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    As I have been catching up on some reading over the past few days and browsing through links in the articles as is my wont, I found a nice reference by Roy Greenslade in the Guardian Unlimited to an Oslo based blogger called Kristine Lowe.

    In her post earlier this month regarding Andrew Keen’s book, there was a sentence which I felt summed up not only a really important aspect of my own attitude to blogs but also a sound piece of advice to both companies and individuals using the blogosphere, whether they are bloggers themselves or not.

    If the blogosphere has taught me one thing, it is to become a better listener: I love letting the links of blogs I trust or appreciate take me into unknown territory introduce me to new and interesting takes, angles, voices…

    Yes indeed.

    Although important from a personal point of view, it’s also a key element from a business perspective and you may remember that “The Onlooker” (or “The Listener“) was one of the Corporate Blogging Profiles I mentioned, as well as being an important phase when preparing and planning a corporate blog.

    It’s also something which we should continue to do, whether it’s for pleasure or for work, just as we might flip through books or magazines until we find something which catches our eye and we fold over the corner of the page so we can find it again later.

    So I’m going to cut this short today and go back to my RSS Reader – the electronic equivalent of folding the page corner – and indulge in a little bit of listening of my own for a while.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    Anyone working with organisations on corporate blogging will have noticed the different ways in which they approach the medium, ranging from indifference, to dipping their toe politely in the blogosphere’s water or jumping in with both feet in the hope of making as big a splash as possible.

    As I look around, I also see organisations using the blogosphere in different ways – some content to be passive observers and use blogs primarily for research, while others making use of their full potential and developing their own ‘community’ around their own corporate blog.

    Here are some of the organisation types that I’ve identified and the way they approach blogs and the blogosphere – no doubt there are more, but these are some that I have come across.

    The Sleeper
    This is an organisation which is aware of what business blogs are but decides not to participate at all in the blogosphere. This could simply be because it doesnt see a need to do so and is content with using other methods to engage with its customers, prospects and other stakeholders. Equally, it might be that they are not aware of the benefits available or it may be that the openness of blogging does not sit comfortably with their company culture. Whatever the reason, for the moment, the Sleeper is content to close its eyes and pretend that blogs dont exist.

    The Onlooker
    Also known as “The Listener”, this organisation is not actively engaging with the blogosphere but does have an interest in what is going on. It browses blogs to look at and listen to what others are saying, across a wide variety of subjects but particularly about the industry or marketplace in which it is active. Being an Onlooker is always a good start point for any company intending to get involved with blogging because it offers an insight to which topics are viewed as important and gives a better feel for what works. Using an RSS reader, it is also now very easy to follow a number of blogs once you have found them.

    The Researcher
    Although similar to the Onlooker, the Researcher has a specific purpose in mind when checking the content of the blogs it reads. In some cases, this may be to monitor what is being said about the organisation itself (akin to the press cuttings file of days gone by) in which case the research could be done internally (perhaps using Technorati and Google Alerts) or by using a 3rd party specialist. However, in many more cases, this research is a key phase in planning and launching its own corporate blog and provides invaluable information on who the key bloggers are and what conversations are currently taking place.

    The Contributor
    The Contributor is an organisation which has taken its first steps in interacting with the blogosphere, by leaving comments on other blogs and thereby participating in the conversations already taking place. This should always be done transparently and individuals posting should state that they work for and are representing the company when commenting. Contributing to the conversations is not the only benefit – leaving comments is a good way to practise ones own blogging style as well as promote the organisations own blog if it is to be set up.

    The Builder
    The Builder has done the research, taken advice and planned the blog accordingly and is now in a position to start and build up a company blog. Having its own blog is an important step for a company because it can now initiate the conversations, spread its own message and attract and communicate with people interested in the area. It also gives a place to direct people as you continue to comment on their blogs. The Builder is now in control of what is being said rather than simply reading or reacting to others posts, allowing them to guide the conversation and the topics to meet with the requirements of the company.

    The Host
    Finally, there is a full immersion in the blogosphere with an active blog and an active community around it which the organisation engages with at all levels. Here the Host, through the blog, is facilitating not just a two way conversation with readers but a multidirectional conversation with a number of participants. Using the blog as a key central marketing and communications tool, the Host can develop the relationships it has with the blogs readers and, in doing so, build up both its own reputation and trust.

    In some cases, organisations are content with the way they use the blogosphere and have no great desire to change. Perhaps they want to use it for research but prefer not to use it proactively. Others progress from one type to the next, a bit like climbing the rungs of a ladder. Each step up the ladder means the organisation is taking a greater and more active participation in using blogging and increasing the number and depth of conversations that they have with those in their market.

    Of course, as the conversations develop so does the level of trust which is created between the parties giving an ever greater chance for business connections to prosper. Exactly what any organisation considering blogging is looking to achieve. So go on, don’t be a Sleeper – get on the first rung and see where it takes you!

    Images from Photographer:Scott Maxwell | Agency: Dreamstime.com

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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