Post(er) Boy

Robert Scoble, a technical evangelist and active blogger at Microsoft, offers tips and tactics that can help your company thrive and survive on the Web.

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Writing about your company on a blog -- especially if you don't work in your company's PR department -- can be a tricky business. You want to appear open and engender trust, but you also don't want to let loose company secrets.

If there's anyone who's been able to do it, and do it well, it's Robert Scoble, an employee at Microsoft (a "technical evangelist," to be specific) who works in community programs. Not only does Scoble write about his employer -- comments are mostly positive, but the occasional criticism creeps in -- he also writes one of the most popular blogs on the Web. Here, from one of Scoble's blog entries last year, an excerpt of his thoughts about writing the company blog.

  • Post fast on good news or bad. Someone say something bad about your product? Link to it -- before the second or third site does -- and answer its claims as best you can. Do the same if something good comes out about you. It's all about building long-term trust. And the trick to building trust is to show up! If people are saying things about your product and you don't answer them, that builds distrust. If people are saying good things about your product, why not help Google find those pages as well?
  • Use a human voice. Don't get corporate lawyers and PR professionals to cleanse your speech. We can tell, believe me. Plus, you'll be too slow. If you're the last one to post, the joke is on you!
  • Make sure you support the latest software/Web/human standards. If you don't know what the W3C is, find out. If you don't know what RSS feeds are, find out. If you don't know what weblogs.com is, find out.
  • Under-promise and over-deliver. If you're going to ship on March 1, say you won't ship until March 15. Folks will start to trust you if you behave this way.
  • Never change the URL of your blog. I've done it once and I lost much of my readership. It took several months to build up the same reader patterns and trust.
  • Link to your competitors and say nice things about them. Remember, you're part of an industry. And if the entire industry gets bigger, you'll probably win more than your fair share of business, and you'll get bigger too.
  • BOGU. This means "Bend Over and Grease Up." I believe the term originated at Microsoft. It means that when a big fish comes over (like IBM, or Bill Gates) you do whatever you have to do to keep him happy. Personally, I believe in BOGU'ing for everyone, not just the big fish. You never know when the janitor will go to school, get an MBA, and start a company. I've seen it happen. Translation for the blog world: treat "Gnome-Girl" as well as you'd treat Dave Winer [author of the Scripting News and arguably the king of the blogosphere]. You never know who'll get promoted.
  • Be the authority on your product/company. You should know more about your product than anyone else alive if you're writing a blog about it. If there's someone alive who knows more, you damn well better have links to them (and you should send some goodies to them to thank them for being such great advocates).

For the rest of Scoble's suggestions, check out his blog.

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