“Revolutions may be hard to predict, but ignoring them often has unfortunate consequences…in business numbers speak. They indicate blogging is no fad, and its relevance to business cannot logically continue to be denied.”
Naked Conversations, page 25
In the last decade, marketing has undergone a major shift from one-directional messages to conversations. The primary reason for the shift is the widespread acceptance of blogs. Blogs provide a number of benefits to organizations, including greater access to honest feedback from customers.
Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel takes us into the world of corporate blogging, weighs the pros and cons for companies, and gives us some guidelines to follow should we decide to enter into a conversation with our customers.
Welcome to the Conversation Era
“The fundamental argument of this book is not to eliminate marketing, but to change it to something more conversational.”
Naked Conversations, page 97
Blogging enables companies to deepen relationships with their customers and other key stakeholders. Deepening relationships with customers allows companies to develop better products and services because you will have access to honest feedback and be privy to customer desires and problems. While other companies are guessing what customers really want, you don’t have to guess.
Blogs also help you build trust with customers by humanizing your company and letting customers get to know the people behind the company. With this increased trust comes an increased propensity to buy.
Finally, by listening to and engaging with your customers through blogs, you stand an increased chance that your customers will become advocates for you. Not only will they be more likely to buy from you, they’ll also be likely to refer other customers, stand up for you against unfair attacks and give you the benefit of the doubt and time to handle a crisis.
To get these benefits and avoid the potential pitfalls with blogging, you must follow the rules.
“One simple rule for doing it right is be real. If you are going to blog, be authentic. Keep your conversations naked.”
Naked Conversations, page 149
Perhaps one of the most important rules in blogging is to be yourself. Readers are sick of “corpspeakers,” people who use an “oxymoronic hybrid of cautious legalese seasoned with marketing hyperbole”. Rather than the traditional PR method of command and control, this book suggests that PR and marketing should shift to listening and participating. Rather than blasting PR releases that are touched by a dozen people and full of corpspeak, blogging is more conversational and touched only once. This shift helps keep the conversation natural and creates a culture of transparency.
In addition to authenticity, Naked Conversations offers a variety of other tips for successful blogging:
Talk, don’t sell
Post often and be interesting
Write on issues you know and care about
Blogging saves money but costs time
You get smarter by listening to what other people tell you
Regarding whether or not you should blog, the authors offer a few guidelines:
“If you are a genuine bad guy, or are part of an organization of bad guys, don’t blog.”
“The dull should not blog.”
“If a habitual exaggerator tries blogging, he or she is likely to learn it’s the wrong venue…blogging is a venue best avoided for those prone to hyperbole.”
At the end of the day, there are no rules for blogging. There are certain guidelines that you should follow, but Naked Conversations is filled with examples of entrepreneurs, CEOs, and regular Joe’s who chose to ignore some rules while implementing others. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be yourself.
“If you want to be a top-level blogger, you need to get over your fear of breaking the rules.”
“Credibility is very much like virginity. Once you lose it, it is impossible to regain.”
Naked Conversations, page 201
In business and in life, your reputation is everything. You can spend years building credibility and lose it all because of one bad decision. With blogging, authenticity is a key component of building your credibility.
The problem with corpspeak is that it deadens the truth to what is being said. Weighed down by lawyers and PR professionals, the language coming out of spokespeople’s mouths is more legal/risk-avoidant and less relatable to our audience. Blogging authentically means to blog with passions and convictions, to speak your truth (even if it means admitting a competitor’s product is better or that your product could be improved). As you begin speaking your truth, customers will trust you.
Blogging has definitely impacted marketing, making conversations with customers critical to a successful marketing program. Rather than speaking to customers whenever we want, marketers must be sure to talk with customers when the customer wants to interact. Blogs enable marketers to do just this.
“The ROI issue is vital to business, but considering it is more appropriate when looking at products and services than when evaluating communication tools. There is no ROI connected with a press release, a web site, or a corporate brochure. Nor is there any ROI attached to the value of a CEO spending three days traveling to and attending an executive conference where he speaks for 20 minutes. But most companies understand the value.”