Ike… you’re crazy, man! The whole purpose of social media is being social, right? Why would you have a blog and not share it with anyone?
Great question. So let’s answer that by going back to the roots of the word “blog.”
Blog = (we)blog, or “web log.” Technically speaking, a blog is any online tool that you update frequently. Preferably, it has built-in resources and features that make updates easy. There’s nothing inherent in that definition that assumes “community,” or “comments,” or for that matter, “visibility.”
So here are some reasons you ought to keep on offline blog:
1. Win over more internal skeptics
In larger organizations where it takes time to generate acceptance to change, you want to be in a position to win over those who are wary. My experience tells me that you can bang your head against the brick wall of organizational inertia, or you can wait for the moment where the audience is receptive. You never have control of that, but what you can be is ready for that moment.
Long before my company really dove into social in a programmatic and strategic fashion, I had been collecting screenshots and links of good social interactions. Twitter, Facebook, blogs and online news site comments. You need to have a repository for those examples – one that’s available to you, and one that is searchable. For that use, I relied on Evernote. (Yes, Evernote is not considered a blogging platform, but for this purpose how is it any different than a private WordPress site?)
Evernote became wonderful with this for two key reasons — offline access to those examples, and the image engine which allows you to find keywords in images and .pdf files. When that executive shows a sudden interest, I have at my fingertips a relevant example.
2. Document key wins
Nothing brings a grin like helping a customer via a social channel, particularly when you get them to turn a complete 180 about how they regard your brand. Don’t let those examples fade into search engine obscurity – document them.
We run a no-comment blog for our media relations department, just to host longer explanations and media that wouldn’t be as useful on Twitter or Facebook alone. We are currently using Posterous.com as our back-end for that, and there is a nifty feature you can exploit for this purpose. Say you have an event, like last week’s superstorm. You are collecting positive interactions, and want it to be curated and available in realtime. Posterous allows for private links, which is essentially the same as an Unlisted video on YouTube. It’s only as public as the link that is shared. In this case, we can simply post the URLs of great Tweets, and Posterous automatically renders them in a pleasing way. I can give that link to the executive leadership, knowing that I can add more to it later. (and they certainly look better than when copied into an email.
3. Remind you of Human Voice
By keeping that running log of good and bad, we can use the tagging features to highlight examples of “human voice.” There will always be reasons why you would use a company name instead of a human presence on a corporate account, but that doesn’t mean you have to talk with people like you’re an inanimate building. Having a legacy of talking a certain way online makes it easier to stay consistent in your voice.
4. Training of new people on the accounts
Every company faces the challenge of continuity. As social business scales, you will need more people proficient in monitoring, posting, responding and analyzing. It’s far easier to bring a new team member up to speed when you can show what you’ve done in the past. Internal blogs are great for this, because the discussion/comment features allow for lively debate and teaching moments. “Why did you do it that way?” becomes an answer not just for that employee, but for every employee who encounters the same idea 8 months later.
5. Mine your history for existing answers
When you have that backlog handy, you don’t need to spend as much time drafting If-Then flowcharts and protocols. Nor do you have to make up every answer from scratch. The vast majority of customer questions have been asked before — but not everyone on your social team might instinctively know which answer to use, and how best to post it. Public? Private? Unlisted? Phone call?
This is a big issue for customer care organizations, because social channels give them far more leeway and gray area in deciding how to complete a transaction. In some cases, customer service reps have never been empowered to make that decision — when a customer walks through the door or calls the hotline, the engagement is initiated. Not always the case in social. But if you’ve got concrete examples to share, you can build in a level of consistency to your efforts.
Odds are, you are probably doing a lot of the above already, but you had not considered that activity as “blogging.” You really should. More than anything else, this is an exercise in finding the right tool for the job. The people and companies that excel in social media have their success because they look at these tools and resources for what they are and what they do — and not just how everyone else considers them.
An offline blog is a tool, just like a publicly available one.
Did I miss any great applications? Share them in the comments!