Archive for March, 2010


The silent majority: Why people don’t comment on your blog

“Why don’t I get comments on my blog?”

This is one of the most common blog-related questions I receive.  My recent post on re-thinking community engagement — especially on B2B blogs — received a lot of attention.  In addition to a vibrant comment section, I received emails, DM’s and phone calls with more ideas from the majority of folks who are meaningfully connected with companies and blogs, but don’t engage in a traditional sense.   I wanted to pass on some new  ideas on why comments may not be the best measure of “engagement,” especially for B2B companies, courtesy of the {grow} community:

Comparisons to traditional consumer behavior

Brian O’Kane and I had a lengthy Skype call on a range of topics, including the fact that most people just don’t feel comfortable commenting … on anything.

“Conventional businesses have no way of knowing how many engaged customers they have,” he said. “Think about traditional brands.  A very tiny percentage of people would actually write in to express their loyalty or displeasure with a brand yet they know they have thousands or millions of loyal consumers.  We somehow expect a higher degree of personal interaction with social media .  Because you blog or make a comment, you may expect people to comment too. But consumer behavior is still the same — most people are just happy to read and enjoy and be engaged that way. For me, I would be less concerned about the intensity of the level of engagement and more focused on the long-term business objectives.”

Engagement outside of the blog

In my post last week, I mentioned GE as a gold standard of corporate blogging but they rarely attract a reader comment.  GE’s Community Manager Megan Parker provided her take on why:

“For GE reports, we have an active and interested audience, and they tend to show us their enthusiasm or concern, as the case may be, when one of our stories really strikes a chord. We don’t have an expectation that people will comment daily or even routinely, but we do make the option to comment available every day. We’re currently fielding a survey about GEreports.com to understand what we’re doing well and not so well now that GER is about 18 months old (barely a toddler).

“We also do not look at GE Reports as just one site but more as a news and information “system” with key extensions on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, email and RSS.  So the commenting, interacting, downloading and sharing extends beyond the orbit of GER.com and out into this constellation of sites from GE.”

Emotional connection without sharing

Josh Kashorek told me he has been reading {grow} for about a year but had never commented.  “I still feel engaged with {grow} while I’m merely a listener, ” he said. “I think it boils down to a combination of authenticity, and time. I know that sounds a bit cliche but I don’t think having an authentic voice is so much about standing out as it is about allowing readers build their own connections. The more you show me who you really are the more ways I can find that we are similar and the more similarities I find the more engaged I become. For example, we both have a strong focus on business/capitalism. This gets me more engaged because many in the social media space are still talking only about puppies and unicorns.”

Technology and policy hurdles

Jeremy Victor called me to say the post had him thinking and offered a very practical reason why comments are few and far between on B2B blogs: “Studies show that more than half of company employees aren’t even allowed to access the social web from their computers at work and  even if they can, they may not be allowed, or enabled, to comment.” So you need to consider your core audience — do they even have the ability to make a comment?

I would also add that competitive considerations may prevent many people from commenting on a company’s public blog site.

The empty restaurant

Brian compared one psychological aspect of commenting to walking into an empty restaurant.  Some would be more inclined to only take a seat if other people are there. Commenting in an empty comment section might be similar. You don’t want to be the only one putting your neck out.  It’s easier to add a comment when somebody else has been there.

… and the crowded restaurant

“Another reason I don’t comment is if I see too many comments, ” Brian said.  “I saw one of your blogs had 53 comments.  I figured if I commented, nobody will ever see it.”

These interactions, and your generous comments on the post last week, have helped change the way I look at engagement, especially on corporate blogs.  Like many of you, I’ve been guilty of falling into the “it’s all about the conversation” myth without stepping back and looking at practical business realities, traditional consumer behaviors, and other ways people can feel connected to a blog without the tangible presence of engagement.

What do you think?  Does this change your view of the social media “conversation?”

Illustration: Ciudadano Poeta

Can Twitter be used as a workplace tool?

A recent research study by IBM indicates that micro-blogging sites like Twitter can be a powerful internal workplace communications tool.

