September 17, 2006

Responding to Your Users: How Does Webshots Fare?

Posted in Blogging, webshots, Work at 2:01 pm by mj

The recent Facebook controversy brought out a few more good posts on how to engage, learn from, and respond to your users.

Teresa Valdez Klein at Blog Business Summit reiterates the standard advice: ask what your customers want, admit when you screw up, and, most important, don’t sneak back into your shell once the immediate crisis is over.

As usual, Robert Scoble has the best advice on corporate blogging. He takes it all several steps further: publish a video blog, meet with a cross-section of your users in person, link to blogger criticisms “out there”, and post responses on others’ blogs.

That’s quite a bit to take in for any business.

I am happy to say that Webshots has been improving on its communications.

The Webshots blog has been a growing source of communication between members and staff. Anne, Amy and Jessica have been doing a great job.

Anne put together an invited group of members on a separate blog, with whom we communicate about new ideas, demonstrate new features, and so on. It’s quite a different kind of feeling.

We also have a staff picks blog, which, while not truly a communications avenue, is a volunteer-run blog of Webshots employees who pick and write about our great members. It’s also a different kind of feeling, and puts even more of a personal touch on things.

Gone are the days when Webshots shunned communicating with its users, and avoided catering to the tech-savvy crowd. We’re now open with our failings, and when we do something wrong, Anne and Amy take a lot of flak so that we engineers don’t have to. 🙂 (Which isn’t usually fair to them.)

Going back to Scoble’s advice, probably the biggest struggle we’ve had is putting together a true cross-section of our users with whom to interact. Every group thinks they’re the target audience. And why not? Without a site that individualizes the content it features to each member, everybody has a claim. That’s a problem with pushing the same content to 20M+ members.

After reading Scoble’s post, I realize how far we have left to go. Webshots never links to other blogs (I don’t think it’s a policy, maybe just an oversight or unspoken fear). And we’re never officially commenting on others’ blogs, or promoting Webshots in our own blogs.

The latter point merits some extra thinking. Posting on others’ blogs in discussions about your employer blurs the line between “offcial company activity” and “personal opinion.” The opportunities for screwing up are pretty numerous. It’s easier if you’re the CEO.

Even this post blurs the line. (Obviously it’s all personal opinion and my employer will disavow just about everything I write. But the average reader might not see it that way.)

Is it good if your employees are blogging about you, even if they sometimes say stupid things, or criticise your management, or leave for a competitor? It’s been good for Scoble. Does it work for everyone?

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1 Comment »

  1. The advice may be a bit worn around the edges, but it bears repeating as long as companies continue to make mistakes on the Web. I do think that Robert gives fantastic advice in general about business blogging–that’s why he’s speaking at our Blog Business Summit conference this October–but on this one, I’d take his advice with a grain of salt.

    Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I don’t see video blogging as a solution for every company. Good writing can accomplish the same goal with less overhead time for editing. The written word is also searchable in a way that video and audio are not. I think Facebook and other companies can do just fine with a good old written blog, especially in a crisis management situation.


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