Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Top 10 posts on Corporate Blogging

I agree with the Matt (Blog Herald) when he says that the Washington Post must have been living under a rock to have stumbled upon Corporate Blogging years after its being institutionalized in corporate America. It’s also over a year since my Top 10 CEO blog post, which featured Calacanis’ blog.

In a recent article called “Marketing goes to the Blogosphere“, Sarah Halzack writes:

Calacanis blogged to start conversations and be a part of a virtual community, but corporate bloggers are in it for other reasons: talking directly to customers or giving a personal touch to a big business.

The article is a case study on Honest Tea and Marriot’s blog, both of which haven’t yet found a place in my Top 15 Corporate Blog rankings. And, Sarah, quotes my good friend Debbie Weil with whom I’ll be speaking at Blog World Expo (September 19) – More on that later. Debbie describes the oft asked question on ROI of corporate blogging:

I think that the really important thing about using a blog as a business strategy is that usually you cannot connect the dots directly from blogs to revenue

There have been efforts in the past (in particular from Charlene Li at Forrester) that helps calculate the ROI of Corporate Blogging (go here and here). Since this is a much blogged about topic in the past, let me leave you with my Top 10 thoughts on related topics in a trip down memory lane.

Don’t forget to check out this quarter’s edition of Top 15 Corporate blogs a week from now, right here on Marketing Nirvana. (Subscribe)

Here’s a list of my Top 10 Blog Posts on Corporate blogging over the years:

#10. Top 15 Corporate Blogs – Ranked by Technorati – May 2008

#9. 5 Types of Corporate Blogs with examples – May 2008

#8. 5 Best Practices on Corporate Blogging – April 2008

#7. Future of Corporate Blogging – My panel discussion at SXSW 2008 – Mar 2008

#6. Let me clarify: Should CEOs blog? – July 2007

#5. Corporate Blogging ROI: What’s easy, what’s not? – Mar 2007

#4. Corporate Blogging ROI: Now we’re talking! – Feb 2007

#3. 3 Must have resources on Corporate Blogging – Nov 2006

#2. Why is Corporate Blogging Important? – Oct 2006

#1. Top 10 CEO Blogs – July 2006; the one that started it all!

…And, so many more

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Filed under: Business Blogging

Top 3 Corporate Blogs in India

We’re nearing my quarterly review of the Top 15 Corporate Blogs (Ranked last in May 2008). Before we get to the September ranking (a week from now) I thought I’d focus this week’s start on Indian companies’ foray into corporate blogging. This recent article in an Indian newspaper confirmed that belief. Here’s a brief synopsis:

1. Corporate Blogging has slowly but surely made it’s presence in India felt, esp. over the past 3 years:

Corporate blogging has marked its presence in India only from 2005. The pace is much slower in India when compared to that in any other country; however it is growing fast.

2. Smaller companies are seeing corporate blogs as a necessary marketing communications tool as they grow to encompass other countries. For e.g.

Narendra Barhate, managing director and CEO of city-based Seed Infotech, said, “We will launch our corporate blog in two months. Once we started to expand we realised the need for a corporate blog. Recently we expanded our business to China and corporate blogs are the need of the hour.”

3. Indian companies from tech superstars to startups are using corporate blogs as “a cost-effective method to reach out to their clients and also for brand building.”

Here’s a sampling of corporate blogs from some of India’s Tech Superstars. For readers of this blog, I’ve also linked to the Wikipedia page of these companies:

1. Infosys (check blog here)

2. TCS (check blog here)

4. HCL Technologies (check out CEO Vineet’s blog here)

For the life of me, I couldn’t find the corporate blogs of other companies mentioned in the article like IBM India nor Wipro. The above three blogs themselves have a long way to go as far as pursuing best practices in corporate blogging.

It’ll be interesting to see if any corporate blogger in the burgeoning India market would be interested in ranking corporate blogs in India similar to the Corporate Blog rankings I maintain.

Thoughts. Let me know.

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Filed under: Business Blogging

Rating Corporate Blogs. Plus, my blog pick for the week!

Not another corporate blog pick. I hear you say. But, I wouldn’t have gone down this path, if not for Web Worker Daily’s post on how company blogs can provide big insights. He then goes on to provide a list of criteria for evaluating the efficiency of corporate blogs and I couldn’t help measure the LinkedIn Blog (which I edit) against it.

