This is another in a series of case studies from people I interviewed in 2005 about their blogging efforts. Now as we move to 2013, I find it interesting to look back at the early days of business blogging. I will only include cases from people who are still blogging now. These cases have not appeared on this blog before.
I am pleased to be at IBM Connect 2013 today and thought Ed Brill’s blog would be an appropriate case to share. It is my third year attending the event formerly known as Lotusphere. Here are my notes from Lotusphere 2011 and Lotusphere 2012. I will be providing my notes from this year's session over the next weeks.
I first meet Ed Brill in person at the 2011 session. He remembered our phone interview six year earlier. Before I get into the interview I want to mention, Ed’s excellent new book, Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager. I had a chance to preview the first few chapters. As I wrote in response to this preview: Opting In is an important book that takes social business beyond external marketing to provide practical guidance on how to drive significant business value through enhancing human interactions within the enterprise. McKInsey's research has demonstrated many quantified benefits here and Ed shows you how to realize them. I look forward to reading the rest of the book.
When I spoke with Ed in 2005 he was the Business Unit Executive, Worldwide Notes/Domino Sales and had been with IBM Lotus for over ten years. He still has a senior leadership position at IBM and is now Director, Social Business and Collaboration Solutions, IBM. He is responsible for the product and market strategy for IBM's messaging, collaboration, communications, and productivity products, including Lotus Notes and Domino, IBM SmartCloud Notes, IBM Sametime, Lotus Symphony, IBM Docs, and other related social business solutions. Ed also continues to writes the blog, Ed Brill, Collaboration, technology, travel, and more. The latest tagline also includes the word Chicago after travel.
Ed supplied an excellent summary of his blog experiences in a December 26, 2004 post, The blogging year in review. “When I started blogging a little over two years ago, I had little sense as to where the endeavor might lead. I've enjoyed writing all my life, and initially, I thought that this would be little more than an online journal, gratifying to compose. In the first year in review posted in 2003, Ed said, “I didn't talk much about the professional aspects of blogging. At the end of the second year, it is hard to consider much else. For 2004 is when this blog turned a corner from outlet to focal point, from hobby to vocation, and from carefree to considered.”
Ed said in our 2005 interview, ”Some of that transition started the very week after I penned the 2003 retrospective, as I entered a time which was personally very intense, leading up to and beyond Lotusphere. More of it happened during widely-watched blog world activities in the second half of 2004. As I re-read all my 2004 blog entries over the last few days, it became clear that my blogging style has changed considerably in that time.”
This late 2004 post continues with an excellent summary of his activities. By then he had about 10,000 hits a day and was in the top 1% of Technorati ranked blogs. Ed reported that he initially began blogging, to have an outlet for writing about new products, market trends, competition, but also about general life -- travel, marketing, even family. Ed felt that his original objectives for his blog have been met, as they were fairly narrow in scope. He added, “I've made blogging an integral part of my communications.”
By the time we spoke Ed’s blogging objectives had evolved substantially.
His readership had become broad and diverse, but 90% composed of IBM customers/partners.
As such, Ed had to narrow the topical focus -- He mostly wrote about the
collaboration software market the time, with occasional travel or other life
tidbits thrown in. The blog now had an impact on the market, so it was no
longer simply a hobby for Ed. Within that context, his revised objectives
continued to be far exceeded -- reaching more customers than he thought
possible, with more positive impact for IBM than expected.
Ed’s biggest challenge came when he went through a period of time that all bloggers do, where he felt like he was a slave to the blog. Ed reported that he had the standard feeling that if he wasn't updating daily, he would lose the readership. Ed had gone through "dry spells" where he didn't think he has enough interesting content.
Ed found that his challenges were just a blogging maturity issue. As the readership grew, and the technology used to read blogs (RSS) became mainstream, he didn't feel as much pressure from the blog. He felt that, “RSS is a very "forgiving" technology -- gives readers more control over what they want to read, and gets me away from the "must blog to keep readership" mindset.”
Ed maintained good relationships with his communications and legal teams to ensure that any questionable content could be discussed openly. Since Ed was, and still is, an official spokesperson for IBM, he has been "press trained" and is very aware of what is or is not appropriate to say in public.
Ed advocated the need for companies to have some kind of open-yet-controlled
policy towards blogging. Ed commented, “Blogging is not a fad, and it can
be incredibly advantageous to corporations. There's a way to make it
useful yet not porous.”
Whne we spoke in 2005 about half of Ed’s content was commentary on other web content -- usually press articles about IBM, Microsoft, and other major collaboration vendors. Another 30% was original content about things going on within IBM or the market. The remaining 20% was the human face -- travel adventures, new geek toys, people news.
Business owners can find a variety of useful information on Ed’s blog. If they are a software consultancy, they might learn of new opportunities to leverage IBM software. If they are more like a law firm or doctor's office, he believed his blog would be of less value.
Ed read the blogs of small or independent consultancies in his marketplace. Ed found that their perspective wasn't always mainstream, but he usually learns of interesting projects. He did find that in 2005 that too many of the small/solo consultancies in his field who blog, spend too much time straying off topic. He felt that maybe that will change.
Ed enjoyed reading the blogs of his customers and business partners. Outside of that, he read a few blogs that are more general IT industry focused. During the 2004 election, Ed was quite addicted to some of the political blogs. In 2005 Ed also wrote for Chicago version of metblogs.com, a group blog about life in Chicago. I notice that the topic, Chicago, has been added to his own blog since the interview. Ed found this an interesting format, but he was not sure how broadly they were developing readership.
Ed offered the following advice to have for others in large organizations thinking about starting a personal blog?
- Focus. Make sure you have a topic or topics in mind and try to stick to them. Stray too far a field and you'll lose readers.
- Stay within the lines. Blogging must still respect an organization's business conduct guidelines. Don't disclose anything you wouldn't want to show up in the Wall Street Journal -- even un-attributed.
- Remember that "lurkers" far outnumber those interacting with you on your blog. What you write can echo far beyond who you think will see it, and lives forever in Google.
- Watch for slang and colloquial expressions -- you are writing for an international audience.
- Measure the weight of your words. I rarely make negative comments about my customers or partners, even when they do stupid things (and they -do-). To say anything negative has a silencing effect on a much broader population. Conversely, I have found that people take my recommendations more strongly than they deserve -- apparently a place on my "blogroll" is coveted, which I never expected when I started it.
I think his advice is still quite relevant. It is great to see that Ed continues to publish his blog despite what must be a very busy schedule.