a life. Hope is the picture you must have in mind when putting pieces together in the dark.

Happy New Year my friends.

Trust Is…

Handshake
Image by Aidan Jones via Flickr

Who do you trust? Why? Who trusts you? Why? Do you trust people because of who they are or what they do? Do you trust them based on what they’ve done in the past or what you expect them to do in the future?

Your answer to these questions might differ from mine or anybody else’s. Trust is a very simple concept, and yet it can be experienced in many different ways. For example, I might trust you to lie to me – which sounds tautologous, depending on your reading of the sentence. The point is that trust embodies several elements that determine its specific meaning. Your history of previous actions, your honesty, your competence.

TRUST EQUALS THE PRODUCT OF ACTION AND TIME

Whatever definition or attributes you assign to trust, when it comes to marketing – be it a non-profit, a political movement or a for-profit enterprise – two necessary variables are key to establishing trust: a valued action and time. Thus, as a practical rule of thumb we could say the following:

Trust = Valued Action x Time

The more actions that I value which you execute and deliver to me over time, the more I will trust you. Building trust, therefore, requires energy and time: and lots of it.

Of course, entropy works in the opposite direction but much faster: while it may take a long time to earn your trust, it only takes one or a few blunders or betrayals in one moment to wreck your trust in me. This is especially important in social media since the subjective experience of Online Time tends to be faster than Offline Time. So perhaps it’s technically more appropriate to say this:

Trust is variably proportional to Valued Action x Time.

Common sense. It’s obvious. Of course, attention to the obvious is the hardest kind to maintain. So what’s the point? you may ask. What’s not so obvious?

ALL ROADS LEAD BACK TO CAPITAL

All investments involve the same two elements as trust: I expect a valued action (Return) over or at the end of the investment cycle (Time).

Which brings us back once again to the core of business, Capital. For Capital depends on Accumulation and Accumulation depends on Investment. Which is to say that Capital depends on Trust.

Moreover, Capital not only depends on Trust – and is not only an act of Trust – it is Trust – at least insofar as the contexts of social relations are concerned (more on that later).

This inter-relationship between Capital and Trust is foundational to all Marketing. It means that you must invest in trust in every portal of capital flows. Revenues are manifestations of the social relations between you and your customers. Expenses are the manifestations of social relations with vendors and employees. Which means: Equity is the manifestation of social relations with everybody, not just owners.

Capital without Trust is a corruption. It’s an acid and, if not buffered in time, consumes itself until nothing good is left (or, to put it more ominously, nothing left is good).

So in the story that you tell your various customers, how are you underwriting their trust? You must know the answer to this above all else, because that’s where you’ll find your Capital.

You have little time and much to do.

Capital is Trust, Trust is Capital.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Social Capital Algorithm

What exactly is the economics of social media marketing? What is the cornerstone of the economic principles underlying the nebulous structure of social connectivity? These are big tough questions which deserve far more attention than this post will pay. For now, I’d offer this: Social Capital is the center and circumference of any dynamic web presence and there exists a straightforward process to organically accumulate it.

WHAT IS SOCIAL CAPITAL?

Positive Social Capital includes, but is not limited to: trust, networks, goodwill, strategic alliances, collective perceptions, personal values, beliefs, opinions, judgments, community bonds, meanings, and hopes. A simple definition of Social Capital:

Social Capital is the aggregate value of actions derived from social resources.

Note the keyword in this definition: actions. Without actions, there is no business, no life. Regardless of how to quantify Social Capital, it’s important to understand its qualities. If metrics are important, the measurable variables will reveal themselves. (That accounting lesson is not part of this post.)

So, how do we engender and accumulate Social Capital? Is there an underlying process of social media interactions? Yes.

THE SOCIAL CAPITAL ALGORITHM

When conceiving, planning and correcting your web presence, it’s easy to veer off-track. You must remain faithful to your going concern and keep steady vigil on your vision and goals while working with the relevant strategies and tactics which accomplish them.

