Saturday, April 07, 2007

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Blog?

Bruce Nussbaum notes that while senior executives are busy investing in many aspects of Web 2.0 (63% for web services, 28% for peer-to-peer networks, and 19% for social networks), only 16% are investing in blogs.

Bruce argues, "Managers in general still worry about loss of control with blogs. Letting their employees and consumers into the conversationn and allowing them their say frightens them."

I think Bruce is definitely correct that managers worry about the loss of control, but I think it's also true that it's not always easy to get your employees to blog.

I tried to launch an employee blogging initiative at my company, with senior management blessing, but none of our employees wanted to be bloggers. Even having our VP Sales directly order his people to blog had no effect--I got the distinct sense that a lot of people would rather be fired than blog!

Bloggers have to remember that something that seems as natural as breathing to them still scares the hell out of people--not for the loss of control, but simply because it's new and different. And for every grandma blogger, there are legions more who don't.


Foobarista said...

Frankly, I can understand why employees wouldn't like to blog as company members. It's basically the same as being in an all-hands meeting; you're talking in front of a whole bunch of people who can fire you, and if the blog isn't anonymous, everything you say can and will be held against you, or twisted in ways that make you look bad by company opponents.

It doesn't matter what management says about the consequences of blogs and whether there's some sort of corporate "free speech rule" - employees still know that bosses can and likely will fire them if they trip up publicly, and a blog makes this far easier.

Alex G said...

Not to mention that saying something on a blog is a lot different than commenting on a message board, or commenting on another blog. You took the effort to create the post out of nothing. You're making a clear, premeditated statement for everyone to read. It forces you to either be damn sure you're right, or be sure that you don't care if other people think you are wrong. Both are hard things to accomplish. I'm in the former group, but it means I need to do a lot of research and editing before I'm comfortable posting on my blog, and so it becomes very time consuming.

Ben Casnocha said...

Blogging also favors those who like to or are good at writing. Not everyone enjoys writing.

Chris said...

The interesting thing here is that most of the employees are quite outspoken, and don't show much fear of being fired.

They also don't fear writing, given the vast volumes of email that I receive from them.

I suspect that it's not so much the fear of what people in the company would think, as it is simply not wishing to put their voice out in the public. Alex makes a great point:

"It forces you to either be damn sure you're right, or be sure that you don't care if other people think you are wrong. Both are hard things to accomplish."

Fortunately, I fall into the latter camp!

Jackie Danicki said...

Rule number one of employee blogging: There must be something in it for the individual. "It'll be good PR for the company" does not cut it.

Also, I am not surprised that "even" being ordered to blog didn't want to make people do it. I really expected it would? Blogging is a bottom-up phenomenon, and the top-down approach is one that I have not seen work in any meaningful way.

(I'm aware that this comment sounds quite snarky and cranky, but I swear, I don't mean it like that. This is what I do for a living, and the fact that some companies find it so hard to do is what pays my bills, so I guess I'm just a little astonished at seeing the same mistaken approaches being taken by so many very, very clever people. Must be how a hairdresser feels when she sees people with bad home-dyed hair. Bad analogy, but I'm jetlagged, sorry.)

Chris said...

Point of clarification:

People were not asked to blog about the company, but rather just to share their thoughts on technical issues and the industry as a whole.

These were insights that they enjoyed holding forth on all the time during my meetings with them, yet were completely unwilling to commit to paper.

People didn't even need to use their own name, just to create content.

In my mind, it's like marcomm professionals refusing to write white papers.

Jackie Danicki said...

So people could "create content" (that must sound fun to somebody) and not even get the credit for it? Why would you have nameless opinions on a blog in the first place?

Feeling: confused.

Chris said...

What happened was that all these people wanted to improve the amount of traffic our Web site received. The solution they wanted to adopt was to create a series of single-topic blogs that could be useful to a general audience and help drive traffic and PageRank for our site.

After people volunteered to cover certain topics, I went through the trouble of setting up the appropriate TypePad and WordPress infrastructure.

When it came time to follow through on their promises, practically no one did.

They liked the idea of blogging, but had never done it, and when it came down to it, despite being so vociferous in the past, had no appetite for the real deal.

That's what irked me so much. If I had tried to ram blogging down their throats, their actions would be understandable, but they asked me to set things up for them, and then chickened out.

Foobarista said...

This is a typical problem in startups; you get "Blogs! What a great idea! It'll drive traffic and generate leads when people see how brilliant we are!". We had the same thought at our startup.

But this wouldn't really be a blog - it's more of a collection of essays. These are a lot of work, and if you aren't into punditry, are about as much fun to do as a college essay, with the added feature that your boss and a vast audience may end up reading it. It may also be archived out there somewhere so it can come back to haunt you later.

Personally, I don't mind this sort of thing, but lots of people do.