Why have blogs, which are simply Web pages with reverse chronologically arranged individual posts, become so powerful? According to David Sifry of Technorati [www. sifry, com/alerts/archives/ 000298.html], the number of blogs has been doubling at least every 5 months. The current estimate is that there's over 10 million blogs in the blogosphere. Yet it's not the large number that creates the stir over blogs. Their power comes from the speed of information diffusion, their low barrier to access, and readers' ability to scan many blogs through XML feeds. The vast majority are not journalistic endeavors or political advertising. Blogs are as individual and unique as their writers--and can damage your company or brand very quickly.
CONSEQUENCES OF BLOG POSTS
Take, for example, the case of Kaiser Permanente. A former employee, Elisa D. Cooper, who calls herself the "Diva of Disgruntled," posted a link to private customer health information, including information on lab tests, on her blog. Kaiser first learned about the posts from the federal Office of Civil Rights in January 2005, although she says she posted the link in July 2004 and the site to which she linked had been online since 2002. A lawsuit, filed by Kaiser, is in progress.
Another recent example is the case of the easily picked Kryptonite lock. In 1992, a bicycling enthusiast magazine, New Cyclist, published an article stating that circular locks similar to Kryptonite bike locks can be picked with a Bic pen. The publication of this information had very little impact and Kryptonite made no changes to the lock design. Then in September 2004, a video posted to a blog showed how to pick a Kryptonite lock in less than 30 seconds using a Bic pen. In less than 2 weeks, this video was played in all of the major media, lawsuits were brought against the company, and a movement was started to force the company to recall the "faulty locks." Even though the information was available to bike shops and bike owners for more than 10 years, it took blogs to precipitate the crisis.
In the mainstream media where story leads can originate from company press releases, companies are in charge of the message. In the blogo sphere, where the power is in the network, the customers control the message. A good illustration of this is in Harvard Business Review's realistic "Glove Girl" case study ("A Blogger in Their Midst," by Halley Suitt, vol. 81, no 9 [September 2003]: pp. 30-40). Glove Girl, who's an assistant foreman at a surgical glove manufacturing plant, blogs about the company's products on her personal blog. She achieves more audience than the official marketing campaigns and upstages the company's CEO at a major trade show. When she says something positive about a line of gloves, sales increase. When she blogs her questions about the company's ethics of doing business with a clinic with a poor record, the deal is in danger. Commentators on the case study were David Weinberger, Pamela Samuelson, Ray Ozzie, and Erin Motameni.
The blog cycle--the time between learning about something to having it on a blog feed--is very short. A blogger reads something of interest, and then posts it to his or her blog within seconds, frequently without verifying facts. Feed aggregators query the site about every hour, so readers all over the world will have almost instant desktop or mobile access to the story without searching for it. This can be great viral marketing of your product, if the post is positive. However, if the posted information is negative or even wrong, and your company is the last to know, damage control will be very difficult.
COMPREHENSIVE SERVICES VERSUS CREATING YOUR OWN
Are these examples, both real and fictionalized, enough to convince you to search across blogs for information about your company, your competitors, and your brand? Are you convinced you should create alerts so that you are up on the buzz in the blogosphere? …