A good company blog lets us know about new features, gives us tutorials and tips, and presents us with useful information related to their product or service. It gives us a glimpse into what they do and often why they do it. It also makes my experience more personal by giving me names and faces to associate with the company.

Breaking News on new features. Check. User Tips. Check. Names and Faces associated with the company. Check. Actually 50 of my colleagues have blogged on the LinkedIn blog. In addition, we even share user stories on how they have benefited from LinkedIn. Check. Well, enough about us.

As someone immersed in the corporate blogging space I check out different business blogs and their editors, and one of the blogs I’ve been impressed with is Mint’s. Check out the blog here.

3 Reasons I like it:

1. Universal Theme

Whether you’re a Mint user or not. You’ll find their blog a huge help in helping define and refine your personal finance strategies and tactics. Kind of Lifehacker for Personal Finance.

2. Tips

As mentioned above, tips and tricks that readers/users can apply and immediately benefit from, dot Mint’s corporate blog landscape.

Personal Finance Tips from Mints Blog

Personal Finance Tips from Mint's Blog

3. Product education

The most important criteria IMO of a corporate blog’s effectiveness should be how it enhances your usage of the product. I think Mint does a terrific job of explaining universal personal finance concepts yet maintaining a consistent focus on how that translates to your usage of Mint. Nicely done, guys!

Product education through Mints Blog

Product education through Mint's Blog

Looks like Mint’s got a new blog editorLee Sherman. Here’s wishing Lee all the very best!

Any other corporate blog I should know of? Your favorites? Leave a comment.

Filed under: Business Blogging

Business as unusual. iPhone gets LinkedIn.

Let me explain: while all bloggers (including myself) have praised iPhone’s app ecosystem to the skies there hasn’t been a business app that really made you go – Wow! Now with the launch of LinkedIn’s very own native iPhone app, that may have changed. (Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn)

As my colleague, Jerry Luk, says on our company blog; this is a substantive upgrade over our previous iPhone web app. However, in this post, I’d like to give you a quick rundown of my three favorite features of the LinkedIn’s native iPhone app:

LinkedIn iPhone app’s 3 killer features: 

1. Rolodex to go

Those contacts that you find invaluable. Those contacts that you gather at every event and networking opportunity you attend. They’re now at your finger tips (literally) via your iPhone. Whether or not business cards are relevant is a religious discussion (hear my colleague, Jim’s thoughts on that topic here), but I’ve stopped carrying business cards when I travel.

Why? I consolidate all my contacts on LinkedIn and use my iPhone (or any other phone you carry) to be the single repository of all those business contacts. This iPhone app just makes it so much easier to store and search for them – when you’re on the move.

Store and Search your LinkedIn contacts on your iPhone

Store and Search your LinkedIn contacts on your iPhone

The best part of this app is that it allows you to invite people to your network right at the point of contact, when you meet folks at a conference or an event. You don’t have to collect business cards anymore and better still it gives you the control.

Professional Networking just got easier

Professional Networking just got easier

2. Communicate when traveling

What’s the use of adding all those contacts when you can’t communicate with them, especially when you’re on the move. As most LinkedIn users probably know, you can message the folks in your LinkedIn network directly on LinkedIn.

The iPhone app extends that functionality by allowing you to either send a message or call them. All you’ve to do is launch the connections tab and then click through to any contact you’d like to communicate with.

Contact your LinkedIn network via iPhone

Contact your LinkedIn network via iPhone

Alright, let’s say you don’t want to ping a contact, but would rather like to broadcast your travel plans to your entire LinkedIn network. Try LinkedIn Status.

LinkedIn Status for business traveling

LinkedIn Status for business traveling

3. Consolidate your contacts

Now, for those of you who hate using the iPhone when you’re not on Wi-fi zones but still would like to have a consolidated list of contacts on your iPhone. No worries. All you’ve to do is add them to your iPhone contacts. Again, this feature can be launched from the individual profile you click through via the “Connections” tab.

