Industry Giants Press Blogs into Service

Enterprises like Microsoft, IBM and Sun are relying on blogging to better connect with their customers.

NEW YORK—Attracted by the prospect of speaking directly to their customers and appealing to the key people who influence them, corporate marketers are embracing the blogosphere and pressing for ways to leverage "social media" in the enterprise.

At the second annual BlogOn conference here last week, a number of business representatives shared their early experiences using blogs even as they sought help from blog insiders and technology vendors.

Since the last BlogOn, blogging has gained momentum among a number of technology giants such as Microsoft Corp., IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. Industry pundits claim the early corporate blogging initiatives have changed the perception of those companies.

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"Microsoft and Sun have more than 1,000 bloggers, and the companies are becoming humanized," said Shel Israel, co-author of the book "Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers."

Among the large corporate players presenting at the show was McDonalds Corp., which is readying an internal employee blogging system in preparation for a larger social media effort, according to Steve Wilson, senior director of global Web communications for McDonalds, in Oak Brook, Ill.

"We are evaluating external blogging, and we think it will ultimately lend itself to connecting to our customers. Our customers and employees are already blogging, and we want to engage in that conversation," said Wilson.

But McDonalds, like other companies, has found selling senior management on the idea that its a good thing to facilitate publicly visible discussions among customers and employees can be difficult, he said.

After gaining approval for a behind-the-firewall pilot, Wilson teamed with McDonalds President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Roberts, who hosted a 1-hour live blog chat where employees could submit comments and questions.

For Cannondale Bicycle Corp., which started blogging in March, the benefits so far are very clear, said Janet Maurice, Webmaster for Cannondale, in Bethel, Conn.

"Like in the IT world, geek is a good term in cycling. A lot of people take pride in their geekdom, and this fact plays right into blogs," said Maurice. "Blogging allows us to communicate to our community in an authentic, real, passionate way. We can do that whenever and however we choose to do it."

Both McDonalds and Cannondale are using publishing platforms from corporate blogging vendor iUpload Inc.

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