Should Your Boss Be Blogging?

Should Your Boss Be Blogging?

Rachel Rosmarin, 03.07.06 3:00 PM ET

BURLINGAME, Calif.–Anil Dash helped bring blogs to the masses. Now he wants to move them into corporate America.

Dash, the vice president of professional products at software firm Six Apart, is one of the key reasons why seemingly everyone has started a blog: His company’s TypePad, Movable Type and LiveJournal products and Web sites have helped more than 12 million bloggers start posting. Of course, Dash keeps multiple blogs himself.

Now Six Apart wants to get more blogs onto corporate Web sites and networks. Dash says the company’s TypePad Business Class and Movable Type Enterprise, which are both launching today, will make it easier for corporate users to maintain blogs. The new version of TypePad is meant for companies that want the public to see what their employees are blogging about, while the Movable Type update is designed for companies that want to run the software with many internal users at one time. "From the CIO’s standpoint, we’re trying to make blogs as boring as possible," says Dash.

Blogging isn’t a huge financial commitment–Six Apart’s business software costs as little as $90 per month–but it still requires other resources–primarily time, as an executive or a team of employees must be tapped to make regular contributions.

Companies like Yahoo!, Visa, General Motors and even Forbes.com have been busy testing Six Apart’s new systems on their company blogs, but the practice is still new. Only a handful of businesses have begun the regular ritual of updating a Web log.

Dash has been around blogs for seven years–or for about as long as they’ve existed. "When I started, there were already 50 blogs, and I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m late!’ " says Dash. "Then, the other 50 million showed up, and I thought ‘Oh, maybe I was early.’ " We talked with him to get a little more perspective about the phenomenon.

Forbes.com: Critics say all blogging will do for a company is increase its Google hits. Is that the only upside to maintaining one?

Dash: If you’re an online retailer, there’s truth to the fact that blogging drives traffic. But if you’re another kind of company, the real return on investment comes from simple scenarios: You can collect community feedback, but surveys can be expensive and time-wasting; the expense associated with getting 100 comments back can be great. But with a blog, you can do it in 24 hours. You can also measure the success of delivering information. There’s an expense associated with e-mail that gets lost via spam filters or bounced-back. With a blog, you can insure delivery and then track metrics to see who read the information and clicked through. That’s a quantifiable improvement over the communication tools most companies are using today.

Is it important to have a C-level executive contribute to a corporate blog?

If, as company, [you’re] saying you want to be thought leaders, then it makes sense to have those C-levels blogging because that goes directly to your credibility. But if your aim is interaction with the public, then anyone can do it.

Blogs are, on some level, a publicity tool for many companies. How does a company strike the balance between being open and sharing too much?

We built our tools so blogging wouldn’t be this dogmatic thing where you have to be totally open. There are a range of options that can be adjusted over time, such as allowing comments, trackbacks and feedback. Blogs have been seen as a risky area that is threatening, but it’s just like e-mail, instant messenger or a company newsletter. It’s just another tool that can help build your business.

Six Apart is making deals and partnerships with companies like Yahoo! and eBay’s Skype. And the company seems to get another round of funding every few months. Is an IPO in the works?

I’ve been getting that question for a long time. The honest truth is we’ve always tried to build a solid business based on getting more people blogging. Everything else will follow. Every option is always open, but giving bloggers a good experience has to be the guiding principle.

 

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