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April 24, 2007

Trench Warfare: Blogs, Podcasts and Vidcasts

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Rohit Bhargava is moderating today’s Blogs, Podcats and Vidcasts panel with speakers Karl Long (Nokia), Jeremiah Owyang (Podtech), Kent Nichols (AskANinja.com, Beatbox Giant Productions, LLC) and Steve Hall (Adrants). I won’t even lie. I’m kind of excited about this one. Blogging? Trenches? Who doesn’t love some good old fashioned trench blogging? I know I do! It feels good to be with my people.

Rohit opens talking about building brand personality and how blogs, vlogs and podcasts can help marketers to do that.

[Ew, Rohit says they're going to be taking questions from Twitter later on. Twitter = bad. Everyone go give Rae Hoffman crap about jumping on that bandwagon earlier this morning. Bad, Rae! We expect more from you!]

Rohit polls the audience on how many people have personal blogs and how many write for corporate blogs. Surprisingly, not too many hands go up. I raised my hand twice and now people are staring at me. The fact that I’m furiously typing probably doesn’t help either. To the man reading over my shoulder, please stop staring at me. Otherwise, I’ll smack you in the face with my 10lb mammoth laptop.

Steve talks about the difference between a personal blog and corporate blogs. He says corporate blogs typically have a preset agenda before they even start. They do? Bruce Clay, Inc is supposed to have a preset agenda about what we write about? I’m in SO much trouble when Bruce hears about this.

The conversation turns to creating a brand or blog personality. Steve talks about the personality of the Adrants blog and how he doesn’t mean to always be so ranty. That’s just the persona he takes on when he blogs, he says. I totally relate to that. I swear I’m not really this whiny and mean in person, it’s just the blog personality. I make fun of Susan because it makes you laugh not because I find her incredibly and unbearably annoying. I don’t think she’s a bane on my existence at all. Seriously.

Karl says that podcasts and vidcasts are more personal than blogs because people can hear and see you. Karl wants to fight.

Kent, however, makes a good point about bloggers having to work to establish the brand and uses The Simpsons as an example. He says if you watch the first season of The Simpsons the characters aren’t drawn right and the voices are off because the brands hadn’t been established yet. However, if you watch it today, everything is seamless and perfectly branded. It’s the same way for your blog, podcast and vidcasts. You have to find your voice.

Jeremiah brings up something I talked about in the Friday Recap, the idea that blogs are the new resume. Along the same lines, people don’t hand out business cards anymore, they tell people to Google/Yahoo/Ask.com them. I think this is a much better way to get to know someone. If you want to know about me, at least from a professional angle, google me. All the information you need can be found in the top 10 search results.

Today’s branding is an emerging process. It’s the process of you putting pieces of you out there, it being reacted to and you moving forward. When you first start a blog, like The Simpsons, it’s a very badly drawn character. But as you continue, it starts to look more like you, you find your niche and you build your brand.

Rohit says sometimes the blogosphere is a scary place because bloggers are known to be snarky. What? Snarky? Bloggers? Why are you looking at me? Stop it.

Kent says if you’re entering the blogosphere, never try and control it. It won’t work and you’ll just build resentment. He uses the term "astroturfing" and defines it as fake grass roots or hiring low level employees to create fake good will for your company. Astoturfing is my new favorite word. I love this session already.

Karl says you have to be upfront about your blog. If you’re running a corporate blog, let people know you’re going to moderate comments. Let them know vulgarity isn’t allowed and that it may take a few hours for a comment to show up due to the moderation process. People will be understanding as long as you’re upfront. Girlfriends and mothers are the same way.

Social media helps employees to talk to real customers and engage with them, says Jeremiah. You want to have an active dialogue with customers using these tools. This will help you to build better products in real-time. Customers can tell you what kind of products they want.

Rohit talks about using blogs/vidcasts to give employees a voice and how sometimes people become accidental brand representatives or spokespeople. Yes. I would caution companies to pick their bloggers carefully. You don’t want to get into the same situation Bruce did where somehow I became the voice and personality of Bruce Clay. Don’t trust your company to a nitwit like me. Or to someone really boring like Susan. [You were doing so well. --Susan]

Karl says the problem is blogging is hard work. Companies may want the PR people to do the blogging but they don’t want to so instead other individuals and stars emerge.

Steve says now that customers have devices to talk back to you, they don’t just sit in front of the TV and listen. They talk back. A company has to create clear guidelines and let someone take control of the blogging and become the voice.

Rohit asks the panel how you go from being 1 of 72 million bloggers to becoming popular? Yeah, yeah, guys, how do I become popular?

Karl says popularity is somewhat loaded. When you’re a personal blogger there are different measures and it’s really about engagement and conversation. Blogs are not monolithic. There are a thousand different uses. You have to figure out how to measure success.

To stand out you have to have a clear focus and differentiate yourself from the pack. You have to read the industry conversations and decide which conversation you want to be a part of. It’s a very long process to go from that badly drawn character to something that’s fully formed.