Add contacts to iPhone from your LinkedIn Network

Add contacts to iPhone from your LinkedIn Network

Well, networking and business travel will never be the same again, at least for me and for my fellow iPhone users. And, for those of you who are not on an iPhone you can still access LinkedIn’s mobile version (m.linkedin.com). I think Sarah Perez (Read Write Web) said it best:

The LinkedIn app holds universal appeal for anyone anyone who works for a living, but more importantly, we hope that, through its adoption, developers will see the potential for building iPhone apps for business as well.

Read my other iPhone app posts:

1. Top 10 Free iPhone 2.0 Apps
2. Top 15 iPhone Productivity Apps
3. Only 3 iPhone app reviews you’ll ever need to read

What is your favorite iPhone business app?

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Netflix and VMWare on Crisis Management

This is a continuation of our series on how companies use corporate blogs to deal with crises. You may have read my earlier posts on the top 5 Corporate Blog apologies, which included Apple and Google. Adam Engst from Mac News sites, picks up on the meme:

As a writer, I’m struck by how Apple’s statements seem to dance around the matter, and as a parent, I’m reminded instantly of that oft-repeated phrase to misbehaving children told to apologize to another, “Say it so he can hear you, and say it like you mean it.” It may be instructive to compare with several other high-profile outages of late.

Since that happened, there have been two more instances of companies using corporate blogs to deal with crises involving outage and or disruption of their service:

1. The Netflix Outage of 2008

Netflix suffered a shipping and distribution outage that affected nearly 9 million users (including me). Since the outage struck, their community blog (started by my good friend Michael Rubin when he worked there), had nearly 6 blog posts that gave a status update ending with this post last week.

It’s been a long and challenging week, but it ends on a positive note. Today we shipped from all 55 Netflix distribution centers across the U.S. More than three million DVDs went into the mail, including roughly 95 percent of orders backlogged from Tuesday through Thursday. And the balance of backlogged orders will mail on Saturday.

Importantly, all of us at Netflix want to offer special thanks to the scores of members who called, emailed and posted words of support at a tough and humbling moment for our company. Apologies to all once again and thanks for hanging in there with us.

This is a text-book case example of how a company can use a corporate blog to address user concerns and keep them updated on the latest status of a crippling outage. Plus, what’s great is that the posts came from Netflix’s head of operations Andy Rendich.

2. The VMWare disruption of 2008

VMWare’s CEO blogs about a serious bug that had been a hot topic on forums the day before. The blog post from CEO Paul Maritz, described the problem:

The issue was caused by a piece of code that was mistakenly left enabled for the final release of Update 2.  This piece of code was left over from the pre-release versions of Update 2 and was designed to ensure that customers are running on the supported generally available version of Update 2.

the solution

In remedying the situation, we’ve already released an express patch for those customers that have installed/upgraded to ESX or ESXi 3.5 Update 2.  Within the next 24 hours, we also expect to issue a full replacement for Update 2, which should be used by customers who want to perform fresh installs of ESX or ESXi.

what went wrong

We failed in two areas: not disabling the code in the final release of Update 2 and not catching it in our quality assurance process.

and, of course – the apology. Read the other Top 5 Corporate Blog apologies here, including examples from Facebook, Apple, and Google.

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Filed under: Business Blogging

LinkedIn Grows Audience and Engagement – July 2008

Before you continue reading, couple of things to keep in mind: 1. my affiliation with LinkedIn, and 2. the fact that the numbers you see below are – US only. In March 2008, I blogged about LinkedIn’s stupendous growth rate (Nielsen Online) that saw us grow to over 7 million uniques in the US alone.

This past month, our continued growth took our audience numbers past double digit millions for the first time – currently at over 10 million uniques in the US. Equally interesting was engagement growth over 100% YOY. For the record, the audience numbers grew by roughly 154% in the same time period. It was also the 3rd fastest growing social networking site out in the Top 20.

Top 5 Social Networking Sites

Top 5 Social Networking Sites - July 2008 (Source: Nielsen Online via Mashable)

And, let’s not forget that LinkedIn is probably the ONLY professional networking site in that entire list. And, we’re just getting started! Many of you may have noticed the numerous feature releases over at LinkedIn. Stay tuned to our blog for breaking news!

Have you checked out LinkedIn’s Company Directory?

