The unseen blogosphere: Internal blogs

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As the population of bloggers expands, one question comes up repeatedly: Why aren't more corporations blogging?

The truth is that they are, you just don't see it. Internal blogs are gaining popularity because their speed, ease of use and low cost make them a superior alternative to e-mail for all kinds of communications.

IBM Corp. has more than 3,000 internal blogs. McDonald's Corp. is making blogging capability available to thousands of employees to file restaurant reports. Procter & Gamble Co. has about 100 internal blogs and is expanding their use to private communications with business partners. Talk to companies that sell blogging software and they'll tell you that most of their corporate business is internal. It's not that big businesses don't "get" blogging; they just don't see a compelling need to do it in public.

B-to-b marketers should pay attention to this trend because it presents an interesting opportunity to get your social media initiatives off the ground. A lot of large corporations are steering clear of the blogosphere right now because of concerns about liability, compliance and ROI. These concerns are valid. In fact, a lot of companies should steer clear of public blogging in general until they build the culture of resiliency and openness that the blogosphere demands.

That doesn't mean they should ignore the benefits of blogging, though. Blogs are simply a tool-an excellent way to disseminate information quickly and easily without having to maintain unwieldy e-mail lists. Readers can choose to subscribe or unsubscribe as they wish. Blogs create a searchable archive of company knowledge, which is good for training and research. In many ways, internal blogs move closer to the original promise of corporate intranets: get current information to the people who need it.

Anyone at P&G can have an internal blog, said Franz Dill, a 27-year P&G-er and blog evangelist. People just put up their hand and P&G gives them an account, some training and a presence on an internal portal that links to all the blogs within the company. About 100 people are blogging internally and P&G is now experimenting with giving its suppliers and distributors private access to blogs aimed at their needs.

I believe that much of the corporate action in social media will be behind the firewall for the next few years. That's where people will experiment and become comfortable with new tools before they venture cautiously into public.

Marketers can lead the charge. You know it will be increasingly important for your company to participate in public online conversations. If internal blogs are the training wheels you need to prepare for this transition, so be it. You might as well make your mistakes while only your friends are watching.

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