It’s sad. It’s depressing really, that some prophecies have the ability to be self fulfilling if people don’t maintain a balanced perspective. I’ve been forwarded several negative articles on corporate blogging. Most are filled with 50% of the story populated by harsh realities of the risks that are inherent in opening any form of real dialog with customers.
It downright sucks that these articles only serve to prevent further dialog from happening. I fear that they even scare many more people away from discovering this great new way to communicate with your customers and opening a dialog that is invaluable for the customers and for the company.
I’m at Tech-Ed this week. I’m here to engage customers in conversations about what Microsoft has done right and wrong in the community space. I blog, but I’m always shocked to hear about the impact our blogs have had and the doors to customer connections they’ve opened by allowing us to write to and read what our customers are saying.
The job of my team is ultimately to change the external perceptions of a company through by effecting a change on the internal culture. Every developer, tester, pm, man, women, and intern at Microsoft can and should be regularly conversing with the customers they build their products or services for. Blogs are the best tool on the market today that can make this vision a reality. We don’t even have to write our own blogs to accomplish this. We can find customer blogs on any of our products then aggregate, read, and respond to their comments through their blogs and by building better products easier than we ever could before. And it’s only getting better.
Against a wide list of options available to the people I’ve spoken with at Tech-Ed; blogging is reported as the #1 thing we’ve done in the last couple of years to drive a positive change in customer perception of Microsoft. Let me share with you the customer quotes I’ve hurriedly scribbled down while here. Bear with me… this is a long list.
"The employee blogs are the most innovative thing out of Microsoft in years."
"I’ve seen the very positive impact blogs have had on the Visual Studio product"
"Blogs led to changes that ranged from small UI fixes to VB refactoring and C# edit and continue support"
"Sure, blogs have dispelled some of the awe and mysticism that surrounded the uber-developers and Microsoft personal, but ultimately they will still make the products and services better"
"If someone hadn’t blogged it (5 person Team Foundation license) it probably wouldn’t have happened. "
"If we didn’t know about upcoming product changes (like in the past) we wouldn’t know what suggestions to offer Microsoft"
"How can you tie blogging and trackbacks into the Product Feedback Center?"
"Blogs have made me realize that there are a smart bunch of individuals making decisions rather than some borg entity that is out to get me"
"Even the non-tech stuff is interesting!"
"I love how you are using blogs to explain your decisions even if I don’t agree with them"
"They (blogs) made me realize I could have a say in the product I’ll buy rather than having it simply show up on my door and hoping it magically has what I want"
"Blogs are an important source of information because of the searchability and the social links created between them."
"Blogs are better than any static biography and contact us form"
"I’ve connected with several people at Microsoft through their blogs and it has made a real difference in the work that I do"
"Blogs tell me the truths I can’t get from press releases"
"I’m thrilled that some of your smartest people are blogging despite having unpopular things to say about patents. I can’t believe the number of trolls they have to deal with."
"I’m hoping more executives at Microsoft start blogging so that I can convince my company to let us blog"
This is just what I’ve been able to write down at the show. I’ve got more. I’ve got plenty of personal stories where I’ve been able to make a difference for some of our best customers through blogging. If you have your own stories I encourage you to help spread the word. How has reading or writing blogs helped you?
I hope that anyone who writes about the negative possibilities of real customer dialog (where the risks are not limited to blogging, but extend to forums, listserves, e-mails, chats, etc) takes a moment to reflect on the enormous upside of opportunities being realized by the minute here on blogs.msdn.com that are there for anyone who asks. I’ve only given you a sampling. Uncover your own wonderful truths about corporate blogging they are too numerous to list here.
At this point, I’m reminded of listening to Paul Harvey saying "and now you’ve heard… the rest of the story". Or at least 99% of it.