Robert Scoble is the guy who took corporate blogging mainstream and wrote a book about business blogging. In 2003, he moved his popular Scobleizer blog to Microsoft, giving the software giant a much-needed human face.
Since then, blogs and other Web 2.0 tools have become commonplace in the enterprise, but a lot of companies still have not figured out how to use them effectively. Scoble, who moved on to a podcasting startup and now makes videos for Fast Company, keeps a close eye on enterprise media. He spoke with CIO Insight Senior Writer Edward Cone.
CIO Insight: Why do so many corporate blogs seem so lifeless and ineffective?
Robert Scoble: Some blogs are like press releases. New, friendly, cuddly press releases, but they're still only talking about what's happening in the company and its products. The really hard thing, the thing I haven't seen too many people do, is what I was trying to do: be an authority on the marketplace. That really helps a lot.
There are a few out there. Ryan Stewart at Adobe also talks about Microsoft Silverlight, what's happening at Sun and elsewhere in the marketplace. That makes him someone I want to subscribe to, because he's not just pitching me.
Other new media tools are gaining popularity, too. Are companies doing any better with those?
Scoble: A lot of enterprises are looking outward, at the public. Their customers are moving to Twitter, and they're trying to learn how to do it. Some are doing it effectively. For example, Zappos has 400 employees on Twitter.
H&R Block talked to me on Twitter while I was doing my taxes: I twittered that I was at H&R Block getting my taxes done, and someone at the company was watching for its name on Twitter. She wrote back to say, "Let me know if you need anything." That was while I was in the H&R office. It was more brand building than tax advice, but it was the fact that somebody was listening. She was linking to anyone talking about taxes and starting a conversation with them about taxes and H&R Block.
In terms of the internal use of social nets, I just spoke to Cisco's employees. They asked how to use social media, Office 2.0, collaborative stuff. I said, "My first thought every morning would be, How do I get rid of the e-mail?" The crowd cheered, and I thought, there's pain here. I touched a nerve.
When I left my old job at NEC, I left behind a gig and a half of e-mail: I couldn't look at it, and they erased it. So my former co-workers couldn't use that knowledge. A collaborative toolset helps to get information out of e-mail into the shared social space. You see productivity benefits. People can see where you're going and make suggestions on who to call there.
You talk about using different social networks for different parts of your life. How do you manage all of them?
Scoble: I use an aggregator, FriendFeed. It all goes in there. People can talk there without going back out to those pieces. Information can spread from person to person.
Companies may not want to use an aggregator, but if I visit the General Motors site on FriendFeed, I'll probably click on a video the company put up of the new Volt electric car, then on to Bob Lutz's blog and maybe to a calendar on upcoming events.
Hoarding links has to stop, but I haven't seen many companies yet on FriendFeed. It takes big companies awhile to justify doing things.
Twitter has gotten there; blogging has gotten there. The approval process is slower with newer things.