Although there is no universal way to “do” social media, there is I believe a simple strategic algorithm that is compatible with all honorable marketing. Here it is:

  1. Invest in Trust
  2. Market hopeful Meanings
  3. Share the Wealth
  4. Repeat daily

That’s it. Nothing complicated. A no-brainer.

BUT: Just because the algorithm is simple, don’t assume that the work is easy. Silly as it seems, constantly and remarkably leading and maintaining a real-time web presence demands a lot of dedicated work.

It’s easy to wreck trust. It’s easy to kill hope. It’s easy to be selfish. It’s easy to slip any day. Creating and leading and interacting and providing value every day are difficult and the work tying it all together can be very hard.

MORE TO COME

I will be discussing Social Capital in upcoming posts because it’s an interesting topic, one central not only to marketing but also to our lives in the 21st Century. Some of what I will discuss will be a review of the subtle complexities and hidden consequences of Financial Capital and how they come to play in Social Capital. Any discussion about ROI is pointless without a solid understanding of capital’s ramifying powers.

For now, think of ways to work these steps into your habits.

Does this ring true for you? Share some of your wealth and invest a little time in the comments.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]



Let’s Be Remarkable in 2009

While commenting on Chris Brogan’s 12 Things to Stop Doing in 2009, I ended up penning what in retrospect is a wish-list for things to get done in 2009. I probably will tweak my comment (penned under The Philster) into an ebook and publish it (after Chris’ permission).

Sometimes when the right mood strikes while commenting on other good people’s blog posts, good things happen. I rather like what I wrote there and I hope that you do too.

For now, go read Chris’ post, the comments left there by his readers and then enjoy what I wrote there.

If you’re reading this, I hope that 2009 is a remarkable year for you. If you want some help setting your agenda, start here.

Happy New Year, my friends

Phil

Nothing Is Too Big to FAIL, Except…

Even God leaves the gas on.

Our life-sustaining sun will die.

Economies fail. Companies fail. Employees fail. We all fail.

Newspaper clipping, December 24, 1913

Sometimes our failures aren’t our faults; sometimes bad things just happen; and other times we fail ourselves and others.

GM has failed. It wants me (and you!) to bail the company out, ultimately under the threat of force. If we don’t pay up, millions will suffer. That kind of talk is nothing short of economic duress and social terrorism. (Moral: Tell a lie so big it sounds like a call for the truth. Scream a threat so loud it sounds like a cry for help.)

In October our government and the propagandists for the American Banking Cartel Federal Reserve threatened us with doom if we didn’t agree to a highly specific bailout plan. We caved in to fear. Weeks later we were told “Oh, wait, we were totally wrong about our first threat…but here’s another, more ominous one.” Do you see?: when we give permission to be afraid of incompetent psychopaths, we deserve what we get.

We don’t need to stop GM from failing. We can let it fail without disappointing its employees and suppliers. Failure does not equal bailout but bailout means failure. Failure means: “We failed. Let someone else succeed.”

Let GM fail. GM failed us all. So did the wrong kinds of regulation. Let GM’s capital assets, liabilities and equity be absorbed by others. Give promising companies a chance to succeed. Put GM on the market to committed investors interested in long-term success. Let them hire GM’s talent. Those who are left out can recieve enough financial support (as part of the agreement with GM’s dinning guests) to help them re-train and adjust to the 21st Century.

A dark time is coming to our country. The Baltic Dry Index (a very dry-sounding term few of us ever heard of before) may portend a painful decade ahead of us. We are only going to survive the cold and dark times if we keep our spiritual furnaces burning. The fuel of that burning is our integrity.

A free people does not stand for injustice, does not give permission to fear and never yields to the duress of barbarians at the gates. The only system of living worth fighting for is one that keeps its citizens’ integrity intact. Integrity is a big deal. When people talk about the right kind of God, they’re talking about integrity.

Nothing is too big to fail. Nothing, except for integrity. When integrity fails, everything fails.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]