Coming out of the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston my colleagues and I have been discussing the idea of blogging. Should one blog for personal reasons, for business reasons, for both? If for business, how formal should you be? Is it OK to talk about things unrelated to your business or should that be reserved for other forums? The shortest answer to those questions, I think, is "to each, his or her own." That is, do whatever the hell works for you. But, for the sake of discussion, here's a brief analysis of four blogs that were mentioned in the "What Blogging Brings to Business" session at the E2.0 conference. I've tried to outline the rhetorical strategy each is taking.
This is Jessica Lipnack who was in the "What Blogs Bring to Business" session as a panelist. She describes her blog as being "about virtual teams, networks, networking, collaboration, Web 2.0, writing and even yoga, knitting, cooking, family and friends." If you read over her posts you'll see that most of the time she jumps around from topic to topic, but then during the period of the E2.0 conference several posts in a row dealt with that event before she then went back to the more ecclectic approach.
Cesar Brea, another panelist at the E2.0 blogging session. His blog is about technology, advertising, media, online communities, Web 2.0. It seems to be more focused on business aspects than some, I think because he uses it as part of his marketing strategy for his two-person consulting firm Force Five Partners (http://forcefivepartners.com/). He's clearly positioning himself as a thought leader, but what's interesting to me is that even in the posts where he's taking the SME stance, he's not making definitive statements, he's speculating from the standpoint of experience -- educated guessing -- but it still comes off sounding credible because he's so clearly thoroughly immersed in the subject matter. As we refine our marketing approach and the idea of marrying culture with technology to the benefit of employees, this blog might be a good model to follow if we wanted to blog as a way of showing how we're remaining up to date on the thinking about how to treat employees, etc.
This is Bill Ives, also a panelist from the blogging session. Here's how he describes his blog: "This blog shares ideas and hopes to generate discussion on enterprise 2.0, business blogs, web 2.0 and knowledge management to provide value to organizations through practical applications. New trends and technologies are covered with a switch to art, music, travel, and food on the weekends." Like I said in the introductory comments to this post, here's an example of a blogger being his whole self: he's strutting his stuff from a business perspective, demonstrating his credentials, but he's being a complete person too, as evidenced by the several posts celebrating the Celtics championship (including a screen shot of the front page of the Boston Globe). So he comes off like a guy who knows a lot, but a guy you'd feel comfortable talking to. I'm pretty certain that's his strategy.
Final example from an E2.0 blogging panelist. He's a lawyer who's heading up a knowledge management project at his law firm and his blog is entirely focused on that project, knowledge management software and Enterprise 2.0 within the practice of law. His blog is, at first blush, more conservative than the others because he's blogging as his professional self from within the strict and conservative confines of the law firm (he's got a legal disclaimer on his profile page). However, he has links to other sites he maintains that are quite a bit less formal -- Facebook, FriendFeed, Picasa and even Twitter where, among professionally related posts you'll also find this post: "George Carlin has died. S**t, F**k, etc". Not to sound like a broken record, but I do think it's interesting that even on this buttoned-down, formal blog, he finds ways to infuse his humanity and personality. There seems to be an expectation that such things will exist on a blog.
So my take away from all these is try to be truly who you are, speak in your truest voice. If you don't, you won't be able to maintain the conversation for long.