Robert gets a lot of press/ink/blogs (both good and bad) about the work he is doing at Microsoft. There is one item that doesn’t really get enough notice and it is something you should pass on to your tech and non-tech troops alike. Every now and then, Robert will mention a Microsoft (or other company) employee that has started a blog. Sometimes the person has just started other times Scoble happen to run across the blog. Leaving your pro/anti Microsoft bias aside for a second, there’s an edge you can get when doing support, building a product or just looking for information.
[Note: My examples are Microsoft but this applies to companies that have employees heading to the blogging world.]
First, everybody is human and that means everybody pretty much follows the same patterns. Authors, first time or not, watch the sales rank on Amazon like a hawk when they get that book out the door. Then they watch the review comments, again, wearing out the refresh key.
Bloggers typically do three things:
1. Watch/Read every comment
2. Watch/Read every track back
3. Set up watch lists in Technorati/Blogpulse, etc, to see what people are saying.
This stuff is normal and very natural, we are all human with varying degrees of curiosity mixed in with some ego.
What does this mean to you?
The most important aspect of all of this is a new way to communicate with people that you might ordinarily either not know about or have a hard time getting to. This isn’t an invitation to just dump random technical support questions on employees of any company who starts blogging. Ignoring that detail, blogs are amazingly good ways to ‘talk’ with people about the larger issues with respect to products, services, etc. Some employees get a little nuts with “contact policies” and, unfortunately, it might not play well to the wider audience. In my view, if you’re out here, well, yer out here. So, answering questions, being helpful, etc, is just part of the gig.
I’ve noticed, for example, a number of bloggers on particular products that actively engage with the folks in the comments section regarding features and thoughts about what needs to get accomplished. Also, information on how products are being used by you are particularly valuable to product leads.
Here’s an interesting example. Let’s say you are building a line of business application using .net. (yes, yes, insert sarcastic MS comment here). You might be interested in this thing MSFT has called Patterns and Practices which is basically best practice stuff that will help you build the apps. After getting this stuff, you might have a question about where to get more information or what newsgroup/blog to follow, etc.
One of the product managers is Tom Hollander who has a blog where he has a list of all his partners working on this particular product. When you take a fast look at his about page, you will notice he really does want to talk with you, the customer. Apart from my guess at his MS email address, I’m fairly sure that a quick note via his blog will get you answers and engaged with a guy/team that really does want to talk with you about this product just as fast or faster then an email lobbed into his Microsoft email address (it’s probably tomholl, but that’s just a guess I don’t know).
That to me, is the real beauty of Blogs and all this open media stuff. You can get to this guy and he wants to hear from you.
In fact, as a general rule, people who are blogging will talk with you. They do listen, do react, and do care. General rule, exceptions are out there.
The edge you can get when it comes to using, understanding, getting value from your suppliers, partners, etc, is to seek out those that are blogging because they are the ones that generally care the most and will be very interested in what you have to say. Standard rules of being nice, lucid, etc, apply.
Over time, this will become “normal” but for now, jump on it. Seek out bloggers, they are the best first contacts you can find.
Fred Wilson had a rant recently about the old guard doing all this top 100 this or super list of that stuff when it came to blogs. He is dead on. The real value of blogs is not creating some contest to make the top list but rather creating (and using) a form of communications that allows for more fluid, transparent, and open communications.
So as Scoble (and others) offer up people that are blogging about products, Microsoft or otherwise, take a look. Then see who they are reading as chances are they will be reading people also working on or around the things you are interested in. On this aspect of corporate blogging, no question: it’s a good thing.