Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

Is promoting your CEO blog a good spend of your money?

Over at Mashable this past week, Erica Swallow compiles 15 interesting corporate blogs – some of which have found mention in our corporate blog rankings over the past 3 years. Guess which ones?

While I’ve shared similar tips in the past, there were a couple of new tips from the post that I wish to highlight.

1. Use the social graph to add “real voices” to your blog:

I think a lot of companies are collaborative group blogs with posts coming from different teams and a diverse array of employees from across the board. For e.g. at LinkedIn, we’ve had posts from nearly 90 of my colleagues (I’m the social media guy at LinkedIn and I edit our corporate blog) from across product, engineering, design, and our executive team. Google is another great example.

The official Google blog pulls insights from all over the company. Taking a quick look at posts from the past few days, I found updates posted by a software engineer, a technical program manager working on Google Apps for government, the vice president of search products and user experience, an entertainment marketing associate, and a university programs specialist — that’s a diverse crowd.

Connecting the people behind the products to the people using the products

What we’ve done on the LinkedIn blog, is to use our LinkedIn API to pull in the most recent LinkedIn profile image and summary for the post author. This gives you a better picture of who’s writing the post and if you’re interested in providing feedback to the author directly you can click through to their profile.

LinkedIn blog pulls in profile info on post authors

Facebook’s blog is very similar as they do the same pulling in the most current profile photo of their post authors. This is something all corporate blogs should be doing since it helps shine the spotlight where it should be shone – on the real voices of the company.

Again, I think this goes back to the basic ideal of social media within corporations – facilitating easier conversations between users and the teams that make the product. Read Hugh Macleod’s classic post on the Porous membrane and how that works within a socially smart organization.

Facebook's blog also pulls in author info frm social graph

2. To promote or NOT to promote a CEO blog:

CEO blogging is a challenging and frankly a debatable idea. But, if you have a CEO who not only likes to blog, but is actually good at it and can find the time for it – then go for it.

Erica even suggests promoting it:

You can’t put up a blog and expect people to just discover it. While that’s possible, it’s very unlikely. Just like any other business, marketing, or educational program you may run, you need to promote it.

There are a lot of ways to promote your blog, but one particular corporate blog is doing a great job with search engine marketing (SEM). Forrester Research’s CEO George Colony runs a blog called The Counterintuitive CEO. While searching for “ceo blog” on Google, you’ll run across his blog in the “sponsored links” section, where paid Google AdWords ads are displayed.

As you can see the first result that pops up when you search for CEO blog is the Top 10 CEO blog rankings that I did nearly 3 years ago.

Is promoting CEO blogs a good use of time & money?

One of blogging’s great advantages is that with a targeted content strategy (picking the right topics to blog about consistently) and a passionate CEO blogging, you don’t need to spend any $s on promoting it otherwise. More on that later.

What do you think? Is it worth spending money to promote your CEOs blog? Or is it spent more usefully in other marketing pursuits? Leave a comment on this blog or follow me on Twitter.

If you like similar content you should subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter!

So, while Erica’s post gives us a sneak peak at some interesting corporate blogs and goes over blogging basics I think at the end of the day – any company’s blog is valued based on two things COMMUNITY and CONTENT that’s useful to your community.

That’s pretty much it. That’s why I’ve been ranking corporate blogs based on their Technorati authority (for lack of a better metric), since it helps us identify how popular and engaging these blogs are with their community. Here are the Top 10 corporate blogs of the past few years.

And, if you’d like to see CEO blogs, check out the original killer post that started it all. Go here.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

What is Corporate Blogging?

CIO: Insight had a recent interview with Scoble where he talks about corporate blogging. Thought you’d find his take on corporate blogging interesting:

Here’s how Wikipedia defines corporate blogging (and I agree).

A corporate weblog is published and used by an organization to reach its organizational goals. An external blog is a publicly available weblog where company employees, teams, or spokespersons share their views. It also allows a window to the company culture and is often treated more informally than traditional press releases.

I think the key goal for a corporate blog as stated above is “to reach a company’s organizational goals”. I’ve always looked at corporate blogs as a window into a company, a window that allows back-and-forth conversation between a company/those who create its products and its users. As Hugh Macleod, beautifully describes it – it could be that Porous Membrane that facilitates “the conversation”.

But in the poetry of such a “conversation”, should be embedded the nitty gritty of a company’s organizational goals.

How do you define a corporate blog?

