February 23, 2018

Politics and Political Blogs

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Whatever your political persuasion — right, left, or center — the blogosphere is a great place for bloggers to share their political views and make plenty of friends and enemies. We try to follow the conservative, liberal, and everything in between of politics and political blogs/blogging — but only when it intersects with business blogging.

Have a read below of our latest entries on politics and political blogging…

The Dangers of Anonymous Blogging

BusinessWeek reports on anonymous blogging gone bad in a recent article Busting a Rogue Blogger.

Yes, there’s controversy in the sexy world of patent litigation, as Troll Tracker–formerly anonymous, now outed as Rick Frenkel–a blogger who writes on patent trolling, was outed as a Cisco employee. Why is this relevant? Because Frenkel was blogging about the very issues that Cisco was in court over.

Apparently Cisco didn’t know that they employed the Troll Tracker, but Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler cited the blog as an “independent source of information” while lobbying for changes in patent laws that would be beneficial to Cisco.

Death threats, bounties on the Troll Tracker’s identity, and litigation followed.

Cisco has since established some blogging policies, but they probably won’t help them in court. Even if these policies had been in place before Frankel started blogging anonymously, they probably wouldn’t save them from litigation.

Perhaps it’s time to start to develop your own business blogging policies for employees? What policies do you currently have in place?

Do You Need a Blogging Regimen?

As a certified Business Blog Consultant–I’m still awaiting the paperwork, but I’ve been assured it’s on it’s way–I work with a number of businesses on their blog and other Web marketing strategies. Being a blog consultant is tricky; much of our work is up front.

We often design a blog, set it up on either WordPress or TypePad, strategize with the client, identify influential bloggers in their industries, and show them how to work the software.

Often, that’s where our work ends. Some of our clients blog regularly and see the expected, positive results and return on their investment. Others, unfortunately, put up one or two posts and begin the shame spiral of neglect.

Although I’ll sometimes nag a client who’s blog is whithering on the vine, there’s not much I can do–short of ghost blogging–to get their blog back in shape.

Which is why I wrote Jumpstart Your Blog: A Business Blogging Workout Regimen. The article reviews some blogging basics along with the amount of time new bloggers should spent on each activity.

I’m not sure if this is a salvo against abandoned blogs, a wake-up call to companies that have neglected their blog, or a reality check to people who are thinking about a blog but don’t realize the time and passion that needs to be committed to a successful business blog…I guess I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

If you do have a new or lapsed blog, perhaps all you need is a workout strategy. What do you do when it’s been a while since your last blog post?

Extraordinary customer service inadvertently becomes blogger outreach

Anyone who knows the online retailer of shoes and handbags, Zappos will know that they are renowned for their stellar customer service. But this story blew me — and many other bloggers (such as Seth Godin, Jason Kottke, and the folks at 37Signals) — away:

I Heart Zappos

In this post, Ms. LaMarr shares a poignant and heartfelt story that brought tears to my eyes. She described how she bought shoes for her mom that didn’t fit, didn’t get around to returning them, then her mom died. Out of her heartache came one ray of light: from Zappos, the online shoe store where she bought the shoes. Not only did Zappos arrange for a UPS pick-up, they sent her a bouquet of flowers along with their condolences.

Guess what? The customer that Zappos treated with such care and concern happened to be a blogger, and one with some readership. The word of Zappos good deed spread like wildfire. It’s still spreading. This was no PR stunt, it was simply a genuine act of human kindness, and it earned Zappos a ton of kudos in the blogosphere. This is inadvertent blogger outreach at its very best.

Contrast that with the slap in the face that Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza issued to one of their supposedly valued customers by inadvertently CCing the customer in his email reply to his employee:

Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.

As you can probably guess, word of the Spirit Airlines CEO’s affront got out to the blogosphere. And boy did it turn into a blogstorm. Now this post is number 3 in Google for “spirit airlines.” Classic. I don’t feel any sympathy for the airlines. Ben Baldanza literally asked for it — “Let him tell the world how bad we are.” Oh brother.

All this just goes to show, one good (or bad!) turn deserves another. Karma is alive and well in the blogosphere.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Business Blogging from a Legal Standpoint

Too many articles about the legal ramifications of corporate blogs focus entirely on the negative side of blogs. This makes sense; corporate lawyers are hired with the intent of keeping the company safe and limiting risk. Marketing, extending your brand, and keeping employees and customers happy are someone else’s responsibilities.

