Blogs Twice as Trusted as Congress

Josh Bernoff, a Forrester analyst and co-author of Groundswell, has issued a new report and has written a new blog post, entitled “People don’t trust company blogs. What you should do about it.” As people ranked sources of information, “company blog” came in dead last, at 16 percent.

I don’t trust it.

Don’t get me wrong. I have immense respect for Josh, and I think his post does point out some useful takeaways about how a corporate blog can be successful.

But I think the question that was the basis of his research was essentially meaningless.

It’s like asking people for their approval or disapproval of Congress. Before the last election in the U.S., the approval rating for Congress was at an all-time low, I believe. Something like 9 percent.

But people don’t vote in their local elections based on their opinion of Congress as a whole; they vote based on their local member of Congress and their perception of his or her record.

As Matthew Grant said in the comments on Jeremiah Owyang’s post about this study said, what’s really interesting is that the trust rating for personal blogs was only two points higher.

“Blogs” in general have negative connotations, just like “Congress” as a whole does. But a blog is just a type of Web site; one that enables interaction. I ‘m sure lots of people go to blogs and don’t even realize they are on a blog. They just perceive it as another Web site.

People are distrustful of companies in general and politicians in general. And they’ve had good reason, as demonstrated yesterday by the Illinois governor’s arrest for trying to sell Obama’s seat in the Senate. Rod Blagojevich’s trust level is probably around 3 percent today. Even after the recent vice presidential campaign, I’m betting Sarah Palin’s approval rating in Alaska is at least 20 times that.

People make distinctions among blogs (company or personal), just as they do among members of Congress. Or governors. The Blog Council (of which Mayo Clinic is a member) has a post discussing the Forrester findings as well.

As Shel Holtz put it nearly two years ago:

I trust certain people, and some of them have blogs. Therefore, I trust their blogs. It’s the person I trust, in other words, not the medium.

So as Josh says, be different. Be one of “the good guys.” If you’re going to have a company blog, don’t make it a regurgitation of the company line. Provide useful information and an opportunity for interaction. Let people make their voices heard on your site. And listen.

Trust me!

You can pass this along to people who trust you with the handy buttons below:

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Blogging 117: Attracting Blog Visitors through Comments

Blogs are a conversational medium. As we learned in Blogging 101, a blog is essentially a newspaper. Two major factors that set blogs apart are:

  1. Anyone can be a publisher, and
  2. Within reason, every letter to the editor is published.

I say “within reason” because some people go out and leave meaningless or off-topic comments as a way of driving traffic to their sites. Thankfully, as a site, SMUG is protected against comment spam automatically by Akismet. But still, sometimes one sneaks through, with an innocuous comment like, “Great site. Keep up the good work” that includes a link to a Russian porn site. When that happens, I mark the comment as spam, which deletes the comment and makes it more likely Akismet will prevent that person from infecting other wordpress blogs.

But comment spam isn’t the main point of this post. This post is about how you can legitimately engage in discussions through comments on other related blogs, and as a natural byproduct attract visitors to what you’ve written.

If you’re commenting just to attract blog traffic through that single link, people will sniff it out and you won’t get much out of it. But if you’re contributing meaningfully to the conversation, you not only will get some visitors via the link in your comment (as described below); you also make it likely that the blog’s author will take notice of your blog and possibly link to it in a future post.

Continue reading “Blogging 117: Attracting Blog Visitors through Comments”

Shel Holtz Ragan Presentation: What’s Next?

I’ve known Shel for several years, and I try to keep in touch via Twitter, his RSS feed and listening to his For Immediate Release podcast (with his sidekick Neville Hobson.) Still, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve heard him present, and this talk at the Ragan conference with SAS was really interesting and helpful.

As I sit in the Charlotte airport, loving the free wi-fi, I’m taking the opportunity to clean up my liveblogging post from his talk, and to add some links to the sites he mentioned.

The title of the presentation was, “What’s Next?” and he had ten key trends he saw as important. I missed #9, so if anyone else (or even Shel) can fill in the missing info, I would appreciate it. But before I get into those trends here were a few of Shel’s observations.

Shel says the high-end webcast is going the way of the DoDo, because now anyone can do a webcast using Qik or

Seesmic – lets you record videos at your Webcam. Put video up instead. Twitter for video. And WordPress now has a plug-in that lets people comment on your posts via Seesmic.

Integrated social networks. Websites, networks merge. Conversation with customers becomes part of the online presence. has redesigned its Web site extensively to incorporate conversation. All of the content except one cover story is contributed by the community.

Tulane University is using LiveWorld.

Google Open Social will enable you to turn your Website into a social network, just by copying some code.