Check out my other posts on corporate blogging.

Filed under: Business Blogging

Why do you love corporate blogs? Or, do you?

Mashable says: “Liking a corporate blog is not an easy task, what with all the “propaganda”. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned editing LinkedIn’s blog is that there’s a ton of useful information that every company can share with their users through a blog, chief among which are breaking news on feature updates, how users use the product and a sense for the work culture at the company. But, I digress.

Despite the opening salvo on the boringness of corporate blogs, Don still loves corporate blogs. Here’s why:

1. Humanize companies –

they provide a human element to something that is devoid of emotion, understanding, and personality.

A good corporate blog should showcase the people behind the company and its products, exploring their personality and enabling readers to connect with them on a personal level. Exactly, why I agree with Hugh Macleod’s Porous Membrane concept.

2. Feedback –

they’re the easiest way to file a complaint and tell more than a recording or a customer service agent that something is wrong.

Corporate blogs were started to enable true conversation between companies and users. However, not all corporate blogs have enabled comments (think Google, Apple, etc…). Leaving comments on an appropriate feature post is a good way to provide feedback and draw attention to the issue at hand, but more importantly filing a complaint with customer service is a necessary next step. Check out LinkedIn’s Customer Service Site.

Don also gives some examples of corporate blogs he admires like Google (#1 on our most recent Top 15 list), Zillow, Garmin and Twitter which shook up the Top 15 rankings. Find out more here. Don, any more corporate blogs to add to our rankings?

So, why do you love corporate blogs? Or, do you?

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Filed under: Business Blogging

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.

Filed under: Business Blogging

Can you manage a community of users?

Is Community Management an oxymoron? — Check out Jeremiah’s recent post on the 4 tenets of community manager — There seems to be some debate on the four tenets themselvesLet’s ask the “community managers” themselves — Leave a comment.


Source: Not So Good Photography

Jeremiah had contacted me and a bunch of other community managers in companies ranging from Microsoft, Yahoo! and Disney to aggregate what he calls are the four tenets of a community manager. Now, it’s a given that the term community manager is not the perfect job title, and for purposes of this post let’s just call them community folk.

So, Jeremiah’s four tenets cover Community Advocate, Brand Evangelist, Effective Communicator, Product Feedback provider. Now, let’s look at the community evangelist roles in terms of what we do:

1. Listen: to users and internal teams

2. Converse: with users and internal teams

3. Build: “practices directed toward the creation or enhancement of community between individuals with a common interest.”

I think this is a good time to check out my earlier definition of the role of a community guy/gal using Hugh Macleod’s post of a Porous Membrane:

(Source: Hugh Macleod’s Gaping Void; May 9, 2005)

1. The Community/Customer (B)

Hugh calls B the customers. I’d like to take it one step further and see them as the community, esp. since we’re talking about a product/service that is “common, public, shared by all or many”. Now, there are some products that may not have as active a community (Enterprise servers, anyone) as the consumer oriented ones (iPods). Irrespective of that, the community manager will firstly have to be a customer evangelist thereby being able to identify with the community and its needs.

2. The Membrane (x)

Quoting Hugh:

6. So each market from a corporate point of view has an internal and external conversation. What separates the two is a membrane, otherwise known as “x”.

7. Every company’s membrane is different, and controlled by a host of different technical and cultural factors.

I’d like to think of the Community Evangelist as the one who connects the two entities A & B. They are the individuals entrusted with the task of pushing that membrane, aligning A and B.

3. The Troops (A)

This is the seemingly less important but critical component whose participation in the conversation is imperative. This would include your product, engineering, and customer support teams as Jeremiah elucidates. The more aligned the two groups, A and B are, the easier it’d be for the evangelist to start & keep a smart conversation going.

Also,

As you may have read in my earlier posts, customer evangelism is practiced by every passionate user within an organization. And, I see the role of every community evangelist facilitating easier communication between groups of users and the company.