However, As Blogging Grows, So Do Its Do’s and Don’ts, over at Law.com’s Legal Technology is a much more even-handed approach. (In fact, its do’s outnumber its don’ts about 2-to-1.)

There’s advice for public companies (do be mindful of security laws…risks associated with…making material misstatements that could manipulate the stock price and expose the company to liability for securities fraud under Rule 10b-5), companies with trade secrets, and just about anyone else.

The article can be summarized by the final quote:

The key to sticking with the “Do’s” is remembering that corporate blogging is like any other business communication that represents the company: Honesty and common sense go a long way to keeping the company (and its blog) on the right side of the law.

Much Ado About Pork

I almost have to wonder if the National Pork Board is practicing brilliant, subversive marketing.

If you haven’t heard, the NPB is suing a blogger. (Seems like the best stories always start out that way.) Jennifer Laycock, the blogger behind The Lactivist Breastfeeding Blog, has been threatened with a lawsuit for her t-shirt promoting breastfeeding that reads “The Other White Milk.”

The t-shirt was one of many available at her lactating store at CaféPress including others that read:

  • nip/suck
  • milk jugs, and my personal favorite,
  • that’s my baby’s lunch you’re staring at.


I mean, when you go after a blogger, you’re begging for attention. According to her blog, Laycock has only made $8 off the shirt. I can’t imagine that this is a thread to the NPB or their tired advertising campaign.

If there are any global conglomerates out there looking for a little publicity in-and-out of the blogosphere please contact me. I’d be happy to riff on your advertising for a little mutual profiteering.

Complaints About Google’s Blog Search

Chris Richardson at WebProNews has a good article outlining some of the complaints against Google’s Blog Search.

Seems a lot of blogs are scraping content to either redirect visitors to another page or to sell Google Ads on their own blog. Who makes money on Google Ads? Well, Google of course! What’s especially frustrating is that many if not most of the offending blogs are on Blogger, owned by, of course, Google.
By running a Google Alert on “flyte” I’m finding about one blog a day that’s scraping my content to drive traffic to their sites to sell more Google Ads. However, since not all of my posts include the word “flyte” I’m only catching a fraction. (I share a name with a college football coach, so the Google Alert on “Rich Brooks” was not helpful.)

Is it even possible for me to write a paragraph about the Web that doesn’t include the word Google or a product owned by Google? Only time will tell….

Scraped Blog Content and Google Adwords

There’s something rotten in the state of the blogosphere.

Like most neo-narcisists, I have a Google Alert going on my name, or more specifically, the name of my company. Every day, I get reports on posts I’ve done that mention “flyte,” or traffic reports involving people named “Flyte,” or updates on the Brideshead Revisited movie that may or not be made, or, more recently, seeing my work appear without my permission at other blogs.

These blogs have invariably scraped content from a post of mine, sometimes w/credit, sometimes w/o, and used the content w/o comment to sell Google Ads. Of course, anyone coming to the site will invariably click on one of those ads, because the scraped content is often incomplete and thus incoherent. For example:

Although there are several Web sites dedicated to organizing and promoting To start, I?d recommend using a hosting service that specializes in Podcasts. His podcast, flyte: Web strategies for small business, is available at

Yeah, I’d be proud of that.

Each time I find content that’s been scraped selling Adwords I report it to Google. Here’s how:

  1. Click on the link that says “Ads by Goooooogle.”
  2. Scroll down the following page and click on “Send Google your thoughts on the site or the ads you just saw.”
  3. Click on the “Also report a Violation?” link.
  4. Report to Google that this blog/site is scraping content from your blog (assuming they are.)

If it’s a Blogger blog you can also flag it for in appropriate content.

Unfortunately, I’m concerned that Google’s not concerned enough. After all, they make money every time someone clicks on one of these ads. While I like the people at Google, and I think they’re bright and they want to do the right thing, this may be a case of the fox guarding the chicken coop.

Recently, Search Engine Roundable reported that Google had a patent application named “Detecting spam documents in a phrase based information retrieval system,” so maybe they’re taking it seriously.

However, until they do take it seriously bloggers need to be watching that their own content isn’t being scraped and Adwords advertisers should probably require that their ads only appear at Google, and not on 3rd party sites.

