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Corporations form group to create blogging best practices

Companies like Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo say their needs are different from individuals, small business

By Heather Havenstein
December 7, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Executives from 12 large companies, including The Coca-Cola Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Kaiser Permanente, General Motors Corp. and Dell Inc., have jointly formed a blog council aimed at promoting corporate blogging best practices -- a plan that has already elicited skepticism from many in the blogosphere.

The founders described The Blog Council, which launched this week, as a forum for executives to meet in private to share tactics and develop standards for corporate blogging.

Major corporations don't use blogs in the same way that individuals and small businesses do, but they must abide by the same rules and etiquette, noted Andy Sernovitz, CEO of the council. "Individual and small-business bloggers don't face the same issues [as large companies]," he said in a statement. "For example, we still need to deliver a responsible and effective corporate message, but we need to do it in the complicated environment of the blogosphere. We have to speak for a corporation, but never sound 'corporate.' And we have to learn to do it live, in real time."

The council plans to discuss various issues, including the role of the corporate blog in a media landscape increasingly geared toward consumer-generated content; the correct way to engage and respond to bloggers who write about a company; and how to manage blogs in more than one language.

Other founding members of the council include AccuQuote, Cisco Systems Inc., Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc., Nokia Corp. and SAP AG. The first meeting of the council will be on Jan. 22.

Technology bloggers greeted the announcement of the council mostly with skeptical posts. Robert Scoble, for example, noted that many companies today just don't get Web 2.0 technology and don't use it to tap into the voice of their customers. Scoble noted, for example, that some online retail sites don't engage customers and provide online avenues for them to contribute content.

"Industry has a long way to go before it understands the real value that seemingly unimportant conversations have," he noted in the blog post. "Every company I've spoken to, from L'Oréal to Target to Boeing, gets that you need to pay attention to the New York Times. I don't know of a single corporation who won't return a journalist's phone call from the New York Times. But how many companies respond to a kid in Australia who only has three readers? How many companies respond to comments made on people's Facebook walls? How many companies meet regularly with bloggers?"

Mashable blogger Mark Hopkins said that big corporations "are just starting to realize how obsolete they are becoming in the new social space that is the Internet. They're starting to realize that the millions of dollars they spend on massive international video and print branding campaigns are just as effective as Google's decision to create a solid service and a colorful logo instead of marketing themselves in the traditional sense.

"Instead of creating a committee, these companies should instead try to recruit companies to the council that have already created engaging blogs that aren't constantly mired in PR and legal clearance," he noted.

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