The major question of tonight’s #blogchat is one that keeps coming up all over the place – how should corporate bloggers identify themselves – by name, or should they remain anonymous?
It’s a difficult question to answer. The web both embraces and despises anonymity in equal measure; identity and obfuscation both have their uses, if you’re respectful of them.
Before my notes from #blogchat, I thought I’d share some articles – one from TED, and three of my own.
Prominent notes on anonymity: m00t speaks at TED about anonymity on the web.
Now, the notes:
There was a little discussion with @prosperitygal about the differing advantages and challenges of multiple personas on the web versus simply maintaining multiple presences – it’s a challenge either way, but the voice here is the key.
The wide concensus early on was that multiple authors should be identified on company blogs. This sentiment split by the end of the night – some people like @SbuxMel advocated for personality and passion, citing a Starbucks customers blog‘s lack of both, despite its lip service to varied authors. I mentioned there’s a big difference between writing a blog that’s worth subscribing to, versus writing one that’s worth bookmarking. Tricky difference, but an important one.
Others (myself included, mostly) brought up the disadvantages of varied identity on company blogs. If the favored writer goes away, what happens to the blog? Similarly, a personality only helps if you have one; Identifying yourself to an audience only helps if the audience identifies with you, more than just identifying you alone.
What didn’t get much talk, was the actual differences between a company’s voice and a varied personal voice. Identifying authors is one thing; addressing their personalities as compared to the company’s planned marketing voice is quite another. The process is difficult, certainly, and doesn’t get a lot of the right kind of attention.
From Monsanto, @JPlovesCOTTON mentioned Monsanto sends interns to blog at big events, for ground-up experience – which I think is brilliant, both from a guerilla content point of view, and from an experiential point. How else to gain this kind of experience, having your work out there, than just to do it? Segregating official channels from the varied voice, here, is useful and appropriate. Here’s the blog JP mentioned: Beyond the Shows.
One of the last things I noticed was a discussion of challenging your audience. I agree with this – but how to define challenge? Is it bringing direct calls to action? Inviting discussion? Challenging an assumption? How a company does this speaks volumes about its culture. However, there’s no silver bullet for challenge. What’s appropriate for a pharmaceutical company is not the same for a farmer.
The overwhelming argument I need to bring up is that identity of company bloggers isn’t the core issue; how a company approaches blogs is. It’s not what, it’s how. The assertions of so many participants were that all bloggers for companies should be identified. I agree, there are benefits to this, but also cautions.
Especially in smaller companies, where blogging isn’t a full time position, identifying a blogger is a mixed bag of snakes. If five web designers blog for a company, and identify their work, what happens when clients begin to request a favourite designer to work on their projects?
Bonus Round: “Blogs are a medium, not a genre!”
Apparently, people are touchy about what they blog. @GeoffLiving opined that blogging was mutually exclusive from writing – I disagree. Blogging is a medium, a method of writing or publishing, not a genre. The same way fantasy fiction is a genre independent of books, movies and so on, short-form opinion writing is not an exclusive product of blog publishing software.
When I mentioned I wasn’t expecting to spark such a kingdom-genus-phylum argument, @elizabethonline called me “the Linneaus of the Net” – I’m not sure whether to be amused, or expect it was a sardonic remark. Either way, funny.
What do you think? How strongly tied should blogging be to identifyable authorship, especially in corporate environments?
Participants List: TweepML #blogchat for July 5th 2010.
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