How Not to Handle the Blogosphere

Posted by: of Expansion Plus on 01/5/07

ABC/Disney is on the warpath against Spocko, a media critic who took umbrage to some of the content aired on KSFO-AM.According to Media Post the conflict stems from Spocko’s criticism of a right-wing talk show that had some comments that were particularly venomous.

Disney has spooked Spocko’s Internet service provider into taking down the blog–but Spocko isn’t giving up the fight just yet. He’s contacted the Electronic Friont Foundation and intends to continue the fight – legally if necessary.  And what might have been a storm in a teacup has become a very public fight – and we’re all blogging about it.

A good lesson in how not to deal with negative comments online.


Employee Blogs and the Law

In an article that’s sure to take the joy out of any blogging enterprise, Internet Business Law Services has posted Internet Law: Employee Blogs Pose Potential Problems for Businesses.

While I’m sure that a number of large businesses have experienced problems with employees’ blogs (the article references a few cases), maybe the first step a company should take when employees complain in their blog is to take their complaints seriously! (Of course, I run a small business; what do I know about keeping peons in their place?)

This article talks specifically about personal blogs that employees work on after hours (or perhaps when the boss isn’t looking.) They look at what happens when the employees blog about work, disparage co-workers, or share company secrets.
If you do run a large business, or you’ve given your employees good reason to despise you, the article does have some helpful hints on new entries for the employee handbook, like making sure employees who blog about work state that these are their own opinions and not that of the company, and not to reveal any trade secrets.

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t give any advice on keeping your employees happy, engaged, or giving them reasons to blog positive.

Guidelines Needed for Government Employee Blogging

Posted by: of Thinking Home Business on 09/18/06
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Virginia Department of Business Assistance employee and dedicated blogger, Will Vehrs got a good result last month from the Commonwealth’s Department of Employment Dispute Resolution. The severity of disciplinary action against him for some blogging activity was reduced and the ten days’ pay that had been docked was ordered to be restored.

The story in summary form is at Virginia’s Daily Press site in the article State worker suspended over blog comments wins grievance. That’s not a blog post so I’m not sure about the archiving, but the story is told also on Townhall.com.

The bigger story here is that as an outcome of these events we have a landmark decision by a government agency, about public sector employee blogging, in the published findings of the Virginia Department of Employment Dispute Resolution (EDR).

I am not a lawyer, but I have been a government executive and more recently a government sector consultant. I believe this document will prove very helpful to public service managers who take the time to read and ponder it, and to anyone who consults on blogging to government departments or agencies.

Not before time. Until now I have not been able to discover any really useful information, directly about government employee blogging, as distinct from coverage of general issues about employee blogging.

There are several well-cited codes or sets of guidelines on blogging by employees in the corporate sector, e.g. those from IBM, Sun Microsystems and Thomas Nelson. But to the best of my knowledge no one has yet produced a set of blogging guidelines for the public sector, or at least not so as to be readily accessible from an online search.

And my sense is that any public sector manager or blogging consultant asked right now to advise a government agency on, for example, blogging guidelines for employees, would have to cobble something together from the various corporate sector guidelines and codes of blogging conduct.

That would be better than nothing, but might not be enough to provide guidelines adequate to the challenge. Or at least might not be enough to satisfy the client that every area of risk or uncertainty has been covered adequately and in language that speaks to the government employment context.

There is also the issue of workable guidelines being developed for individual agencies, which, it could be inferred from the EDR decision, may be acting less than prudently in relying on blanket guidelines established on a ‘whole of government’ basis.

A related issue is that if a government agency permits (or encourages) employees to blog, there could be a need for some quantification of what constitutes acceptable use of ‘on the job’ time. As the EDR decision makes clear, one of the limitations on Virginia Department of Business Assistance (VDBA) managers’ ability to discipline employees over blogging was that the applicable policy, i.e. the Commonwealth’s policy on Internet usage, allowed for ‘incidental and occasional personal use’ of the Commonwealth’s internet access, but did not attempt to quantify that.

Nor, it seems, is a ‘common sense’ approach going to be necessarily adequate in itself. In Will Vehr’s case, the supervisor counseled him about use of the weblog, warning that he would have to be careful not to ‘cross the line’, to be careful about the frequency and content of his commentary, to use good judgment and make sure his commenting did not become a distraction. Those principles are pretty much in line with the various corporate guidelines, such as those mentioned above. But once a media storm blew up and politicians and community members got involved, the principles were not enough in themselves to enable the supervisor to discipline Vehrs in such a way that the action would hold up under the scrutiny of a grievance procedure.