The study said that despite the inherent simplicity, microblogs are evolving into a richly-nuanced medium for maintaining awareness, building relationships, and finding and sharing valuable information from internal and external sources.

The study analyzed more than 5,000 microblog posts from a group of IBM employees who used both a proprietary internal tool to post and Twitter to post externally. The internal IBM micro-blog, called BlueTwit, has many of the same features as Twitter except it had a limit of 250 characters instead of 140 and could only be used internally.

Some key findings:

Real-time Information Sharing and Awareness — IBM heard repeatedly from employees that the value of Twitter was to get access to good information sooner than through other sources. It provided access to thought leaders without having to know them personally. For instance one person said:

“As far as Twitter is concerned the value is two-fold: learning much of what is happening in the marketplace, picking up trends, and picking up news… get a lot of news items earlier that way than any other way… With Twitter I know it’s a human who has selected the information and is saying that you should read this article. RSS feed is robotic selection for topics while Twitter is human selection based on the quality of my network”

Collaboration and Connection — Reading BlueTwit allowed employees to become aware of what their colleagues were working on in areas of the company they would not normally access.   BlueTwit was also used for social purposes. For example, some people used BlueTwit to broadcast lunch and dinner plans asking others if they were interested in joining. An important side effect of microblogging is that mobile and remote workers felt more connected to the company.

Employees  equated interaction on BlueTwit as “family conversation.”  Users could engage in constructive criticism of company products since all discussion was internal. They would avoid doing that on Twitter because they did not want to give the company a bad name.  Contrary to a common perception that microblogs are really just for posting messages about personal activities, IBM found that workplace employees are mostly using the tools to post business information and to engage in brief directed conversation with other employees.

Political expedience — Microblogging can increase the visibility of a topic compared to discussing it over email or instant messenger. Since microblogs are generally public and searchable, more people have access to it. Some employees reported using microblogging intentionally when they wanted to get more visibility on an issue. “Value as an employee is to be visible inside the company,” said one employee.  Another participant mentioned, “If I only ask questions then people will see me as someone who only asks questions. But if I answer, people will see me as someone as who knows and who can help.”

Crowd-sourcing — The report mentioned that one of the benefits of microblogging that has not received as much attention is its use for “crowdsourcing”.  Participants said they got a more rapid response to questions because more people beyond their normal network, including many technology experts, were awares of their problems.

Confidentiality — There was no ambiguity about posting confidential information; all participants exercised common sense and were very clear that they would never post any information that might be construed as confidential on Twitter or even BlueTwit.

Negatives:

  • Participants mentioned that the sheer amount of information on Twitter can get overwhelming, and not all of it is useful.
  • Some users had concerns about spending too much time wading through various pieces of information. Finding intelligent ways of filtering information in microblogging tools such that only information relevant to an individual user is visible is needed for widespread use of microblogging in the workplace.

IBM found opportunity in using micro-blogging with employees.   Is it happening in your company yet?  Why or why not?

Illustration: Scott Hampson: “Twitter Bird In Real Life

“Age of Conversation” will benefit charity

Wanted to let you know that I am one of the contributors in the new book Age of Conversation 3: Time to Get Busy, which will be published in mid-April.

I think you’ll enjoy this book because like {grow}, it looks at social media beyond the hype.  It also examines the practicalities of the social web and implications on business practices.

None of the contributing authors or editors are making any profit from the book — all the money is going to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.  I’ve listed the authors below. You’ll recognize some of your favorite bloggers like Beth Harte,   Trey Pennington, and Michelle Chmielewski plus some new names that will add a fresh voice to the conversation.

You’ll probably be hearing some more buzz as we get closer to publication time but I wanted to give you the inside scoop on what should be one of the most popular business reads of the year!

