Blogging, next to Wikis, is the most popular instrument of new social software in an organization. A blog itself is quite a simple application. The value of blogging comes by the engagement of its authors and readers. Implementing blogs in an organization is not an easy task and needs time, resources and patience. I have worked with blogs within an organization for over three years and this pretty much summarizes my key experiences (I previously posted this on one blogging project).
Blogging examples Blogs can be used in different contexts and for different purposes. Once again, they are just a tool, which has to be embedded in the organizational culture. So, for example, if a blog is just an add-on to existing tools, then will you quickly hear the information overload argument. These are some ways to use blogs:
- Project management: A project history with milestones, document references and discussions.
- Public relations: An external blog to engage to different audiences.
- Stakeholder management: A blog to keep a network together and communicate on transparent on peer-to-peer basis.
- Employee: Let the experts in your organization speak on their behalf and create their own audiences or spheres of interests.
- Department: A channel to communicate relevant information. A supply for all those emails and a forum to get together. Who knows what is happening three doors away?
- Thematic: An overlapping blog for specific theme. It involves all employees who are interested or working on that particular theme.
- Process: Use it for quality control to involve all employees in certain processes, to highlight problems and elaborate solutions.
- Customer-relationship-management: Let your internal customers, for example of the accountancy department, engage openly, to send feedback and discuss with them potential improvements.
- Do you know of any others? I am sure there are more additional examples.
Blogging success factors Each of the above listed examples need a slightly different approach, but I want to highlight general success factors, which I separated into four different phases: preparation, marketing, engagement, sustainability. I have put in some vague percentage to show the kind of effort (time and resources), which have to be taken into consideration. Do you agree with this figures?
**Preparation (30%) **
- In essence, to set up a blog is technically easy.
- Emphasis on design: It is important that your authors and readers like the look of the blog.
- Do not use the standard blog templates. Blogs are flexible applications, so design or adapt them to your specific needs. Embed carefully additional widgets (different information boxes).
- The front-page is key to set incentives for engagement: Focus on well elaborated categories for orientation or offer tagging, highlight the recent comments, offer a search field and different ways for subscription.
- Do not plan too much and wait too long! I know it is a contradiction to the points above. Most things shall be changed through feedback from your audience. Blogging is an ongoing experiment.
- Think about a policy or some points for motivation to set a framework. IBM and Sun have some good examples.
- From the start up leave the blog open to as many authors as possible and of course for any reader to comment.
- Calculate long term resources (at least two years) for bloggers and to facilitate the endeavour.
- Do not be afraid of user administration. It is very easy to do.
- Elaborate how you can reduce other communication channels such as email for blogging.
- Discuss with the management, what could be the incentives and obligations to engage.
- **Get together a critical mass of motivated bloggers. **These are the ones that bring your blog alive, particularly in the starting phase – best are multipliers. You should have at least 5 dedicated bloggers.
- Create a little vision or story about why you create this blog and focus on the benefit for its users. For example, highlight synergy effects and public personal knowledge sharing.
- Do a little road show in your organization to bring employees on board. **Although word by mouth propaganda is in my experience the strongest success factor for this community driven endeavour. **
- Include, when possible, short trainings. We often use already existing frequent meetings for a half hour presentation. That was in most cases enough to start.
- Establish a little help section with frequently asked questions and if possible a screencast of how to use the blog.
- **Particularly in the beginning, it is important to motivate people to join. **Comment on blog posts. Propose to publish content only sent by email.
- Practice an open style of writing and set incentives for different writing styles to lower the barrier for participation. For example, formal announcement next to personal stories.
- Think about the best way to let readers be notified about a blog post. Best would be a RSS (feed) option, but consider also classical email notification.
- Give answers in blog post through emails instead and send only links to the post.
- Encourage for discussions and pick up interesting developments happening on other communication channels.
- Leave the blog content development open to discussion and the audience as an incentive.
- Technical difficulties were mostly around missing tags or categories, file upload and large size photos.
- Do not underestimate the facilitation throughout the blog life span.
- Think about regular evaluation to get detail feedback. Why are users participation and why not?
- Fluctuation is often high, so scheduled regular presentations or trainings are necessary.
- Answer user requests and registrations as quickly as possible.
- Integrate your blog into other existing web tools (e.g. Intranet) for example, though feeds.
- Include other wanted features such as document folder, event calendar, etc.
This is a blog post series about my experiences on web2.0 in an organization, consisting of at least 26 different blog posts highlighting potentials and challenges and focusing on success factors. Please feel free to comment, contact me for further information and/or let me know which other topics within this context you would be interested on.