An interesting side issue is that although Vehrs had a disclaimer posted on the blog stating that the views he expressed were his own, EDR found that the posting of the disclaimer was “not sufficient to insulate him from violation of the policy (that he was required to state that his communications were personal and not a ‘communication of the agency or the Commonwealth’)”. Which raises the question of what would constitute a disclaimer adequate for the purpose.

According to reports, such as that on the Townhall.com site, the VDBA’s solution to these interesting challenges to public administration has been fairly basic – ban blogging. Presumably that means blogging on the taxpayer’s time. Nothing is said in the reports I’ve seen about guidance on private blogging by a state employee, where similar guidelines surely need to be established as are included in corporate sector guidelines cited above.

A ban is not a policy. And while understandable in the circumstances, that outcome is not helpful for those of us who might be interested in seeing how a government agency would go about adopting a more nuanced policy approach.

So in the absence of such an approach and drawing on the EDR findings, here are some key points I would be looking to include in any set of guidelines for government sector blogging, in addition to principles already established for the corporate sector:

  • quantify what would constitute an acceptable – not necessarily recommended – upper limit of time over a given week for personal use of the employer’s internet access, on the employer’s time, for blogging
  • with due consideration to privacy issues, establish logging and archiving arrangements adequate to provide objective evidence of time spent in blogging, to assist in resolving any future dispute
  • advise employees fully, in writing, of any applicable law, overall service guidelines and any specific governmental, departmental, agency or unit guidelines
  • advise employees of the need to provide disclaimers in a prominent way, so that readers of their blog posts or comments understand that ‘their views are their own’
  • provide managers with appropriate guidance and training in their supervisory role regarding employee blogging and specifically on the need to be able to provide objective evidence of any alleged breach of guidelines, before proceeding to disciplinary action

I’m sure there are more principles and refinements to be included in any comprehensive set of blogging guidelines for government employees. On the other hand, I expect that some bloggers will regard even what I’m proposing here as unduly restrictive or onerous.

But whatever guidelines eventually emerge, public sector managers, and consultants advising the public sector, have reason to be grateful to Mr Vehrs for having taken his grievance to EDR, and grateful to that Department for publishing its decision online.

Blogging For CIOs A Cautionary Tale

Posted by: of One By One Media on 09/13/06

Niall Cook yesterday posted about CIOs and their thoughts about corporate blogs in an article by Andy McCue at Silicon.com.  He and I both agree that perhaps CIOs are a little paranoid when referring to blogs, but in their defense, it is scary for companies to try something new.  Many businesses don’t want to be the leader in new and different ways of corporate communication.  They like to be copycat for the things that work.  Until companies begin to embrace blogs as an online marketing tool and a way to communicate with clients and customers, they will tread lightly, making sure that the water is warm before jumping in the pool.  The best example of the fear is exemplified in the comment by Rob Wharton, CIO of Colt Telecoms:

“Blogs are popular because they tend to represent personal opinions and personality rather than corporate messages. Therefore we need to take a great deal of care to ensure appropriate use so we don’t devalue the blog concept, whilst avoiding mayhem in what essentially needs to be a controlled message.”

The first part of the comment is spot on, that blogging is a personality of your company and what it represents, and that can be a frightful thought.  What Mr. Wharton needs to realize is consumers and customers want to see that personality and they don’t want the corporate speak of the controlled message.  The “mayhem” he discusses can be controlled if the personality is proper.  Until they see it in action blogs are still the boogey man of corporate communication.

Spam Attack!

Posted by: of One By One Media on 08/28/06
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You never really know what good something is doing in the blogosphere until it is broken and you don’t have it anymore. Over the weekend, the popular spam assassin Akismet was down and out. I only knew this after logging in to my site and seeing over a 1000 comments. At first I thought I had been the newest news story out there and my popularity had soared through the roof based on something that was said in the land down under. I was far from that fantasy.

With as many as came through the filters in that period of time, I was convinced that Akismet would be worth it even if I had to pay for the service (my site does not make enough money to be paying for the service yet. They require big companies to buy a license fee). I spent most of the day cleaning up the comments and the trackbacks and wasted a better part of my day.

