As a follow-up to the Blog Crisis Management post and where I offered to chat to Thinkhouse PR (they accepted btw and we chatted on Friday, nice people but I think they still hate me 🙂 ) I wanted to write my views on the idea of fake blogging, ghost blogging and so forth.
These are mostly my own opinions but I think a good deal of bloggers feel the same or roundabout the same way.
Blogs are about people, not faceless entities
When you read a blog you are, in a way, connecting with a person. Both smaller blogs and even the bigger blogs like BoingBoing, you are connecting with a personality and someone you can identify. Due to the high traffic of the bigger blogs and the fact that traffic = more trolls, many just block comments but the more local blogs allow you to actually converse and give feedback to the blogger and blog readers love that. I don’t have stats to back it up but I’m of the opinion that regular readers of blogs trust the bloggers more as they are conversing with a person or at least reading a human being who is willing to converse with them and respond to their feedback. As a result blog readers allow themselves to to be influenced more as the opinions they read are respected more since they respect the person.
Perhaps they are like Facebook friends to them? This is great but when a new blog comes along, talking itself up as a blog yet only allowing positive comments through and hiding behind some secret veil while promoting a specific brand, alarm bells will ring. That’s the danger for business blogs and corporate blogs. To step into the blogging arena, you have to give something up. Tell your story and who you are so the people know something about you when you join the community. Perhaps like an AA meeting. Bloggers themselves like nothing better than to blog about blogging but when they see a new blog starting or a company press releasing that they have a blog and the first entry on the blog is the press release, they get annoyed. When follow-up posts are in the same “voice” as their press release and comments or blocked or very limited, then they get angry. It’s like someone is polluting. Still, you are free to do what you wish with this blog but you could have 100s of supporters instead of knockers
From my view, if I see such a blog come along I’m thinking:
Here’s this blog, obviously promoting something yet not sharing with us anything more than how great they say their product is and when we leave comments, they’re nuked. Is there a person behind this or a team of people, why are they only broadcasting and not conversing? This is a door to door salesperson sticking their shoe into the door of our sociable meeting place.
I’m quite convinced too that most bloggers don’t care if you are a commercial entity trying to build your brand or pimp your product once you have a story to tell or want to talk about why your product rocks. Once you’re not a spammer and are interested in … word of the day! Conversing. Stormhoek, Murphy’s Ice Cream, English Cut, hell even Will it Blend? are all pimping products but they are also very entertaining.
What not to do when starting a corporate or branding blog:
- Start a blog and be a nameless entity. Admin1 is a no no if you want to build trust. If it’s a fictional character that’s fair enough or a nom de plume but if you are a corporate, people expect a name if they are to build trust with you.
- Blog and not allow comments. Many will think “Something to hide?”. Allow comments. This does not mean you must allow free reign or put up with repeat assholes.
- Start a blog and not have some kind of visible comments policy. Tied to the above. Full pre-moderation ain’t great either but showing you have a policy is good if you are a company/brand.
- Be seen to allow comments and then kill them because they were offtopic. Example:
Comments come in telling you itâ€™s not a real blog, and wondering if Glenda Gilson deserves any more publicity. They go up, but theyâ€™re taken down again.
- Create a fake “person” and have them blog. A fictional character is fine – Think MR. Tayto but John QPublic of Company Ltd is a no if John doesn’t exist.
- Hiring a copywriter who pretends to be the CEO and does it all. See, the truth will out. You will get caught eventually and then people will feel burned. The supporters you have will become your biggest attackers. Like Eoghan Harris when he jumped away from the IRA and then from Marxism and then… etc.
Things to do:
- Remember you are joining a community, behave as such.
- Before you launch, solicit opinions from a cross-section of bloggers. Mark the blog as private and give some bloggers access. Get their opinions and guidance.
- Get a staff member to blog if you find someone passionate enough. They do not need to be the CEO.
- Company full of mumblers? Hire a passionate outsider but explicitly state that’s what they are. Let them work as the community manager.
- It’s fine to edit and clean the writing of an employee or CEO. Sub-editors are fine. Ghost writers are not. Know the difference.
- Allow comments but don’t allow a free for all.
- Guide the comments. If a comment is off-topic, say so and bring people back to what the comment is. Try and answer the off-topic comment elsewhere like via email.
- Visit other blogs and leave comments.
More on Ghostblogging:
It’s done and it seems some crowds in Ireland offer it as a service. If you’re a company and you hire someone to do this then what does it say about your company? It just shows that you only want a blog because you were told it was good for business without understanding why or there are more priorities in the company than passionately talking about it. I’d be more concerned with the company and where it’s going if that’s the case. Forget a blog. As I said earlier, hiring a community manager type of thing is fine as that person will eventually find some good natural bloggers in your org and he or she is just tarting up the story you dictate anyway. These are evangelists. Also they are going to be good at self-regulating themselves if they have half a clue. If they end up just writing ficiton they too will be found out and that’s their rep ruined in a very public way. Nobody will trust a community manager that suffers from Stockholm syndrome. The BBC has a bit more on this.
There are dozen more tips that I’m sure people could provide too. These were some of mine.