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Filed under: LinkedIn in the News

Apple’s MobileMe Corporate Blog R.I.P

This would probably go down in the history books as the shortest lived corporate blog ever. Looks like Apple started a blog to tide over the crisis that was brewing with MobileMe. One that I’d hoped would be the start of a deeper engagement with the blogosphere, but alas, t’was not to be.

Apples MobileMe News & Support Pages

Apple's MobileMe News & Support Pages

Not for long but let’s look at what alternatives Apple has undertaken while they closed the blog. The semi anonymous blogger David G. writes in the oh-so aptly titled last post – MobileMe Final Post!

Instead, we have redesigned the MobileMe Support page so it’s clearer and has an enlarged area, now in the upper right hand corner, to report on system status.

In addition we’ve created a new place for regular posts about all parts of the service, including enhancements, updates, explanations, fixes, support announcements, and other news as it arrives – MobileMe News

Was that the right thing to do? Absolutely Right! As I’ve said before when asked about the necessity for a corporate blog. You don’t have to start a corporate blog just for the sake of doing it. Looks like Apple’s providing two great resources for their MobileMe users with the News and Support pages – why do they need a corporate blog?

Here are three simple questions you ask yourself before you start a corporate blog:

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

2. Where are my users?

3. What’s the internal and external corporate culture?

Obviously in this case, Apple was in crisis management mode, which is an obvious reason many corporate blogs start, but it doesn’t look like there were any long time goals for the blog. And, once they had moved past that awkward phase looks like they have worked on a longer term solution. As long as the contents of the News and Support page are search engine indexed well, I think it’d serve the company, their current and prospective users well indeed.

Alternative solution: If your company is facing a crisis and you need to keep your users informed while you get your forums and other user communication systems up and running. Use Twitter. It’s far easier.

60 More Days Free MobileMe

In related News: Apple has extended their free trial of MobileMe to another 60 days, although, I haven’t received the offer. Maybe I wasn’t included? hmm… Only time will tell.

Filed under: Business Blogging

Steve Jobs Quotes – Top 10

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Now, why didn’t I do this before! A perfect way to combine my love of management philosophy and all things Apple, by churning out a playlist of Jobs’ Top 10 quotes.

What started it all, was this recent article in Fortune Magazine that comes on the heels of Apple being selected as America’s Most Admired Company.

But what I unearthed there was a slew of golden quotes from Jobs himself, who has quickly replaced Jack Welch as the one business celebrity I’d like to meet (although I came pretty close to that in the past).

To make it easier to consume, I’ve broken down the quotes into two sets of five each (one set on Management and the other on Leadership). Read and Learn, my friends!

Steve Jobs’ Top 10 Quotes (after the jump)

Steve Jobs Top 10 Quotes

Steve Jobs' Top 10 Quotes

5 Management Mantras

#10. On Management

My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects.

And to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.

#9. On Hiring

Recruiting is hard. It’s just finding the needles in the haystack. You can’t know enough in a one-hour interview.

So, in the end, it’s ultimately based on your gut. How do I feel about this person? What are they like when they’re challenged? I ask everybody that: ‘Why are you here?’ The answers themselves are not what you’re looking for. It’s the meta-data.

#8. On Firing

We’ve had one of these before, when the dot-com bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place — the last thing we were going to do is lay them off.

#7. On a CEO succession Plan

I mean, some people say, ‘Oh, God, if [Jobs] got run over by a bus, Apple would be in trouble.’ And, you know, I think it wouldn’t be a party, but there are really capable people at Apple.

My job is to make the whole executive team good enough to be successors, so that’s what I try to do.

#6. On Product Strategy

It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do.

We just want to make great products. (I think he means “insanely great products!“)

5 Leadership Mantras

#5. On Leadership

So when a good idea comes, you know, part of my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people together to explore different aspects of it quietly, and, you know – just explore things.

#4. On Evangelism

When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself.

They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else. (this actually reiterates my oft-repeated mantra of “ubiquitous evangelism” in companies)

#3. On Focus

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.

#2. On the User Experience

Our DNA is as a consumer company — for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply.

#1. On Creativity

That happens more than you think, because this is not just engineering and science. There is art, too. Sometimes when you’re in the middle of one of these crises, you’re not sure you’re going to make it to the other end. But we’ve always made it, and so we have a certain degree of confidence, although sometimes you wonder.

