Tag Archives: blog

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The Marketing Mystic blog has moved to http://marketingmysticblog.com

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Blogs vs. Forums Which is the Right Option for your Business?

Social media has evolved to a point that companies need to put some thought into selection of the right social media format rather than picking a medium just because everyone is using it. Take blogs as an example. I’ve touched upon this before in my blog post “To Blog or Not to Blog”, where I’ve discussed that blog is a means to an end but the end has to be clearly defined before picking the format. It’s very easy to misuse any given medium, as we’ve all seen plenty of examples where blogs are (ab)used as just another means of passing on corporate spin.

Bottom line is that it’s not about the medium, the key is to identify your objective/goal first and pick the format/medium last. Although, I have to admit in the social media crazy age, the objective seems to be an afterthought in many cases.

This month, I came across an old(er) format that we’re all familiar with and seems to have made a resurgence lately. I am referring to good ol’ fashioned forums, that had taken a backseat to their more glitzier cousins, the blogs and rarely ever featured in social media plans.

According to entrepreneurs like Vincent (Vinnie) Lauria forums are ready to rock the social media world. I rarely discuss specific products/services on my blog. When Lauria’s startup Lefora.com recently announced Tal.ki , an “embeddable forum” or (forum) software as a service, which can be deployed anywhere on your site, it sure got my attention. Tal.ki is a 2nd Generation forum product, based off of Lefora.com platform which has over 100,000 forums worldwide.

Here’s the thing, if social is all about community, crowd sourcing, and exchange of information, then forums are the original social media and yet, they rarely get featured in any social media planning or strategy conversations. Forums have traditionally been associated with customer support in the enterprise space or hobbyists/fans on the consumer side with text-based discussion threads. Forums have come a long way from the text-based discussions and now offer ability to embed videos, files into the conversation. However, the newer versions have much more potential and full of social features such as a Twitter, Facebook (likes), etc.

Lauria says, Tal.ki forums allow members to sign-in with their social networking profiles, such as Facebook and Twitter. So a member does not need to create a new account in order to participate, instead they use their existing social network profile.

So you’re probably asking yourself at this point, does this mean I should start a blog or a forum?

The answer isn’t one or the other because each format has its own purpose and benefits. Blogs are a powerful way for companies to share information and have conversations with stakeholders but they require the conversation to be driven from the company (blogger). There is an expectation that the company/blogger will respond to the user’s comments.

However, forums require a more hands-off approach with minimal company “intervention”. If your objective is to foster conversations and nurture a community then forums are the best way to help get discussions rolling between customers. A forum provides a great online place where customers can help each other but there‘s a great deal of value in getting insights from the customer exchanges. You can use forums to uncover customer pain points, get product feedback, and also, channel top-of-mind issues to generate blog topics.

According to Google search, there are over 100million monthly global searches for “forum”.

 

The challenge for any company today is that social content is growing exponentially and companies are caught up in this tsunami of social data. So the question for enterprises is around data security and storage. Amazon has addressed this need by allowing that allows startups like LeFora, offering software as a service, to be hosted on Amazon EC2 platform that offers secure storage and access to data walled off within Amazon on a private firewall with a private VPN tunnel to the organization. So with SaaS offerings like Tal.ki, a company doesn’t need to install new servers, new software, nor worry about maintaining the security of the system, so that also allows them to scale easily as their community grows.

I think forums should be integrated into every social media practitioner and marketer’s plan. Forums are a treasure trove of invaluable insights direct from your customers. So the question that begs to be asked and answered is why do companies pay for market research when they could be mining data that’s available through their own forums for free?

Blogging – It’s about the conversations everywhere, stupid.

There’s an interesting debate going on in the blogosphere and at the center is Shyftr, yet another content aggregator. (I think my next post should be on ‘How many content aggregators do we really need?’)

Tony Hung’s railing against ‘content scrapers’ and Robert Scoble’s proclaiming that "Era of blogger’s control is over’. There are two issues here, one is about content plagiarism that Tony is most concerned about ,

However, in my mind, when a service cannot exist *without* republishing others content in its entirety, and directly profits from that republishing without the original consent of the author, there’s something that isn’t right.

I see Tony’s point, but bloggers can limit or block their feeds from being published in their entirety, thereby forcing folks to come to their blogs for the whole content. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I don’t condone plagiarism, but isn’t this is the same argument that traditional news media used when blogging was in its infancy? As I recall, there was a huge hue and cry about how bloggers were taking content from the news media and reposting with some comments on their own blogs, thereby driving traffic away from the traditional news media sites and to their own blog. Ironic, that bloggers have now started complaining about others ‘stealing’ their content.

