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    A second post about Sony and their Playstation blog so soon after my blog review post on the two Sony blogs, I hear you cry? Well, yes, but it’s a great example of dealing with a situation that has arisen on the blog, so I just had to. (And no, I’m not angling for a free game!)

    As you might expect, Sony’s Playstation blog has been attracting a lot of comments, a situation that most of us no doubt view with a tinge of envy. However, it seems that a lot of the comments have been rather too off topic and the “noise” factor has been deafening, drowning out relevant comments on the posts. Effectively it’s been creating a free for all ‘bulletin board’ type of feel which isn’t great in a blog environment.

    Following a number of requests from their readers, Sony have decided to take steps to reduce this, and they announced what they were intending to do about it in a post from Patrick Seybold which stated:

    Since we launched the blog we have been extremely liberal in our monitoring policies because we wanted you guys and gals to get to know each other and share ideas. Lately, however, we have been getting complaints that there is so much noise accompanying each post that people cant separate the good meat from the chatter. We definitely hear you. So, we are going to step up our moderation of off-topic, nonsensical posts or posts on topics that we have already addressed (Yes, we hear you on wanting more demos consider that box suitably checked). If you have suggestions not related to the particular topic of a post, please use our comment form.

    Why’s it good to have done it like this? Well, I reckon there’s a few good reasons why:

    • Listening: they’ve been listening to what their readers have been telling them, in this case that there is too much “noise” in the comments section – they’ve listened and have adapted accordingly. When you are running a business blog, it’s important to remember that it is written for the readers, not for the authors.

    • Clarity and openness: they’ve explained clearly what is happening, why the actions have been taken and what they hope will happen in the future. The more open (and authentic) you can be in how you deal with your readers the more successful your blog is likely to be.

    • Forward Thinking: they’ve kept in mind the audience that they wish to attract and wish to participate on their blog – in this case, it was an audience which seemed to be alienated by the “noise” factor in the comments section. Making the changes allows them to focus back on their target audience.
    • Developing: a blog is always going to be developing. While it shouldn’t be seen as an unfinished development project, it’s important that we learn as we go along and change accordingly. Therefore it’s encouraging to see a large corporation both willing and able to address an issue and ring the changes.

    • Giving Options: it’s important not to shut down the channels of communication and if people want to ask or comment about other topics (as had been the case)then they still need to be able to. Here, readers have been offered a specific way to post their other comments using a alternative method.

    There is of course the possibility of this swinging too far in the other direction with over zealous moderation of comments, but I think the likelihood of that is small – personally, I’d prefer to focus on (and learn from) the way in which it was handled which I think has been spot on.

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    There was a TV program called Faking It which ran for 5 series on Channel 4 here in the UK.

    A person from one walk of life is given the challenge of becoming expert in a totally different field with the help of an expert who trains them. At the end of a month, the volunteer takes part in a contest against experienced participants in the new field. A panel of expert judges then give their verdict on which participant is the “faker”.

    I sometimes get the feeling that some PR agencies watch too much TV. It also seems that there are companies still willing to face a similar type of Faking It challenge and risk damaging their brand by creating fake blogs and trying to pass them off as real marketing.

    Following the episode with Edelman and WalMart, I personally thought that that would probably be the end of fake blogs or flogs as they were coined. But lo and behold, up steps Sony and their agency Zipatoni to fill the gap with their excruciatingly bad AllIWantforXmasisaPsp.com.

    The really bad elements (and there were some REALLY bad elements) were taken down and replaced with a short acknowledgement from Sony, rather in the air of a naughty schoolboy which has been caught cheating. That too now seems to have disappeared along with the site. However, if you want some detail of what was previously there then you will find some views on it at ZDNet and PC Doctor.

    I’d like to re-iterate a couple of points that were made after the WalMart flog, but which still seem to be ignored by some:

    1. trying to fake a blog is likely to end in disaster, whether you have expert help or not. It is quite simply not a good idea there are too many “expert judges” able to spot exactly whats going on;

    2. if you are going to use blogging in a marketing or PR perspective, then it’s always good to get the right specialists in who are going to be able to help you;

    3. blogs need to be authentic – authenticity and genuine interest (as Ryan Anderson points out here) is best left to those who aren’t faking it.

    So please let’s leave Faking It to Reality TV and the television companies.

    And to any businesses looking to engage in blogging as part of their marketing activities great decision! There are so many excellent ways in which you can use online marketing in general and blogs in particular to get your message across and create a buzz around a product … however, creating fake blogs is not one of them.

    To summarise:

    1. If you are even vaguely considering perhaps at some point in the future potentially using a fake blog, then don’t;

    2. See point 1.

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