Enterprise bloggers categorized

The question of blogging and how corporations should handle it seems to pop up every now and then. The conversation runs around in circles on whether a company should blog, what are the concrete benefits, and so on. However, little attention is given to bloggers themselves. In my discussions, I've found it useful to categorize corporate blogs and bloggers into four categories (sorry for the lack of funny names, couldn't think of any that weren't derogatory):

Category I

This class consists of people who don't affiliate themselves in the company in any way. They might be anonymous, pseudonymous, or blogging under their own name, but they don't talk about their job, or even mention they work for the company. Most of the blogs belong to this category, and are interesting from the enterprise point of view as customer blogs; the place where a bad review spreads like wildfire.

Category II

Bloggers, who have their own personal website, but still do associate themselves with a company, comprise Category II. Their blogs are strongly identified to a person, are rarely pseudonymous, and may or may not have anything to do with the work. Quite a few of "known" bloggers are in this category, such as Robert Scoble, who sometimes is called "THE Microsoft blogger." If a Cat II[1] blogger were to switch jobs, the blog would still continue; he'd just identify himself with another company.

Category III

Some corporations run big blog networks under their own domain. These blogs, which I call Category III, are typically centered on a subject or a particular aspect of the company (such as Tommi's S60 Applications). While the authors appear as real persons, and in some cases, get very strongly identified as the company blogger, they are still a company thing, and should the blogger leave; someone else would probably pick it up and continue writing.

Category IV

In the most extreme case of corporate blogging, the author goes completely anonymous (somewhat like in Cat I), and the blog becomes a true "corporate voice", often repeating the same things as the official press releases. (The Official Google blog looked like this some time ago; now it's become a group blog where people write under their own names.)

This categorization[2] raises some questions: how should enterprises approach the different blogs and bloggers? How to handle Cat II bloggers, who sometimes mention their work (like me)? Should they be banned, ignored, rewarded, or maybe killed? How do you build a successfull Category III blog and maximize the brand value? Do Category IV blogs have any intrinsic value over press releases, since they're not personal? How do you watch the hordes of Category I bloggers, who might be slipping out all sorts of secret stuff ("my boss is an idiot and he gave me this stupid cell phone to design in five weeks because we're launching in two months")? Can you hire Cat II people and make them your Cat III people? Does having a great and successfull Cat II blog mean that you have what it takes to author a great and successfull Cat III blog?

I don't know yet, but I'm certainly searching for answers. Enterprise blogging seems to be hitting a sweet spot by giving more to the class of users who actually do care about the products. Previously, no matter what your interest level was, there were very few ways of influencing or communicating directly with the company, except by writing personal letters and getting back form replies. Now, it's possible for the more involved customer to have this direct conversation, which connects the people who make their living out of making something, and those who spend their money on that something. And I think it's a good thing which is not likely to go away soon, because once you get used to it, it's very hard to give up.

[#1] Yes, this is a pun on "cat bloggers". It's funny. Laugh.

[#2] Which is, of course, a very engineer-like approach, but sometimes that is useful, especially in an engineering company. Remember, engineers designed the computer you're reading this on, so we can't be completely useless or wrong, no matter how much you pooh-pooh at us. So nyah.


Lately, while looking for new "challenges" both with the current company and outside it, I have been wondering whether having cat II blog is a liability. Anyone will find my blog with no effort. Maybe my blog frightens away some possible employers (or their recruiters). I wonder how much this happens, and whether it would make sense, employment-wise to downgrade to cat I.

Any ideas?

--Matti Kinnunen, 01-Jun-2006

Maybe. On the other hand, it can be an asset as well - at least for me having a blog has helped me. Also, if you were an employer, and you checked the guy's blog, it might also help you in your decision to hire that guy. Lots of people are better at writing skills than in verbal skills, and if your job requires you to be writing a lot, being able to show off your skills certainly helps.

Actually, I think the only reason your blog might be a liability is if you're a moron. But if you write good, thoughtful (or fun) content, and still you scare your potential employer, you probably wouldn't have liked the job anyway. But if your employer takes a look at your blog, and hires you because (or despite) of it, you are more likely to be compatible with the job, your colleagues, and the company.

--JanneJalkanen, 01-Jun-2006

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