Hubris or Humility: How Does Your Company Blog?

Filed in Blogging by Matt McGee on April 5, 2007 0 Comments

Update: Ben Smith, Chairman & Co-Founder of MerchantCircle, has taken the time to reply to this post on the MC blog. I’ve continued the discussion in the comments there (although my comment awaits approval at the moment).

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Update #2 (April 16): Well, 10 days later and it appears that Merchant Circle has decided not to approve my comment on Ben Smith’s post, which I referenced above. Perhaps I wasn’t flattering enough? Well, so the record can be complete, here’s what I tried to post there as a means of continuing the conversation:

Ben, with all due respect, I can’t recall a single post where you guys have even hinted anything “sucks.” I appreciate Kevin’s style and it’s funny sometimes, but it seems like every post (at least while I’ve been a subscriber, maybe 4-5 months?) is MC sticking out its chest and saying “look how great we are.”

Even this post – why the need to link to your pricing page? Why the need to list the four bullet items about your services? Why all the marketing clich├ęs in the closing sentence?

Being proud of accomplishments is great, but it comes across better when it’s mixed in with the reality of running a business — there are struggles, mistakes, etc. Having a blog is the perfect place to talk about that.

That customer survey — what else did you learn? What else opened your eyes and caught you off-guard? That would make some great blog posts (minus the links to your pricing plans and promotion of your services).

I’m just saying… you guys have unique access to the small business web marketing space, and it would be great to read about what’s REALLY happening there, without the constant promotion of products, services, and merchants.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

- Matt

Too bad Merchant Circle isn’t interested in such discussion….

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(original post)

I’m going to cut and paste quotes from recent posts on two company blogs, both of which are in the local search space. I think the comparison can be meaningful.

Company A:

I’m feeling good about what we’re doing but we’ve got to move faster. I think there’s a real opportunity to grow a business in the local shopping space and we’re very well positioned to execute on the opportunity ….we just need to move more quickly on that opportunity. More product evolution, more consumers, more traffic, more revenue….yesterday.

Company B:

Of course, we’ve received a fair amount of attention from online media, including BusinessWeek.com and print publications, including Entrepreneur Magazine, now it’s time for the next step in the media chain!

Company A:

Simply put, [Yelp] out-marketed us. They managed from early on to make their customers feel loved. They were the first site (amongst [Company A], Yelp and Insider Pages) to focus on getting consumer photos up on their site. This was a very powerful marketing tool. They were aggressive at experimenting with parties and alcohol and building an offline community with their community. They made joining yelp a bit of a fraternity/sorority….in a good way. Their marketing efforts for a small company were better than ours.

Company B:

Fortunately, we have such great small businesses to go to. And without [Company B], they wouldn’t have had the chance to be found on the web. You see, [CompanyB] is their primary web presence. And fortunately for you and me, they’re not ready to make nice for Big-Box Retailers.

Let me ask you this: Which blog sounds more interesting to you?

I’m guessing you just said, “Company A.” These posts are honest and humble. They address real situations, good and bad. I learn something from these posts, and maybe I can apply what’s said to my clients.

“Company B”‘s posts, on the other hand, are all about saying look at us, aren’t we great? They sound like a press release. There’s nothing to learn, nothing to apply.

“Company A” is Judy’s Book, and the blog is written by CEO Andy Sack. “Company B” is Merchant Circle, and the blog is written (mostly, I think) by Kevin Leu in the Community Relations dept.

To be fair, I’m quoting from what is essentially Andy’s personal blog, and it doesn’t sit on the company domain. There’s a freedom in that, and Andy takes advantage of that freedom by writing about politics (which I can really do without), TV shows, and other personal stuff. Even though his posts about Judy’s Book are only one of several topics, I’m a reader. I tend to think Andy would continue writing with the same humility about his company even if the blog were part of the company web site.

I think it’s great Merchant Circle has a blog. They’ve taken their fair share of criticism in recent months, and the blog would be a great place to talk about their mistakes as openly as Andy Sack does about Judy’s Book’s mistakes. I wish Merchant Circle would read and take to heart one of the excellent points Jennifer Slegg shared recently in 20 Best Practices for Launching a Corporate Blog:

Don’t rah rah yourself. A blog is not a platform to tell everyone how wonderful your company is. If you are constantly talking about how great your company is or what fantastic products you have, people will stop reading because no one likes a sales pitch disguised as a blog.

I love watching a company get it right with their blog. That usually involves a little more humility and a lot less hubris.

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