Shel says Web 3.0 involves these key trends:

Trend #1: Ubiquitous connectivity

  • Broadband
  • Wireless
  • Mobile computing – get to the Web anywhere you have a phone signal. Very few organizations have mobile phone strategies; they (we) really should.

Trend #2: Network computing. Web services, cloud computing, grid computing, distributed computing

Shel uses Live Mesh. I like Dropbox. Google has a video service just for corporations, available only to employees. Videos are hosted outside the firewall. Company IT departments will need to get comfortable with software as service like this. Shel uses Google Docs to develop and store his documents. He mentioned Yammer, too.

Trend #3: Open technologies – APIs and protocols, software, data. This is a huge trend. Why spend a half million dollars on a CMS when you can download a free open source package that is just as powerful, and pay someone $10K a year for support?

Trend #4: Open Identity – Open ID, Open reputation, Open portable identity

Business world doesn’t like this because companies want to gather your info.

Trend #5: The intelligent web. Use Pandora, for instance. It looks at music you like and finds similar songs that are what you’ll like. Recommendation agent. Natural language search instead of keywords. Semantic Web. Check out Twine.

Trend #6: Distributed Databases

Trend #7: Technology Populism: Tech has gotten so easy that you don’t need an IT person to help you implement it. That’s really one of the main ideas behind SMUG. “It’s Not That Hard.”

Trend #8: The information workplace. Getting people whatever information they need when they need it.

Prologue is a WordPress Theme that can be added to a blog you have behind the firewall.

TownSquare is a plug-in for Microsoft SharePoint that adds functionality like Facebook. Not available yet.

As Shel mentioned, FriendFeed is a great way to pull together information.

Yahoo Pipes is a really interesting service and Shel showed a video that demonstrates it. Here it is:


Gotta play with that.

Trend #9: (Updated) Aggregation–Friendfeed, Dubpages, Google Reader, Yahoo Pipes (mashup feeds), Feedburner – (Thanks to sktuttle for providing in the comments.)

Trend #10: Widgets will also increase in importance for distributing your content.

Comcastcares uses to do customer support. Symantec has a fan page on Facebook.

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Mass Media, Social Media and an Elf Who Got Too Jolly

When I spoke to the Ragan workshop with Shel Holtz yesterday, one of my points was how blogs and social media sites like YouTube work together with the mainstream media. Many times the fact that a story is mentioned in the mass media is what leads to it getting lots of hits on the Web. This message I got Thursday from Cindy at LifeSource, where I recently did a SMUG extension class, is a case in point:

Thank you for coming to LifeSource last week! Your talk was very interesting. I wanted to share with you something that happened to my husband this week regarding “social media” Curt is a sergeant with the MN State Patrol. A few years ago he arrested an elf…yes an elf….and the arrest made it on “You Tube” (you can find it under elf arrest). Two nights ago our phone started ringing off the hook at 11 p.m. and our friends and family said turn Jay Leno on, Curt is on the show! Well we missed it but Jay played his video! We were able to see the Leno show last night on the website and also looked at the You Tube video which went from a couple of hundred hits to over 58,000! Anyways…I thought you would appreciate that story. Have a great week! – Cindy

Here’s the “elf arrest” video that caught Jay Leno’s attention:


This is one of the points I often stress, but perhaps not as frequently as I should. Social media and mass media work together, and often the biggest impact from social media comes when it is noticed by someone in the mainstream media.

A Class Organization

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting a case study for a two-day workshop on social media for corporations that Shel Holtz was doing on behalf of Ragan Communications. Minneapolis was the second stop on Shel’s six-city tour, and he asked me to share what we’ve been doing with social media at Mayo Clinic. I’ll upload my slides a bit later, but for now just want to share a good turn done by the hotel at which the event was held, the Depot Minneapolis, a Renaissance Hotel.

When I arrived home last night, my MacBook Pro power cord was missing. So I quickly sent a message to Shel through LinkedIn, asking if he had noticed that I had left it in the meeting room. (Meanwhile, it was another reason I was glad I had bought my wife a MacBook, so I could use her cord.) A couple of hours later, when Shel landed in Little Rock, he sent word via his mobile device that he had found my cord and left it at the hotel’s front desk, and that I should contact the hotel so they could send it to me. I live 100 miles from Minneapolis.

What a relief…made possible by a social networking site and mobile e-mail technology!

When I called the Depot this morning, the front desk attendant asked for my name and confirmed that he had the cord. When I asked if he could send it, and said I would give a credit card to pay the cost, he put me on hold for a few seconds and came back to say they would mail it to me and that there wouldn’t be any charge.

Thanks to the Depot for its good turn…which deserves another…so I just want people to know about a good hotel in Minneapolis.