Since this discussion will be incomplete without the thoughts of those individuals who practice what we’re discussing here – the community folk, I’m soliciting their response to this important discussion: Damon, Michael, Jeremy, Robyn, Chris, Scott, Alex, Betsy, Will, Craig, Thomas, Josh, Colin, Jeff, Dan and those peers of mine (community evangelism), I’d enumerated in an earlier post of mine. And, to you I ask:

What does a “community manager” do? Leave a comment.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Community 2.0 – Meeting your users

1. Lunch 2.0 at Netgear

It seems like just last week when we hosted one of the biggest Lunch 2.0’s ever at LinkedIn (well, it was actually only last week). And, the team’s back at it again… This time around, we had Lunch 2.0 at Netgear. I had an opportunity to meet with a slew of friends, LinkedIn users and the Netgear crew. The Podtech and bub.blicio.us crew were there filming again and it was just a perfect summer BBQ. Here’s a nice post by Jeremiah. (Jeremiah’s site seems to be down, will update it with link shortly)

2. My take on Lunch 2.0 (from a community manager’s perspective)

Now, there could be those of you wondering what are some of the benefits of hosting these events. Here’s my simple three-fold take based on my experience organizing it for LinkedIn:

1. Bringing your users/evangelists together

2. Bringing your own company together

3. Sharing of ideas

This definitely references my recent blog exchange with Hugh Macleod (Gaping Void) on the role of the community manager. My take on Hugh’s Porous Membrane post was that every community manager’s role involves two groups: Community (Users) and the Troops (Your product, engineering, and other teams). As the membrane (Community Manager), which delineates these two groups, its events like Lunch 2.0 that enable you to bring in both groups and facilitate a free flow of information between sides.

As an example, when we had Lunch 2.0 at LinkedIn, one of our co-founders, Allen Blue, outlined some of our recent milestones, our vision and future plans, in a style and format reminiscent of our weekly Wednesday lunches at LinkedIn. That way you take a core attribute of your company, add hundreds of your users to an event and voila! You have one huge community event, with the sole purpose of engendering conversations users and your company. It’s productive and enlightening to see some your users directly interact with your product team, developers and engineers and that’s something any community manager should aspire to do.

3. Learn more about Lunch 2.0

Want to know more about Lunch 2.0. Check out the official blog here and also read about the genesis of Lunch 2.0 from Terry Chay, one of the guys who started it all.

I’ve also been asked by the founders of Lunch 2.0 to be an advisor in helping out with some of these events. If you’ve got a tech company in any part of the world interested in bringing together your community and troops over a free lunch, let us know. Lunch 2.0 is already recreating itself in other parts of the US (currently Seattle) and we’re sure it holds potential in any other part of the world with a passion for technology?

Is your community ready for Lunch 2.0?

Email me at mario.sundar@gmail.com.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Smarter conversations through the Gaping Void

Just a couple more items to round up what’s been an exciting week, a sign of times to come.

1. Porous Membrane – the Sequel

Hugh Macleod, creator of the Gaping Void, “cartoons on a business card” and the Porous Membrane post, comments on my recent remixing of his theory.

Mario Sundar, the “Community Evangelist” for LinkedIn.com, has another take on “The Porous Membrane”

Microsoft blog watchers, take note.

As you may have read in my earlier posts, customer evangelism is practiced by every passionate user within an organization. And, I see the role of every community evangelist facilitating easier communication between groups of users and the company.

Thanks to Hugh, for continuing to generate smart conversations.

2. While on the topic of successful communities

One such community manager is Scott Wilder, Group Manager for Intuit’s Quick Books Online Community, whom I had a chance to meet with recently. The good news is that he’s recently started a blog, called Community Playbook, which I’ll definitely recommend to anyone interested in learning best practices on community management. The very first post is titled “Don’t kill the press release, change the messenger

Check out his blog here. Subscribe to the blog here.


Let me know if you’re going to be around at the Web 2.0 Expo. The event is going to feature a who’s-who from the world of web 2.0 and even features a separate track on marketing and community.

Have a great weekend!

Filed under: Miscellaneous

The 3 sides of the Community Coin!

Time just flies by, when you’re having fun. It’s been really busy at work, and there are times when I think to myself — so I get paid to do this 🙂

I’d like to “Thank You” all for your kind words and best wishes. And, of course, to Jeremiah for the video intro. Speaking of Jeremiah, he had a great post on community marketing yesterday.

Taking a cue from Hugh Macleod’s illuminating post on the “Porous Membrane” (simple and brilliant), I’d like to distill Jeremiah’s ideas even further into just 3 components:

(Source: Hugh Macleod’s Gaping Void; May 9, 2005)

1. The Community/Customer (B)

Hugh calls B the customers. I’d like to take it one step further and see them as the community, esp. since we’re talking about a product/service that is “common, public, shared by all or many”. Now, there are some products that may not have as active a community (Enterprise servers, anyone), as the consumer oriented ones (iPods). Irrespective of that, the community manager will firstly have to be a customer evangelist thereby being able to identify with the community and its needs.