The folks at Akismet had the same thing to say on their blog:

“I’m really sorry about this, when things are working smoothly it’s easy to forget how much vile junk is actually being blocked day to day.”

The better part of this lesson is that the folks at Akismet could talk to me about their problem. I don’t mean to say that they called me up at home while I was cursing all things spam, but when I went to their blog they had the information right there on their site and I was able to know what happened in real time. I knew that the glitch came after an upgrade or some similar technical backend move and it caused the system to fail. I was given the problem, the solution and an apology. Here is a company that understands the power of a blog as a communication tool.

The Dangers of Pissing Off a Blogger

At Business Blog Consulting we have a category called “Dangers of Blogging,” but I’ve always thought it best served stories about Microsoft employees who like to take photos of Macs being unloaded in Redmond or flight attendants who take “revealing” photos of themselves at work and blog about it. (If by “revealing” the airline meant “without comfortable shoes.”)

What we really need is a category called “Dangers of Pissing Off a Blogger.” That could be a real help to the PR and marketing people who read this blog.
Case in point: Eric D. Snider has a Web site that hosts his “Snide Remarks” articles and his blog. Recently, he was invited to a press junket for Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center that he ruminates in an article called “I Was a Junket Whore.”

In it, he talks about how no real journalists with ethics would go on a junket and how much Paramount spent on wooing him to get him to write positive things about the movie. He followed that up with a blog entry where he tore into another “junket whore.”

Paramount’s response?

Well, I knew Paramount wouldn’t like the article if they happened to read it, and I figured they wouldn’t invite me on any more junkets. But they went a step further and banned me from all their press screenings, too — the ones that ALL critics (not just quote whores) go to. They also convinced their regional publicists to ban me from screenings for the other studios those publicists handle.

Snider of course noted all this on the article and the follow up blogs. It even got him (and Paramount) some coverage on NPR and perhaps some other media outlets. (Plus, the blog you’re reading now.)

Now, personally I don’t agree with everything Snider says.

But if the goal of the studio is for the film to make a profit, then it’s absurd to spend so much promotional money on things that, in the end, won’t actually increase ticket sales very much.

Actually, all of the money they spent on Snider’s hotel room and flight and dinner stipend probably wouldn’t buy one commercial on a nationally broadcast show, plus most people would Tivo right over the commercial anyway. Plus, Maggie Gyllenhaal is a beautiful, sexy actress and I’ll fight anyone who says different!

That being said, Paramount and other corporations need to learn how to handle bloggers better. In this case, ignoring Snider probably would have been in their best interest. Most people probably know that junkets are meant to sway reviewers, and those who don’t probably don’t care.

In other cases, especially when bloggers are angry about bad customer service (AOL?), or batteries that make good campfire starters (Sony? Dell?), it’s best to take care of the problem immediately, starting with the most prominent bloggers.

In still other cases the best solution may be to tell “your” side of the story, and let the chips fall where they may. After all, soon enough someone will be blogging about another customer-service-story-from-hell and you can go back to running your business.

Kazaa Australia Boss Sues Canadian Blogger

Posted by: of Thinking Home Business on 08/16/06
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In a case which has evident implications for Canadian bloggers but also for bloggers worldwide, Kazaa Australia boss Nikki Hemming is suing Canadian blogger Jon Newton and others for defamation, on the basis of an article earlier this year on Newton’s p2pnet site, as reported in this week’s IT Today section of the national daily The Australian (not a hyperlink permalink, no guarantee it will be there indefinitely).

The suit is over material posted on p2pnet and anonymous comments on that post, some months ago at a time when Hemming was in court in a Sydney case. Included in the suit with Newton are his ISP and four John Doe, anonymous commenters. The article has since been removed from the p2pnet site.

Jon Newton is disputing the suit vigorously and observes that if Hemming wins the case ‘it’ll open the door even wider for lawsuits against Canadian bloggers’  .

Canadian internet law professor Michael Geist has commented on the case and its implications in his BBC Online article Free speech, libel and the internet age. Geist draws attention to how the legal frameworks in different jurisdictions have a variety of implications for internet intermediaries, such as internet service providers and even individual bloggers who allow comments.  

