Corporate Blogs – Yes please!

RSS IconDustin’s comments in his last blog post got me thinking (which is never a good thing). Dustin said “You just set my blogging efforts at Move back by a year or so”. To which I reply, “I hope not! You don’t have that much time!”

One of the cool good things that has happened recently is the rise of corporate blogging. What’s interesting is you’re finding them in places you wouldn’t expect. Did you know Dell has a blog, meanwhile Apple does not? I think it’s an excellent way for a company to get in touch with it’s customers (and vice-a-versa), without the reality distortion and corporate hubris that happens when communicating via a scripted ”public relations firm” message.

You may be surprised to learn that even the venerable General Motors has blog (In case anybody from GM management reads this – Good luck turning the company around and keep up the great work at Cadillac and Saturn. I’m rooting for you). If a 100 year old company in the rust belt has seen the value of blogging, I have to wonder why hasn’t every large company? 

In case you doubt the potential of corporate blogging, look no further than Microsoft. Robert Scoble helped put a human face on the “evil empire”, by spearheaded Microsoft’s Channel 9 video blogs and wrote the book on corporate blogging. When he left Microsoft for PodTech, it created nearly as much news as when Bill Gates announced his “retirement”. An anonymous Microsoft employee, through his blog has changed the company for the better. Even though the Human Resources dept has a blog, and prominent engineers have them too, a small corporate blog can as useful as the MSDN blogging network is to the “Redmond Giant”.

I personally enjoy reading Zillow’s blog, RedFin’s blog, and Trulia’s blog every day. Even the HouseValues’ blog can be interesting on occassion (it seems like they have a fun corporate culture, even if they just sell leads for a living). But where is the John L Scott, Coldwell Banker and Windermere blogs? I know countless agents of those brokers and independent brokers blog and do it very well (I think I’ve seen most of them on Rain City Guide at one time or another), but where is the human voice of those companies? They should at least give me a way to search for their agent’s blogs. Are these brokers nothing but a logo for an agent to put on their marketing? They may not realize it, but I think they are losing mind-share (which may become market-share) by being silent in the blogosphere.

Which brings me back to my original question, regarding Dustin’s comment. When is Move going to get a corporate blog?

Although, Rain City Guide is an excellent blog, it’s not the most appropriate venue for Move specific information (nor should it be). Why hasn’t Move added RSS feeds to any page that offers e-mail alerts? How are Move’s product offerings better than other things out there? What cool stuff is Move is doing? Why would a Software Engineer want to work there? Why should a realtor advertise with Move instead of one of these “Web 2.0 upstarts”? Heck, why not feature profiles of happy customers (something HouseValues does well)? I’d love to hear somebody explain the the Innovator’s Dilemma that Move faces to your constituency, so they’d understand why Zillow, etc are steeling the mind-share that realtor.com used to have. What’s the best MLS in the country to deal with and why? If Dustin or his co-workers explained why things are the way they are, maybe somebody in a position to change things would read the blog and start talking? After all if GM blogs, the CEO of Sun Microsystems has a blog, and Mini & Scoble can change Microsoft, I think anything is possible.

I’m not trying to pick on Dustin, but I really want to add the Move blog to my RSS feed reader and I can’t!

Comments

  1. Russ Cofano says:

    Robbie,

    Your post is right on. A few months ago, I had similar thoughts at RealtyObjectives.

    I really like the metaphor of sunlight and disinfectant which seems to run parallel with the transparency some are suggesting is the mantra of Real Estate 2.0.

    Russ

  2. Russ Cofano says:

    Robbie,

    Your post is right on. A few months ago, I had similar thoughts at RealtyObjectives.

    I really like the metaphor of sunlight and disinfectant which seems to run parallel with the transparency some are suggesting is the mantra of Real Estate 2.0.

    Russ

  3. The big brokers aren’t alone in their fear of weblogging. Which is unfortunate, because I’d be intereseted in hearing what they had to say.

    However, I think it’s very telling that all the prominant “Real Estate 2.0″ companies have blogs and none of the “traditional” companies do not. I’m looking forward to seeing this industry’s equivalent of the Diet Coke and Mentos moment that’s sweeping the internet and seeing their respsective reactions.

  4. Robbie,

    Who is “they”? Do you want to hear what “Windermere Corporate” has to say? Or what the individual Windermere agents might have to say, as in “stories from the trenches”.

    Do you want to hear what “they” have to say about Redfin and Zillow and new technologies, after their comments have been “scrubbed by the attorney”? Or do you want to hear what John, Jean and Judy agent has to say about how technology has or has not affected their business?

    What is it that you long to hear from “they” and who are “they”?

    Personally I am disappointed in the Redfin blog and the turn it has made toward property after property instead of industry discussions. I have heard that “they” now offer a “home show tour” service in response to the industry’s outrage.

  5. Robbie,

    I’ve been steering clear of this conversation for some obvious reasons, but I’m pipe in with a comment that I think the blogging community has so-far failed to demonstrate how corporate blogging can improve the bottom line.