The second and much bigger issue is around ‘fractured conversations’ that have proliferated due to feed readers like Friendfeed that allow comments. Louis Gray says,

The Web as a whole has clamored for full RSS feeds, not partial, so we don’t have to return to the originating site. Some of us have just as loudly asked for comments and conversations to enter the world of the RSS feed reader. Now that we’re starting to see what it’s like, maybe it’s not what we had fully anticipated.

That’s a great point, Louis. I can’t help but wonder if bloggers ever had control over the conversations in the first place?! Blogging has always been about distributed content (and conversation). The reason blogging took off the way it did, was because discussions were no longer monopolized by a few individuals/media networks. Some Joe Schmoe in Idaho could start a conversation around organic potatoes and get a gazillion people participating in that conversation. That’s true democratization of content and communication, thanks to the Internet and social media, blogging included.

I really liked Alexander van Elsa’s thoughts on this,

Conversation takes place everywhere. On the web, at home, in a restaurant, with family, friends, work, you name it. There is no controlling that, but we shouldn’t want to either.

To be honest. If a blog post of mine leads to discussion anywhere on the web I would be very satisfied with it. I’m not in it for the traffic, the amount of readers, the number of pageviews. I blog because I believe that I might be able to give something to the people that want to take the time to read my stuff. …It tells me that the things I have written could perhaps inspire others to do something with it, completing and starting new circles.

Say, you’re at a cocktail party and you start a conversation with one person. If it’s an interesting conversation, more folks will join in and the conversation will happen around you, with you. But if you (your conversation) aren’t engaging, folks may very well take that discussion elsewhere. I think the same theory applies to blogs, if you aren’t engaging the reader, they will move on and take their conversation with them. It doesn’t matter if you were the ‘original’ initiator of that conversation or just a passerby.

Here’s the thing, if someone picks up my feed through Friendfeed, and starts a conversation around it, I am okay with it. But you can’t force conversation and you can’t control where conversations happen, that’s true offline and that’s even more true online, where it is becoming easier to ‘move’ conversations.

That being said, would I love to have some type of ‘comment aggregator’ to help me track my ‘popularity’? You betcha. For folks who blog for a living, the lack of trackability (and measurement) is a real issue and needs to be resolved. I think that the social media tools like feed readers have evolved so fast that the players/bloggers haven’t been able to keep up. Now we are scrambling to control the conversation, instead of enhancing the tools that caused this ‘fracturization’ of conversation in the first place.

Last year, Washington Post reported on how RIAA was suing music fans. I saw many commonalities between that debate and this current one. Here’s an interesting insight,

As technologies evolve, old media companies tend not to be the source of the innovation that allows them to survive. Even so, new technologies don’t usually kill off old media: That’s the good news for the recording industry, as for the TV, movie, newspaper and magazine businesses. But for those old media to survive, they must adapt, finding new business models and new, compelling content to offer.

I think blogging is slowly turning into the ‘old media’ and the same advice holds true. I don’t think the question is about ‘picking sides’ as Scoble would have us do, it’s more about the fact that the Internet is constantly evolving and blogging, bloggers, and blogging metrics also need to evolve. It’s Darwinism, pure and simple, you can’t stop change, the only choice we have is to adapt.

Wow, I got Louisgrayed today! :-)

Wowza, what a day!

I got up this morning and out of sheer habit, the first thing I did was to look at my feedstats (yes, I know it’s a disease). I noticed byteloads of traffic coming to my blog, so I was surprised..pleasantly 🙂 

That’s when I realized that Louis Gray, one of my fav bloggers, whom I’ve been following on Friendfeed, added my name to 5 blogs that he recommends. Holy Guacamole!! How neat is that?! Here are the other 4 blogs on his list.

Charlie Anzman / SEO and Tech Daily (anzman.blogspot.com)
Focus: SEO, Analytics, Web 2.0
Recent Highlight: The A-list just changed and you’re on it
RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

Hutch Carpenter / I’m Not Actually a Geek (bhc3.wordpress.com)
Focus: RSS, Facebook, Social Networking
Recent Highlight: The Best Blogs You’re Not Reading? Toluu Knows
RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

Eric Berlin / Online Media Cultist ( onlinemediacultist.com)
Focus: Twitter, TechMeme, Online Media
Recent Highlight: What I Learned Friday Night on Twitter
RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

Carlo Maglinao / TechBays (techbays.com)
Focus: Google, RSS, LinkedIn
Recent Highlight: Ten Power Tips on Facebook Usage
RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

The blogosphere is chockfull of amazing folks that I probably will never meet, but it’s great to have your work noticed by someone you actually admire. So, thanks for making my day, Louis!