The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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Entries in BlogWorld (3)

Thursday
Oct282010

US Army Soldiers Blog And Tell - And The Brass Encourages It!

This post first appeared on Technorati.com

As part of a campaign in the mid 1940’s to educate soldiers and their families on the perils of too much information sharing during wartime, the military issued communication guidelines for writing letters home, while public service ads proclaimed, “Loose Lips Sink Ships.”

With the reputation for non-disclosure that the US military has, it’s somewhat unexpected that the US Army represented one of the biggest brands exhibiting at BlogWorld & New Media Expo this month. But the US Army appears to have leap-frogged many familiar brands in corporate America by embracing user-generated content as a way to connect with and convert potential customers.
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How did it come to be that the US Army designed a blog, Armystrongstories.com, to actually encourage soldiers to tell their stories? According to Lieutenant Colonel Andre Dean, Chief of Strategic Communications for the US Army Accessions Command, which is responsible for recruitment, it was possible because of the vision of one very savvy Lieutenant General who knows a little something about taking risks.

General Freakley serves as the Commanding General for the U.S. Army Accessions Command and Senior Commander of Fort Knox. The General has served the Army for almost 35 years at every level of command from platoon leader through division commander. He has led Soldiers in combat three times, serving in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). So, what kind of risk could conversational media present to a guy like this?

General Freakley did have to get an exception to Department of Defense policy to enable his team to launch the blog nearly three years ago. Lieutenant Colonel Dean pointed out the same need exists today as there was during World War 2 to keep the US military efforts confidential so soldiers in the field are safe. "Our troops don't want to jeopardize operations or put anyone in harm's way. Very few people have time or access to blog from the battlefield."

On leave, or when they are back at base-camp, soldiers may go online and share stories about their experiences. And Army Strong Stories is not limited to just Active Duty soldiers, and welcomes contributions from Reservists, National Guard members and cadets. Indeed, many of the top bloggers are not actively facing or writing about combat. Popular occupations for Army bloggers are public affairs, human resources and the Army band. The most prolific blogger is a Major in the Army Medical Department.

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One frequent blogger is Major Benjamin Grimes of the Judge Advocate General, who is based in Tacoma, Washington. Major Grimes says he writes because “I really like what I do.” Struck by the transparency the blog provides, Major Grimes jumped at the opportunity to share both the good and bad about daily Army life. He is able to write about his disappointment in leadership and the responsibility that he feels to teach subordinate soldiers how to make tough choices. “Not every day is full of unicorns and rainbows,” he said. “By writing with Army Strong Stories, I help to give life and depth to many people’s image of a faceless, soulless Army.”

With over 1400 posts from more than 400 bloggers, and an additional 1300 comments to publish, you might imagine that the Army would have their hands full editing and fact-checking content, not to mention training soldiers fresh out of high school how to communicate effectively on behalf of the brand. But Lieutenant Colonel Dean says editorial work is limited to removing occasional content that doesn't comply with the site guidelines. "The biggest surprise has been that we have had to do very little of that. When we discover a story that is false we'll remove it, but for the most part the community polices itself."

Despite evidence that the site drives traffic to GoArmy.com and brings fans to Facebook, it has yet to ignite a social media fire across other branches of the military. Lieutenant Colonel Dean says the Accessions Command team recognizes the blog isn't only about the conversion metrics for recruits and is committed for the long term. "When the war began seven years ago, there was a lot of positive press about what our troops were doing." But with media coverage focusing on the economic battles US citizens face back at home, soldiers' stories are simply not being told as often. Soldier bloggers fill that void, and help maintain top-of-mind awareness for the Army brand.

Sunday
Oct172010

Why Aren't Big Blogs Well Represented At BlogWorld?

Do you think of TechCrunch as a blog? What about Engadget? As a technology product marketer responsible for press relations, you’re probably being counseled to include online publishers like these in your media strategy for product launches.  Yet, surprisingly, very few of the blogs you likely follow were represented at this year’s Blogworld and New Media Expo in Las Vegas, which bills itself as the World's Largest New Media Expo. I've been pondering why that might be, especially given my own publishing partner, Technorati, who publishes the State of the Blogosphere annually and claims to be the "Blog Authority," was not a sponsor or an exhibitor either. 

Sure, when you are as widely known as ReadWriteWeb or Gizmodo, you don’t need to get a booth and show your wares to attract advertisers or writers, but what's the reason that the publishers of those sites are not giving back to the blogging community, helping aspiring writers and participating in the conversation around blogging as business. 

I mean, once you’ve sold your blog to a major portal or media company, I guess you can say you are no longer a blogger, and perhaps that prompts folks to want to forget their humble roots.  Or maybe the pressure to perform at that point is so great you can’t make the time to mentor the next guy or gal, and pass along any lessons you’ve learned.

And then there’s your new boss who thinks because they’ve purchased your blog, they no longer need to represent themselves in panels or sponsorships, showing they are supportive of or empathetic to the blogging community.  AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft all have their picks of the most popular kids in the blogosphere when they pull their checkbooks out, but none of them were a presence at BlogWorld.

In my conversation with BlogWorld co-founder Rick Calvert, I learned that the show helps brand marketers understand how to use blogs in their media strategy. So why don't the successful bloggers and blog networks socialize theirs brands better to the marketers trying to understand the blogging community and help others learn more about what readers want? 

Who wouldn't benefit from more people engaging in this conversation around new media content creation?

Sunday
Oct172010

Lessons From BlogWorld: What Goes On In Vegas Shouldn't Stay There

So you couldn't make it to BlogWorld and New Media Expo this weekend? Don't worry, though, because I had a Technorati press pass and headed to Vegas to get a little taste of the South Pacific...Ballroom, that is. The Mandalay Bay Hotel Convention Center served as host for the event, and while hotel guests toured the Shark Aquarium a couple of hundred yards from the conference, bloggers and digital marketers dove into the deep end of the social media pool. Corporate exhibitors like the U.S. Army, Ford, Southwest Airlines and Kodak shared space with Co-Tweet, Radian, Rackspace and Tungle,to participate in the business of conversational media.

Interview with BlogWorld Co-Founder Rick Calvert

If you search for job openings with the keywords “community manager,” LinkedIn will return over one thousand results. According to Rick Calvert, co-founder of Blogworld and New Media Expo, the popularity of job listings on sites like Linkedin or Monster is an indicator of how bright the future is for social media in corporate America.

“Companies know they need Community Managers,” Calvert says, “because they know they need to engage with their customers in a range of ways through social media, even though they are still learning how to manage those conversations.”

Education remains a primary goal for Calvert and his Blogworld team. “These attendees reach a global audience of over 250 million people.” he pointed out. “Their influence is undeniable.” In an interview conducted halfway through this year’s Blogworld event, held in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Hotel Conference Center, Calvert indicated that attendance has doubled in the last three years of the conference, but at 3000 attendees, what’s billed as the World’s Largest New Media Conference, is still pretty small given the nearly 200 million blogs that have been created worldwide.

Calvert acknowledged that it is hard for corporate marketers to know what technology platforms will stick with consumers; Calvert admitted even he “missed the point of Twitter at first. I wasn’t sure if it had real value or would turn into FriendFeed.”

Education is why he says he is committed to growing the conference over time.  Read more...

And more about my experience at BlogWorld on
Technorati.com