Y882S4FUAW4W

Adam Joseph Priyanka Sachar Mark Earls
Cory Coley-Christakos Stefan Erschwendner Paul Hebert
Jeff De Cagna Thomas Clifford Phil Gerbyshak
Jon Burg Toby Bloomberg Shambhu Neil Vineberg
Joseph Jaffe Uwe Hook Steve Roesler
Michael E. Rubin anibal casso Steve Woodruff
Steve Sponder Becky Carroll Tim Tyler
Chris Wilson Beth Harte Tinu Abayomi-Paul
Dan Schawbel Carol Bodensteiner Trey Pennington
David Weinfeld Dan Sitter Vanessa DiMauro
Ed Brenegar David Zinger Brett T. T. Macfarlane
Efrain Mendicuti Deb Brown Brian Reich
Gaurav Mishra Dennis Deery C.B. Whittemore
Gordon Whitehead Heather Rast Cam Beck
Hajj E. Flemings Joan Endicott Cathryn Hrudicka
Jeroen Verkroost Karen D. Swim Christopher Morris
Joe Pulizzi Leah Otto Corentin Monot
Karalee Evans Leigh Durst David Berkowitz
Kevin Jessop Lesley Lambert Duane Brown
Peter Korchnak Mark Price Dustin Jacobsen
Piet Wulleman Mike Maddaloni Ernie Mosteller
Scott Townsend Nick Burcher Frank Stiefler
Steve Olenski Rich Nadworny John Rosen
Tim Jackson Suzanne Hull Len Kendall
Amber Naslund Wayne Buckhanan Mark McGuinness
Caroline Melberg Andy Drish Oleksandr Skorokhod
Claire Grinton Angela Maiers Paul Williams
Gary Cohen Armando Alves Sam Ismail
Gautam Ramdurai B.J. Smith Tamera Kremer
Eaon Pritchard Brendan Tripp Adelino de Almeida
Jacob Morgan Casey Hibbard Andy Hunter
Julian Cole Debra Helwig Anjali Ramachandran
Jye Smith Drew McLellan Craig Wilson
Karin Hermans Emily Reed David Petherick
Katie Harris Gavin Heaton Dennis Price
Mark Levy George Jenkins Doug Mitchell
Mark W. Schaefer Helge Tenno Douglas Hanna
Marshall Sponder James Stevens Ian Lurie
Ryan Hanser Jenny Meade Jeff Larche
Sacha Tueni and Katherine Maher David Svet Jessica Hagy
Simon Payn Joanne Austin-Olsen Mark Avnet
Stanley Johnson Marilyn Pratt Mark Hancock
Steve Kellogg Michelle Beckham-Corbin Michelle Chmielewski
Amy Mengel Veronique Rabuteau Peter Komendowski
Andrea Vascellari Timothy L Johnson Phil Osborne
Beth Wampler Amy Jussel Rick Liebling
Eric Brody Arun Rajagopal Dr Letitia Wright
Hugh de Winton David Koopmans Aki Spicer
Jeff Wallace Don Frederiksen Charles Sipe
Katie McIntyre James G Lindberg & Sandra Renshaw David Reich
Lynae Johnson Jasmin Tragas Deborah Chaddock Brown
Mike O’Toole Jeanne Dininni Iqbal Mohammed
Morriss M. Partee Katie Chatfield Jeff Cutler
Pete Jones Riku Vassinen Jeff Garrison
Kevin Dugan Tiphereth Gloria Mike Sansone
Lori Magno Valerie Simon Nettie Hartsock
Mark Goren Peter Salvitti

I think this means something but I’m not sure what.

Last week I was a guest at a formal black -tie dinner at a yacht club.  This is not a picture of me, but it is a very, very close proximity. Really : )

The dinner was filled with wealthy, silver-haired, impeccably-groomed white men and their sequined spouses.  The former leaders of the yacht club, the “commodores,” wore their commemorative jackets, which looked like a hand-me down from an Ivy League fraternity. We ate aged steak, drank fine wine and danced to a wedding band from Atlanta.

And this is what I thought: “This is so pretentious.  This is SO not me. If the people on {grow} saw me like this they would have a fit.”

Isn’t that weird?  I have internalized you. What does this mean???

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