To Kent, popularity is about consistency and being brave enough to plow forward. It’s easy to give up. It’s no one specific feature or link that’s going to make your success. It’s about delivering time and time again.

Jeremiah calls blogging/podcasting/vidcasting anti-marketing marketing. Social media is not a push strategy; it’s a pull strategy. Corporate bloggers should be a resource to their customers. You need to give to your community instead of pitching to them.

Karl talks about the long tail of social media and making content linkable. Three buzz words in one sentence! In the end, the sum total of a blogger is not a one-to-one measure, there’s an exponential return from the ideas you’re putting out there, the conversations you’re participating in, and the memes you’re creating it. It’s not just about the number of visitors.

Steve calls blogging the easiest way to engage in search engine marketing. You produce content and it lives on. It’s the easiest, cheapest way to get yourself or your company found in the search engines. I feel so cheap.

Rohit gets to the heart of the matter and asks about the ROI associated with blogging.

Predictably, the panel has a million different answers to this one question. Steve says his intended ROI at the time was a job and then it turned into something different. Now he just likes seeing his name print.

Karl says it’s really difficult to calculate the ROI of his blog experience. He started blogging as a way to break free from the academic form of writing. The ROI for him has been getting quoted and joining the conversation. The blogosphere isn’t one monolithic thing; it’s a bunch of small conversations and groups. The return on a personal level is pretty enormous.

Kent talks about how his company was started by a backer he likes to call "Mom" and this past year signed a 7-figure deal from Federation Media. Based on that, he says, yeah, video blogging has worked out okay for him. Heh. Kent said he started going onto the Web to avoid ever having to get a real job again and that’s still his goal.

Jeremiah talks about monetizing blogs and using AdSense. To make a lot of money using AdSense you have to have a good amount of traffic. You can also do sponsorships, sell T-shirts (No really. He actually said that.), use it as a medium to bring in more business, etc.

Putting on the corporate hat, social media allows you to engage with the customers that want to participate with your brand in a different way. No matter what your brand is there are probably a lot of passionate people out there who want to communicate with you in a way other than just buying your services or wearing your product. Blogs and social media are the best channel you have to interact with these people. You have a blog is the best way for you to engage with other bloggers and get buzz building around your brand. They don’t want a press release. They want you to leave a comment on their blog.

To sum things up, Rohit asks the panel to name one company or individual who is doing social media right.

  • Steve: GM is doing it right. They launched a blog 2 or 3 years ago. They were the first big company to ever launch a blog and they did it very well – it was written by the executives, they allowed for reader comments, responded well to comments, etc.

  • Karl: Nikon is doing a great job engaging with bloggers.

  • Kent: PromQueen.tv is doing things in a really fun, interesting viral way. It’s a nice hybrid of old Hollywood and the new medium.

  • Jeremiah: John Edwards. He’s everywhere.

Something everyone agreed on was that you can’t do a good job of creating a corporate blog if you haven’t done it yourself. There’s too much to learn and too many elements that go into it. You can’t read a book or read an article and get it. You have to full immerse yourself in it.

Someone in the audience asks if the success of blogs is due to the blogger’s personality, their intelligence, the conversation, what?

Kent, whom I’m really starting to love, says he rarely participates in his forum. He’s like a distant father who works a lot. Heh! He appears occasionally to give the fans a hug but mostly he’s doing business. To him, it’s the consistency and the great content.

Steve says it’s the content. Some of the best articles that appear on Adrants are the articles that get commented on the most. No one will come to your blog if the content isn’t interesting enough to read. The interaction is really what can make your blog powerful and dynamic.

Karl says there are many different models, Some blogs post 20 different times a day with news and others write long editorial articles to generate conversation. Your success depends on your business model and what you ultimately want to get out of it.

With all the talk about blogs, podcasts and vidcasts, how about a reader poll? Who wants to see (or hear, I suppose) a Bruce Clay podcast or vidcast? Do you want to see me/us in video or audio form? Let us know. Maybe I can rope one of the BC analysts (or Susan!) into making all your Bruce Clay dreams come true. [I love when you volunteer for these sorts of things. Then you can't blame me!--Susan]





3 responses to “Trench Warfare: Blogs, Podcasts and Vidcasts”

  1. Jeremiah Owyang writes:

    Oh wow, I want you at all my panels and speaches now. What a fantastic write-up, from someone who used to live blog many sessions, I’m impressed.

    “You can also do sponsorships, sell T-shirts (No really. He actually said that.), use it as a medium to bring in more business, etc.”

    Regarding the Tshirt part, Karl Long has a Tshirt blog that he’s monetized, I was just demonstrating an example of how affiliate marketing worked for him. I’m certainly not going to be selling Tshirts from my blog, or encourage any clients to do the same. Of course, you should have a Tshirt with a picture of that annoying man with text that says:

    “please stop staring at me. Otherwise, I’ll smack you in the face with my 10lb mammoth laptop.”

  2. Kent Nichols writes:

    I love you too. :)

  3. Karl Long writes:

    Really great write up, I really enjoy your writing style. So, what is it I want to fight about?



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