Gotcha! Corporate Weblogs

By Sean Gallagher  |  Posted 2003-12-01 Print this article Print

Blogs are useful. Unless unscrupulous visitors take over.

The Dean presidential campaign has demonstrated how effective weblogs can be for communicating quickly and directly with an audience and for creating online communities of like-minded people. But as Dr Pepper/Seven Up found out when it launched its "Raging Cow" milk beverage with a blog, some weblog campaigns can meet resistance. The company's marketing efforts, which included the recruitment of teens to push the product on their personal blogs, were widely trashed by the blogging community for being deceptive. One blogger even organized a product boycott.

Problem: Tracking comments about your blog on other sites is extremely important. In the case of "Raging Cow," bloggers quickly spread word through their own sites about the campaign, creating negative feelings about the product.

Resolution: Weblog search engines like Technorati and Daypop track what bloggers are talking about. Searching these sites with your blog's Web address can yield a good deal of intelligence on how well your message is being received.

Problem: Conventional content-management tools aren't designed for rapid updates, for handling publicly posted reader comments, or for letting outsiders link easily to older content.

Resolution: Use blog-specific tools. Six Apart's Movable Type, UserLand's Manila, and Noah Grey's Greymatter are applications that run on a Web server and provide a way for bloggers to quickly generate content and manage interactive contributions—from any browser. Among the tools' features: Hypertext Markup Language "templates," boilerplate Web pages that can generate postings that match the look and feel of an existing Web site.

Problem: Some readers may treat a blog's comment space as their own blog, using it to advance their own agenda. Unscrupulous marketers may post advertisements disguised as legitimate comments or post comments that may contain embedded links that send unsuspecting visitors to promotional sites (a nuisance known as "comment spam").

Resolution: Keep on top of your comments. Most blog tools offer a mail-alert system that can notify editors when a comment has been posted by a reader. Movable Type, for example, can send via e-mail the text of a new comment to the editors of a blog and allows them to change, delete, or close off additional comments for a specific blog entry.

Problem: Readers may quickly tire of a blog if they're forced to frequently revisit the site to check for new articles or posts on upcoming events.

Resolution: RSS, which, depending on whom you ask, stands for either Really Simple Syndication or RDF (Resource Description Framework) Site Summary. The RSS format makes it easy to send and receive blog updates. When revisions are made to a blog with a tool that supports the format, a "feed" document is automatically created with a summary of the latest posts. RSS readers—such as NewsGator Technologies' NewsGator, UserLand's Radio, and the open-source Amphetadesk—can then check preselected blog servers and automatically download updated summaries.

Sean Gallagher is editor of Ziff Davis Internet's enterprise verticals group. Previously, Gallagher was technology editor for Baseline, before joining Ziff Davis, he was editorial director of Fawcette Technical Publications' enterprise developer publications group, and the Labs managing editor of CMP's InformationWeek. A former naval officer and former systems integrator, Gallagher lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland.

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