Internal Blogging – Crowdsourcing ‘within’ the enterprise?

So we know what a blog is and why we do it. At its core, a blog is a log (A web log) which is a diary of sorts. People use them for all kinds of things, perhaps if only to help them remember the things, the thoughts and feelings they don’t want to forget. Blogs however are different. They can serve that aforementioned purpose, but they also serve a variety of different agendas, themes and goals. Unlike diaries, blogs can be maintained by multiple people, and can represent the thoughts and opinions of more than just an individual.

In the business world, blogs can represent entire corporations and companies. Like a blog belonging to an individual, a corporate blog of this nature can be used to express corporate opinions, stances and most importantly, create a personal brand or in this case, a company brand. It creates a channel of communication, a wide channel of dialogue between the company and its readers and it informalises the positions of both, creating a sense of familiarity and even loyalty amongst its readers.

However it’s a topic I’ve touched on before. Blogging is a form of Web 2.0 and if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll probably be sick to death of it by now, that is, how business’ can harness Web 2.0 to generate and conduct business.

Generally speaking, these social media platforms are harnessed in two different ways – internally, and externally. It can almost be likened to the way in which businesses used to be able to differentiate between what the customer could see and what they couldn’t when they looked at a business. It’s not a foreign concept even without that analogy, since in all organised groups we have different levels of visibility.

I make these points because I want to explore blogging as a tool within an organisation. It is as you might expect – a blog maintained by an organisation targeted at and for the benefit of the organisation itself.

For example, the US navy has begun to maintain a blog entitled ‘The Pulse’ for the purpose of informing Navy personnel about the direction of IT in the navy, what proposals are being put forward, and what its staff can expect to see happen. They also maintain it in order to garner feedback and opinions from its staff. This kind of blogging creates a channel of internal communication, giving members of the navy a means of keeping up to date with updates as well information on projects currently in progress.

Another interesting entity is wal-mart. I’ve studied how they conduct their business, their business model, information systems and distribution logistics, but never anything about their social media forays until last night when I read about their internal blogging.initiatives. Wal-mart’s blog exists to ask their one million employees to help them innovate as a business. Their first open question to employees asked through the blog was a request for ideas on saving energy. Five thousand employees responded, with one employee suggesting that they simply remove light bulbs from vending machines. The idea spread across wal-mart stores across the world and saved the company one million dollars. This outreach from the executive level to the operational level and everywhere in between encourages a type of informality that helps to remove the air of stigma between the two levels of the business. It also presents a form of expertise sharing and competitive intelligence since it is the collective expertise and intelligence of the crowd that is being sourced and shared amongst the company.

Great! So let’s jump on word press, set up a blog and mass email everyone to board the blog train!

No. Well yes, but not yet.

As I’ve already covered not too long ago, forging your way into the social media spectrum can be a perilous journey. A few careful considerations need to be taken into account before leaping into it:

–          Aims!

  • This is always a good goal to shoot for. In the previous examples, they provided the base and reasoning for the blogged content (Navy IT direction and wal-mart collaborative innovation)

–          The Bloggers!

  • Afterall, these people will be responsible for the face that the blog reading employees will be entering into a dialogue with. They should be good communicators and sensitive to particular issues. Consistency is good too.

–          Training and Policies

  • Even in my own experience as an IT professional, throwing rules and policy at an employee won’t ensure that they’ll do the right thing by the company. Professional development is necessary to ensure that policies and guidelines developed for posting blogs and comments is abided by.
  • Blogging guidelines must be clear to ensure that employees understand what they can and can’t do and why.
  • A good example is Intel’s social media policy that not only sets out guidelines to follow, it also encourages users to become social media representatives, rather than to scare them with threats of employment termination

As with any social media endeavour in the Enterprise, it will take time for the idea of blogs as a form of business-wide communication to take place. The theory is always that people should want to adopt it on their own accord once they recognise its value.

– – –

That’s it for this week. This blog was meant for last week, but I’ve been super busy with other assignments. I got stuck on public transport today, the trains went out because of a police incident, so I had some time to squeeze this blog out.

Along with this week’s activity for our Enterprise 2.0 class, are there any QUT INN/INB346 students out there with some suggestions on what kinds of social media platforms I should write about? I was thinking a straight up blog on Sharepoint.

UPDATE:

This blog post has been shared with the Social Media in Organisations Community (http://www.sminorgs.net/communityies-of-practice/)

Check it out!

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5 Responses to Internal Blogging – Crowdsourcing ‘within’ the enterprise?

  1. This is a nice introductory summary on the value of blogging inside organizations, Anthony. I’m sharing it with the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community (which, given your interests, you might want to join).

  2. Luke Delphin says:

    I think one of the reasons as to why most enterprise don’t incorporate internal blogging is that it is hard to see the initial and on going benefits. Due consideration has to be given to information control and accuracy, as well as training/development for users (which you have mentioned). From a business perspective, that is alot of expenses for no tangible benefits.
    Even with your example of Wal-Mart, can one ensure that such a solution can be provided consistently? Of course not, while one gem of an idea may pop up it doesn’t happen often.
    On the idea of collaboration I think internal blogging is great, but your article made me think of the platform from the business perspective. How would one sell the idea to the investors?

    • Using case studies and real examples I think is key to demonstrating the benefits to investors, tangible or otherwise. Not everything a company invests into has a tangible return. They’re not to know exactly how effective their different avenues of universally accessible advertising is, but they know they must do it to be competitive, and this is becoming the same scenario – All the cool kids are doing it, so should we.

      With wal-mart, they want to provide a platform for innovation. Hit and miss is inevitable, but take a moment to look at the numbers. Wal-Mart could organise an ‘innovation’ team of a few dozen, or they could reach out to their entire employee base, and I’m sure doing the latter is more effective.

  3. Blog is a good way to help company to communicate with employees. I totally agree this point. However, for some big companies like Wal-Mart, I am not sure using blog is a good way. There may be hundreds of new comments in the every page.So how can leaders check them and find good advises?

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