2. The Membrane (x)

Quoting Hugh:

6. So each market from a corporate point of view has an internal and external conversation. What separates the two is a membrane, otherwise known as “x”.

7. Every company’s membrane is different, and controlled by a host of different technical and cultural factors.

I’d like to think of the Community Evangelist as the one who connects the two entities A & B. They are the individuals entrusted with the task of pushing that membrane, aligning A and B and aiming for nirvana (see my definition in the “About” page). And did I mention, they also help humanify the company.

3. The Troops (A)

This is the seemingly less important but critical component whose participation in the conversation is imperative. This would include your product, engineering, and customer support teams as Jeremiah elucidates. The more aligned the two groups, A and B are, the easier it’d be for the evangelist to start & keep a smart conversation going.

And, it’s not always an easy task.


Jeremiah ends his post, with a ton of great examples of community marketers. Here are a few community evangelists missing from that list — Colin Devroe (Viddler), Craig Cmehill (SAP Developer), Anand Iyer (Microsoft Developer Evangelist) and Jake McKee (Community Guy). And I know a really cool community marketer who can throw the best parties in town… Anyone else, I’ve missed?

And, Yes, my post title doesn’t make much sense. Just sounded interesting!

Filed under: Miscellaneous

3 Questions to ask before you start a corporate blog

One of the first questions asked at our recent SXSW panel on corporate blogging was “should my company have a corporate blog?”. Wrong question! Time and again, I’ve repeated, don’t start with a tactic in mind, always start with a strategic goal and then find out what your options are. So, I was rather pleased to read a recent article by Neil Davey, editor of MyCustomer.com, which agreed with this key concept as he outlines simple steps on what companies should consider before entering the corporate blogosphere!

Three questions to ask yourself and your team before you plunge into the world of the corporate blogosphere (after the jump).


Companies’ deadly mission: To crack the forbidden kingdom of the blogosphere!

So, what exactly are the three questions you need to ask yourself before you start a corporate blog. We asked them at LinkedIn and I’d advise any company asking themselves the questions since the decision has to be ratified at all levels and you better have answers before you take this idea to your boss.

1. Why are we starting a corporate blog? What are the goals?

Pretty obvious question to ask, but you’ll be surprised how many companies don’t ask this question before they start a blog. At LinkedIn, we did have a couple of primary goals; we wanted to have a site for (1) user education and (2) customer engagement (feedback). Traditionally, goal #1 would be achieved through a corporate website, but what the blog allowed beyond that is a constantly updated 2-way communication vehicle (which is what baffles me when companies have blogs without comments!). Equally important is the fact that these goals (primary & secondary) should fit into your company’s wider objectives. As Tom Nixon, says in the article:

“It needs to feed down from the wider corporate objectives,” adds Nixon. “Look at what the company’s overall marketing plans are and then find out how you can feed off that. So for example, if the company wants to improve awareness of its brand, then a blog – if it is good – can be picked up by other people who link to it and slowly it spreads the word about your brand.”

Always, start with the goal in mind.

2. Where are my users?

Here’s something else that companies forget. A blog may traditionally be far more utilitarian to a computer software company vs. a brick-and-mortar one (although, I believe that’s changing rapidly as well). But ask yourself, where exactly are my users online. Where do they congregate and how do they find answers to the questions they have?

In our case, most of our users where tech savvy and could be found online, so it made a lot of sense to focus our efforts on a corporate blog as is the case for most web 2.0 startups, I’m sure.

3. What is the internal and external culture?

And, finally, let’s not forget that after all blogs are nothing more than a vehicle that makes more porous the membrane that exists between the individuals who create your products and the individuals who use them. (Thanks to Hugh for the concept). You’ve got to make sure that a blog is not just about that “chief blogger” but more about everyone within the company who can blog. In LinkedIn’s case, almost 18% of our workforce has blogged. That’s nearly 40 of my colleagues, which includes key members of the management team as well.

Next step: So, if based on answers to the above three questions you’ve decided to start a blog, kudos! There’s another post in the making as to what steps to follow once you decide to start a blog. If you can’t wait to read that, check out Neil’s post where he talks about that in brief. (Read post here)

Got questions. Leave a comment.

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Filed under: Business Blogging