Blogs and Wikis: Building Customer Connections
AIIM E-DOC Magazine Jul/
As published in AIIM E-DOC Magazine
July-August 2007 Issue pp.
Copyright © 2007 AIIM Inc All rights reserved
Reproduced by permission
For a PDF edition of this paper, click here
Customer Connection Patterns
When business people say "keep in touch with my customers" they often mean "keep my customers aware of what my company is doing, and keep them interested in my products and services.
A corporate blog can serve the same purpose.
Because a corporate blog is simple to create and maintain, this can be a good alternative to a traditional customer newsletter.
This may be what your business is looking for.
Customers can talk to you!
Your customers may already be talking about your company – or you – on the Web.
Did you find anyone who loves your company? Hates your company? There are two common results:
1) Yes! People out there love /
How do you talk back? Use your blog and link to what they say! Or post a helpful or encouraging comment on their blog with a link back to your blog if you have something relevant to add to the conversation.
If you'd like people to start talking about you, a feature story the Wall Street Journal or rave reviews of your new product in the business press would probably help.
You can also use your blog to write something interesting and open a public conversation on some aspect of your company, product or industry that people care about.
It helps two-way communication to open your corporate or personal blog to incoming comments, but be aware that you'll either need to devote time to deleting irrelevant SPAM comments, or ask people to register and encourage responsible commenting.
Don't expect miracles, and plan to spend time doing your own web research to find out who blogs well about your industry and your key competitors (use the blog search engines).
Encourage your customers to work with you
The "blog" (or web log) model focuses on creating a shared journal of time ordered posts and comments to build a conversation over time; the "wiki" model focuses on enabling people to collaboratively create and edit a web site that grows a page at a time (see "What's a Blog? A Wiki?" in the Links sidebar).
The Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) project is the most famous example of a collaboratively created web site using the wiki model.
Here are three principles that keep the Wikipedia from turning into an unreadable home for SPAM advertising or worse:
- Wikipedia has a purpose and general policies that are intended to guide all contributors and editors, in brief: "Wikipedia is a neutral and unbiased compilation of previously written, verifiable facts.
- Wikipedia has a diligent self-selected team of volunteer editors who constantly monitor changes to eliminate vandalism.
Editors help grow and prune the Wikipedia in accordance with its general policies, which are themselves created by consensus achieved through editing pages which define those policies.
- Although almost anyone can edit almost any page anonymously, some highly visible or controversial pages and administrative actions may be locked down to a degree, and IP addresses or login accounts used for persistent vandalism can be restricted or banned.
To work with customers on the public internet using the wiki model you want to consider the same principles: What's the shared purpose? Who would care? Who would contribute? What policies can help make the project grow and evolve into something useful and interesting while discouraging misuse?
Here are two wiki customer connection examples to consider:
Create a wiki for an event or conference: It's easy to stand up a wiki that contains FAQ's about the event, then open up pages on topics of interest and sessions.
Create a wiki for a your product: In 2006 Motorola created a public wiki for its "Q" phone (www.motoqwiki.com).
A more common use of product wiki's is for planning, documentation and support of open source software products.
The SourceForge product development model sounds interesting – but what if your business isn't limited to creating open source software?
The answer can be simple – apply the same principles for blog and wiki style collaboration to how your business works behind your firewall – and let customers, suppliers, resellers and partners selectively join your internal product development, sales and support teams.
Andrew McAfee coined the term "Enterprise 2.
Sramana Mitra blogs about design collaboration within the extended enterprise – including customers and suppliers and linking to the content of computer aided design (CAD) systems rather than just software code repositories.
On a scale that meaningful for almost every business, John Hagel and John Seely Brown write about the 'edge' of the enterprise as a location where interactions with customers, technology suppliers, manufacturers and sales channels take place.
Browser based blog and wiki technology with secure collaboration (passwords or identity certificates, encryption, and permissioned access) can be simply and safely deployed at the 'edge' of the enterprise.
Greg Lloyd (grl@TractionSoftware.
What's a Blog? A Wiki – Jordan Frank Feb 27, 2007
GM FastLane Blog – Group blog with comments
Wikipedia: Five Pillars – A summary of Wikipedia policies and guidelines
2007 Special Libraries Association – A conference wiki
Motorola Q – Customer written product wiki for Motorola's "Q" phone
Andrew McAfee, Harvard Business School Blog – Enterprise 2.
Design Collaboration in the extended enterprise? Sramana Mitra Feb 27, 2007
Can Your Firm Develop a Sustainable Edge? Ask John Hagel and John Seely Brown – Knowledge@Wharton June 5, 2005