The difficult question is not whether these sites and services have the right to voluntarily remove offending content if they so choose – no one doubts that they do – but rather whether sites can be compelled to remove allegedly unlawful or infringing content under threat of potential legal liability.

The answer is not as straightforward as one might expect since the law in Commonwealth countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia varies depending on the type of content or the nature of the allegations.

Canadian media lawyer Dan Burnett also comments on the different treatments in different jurisdictions, in his statement as reported at the August 5 Toronto Freedom of Speech Online concert and benefit. Burnett sees Canada as being laggard in reforming the law and comments:

In addition to the reforms we are lagging behind already, the internet age raises some new and fundamental questions. How does the right of reply on wiki and reader-post sites affect the law? Are we going to hold site operators liable for automatic posts by others? Are (we) going to recognize a defense for a person who operates a public forum for debate?

So where are bloggers without ready resource to internet lawyers to go for advice on these matters?

It seems not uncommon for bloggers to refer, on defamation and other legal issues, to the Electronic Frontier Foundation Legal Guide for Bloggers. That’s good as far as it goes, and there is some good advice in the document, but unless I’m missing something the document is a legal guide for the United States of America, not a global guide. (Actually, from a chat today with a lawyer friend very knowledgeable in these matters, I would seriously doubt whether a comprehensive global guide of any depth in this area is likely to emerge in the near or distant future.) 

Whatever the peculiarities of various legal jurisdictions, clearly some degree of prudence is needed in terms of what we post to our blogs and what we allow in terms of comments. Dave Taylor had some good advice on this in his post last year SEO Book’s Aaron Wall sued over comments on his weblog: Dave saw the case as ‘a wakeup call to business bloggers who haven’t yet thought through their own comment and comment moderation strategies’. 

And however the currrent case in Canada turns out, it too is clearly a call to look at the posting and comment moderation policies for our own blogs and those of any companies to which we consult.

MySpace Blogger In Trouble with Boulder City Council

I’m always on the lookout for stories about bloggers who get into trouble with official government agencies, because I think that the freewheeling and fairly tolerant blogging community is one that’s hard to understand when you’re a government official. When we add MySpace to the mix, you know the result is going to be even more volatile because people who haven’t been exposed to MySpace and its social networking ilk imagine a sort of prim and proper social chat community rather than the chaos, immaturity and just plain weirdness that is pervasive.

So when is a slightly sexually suggestive comment on MySpace grounds for an investigation from the City Council? When you’re a volunteer committee member? Read on:

Boulder City Official in Hot Water over MySpace Blog

Why I Don’t Believe in Anonymous (Corporate) Blogging… Strumpette, You Can Stuff It

Posted by: of BlogWrite for CEOs on 07/24/06

Because it’s bogus.

What I mean is that, as amusing or clever as anonymous blogging can be (of course sometimes it’s nasty), it’s still slippery. Only half credible. And therefore ultimately an artifice. It’s not real. It’s not *authentic.* It doesn’t carry the weight of legitimate commentary.

The obvious, of course, is that an anonymous blogger is cloaked by er, anonymity, and can toss grenades at anyone or any company without fear of being personally attacked in return.

By contrast, the essence of effective business or corporate blogging is that it *reveals* something about the individual blogger… his or her smarts about a particular issue or discipline. We are usually as interested in the “who” of a good corporate blog, as in the “what.”

And the connection with Strumpette is…


Ooooh too cool… here’s my back and forth with Amanda Chapel (aka Strumpette) that clarifies what I’m trying to say about anonymity as it relates to corporate blogging.

When Your Customers Blog…

The Web and the blogosphere can be incredible tools to connect with customers and prospects. Unfortunately, if you’re not doing a good job your customers can use these same tools to let the world know.

AOL found this out recently when one of their customers tried to cancel his account. Vincent Ferrari had heard horrible stories about AOL’s “customer support” so he decided to record his conversation.

After 15 minutes he finally got through to a human being. The call resulted in something that’s a cross between Dante’s 9th ring of hell and Orwell’s 1984. The king from Monty Python’s Holy Grail had an easier time explaining to the palace guards to keep his son locked in his room than Ferrari had explaining that he just wanted to cancel the account. “I don’t know how I can make this any clearer, just cancel my account,” he says time and again.

Ferrari put the recording on his blog, but was overwhelmed by the social bookmarking traffic. You can now listen to the whole painful affair at Putfile.com. When something’s this painful or funny, it’s very likely to go viral.

