What should a chief blogger do? My LinkedIn experience

“It’s a good idea to have a chief blogger,” said Mack Collier, a social-media consultant and blogger at the Viral Garden, citing Dell’s Lionel Menchaca and LinkedIn’s Mario Sundar as examples of a single personality positively affecting a brand.

Thanks for the kind words, Mack. We definitely had a very insightful and productive session at SXSW (Read reviews from those who attended our session). The above quote is taken from a recent Ad Age article that talks about the hotness that is corporate blogging and how corporations are adapting to it.

As someone who religiously ranked corporate blogs (Top 10 corporate blogs), CEO blogs (Top 10 CEO blogs) or community blogs (Difference between community blog, corporate blog & discussion forums) even when they weren’t as hot, it’s really gratifying to see social media being embraced by companies.

(3 questions answered + 3 Tips for corporate bloggers after the jump)

From L-R: Mack Collier, Kami Huyse, Myself, and Lionel Menchaca (Source: CoqueDesigns2000. Thanks!)

However, let me clarify that my official job title at LinkedIn is community evangelist (social media is an important part of it) and I’ll get into what exactly that role entails at least as far as LinkedIn is concerned.

Here are a few questions that are probably on top-of-mind for you, so let’s get those resolved.

1. What does a community evangelist or a social media evangelist do?

Let me clarify that in LinkedIn’s case, I’m the community evangelist who dabbles in all things social media. What kind of social media doesn’t really matter. What really matters is that as community evangelist my goal is to “Help users understand LinkedIn better and help LinkedIn understand its users better” (Check out my LinkedIn profile).

2. Does a company need a chief blogger?

This is a question that David Armano, another good friend (who blogs here) posed to his twitter audience and he happened to get two kinds of answers (1. Yes, 2. No).

As I mentioned at the SXSW panel session. As a company, first ask yourself,

* Why am I doing this? What am I trying to achieve?

* Where is my audience currently?

* If they’re online, how social media savvy are they?

Now, if the answers to the above three questions are (a) connect with my users, (b) online, (c) highly social media or web savvy, then it makes sense to find the different online tools to connect with that audience effectively. Social media tools like blogs, twitter, friendfeed and it may be some other service tomorrow, should all allow you to do that.

From my personal experience, here are the channels I use as community evangelist to communicate with anyone interested in talking to me about professional networking, social networking or LinkedIn:

LinkedIn Blog
My Personal Blog (over 600 subscribers)
LinkedIn (over 500 connections) and LinkedIn Answers
Twitter (over 600 followers)
Friendfeed (over 140 followers)
– Facebook (over 350 “friends”)
– Email (msundar@linkedin.com)
– Whatever social media tool LinkedIn users are on

Follow the users and they’ll follow you.

3. What should a chief blogger do?

Now, if your answer to all three of the above questions has led you to the fact that you indeed need a corporate blogger I’d say the primary goal of that individual would be to help “initiate, sustain and/or expand the conversation” between your internal teams and your users. As Hugh Macleod, succinctly outlined in his “Porous Membrane” meme:

The more porous your membrane (“x”), the easier it is for the internal conversation to inform and align with the external conversation, and vice versa.

For e.g. at LinkedIn, I’ve made it a point to evangelize blogging and it’s benefits to everyone working within LinkedIn. As of today, we’ve had 35 colleagues of mine contributing to the blog from within LinkedIn. That’s a whopping 15% of our workforce (and changing as we keep hiring more), blogging about products, tips-and-trips, feature enhancements etc… directly to the user and responding to user comments. We’ve also had key members of our management team blog as well. The key here is to inspire the culture within an organization to converse with users. Not all companies get it right, but those that do are doing their users and themselves a great favor.

So, per my experience, here are three things a chief blogger/corporate blogger should do well:

1. Internal Evangelism: It’s not about just the corporate blogger blogging. A corporate blogger is all about getting the folks behind the products/services to talk about it to the users of those features. Build that culture. I know Lionel practices that at Dell and so do we at LinkedIn.

2. Listen and Respond: Another key area is listening to comments and responding wherever appropriate. Now given that blogs afford a quick response mechanism, I try to go through the comments stream and then I’ll inform the appropriate contributing blogger who then responds to comments. I always keep in mind, how time-swamped everyone is (engineering, product, design, etc…) and schedule accordingly.

3. Do something about it: I maintain a spreadsheet with user comments from the blogosphere, categorized by product feature, tonality, status and more. Getting this feedback to the team is critical and when it results in a feature, we then point it out on the blog as well.

That’ll be my $0.03c for the day! Feel free to comment on some situations you’re going through as a company related to social media/corporate blogging and I’ll give you my take in the comments section.

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