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448Microsoft begins to push weblogs and RSS to CEO's of the world's leading companies

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  • John Robb
    May 20, 2004
      Dear K-Loggers,

      We are making progress! Today, at Microsoft's annual CEO summit, Bill Gates extolled the benefits of "bottoms-up" change with weblogs and RSS as prime examples of how to make this happen. Nice! The time is ripe to push weblogs/RSS (and all the ways in which we have explored on how to use them in this forum) in your organization.


      More goodness from Microsoft: Microsoft's Windows evangelist, Robert Scoble, who used to work for me (he's the kind of person every organization needs), recently was intreviewed on the value of weblogs/RSS:


      One of the most popular bloggers out there is Microsoft's Robert Scoble, who uses his own personal Web log to get Microsoft partners excited about his company's technology. Thousands of Web sites and other blogs link to Scoble's popular blog, and he is regularly read and interviewed by business and technology magazines like EWeek, Microsoft Watch, and Fast Company. We asked him five quick questions about this new phenomenon known as blogging, and how to use it to spread the word about your products.
      What is a blog, and how can it help companies promote products?

      Scoble: Blogs are frequently updated personal Web journals than can dramatically help both small and large companies communicate their product messages. They increase people's ability to share ideas and information exponentially, and on a worldwide scale.
      What are the practical advantages of a blog from the customers' point of view?

      Scoble: It makes it so much easier to get the information you're looking for from the Internet. You don't have to waste time going to the sites that interest you every day. You just sign up for an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed using a news aggregator like NewsGator, SharpReader, or RSS Bandit, and you get notified when something has been updated. I myself keep track of 1,400 different sites a day in this way. This would be impossible in a Web browser, but blog readers only need to read sites that have posted something in the last 24 hours. Usually only 20 percent of sites publish anything in any one 24 hour period—that makes an RSS reader many times more productive.
      Plus, I don't have to use mental energy figuring out what's new. I receive an XML file, which looks like an e-mail, and the new information is bold and with no colored fonts to distract me. There are other advantages as well: Customers get information that would not have gotten posted otherwise, and they also get to ask questions of the author and have a conversation—build a relationship with the author.
      Why is blogging becoming so popular?

      Scoble: What's really going on is a shift in how people relate to corporate communications. Twenty years ago, the only way you could get product information was from the PR departments. Even articles in newspapers were based on press releases. Today people are getting their information from individuals within the companies. People don't trust companies, even companies they like. I mean, who would you rather get product information from, an individual from within the company, an engineer perhaps, or the company's PR department? Ernst and Young has done a study that showed that 70 percent of car sales are generated by word of mouth. Blogs bring the power of word of mouth to the Web.
      What are the dangers of blogging from the company's point of view?

      Scoble: In order for the blog to be effective, the blogger has to have some freedom. A blogger can't lose credibility with readers. If they sense that you're phony, they're gonna leave. At the same time, you want to get the right message out. I think of about five people every time I post to my blog. Obviously, I think about my readers. They have to be at the center. But I also think about my co-workers because I know that they're going to give me heck if I don't talk about something I should, like when Longhorn [the code name for the version of Microsoft Windows® currently in development] ships. And then, there's my boss and Microsoft executives. I ask myself whether I'm taking Microsoft strategy into account. Finally, I think about my wife, and what I'm going to tell her if I get fired. Writing a blog always has to be a balance. You're representing your company, but you have a responsibility toward your readers.
      What makes a blog work from a company's point of view?

      Scoble: An effective blog is one that shares information and listens. The [United States] presidential candidates have blogs, but they read as if they were written by a committee, which they probably were. It has to come from an individual, and it has to be genuine. If people come to realize that your blog comes from a real person who has something valuable to say, then you'll get your product message out. But, you also have to be credible. That means linking to other people's opinions, even if they're negative about your company and products. When customers realize that you're listening, the shrillness in their tone goes down. Besides my primary audience of partners, Microsoft executives and employees also read my blog, and they often interact. For example, the MSN Spotwatch team reported a bug they read about on my blog one morning, and by evening they had a fix.


      This is great news for all of us. Let me know if you need any help getting K-Logs going in your organization.


      John Robb

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