That virus got Ferrari on a number of talk shows and got him an official apology from AOL.

The lesson here: treat your customers with respect, because they just might be blogging.

By the way, if you think Ferrari is just a crank about customer service, read this recent post on his experience with Audible.

Bloggers now have their own gang sign

Yes, it’s true, you can actually spell the word “blog” with your hands. Here’s the photo to prove it.

Careful, using this ‘gang symbol’ in the wrong neighborhood could get you shot! 😀

5 tips for businesses who are considering blogging

The article Defending yourself against the blogs from Multichannel Merchant (May issue) offers some good advice to merchants on how to more effectively manage their brand in the blogosphere.

The article opens with a story of how Greenpeace successfully pressured Gorton’s parent company Nissui to pull out of the whaling business by inciting a blogstorm against Gorton’s. I feel so ‘out of it’ — reading the article was the first I’d heard of this and Gorton’s, & Gorton’s Fresh Seafood are clients of mine! (well, not mine personally, but of my web dev / SEO agency Netconcepts)

Also included in the article are some comments (from yours truly!) on how to enter the blogosphere effectively:

  1. Create a “safe haven” for employees to experiment with blogging. Set up a private blog on your intranet or extranet, or start a blog that’s password-protected. Then offer access to that test to a selected audience. Your inexperienced bloggers will feel more comfortable knowing that all your customers and competitors are not watching their every move.
  2. Decide on a permanent home for your blog. The Web address you choose should be one that you will be happy with for years to come. Remember that it will become difficult to switch blog services if you allow the service’s name to be part of your URL. Ehobbies.blogs.com, backcountryblog.blogspot.com, and sethgodin.typepad.com are all examples of blogs that are forever wedded to their blog platform, for better or for worse. If they switch platforms, all the links they’ve earned will be unavailable to their new blog. Links are the lifeblood of your search engine visibility, so the significance of this cannot be overstated.
  3. Select a scalable, flexible, and user-friendly blog platform. There are so many solutions to choose from! Some are hosted services, such as TypePad, Blogger, and WordPress.com. Some are software packages that you install on your Web server, such as WordPress, Drupal, or Movable Type. You can pore over comparison charts (such as the one at www.ojr.org/ojr/images/blog_software_comparison.cfm), though I suggest you simply go with WordPress (the software package, not to be confused with the hosted service at WordPress.com). WordPress is free, so the price is right. It’s highly configurable, since it’s open source, and it has a plethora of free, useful plug-ins written for it.
  4. Decide on a posting schedule. Try to post at least three times a week. Allow several hours per week for this. I typically spend two to three hours a week blogging. Don’t hire a ghostwriter for your blog, or you’ll get slammed by bloggers for lack of transparency (an unwritten rule in the blogosphere). As far as retaining readers, recency is more important than frequency. A couple weeks of inactivity makes the reader feel like nobody’s home. Conversely, having the latest post be only a day old makes the blog appear “fresh.”
  5. Build relationships with respected bloggers. Not only will they be more likely to link to you, but they will also offer advice and bolster your street cred. Posting thoughtful comments on their blogs is only the first step. Attend blogger conferences such as BlogOn and Blog Business Summit and meet bloggers in person. Keep the dialogue going through e-mail and through phone or Skype conversations. Become an evangelist, and you will really get them on your side.

You may also want to check out on my own blog the unabridged version of my ecommerce blog tips that I had sent to the Multichannel Merchant journalist. It further expounds on the five tips.

Registering Your Blog’s Domain Name

The first mistake I mention in “The 11 Biggest Mistakes Small Business Bloggers Make” is not getting your own domain name for your blog, and using something.typepad.com or something similar.

However, you need to be careful if you use the registrars to research a blog domain name. (Or any domain name, for that matter.) Wired’s Monkey Bites blog reports here and here on a situation where someone put a desired domain name into a shopping cart at GoDaddy but didn’t check out right then. (Happens all the time.)

When they returned the next day to purchase the domain name it was gone, purchased by someone else and for sale for an inflated price.

The same thing happened to someone I know when she put her titular domain name in a shopping cart at GoDaddy but didn’t check out. The next day — poof! — it was gone.

Slimy? Yes. Illegal? Probably not.

In short: if you researching a domain name at the registrars, be ready to buy it right then!


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