I think the key thing is that we’re not all terrified at the same time. I mean, we do put our heart and soul into these things.

And, my favorite, which nails the ethos of living the dream at your job (that I’ve written about here)

We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life.

Life is brief, and then you die, you know?

And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.

amen.

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Filed under: Miscellaneous,

Top 5 Corporate Blog Apologies

So Google turned all mushy with this “Sweet Lil Apology of Mine” blog post, after Gmail went down for a few hours earlier today. It looks like this was the first time a Gmail downtime impacted so many users. So, it seems worthy of a post that so nails it when it comes to corporate blogging best practices.

While I admire this honest, straight forward post addressed at users’ concerns, let’s see earlier examples of how companies (from start ups to Fortune 500, from product managers to CEOs) have used the corporate blogging pulpit to profoundly apologize.

#5. Amazon – We’re so good; this is unacceptable” post

Though we’re proud of our operational performance in operating Amazon S3 for almost 2.5 years, we know that any downtime is unacceptable and we won’t be satisfied until performance is statistically indistinguishable from perfect. – Anonymous

#4. Twitter – “We’re having issues. Will keep you posted” post

We’ve created a new blog dedicated to status updates regarding Twitter performance and reliability. If something is going on technically, operationally, or otherwise we will put a link in your Twitter home page to a description on this new blog.

This includes good news, bad news, warnings, and miscellaneous heads-up notices. – Biz Stone, Co-founder

#3. Facebook – “We really messed up. Let’s make this right apology

We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world.

Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I’d like to try to correct those errors now. – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO

#2. Google – Sorry. It’s fixed. Thank You. Did I say ‘Sorry’? apology

Many of you had trouble accessing Gmail for a couple of hours this afternoon, and we’re really sorry. We never take for granted the commitment we’ve made to running an email service that you can count on. We’ve identified the source of this issue and fixed it.

In addition, we’re conducting a full review of what went wrong and moving quickly to update our internal systems and procedures accordingly.

Again, we’re sorry. – Todd Jackson, Product Manager

#1. Apple -“It hurts us that it hurts you” apology

We want to do the right thing for our valued iPhone customers. We apologize for disappointing some of you, and we are doing our best to live up to your high expectations of Apple. – Steve Jobs, CEO

While Google’s recent post just takes my breath away in terms of using exactly the right words in its sincerity, Jobs’ post is so accurate in balancing corporate and customer sentiments as succinctly as possible.

Flawless communications from Apple, as is their wont!

What’s your favorite corporate blog apology? Leave a comment.

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Filed under: Business Blogging, Public Relations

HP’s Corporate Blogging Initiatives

If you’re in community marketing or engaged in social media initiatives for your company. Quit reading this post (not really), but at the earliest opportunity go find this book on bookshelves and buy it – Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (Forrester).

Buy Groundswell to learn more about how companies leverage social media successfully

Buy Groundswell to learn more about how companies leverage social media successfully

Why buy Groundswell?

To learn more from gold-standard examples of how companies; big, small and everything in between and furiously leveraging social media to engage with their communities. IMO, the unique case studies is the single biggest reason a marketing manager would want to buy this book or maybe share with their peers and/or skeptical CEO.

An example of that would be HP’s core community team, run by Alison Watterson, who found mention in Groundswell. Here are some interesting tidbits about that team that I gleaned from the post. This is an example that’s applicable to any Fortune 500 company that’s wrestling with social media.

What is HP’s core community team?

It is one of very few truly cross organizational groups that is comprised of  people with Web marketing jobs throughout the company.  This means that everyone in the group participates in addition to our regular  job responsibilities .  Each of us is passionate about social media and often (but not always) are engaged in our individual business units online social activity.

What does this team do?

The group is responsible for reviewing and approving new blogs (not individual blog posts just brand new blogs).  The group also tackles new developments in the social media space.

Read the entire post here

If you liked this post, you’ll want to check out the following posts I’ve written in the past

1. My LinkedIn Experience (my panel discussion at SXSW 2008)
2. Sony gets corporate blogging? – (senior exec blogging case study)
3. Apple – their MobileMe blog saga (work in progress)
4. Cisco-Apple blog fight! (where blogging helps)
5. Southwest Airlines is nuts about blogging (oh! yae)

Does your company blog?

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Filed under: Business Blogging

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