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    Trust Seth Godin to come up with a nice little soundbite which so nicely sums up the attitude of many companies when it comes to taking on new ideas or new ways of working.

    Granted he wasn’t referring specifically to blogging or the take up of social media marketing but he could very well have been because, in corporate organisations of all sizes, this attitude certainly exists.

    He comments:

    Most organizations need a good reason to do something new.

    All they need is a flimsy excuse to not do something for the first time.

    And they often need a lawsuit to stop doing something they’re used to.

    But should we really be surprised? After all, organisations, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us take on new ideas very early and others are more cautious, preferring to wait to let others try, evaluate and report back.

    This is certainly the case with corporate blogging, with companies moving at very different speeds in taking these new marketing opportunities on board. For me, the attitudes are well explained by the technology adoption life cycle which I feel is very relevant to what we are currently experiencing I’m sure the diagram (taken from Geoffrey Moore’s book “Crossing the Chasm“) is familiar to most.

    Certainly, we have a number of innovators and early adopters in the corporate world who have led the way and, in many cases, made mistakes that the rest of us will (hopefully!) learn from. Presuming that blogging successfully crosses the ‘Chasm’ (and that’s for another post, another time) then the early majority should be able to build on the lessons learned, though they will be looking for well established references before taking the plunge themselves.

    Equally, there are those organisations which will wait even longer, perhaps uncomfortable with the new technologies that they are being asked to adopt to market their businesses or perhaps still dubious of their use in their own business areas. Much will depend on the company culture as well as the personalities and outlook of those in charge.

    In the case of corporate blogging, the trouble for the late adopters is not really that they have failed to adopt it per se. Rather the problem is that they have failed to take on board that they are no longer reaching their customers using their old marketing methods and so need to be consdering these new methods if they are not to lose their established client base.

    Likewise our role in helping them is to keep them focused on their business goals (and their customers) rather than be distracted by words such as “blogs”, “podcasts” and “social networks” which are merely the new tools they have at their disposal to achieve these goals.

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    Well, a timely reminder for myself this week on two fronts – maybe even more.

    I was reading a post about “astroturfing” yesterday in Into PR by Owen Lystrup where Owen commented on a video he had been watching of Seth Godin talking at Google (Aside: well worth a look by the way).

    I was confused.

    While I enjoy listening to Seth Godin and have come to expect the unexpected when he talks, I was still bemused about why he wanted to talk about artificial lawns and how it related to a “permissions business model”. It was only on my third reading that the reality finally dawned that when he referred to “astroturfing”, he wasn’t talking about his artificial grass replacement options, but rather something else. After a little checking, this “something else” turned out to be the dubious PR practice of orchestrating PR activities to make them look like spontaneous “public initiated” events. (Check out Wikipedia or Answers.com for a fuller explanation).

    Aha! The fog suddenly clears.

    So why this post? Well, I consider myself to be fairly well informed, certainly interested in marketing & PR and generally up to date with what’s going on in the online marketing arena as a whole – and yet I had never heard the term “Astroturfing” before or, as I now discover, that there is an “Anti Astroturfing” campaign and who knows what else.

    It has therefore been a timely reminder to me not to presume levels of knowledge and understanding based on my own experiences, either in my blogging or my workshops. We all have our own areas of expertise. The business people I work with are all very knowledgeable in their own fields, but as we examine the “benefits of corporate blogging” or “the potential of RSS”, it’s important for me to remember that these will be totally new areas for some which need to be explained properly before delving into their many business benefits. Hopefully, my “Astroturfing” experience will remind me of this.

    So two notes to myself:

    Right – now I’m off to the park where there’s definitely no artificial grass or lurking PR groupies to confuse me!

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    Well Seth Godin, in no doubt a planned move on his part, stirred up a bit of a storm over the weekend as he expressed his view regarding comments on his blog, and more specifically why he doesnt allow them.

    In all honesty, much as I enjoy reading his work, Seths opinion on this has very little relevance to me. While it gave the impression to some that he couldnt be bothered to answer the comments people leave or that he didnt want to be influenced in his writing by pandering to the people likely to comment on his articles, his situation is hardly that of most bloggers. Most of us could only dream of provoking that sort of reaction and the attention that accompanies it.

    So lets turn to the question of whether his thoughts on comments apply to the majority of bloggers working hard on their Business Blogs, week in week out.

    The answer is clearly no.

    One of the key characteristics of a Blog is the ability for people to comment on what you have posted some have even gone so far as to say that it is not really a blog without them! Having this ability opens up channels of communications and in many cases can help forge the start of a business relationship. For some blogs, the comments (and what they can lead to) are in fact the main reason they are written in the first place.

    Your main decision should not be whether to allow them or not, but rather how to elicit comments and how to handle the ones you receive. Whether you moderate them or allow your visitors to comment freely (having filtered them with your spam filter of course Akismet is great for this), you should consider the fact that people feel inclined to comment to be a compliment to your post and look to encourage it.

    You should also make sure that you respond to comments left – in most cases, you are looking to engage with the people who leave comments, so if they respond and ask a question then make sure that you reply to it. Of course, there will be cases where the comments will not be favourable this is to be expected. You cannot please all the people all of the time. You should still try to respond to their points and present your point of view – its best not to ignore this type of comment and in any case you are there to convince people of your point of view. You will also often gain greater respect by handling objections with grace and tact by doing it this way.

    So, comments, and the interaction they bring, are a key element of what make a Business Blog so effective, so if you were ever considering not allowing comments then you need to rethink. And quickly.

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