    Do you think Zillow has sold any more ads because of their blog? Redfin any more homes? When second quarter revenues are $73.9M, I gotta believe that even an extremely effective corporate blog would only grow the pie by a small amount. And then there is the danger that a good blog post gives unnecessary insight to your competition (Trulia’s post on map markers comes to mind).

    I think the most effective part of a corporate blog is capturing mindshare of the tech crowd. While I don’t want to minimize the benefit of pleasing people like you, Robbie, that benefit can be really hard to quantify.

  6. Robbie,

    I’ve been steering clear of this conversation for some obvious reasons, but I’m pipe in with a comment that I think the blogging community has so-far failed to demonstrate how corporate blogging can improve the bottom line.

    Do you think Zillow has sold any more ads because of their blog? Redfin any more homes? When second quarter revenues are $73.9M, I gotta believe that even an extremely effective corporate blog would only grow the pie by a small amount. And then there is the danger that a good blog post gives unnecessary insight to your competition (Trulia’s post on map markers comes to mind).

    I think the most effective part of a corporate blog is capturing mindshare of the tech crowd. While I don’t want to minimize the benefit of pleasing people like you, Robbie, that benefit can be really hard to quantify.

  7. Russ Cofano says:

    Dustin

    PR is also very hard to quantify but corporations spend big dollars on PR every year. Just because you cannot apply a cause and effect revenue metric to the communication, does not mean it is not effective in brand building. Today, most intelligent people look at press releases as more fluff than substance and since they are one way communications, there is usually little feedback the company receives about the release.

    Take a look at the GM Fastlane Blog and especially the comments. The folks responding are far from tech people. They love cars and they are not afraid to tell GM how they can make their cars better. Can you measure the impact on revenue? Nope. Is getting this feedback worth the effort that it takes to keep a good blog going? I think so.

    Russ

  8. Russ Cofano says:

    Dustin

    PR is also very hard to quantify but corporations spend big dollars on PR every year. Just because you cannot apply a cause and effect revenue metric to the communication, does not mean it is not effective in brand building. Today, most intelligent people look at press releases as more fluff than substance and since they are one way communications, there is usually little feedback the company receives about the release.

    Take a look at the GM Fastlane Blog and especially the comments. The folks responding are far from tech people. They love cars and they are not afraid to tell GM how they can make their cars better. Can you measure the impact on revenue? Nope. Is getting this feedback worth the effort that it takes to keep a good blog going? I think so.

    Russ

  9. Ardell,

    Actually, I’m interested in both the agent and the broker. For example, Cendant (Coldwell Banker’s parent) company split into Realogy (real estate) & Wyndham (hotels & resorts). Is this a good thing or a bad thing for me the consumer? When will the national Coldwell Banker web site be as cool as the local CB Bain web site? Cendant had a program in which if you used a Coldwell Banker, ERA, or Century 21 agent for a home purchase/sale, they would give 1000 Trendwest/Worldmark credits. However, since the company split I haven’t heard if this program is still ongoing or not.

    Another angle, is this a good thing for me the prospective shareholder? What will the new Realogy be able to do that the old Cendant wasn’t able to do? Their PR says it will unlock shareholder value, but it doesn’t answer the question of how it will do that. How is Realogy handling the national real estate slow-down? How can John L Scott or Windermere use this event as an opportunity to gain a bigger share of the market?

    Since there is no Realogy (or Windermere) blog, I’m left to make up my own mind, instead of the company using their blog as opportunity to influence my opinion of their company.

    BTW, I agree the RedFin’s blog has become a bit heavy on the property marketing. Hopefully, they’ll add the WordPress feature of being able to subscribe to only certain subjects or contributors instead of everything. Despite that, I still subscribe because I know that sometimes there will be a non- property marketing entry worth reading.

  10. Ardell,

    Actually, I’m interested in both the agent and the broker. For example, Cendant (Coldwell Banker’s parent) company split into Realogy (real estate) & Wyndham (hotels & resorts). Is this a good thing or a bad thing for me the consumer? When will the national Coldwell Banker web site be as cool as the local CB Bain web site? Cendant had a program in which if you used a Coldwell Banker, ERA, or Century 21 agent for a home purchase/sale, they would give 1000 Trendwest/Worldmark credits. However, since the company split I haven’t heard if this program is still ongoing or not.

    Another angle, is this a good thing for me the prospective shareholder? What will the new Realogy be able to do that the old Cendant wasn’t able to do? Their PR says it will unlock shareholder value, but it doesn’t answer the question of how it will do that. How is Realogy handling the national real estate slow-down? How can John L Scott or Windermere use this event as an opportunity to gain a bigger share of the market?

    Since there is no Realogy (or Windermere) blog, I’m left to make up my own mind, instead of the company using their blog as opportunity to influence my opinion of their company.

    BTW, I agree the RedFin’s blog has become a bit heavy on the property marketing. Hopefully, they’ll add the WordPress feature of being able to subscribe to only certain subjects or contributors instead of everything. Despite that, I still subscribe because I know that sometimes there will be a non- property marketing entry worth reading.

