Head of Digital Technology at Aimia, the loyalty management company that owns and operates Nectar
06 September 2006 10:49am
My boss has asked me to put together a white paper on blogs and User Generated Content.
Whilst it is not a difficult task with lots of examples of big companies doing it I am having problems putting together a business case for it . Mainly I cannot get out of my mind the number of community sites in the 90s that had massive and popular forums (Mother and Baby for one) but were closed down because there was no money in it. Cost of moderation and supervision for one. A lot of talk about upsell and cross-selling to these people but it never materialised, brand loyalty etc.
What has changed 5-10 years later that suddenly it's big business ??
CEO at Econsultancy
06 September 2006 11:33am
When I get a moment I have my own (ironically) blog post stored up to rant about this very topic. For the moment, though, 3 short points:
1. User-Generated Content
I remember the "3Cs" of the dotcom boom - content, commerce and community. Isn't 'UGC' just 'community' re-hashed? Why should it work now? Have all consumers suddely woken up and decided 'you know what, I suddenly feel like generating masses of content'.
Actually, there is an argument why "UGC" is now much more possible than it was in the dotcom days. I'll post more fully on this sometime but basically it's down to a mixture of 1. Broadband penetration 2. Changing Internet Usage 3. Better Tools/Services to enable UGC.
2. BlogsLet's please not get obsessed again (dotcom style) by the particular medium, or tool, or functionality, and forget the actual message or content. In dotcom days we all needed "B2B exchanges" (except we didn't). Now we all need blogs?
It isn't "blogs" or "Forums" or "widgets" or whatever else that is important. It is whether a) you actually have anything interesting to say and b) whether your users / customers actually want to engage with you in this way and c) whether there is a sensible business case.
Companies talk about doing blogs, but I wonder - who is going to do your blog? Where is that time coming from? And, most importantly, if you've really got something interesting to talk about, how come you weren't doing it already through press releases, white papers, seminars, a forum etc. etc.? With the arrival of blogs, have you suddenly woken up interesting?
Blogs are great, and can work very well for any company in a range of ways, but it's disappointing when the medium/tool (i.e. blogs) is what 'we must do' rather than focusing on the message / content / business case / desired outcome and then asking if blogs are appropriate.
3. The Business CaseThe easiest (hard) business case for blogs (or forums)? Search engine optimisation. Cheap (text-rich, often-updated, thematically-focused) content created by willing customers / stakeholders = search engine fodder = traffic = sales / business value.
Oh and I guess I should plug our own Blogging for Business training event...
E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker
06 September 2006 12:41pm
the other major business case is branding: if it's at all useful for your customers/prospects to perceive you as being an expert in your field (and for 99% of businesses it is), a (well-written, on-topic, frequently-updated) blog is a very simple way to achieve that.
Director at immediate future- social media consultancy
06 September 2006 12:55pm
I agree with Ashley’s points on why this medium is different in 2006. Recent Ofcom stats reveal that there is a greater shift to online as a priority source of information and entertainment. My personal thoughts are that there is a sea change in thinking amongst consumers. Now so much more marketing savvy, they are disillusioned with the big brand and moving to a more ‘street’-based advocacy - with a greater propensity to use peer recommendations.
There is good business case for considering blogs and social media when getting close to your audience – the rewards are not just in monetising the blog or community, but in developing good brand communications with your customers. Customers who are now increasingly taking on board online opinions!
But be warned, it requires more than good writers and a bit of technology to create blogs and community. It requires a change in company culture to allow for transparency within the organisation. You need t be honest and open and be able to address difficult issues with personality and style. And do expect to grow a thick skin – as you open up conversations with consumers, don’t expect them all to be good ones!
And as Ashley says, don’t get too hung up on single tactics, the changes in consumer activity online allows companies to open up new avenues for dialogue that don’t always require you to build your own blog or social media site.
Multichannel Strategy Director at Specialist Holidays Group - TUI Travel
14 September 2006 08:41am
Like most things to do with the web, people who say they "want a blog, like YESTERDAY!" need to be sat down in a quiet, calm room and asked "for what purpose?"
There are some benefits to blogs that are very generic and can be done with almost any CMS. The trouble is they have never been so darn EASY and cheap to do until the last few years.
These are things like:
- a content management interface that almost anyone can use (Blogger is living testament to this, thanks to Adaptive Path & Doug Bowman...)
- no-thought-required navigation scheme for content organisation built in
- search built in (most systems anyway!)
- comments & trackbacks from other like-minded people, create a conversation in minutes
- SEO friendly URLs, templates, HTML -- publish your blog and see it in days in Google - that's a big benefit...
The blog crowd are largely *giving away* this software whereas in the past I have been involved (on more than one occasion I'm afraid) in six figure projects that were unable to deliver the simplicity of interface and depth of functionality now available in WordPress, Movable Type et al.
This *is* significant, particularly to Jo or Josephine Public who wants to publish their cat photos, holiday journal or hilarious lifestories.
For businesses though, technology on its own rarely creates value - humans do.
This is the point Ashley is making - unless you understand the human drivers around supply and demand for content, it's unlikely you're going to create a great business case. So it's all about your proposition for the blog, how the audience will respond, and how you can support that proposition over time to create value.
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