The next frontier for weblogs is here: top business leaders are going online to speak on behalf of their companies. A silly diversion or a major competitive trend?
José Esteves, who tracks the blogosphere with a unique passion, says the first lesson from his extensive research is obvious: put blogging on your personal to-do list.
Bob Lutz is Vice Chairman of General Motors, a company facing major marketplace challenges yet one that generates over $170 billion in revenue per year. So how does Lutz spend his time? Well, he spends valuable hours blogging – not just reading weblogs but writing his own. GM customers and others are responding, and now other GM execs have followed his lead.
Karen Christensen is the CEO of Berkshire Publishing Group, a forward-thinking publishing company that recently published the multi-volume Berkshire Encyclopedia of China. Christensen says it’s “the first major Western publication to integrate Chinese history with a wide range of contemporary issues”. So, how does this CEO keep in touch with her customers, suppliers and distributors? She posts a few hundred words on her blog at frequent intervals. She even provides links to the blogs that she likes to read when she’s not writing.
Craig Newmark is the founder of Craigslist, which one source described “as a centralized network of online communities, featuring free classified advertisements (with jobs, internships, housing, personals, for sale/barter/wanted, services, community, gigs, resumé, and pets categories) and forums on various topics”. Newmark’s company is now worth some $5 billion, but this software engineer insists on staying close to his online community. So he blogs. Titled “Newmark’s Door,” the blog is (per the author) about “things one middle-aged economist finds interesting”. Many days, Newmark offers numerous postings.
For most of this decade, I have been focusing on understanding how information systems interact with business processes and human resources management. As part of that mission, I track the world of business weblogs assiduously. This is, admittedly, a specialty field. Many in the business world don’t even know that business executives write regular blog postings. At the end of this article, I’ll share with you my favourite executive blogs; but, first, let me share some background on my research. I honestly believe that blogs can help you and your company become more competitive – or, perhaps, sink you and your company.
I started realizing the importance of blogs in 2002–2003 when I was working on my doctorate, and I was looking for forums and communities related to my topic. At that time, I discovered some blogs and bloggers and started reading them; I immediately grasped the potential of discussing and interacting with experts in my own field. Very soon, I discovered that even people without expertise were also providing their opinions, and more and more people were starting to get involved in talking to one another about subjects that I was directly interested in. At the beginning, my focus on blogs was more IT-related. I read and engaged people in the IT world principally, but nowadays there are no boundaries or limits for blogs – and I am fascinated by all kinds of weblogs, especially those that are business-related.
Relatedly, enterprise systems software packages support the management of the whole organization. The big issue to stress is that these systems change companies, their way of working and their culture; they are increasingly critical to a company’s success. So they are all about human behaviour – individual, organizational and social – and we should analyze IT/IS at these three levels. Weblogs, especially now that senior executives are becoming so directly involved, naturally fall into this field of study.
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