  11. Russ, I think you know that I agree with you comment… I’m really just playing devil’s advocate in my comment to see what advice RCG readers might throw back at me. The GM example is a good one and gets mentioned my me on a regular basis. But the reality is that I’m looking for a silver bullet that probably doesn’t exist.

  12. Russ Cofano says:

    Whew, thought you might have been abducted by some aliens or something…

  13. I’m not sure if I should thank Greg , Kate or Jim, but watch the video and you too may smile at the relevance.

  14. Dustin,

    Russ’s comment is right on. Just because it’s not as measurable as a pay per action AdWords campaign doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. After all, why do companies still spend big money on radio, televisision, press releases and print media advertising? That’s not easily quantifable either, it’s far more expensive than blogging and far less effective at influcing public opinon.

    However, there are no silver bullets. It’s true that Microsoft’s blogs haven’t stopped Google’s amazing growth or shipped Vista any faster. However, it would be wrong to say that blogs haven’t had a positive impact at the company. In the late 1990′s/early 2000′s, Microsoft’s PR & white papers approach was totally ineffective at influencing the “Slashdot crowd”. In the past 3 years or so, I’ve noticed that since Microsoft’s engineers started blogging, the “Slashdot crowd” is a lot more likely to take a neutral view of the company’s actions. They’ll now say “MS is still evil, but they aren’t any worse than Apple and they are doing some things right”. What’s the dollar value of that newly found goodwill (perhaps reduction of hostility is a better term)? I dunno, but I’m sure it’s a very big number.

    Remember, today’s mindshare has a funny way of becoming tommorrow’s marketshare. Early adopters tend to predict future mainstream consumer behavior. If customers start thinking, “Hey, this company is trying to make itself better and cares about what I think”, in a few short months they might start telling their friends that “This company isn’t bad” or start thinking “I like this company and it products enough that I might buy it’s products now”.

    PS – Glad to see you weren’t under the influence of some kind of alien mind control. Since Mel Gibson went nuts last week, I thought the UFOs that were flying over Malibu might have flown a little north.

  15. To me, corporate blogs from large “real” corporations (those that are profitable) are 99% boring, sanitized marketing crap. Blogs work well for companies that are techie and blog-friendly (and the rare exception like GM). On old-school companies, which still put out excellent products, they’re the equivalent of signing up for press releases. On new-school companies that push marketing over substance, they’re even worse: they are friendly, bubbly conversational marketing pitches. Yuck!

    I try to avoid advertising with ad-block and Tivo, so why would I subscribe to it, even if it’s friendly? Maybe someday I’ll subscribe to the interesting blogs for my industry, but most corporate blogs make me want to puke.

  16. To me, corporate blogs from large “real” corporations (those that are profitable) are 99% boring, sanitized marketing crap. Blogs work well for companies that are techie and blog-friendly (and the rare exception like GM). On old-school companies, which still put out excellent products, they’re the equivalent of signing up for press releases. On new-school companies that push marketing over substance, they’re even worse: they are friendly, bubbly conversational marketing pitches. Yuck!

    I try to avoid advertising with ad-block and Tivo, so why would I subscribe to it, even if it’s friendly? Maybe someday I’ll subscribe to the interesting blogs for my industry, but most corporate blogs make me want to puke.

  17. It looks like RedFin read my blog comment (or at least agreed with it). They are splitting their blog up into 3 sections. So there is now the Corporate Blog, the Seattle blog, and Bay Area blog. (Thumbs up guys).

  18. Robbie,

    I know this won’t completely quest your thrist for Move knowledge (especially the two way communication thing), but if you want to see what is on the mind of some Move executives and/or investors, check out these articles from thiss month’s RIS Media:

    Real Estate Industry Warming by Allan Dalton (part 1) and (part 2)
    Protecting Realtors from a Marketing Meltdown by Mike Long
    Roger McNamee Banks on Realtors

  19. Robbie,

    I know this won’t completely quest your thrist for Move knowledge (especially the two way communication thing), but if you want to see what is on the mind of some Move executives and/or investors, check out these articles from thiss month’s RIS Media:

    Real Estate Industry Warming by Allan Dalton (part 1) and (part 2)
    Protecting Realtors from a Marketing Meltdown by Mike Long
    Roger McNamee Banks on Realtors

  20. Thanks Robbie! We’ve been planning the blog change over here at Redfin for a while but it was kind of a big undertaking and took me the better part of the weekend to actually move all the posts and set the new ones up. Thanks for noticing!

  21. Dustin,

    Thanks for the links! The problem w/ the interview is that it’s hidden on an industry magazine website that doesn’t offer RSS that I never would have found otherwise (maybe if I wanted to play Google roulette, I could’ve found it, but that’s work and I’m too lazy).

    On the plus side, if you can’t blog, link! :)

  22. Robbie -

    I think that the interview was there, but I am not sure -

    http://www.rismedia.com/index.php/article/rssheadlines/

    –Jim

  23. Robbie –

    I think that the interview was there, but I am not sure –

    http://www.rismedia.com/index.php/article/rssheadlines/

    –Jim

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