The Blog Business Summit’s  (in Seattle) first set of panelists today was Jeanette Gibson from Cisco, Corporate Communications and John Starkweather of Microsoft.  They shared insights about how their companies were adopting the so-called new media—blogs, wikis (web sites that can be updated by web visitors), and podcasts, etc..

At Microsoft the openness started with their developers.  Many of the rest of Microsoft had to be brought along.  Even though everyone knows the internet makes it easy for  geographically dispersed folks to talk to each other—it still had to sink into the majority of the rest of Microsoft how that really changes things (like company communications, marketing). You cannot just throw messages out there anymore.  The challenges, he said, for the company was to how to be open and still preserve the intellectual property aspects of their tech-company traditions.   The challenge for all companies is to be both open and closed, when engaging customers and influentials in the new social networking-world, especially blogging.

An example of how communities work and benefit business:  Microsoft started the Mobius community, make up of online writers/bloggers that are passionate about mobile devices and gadgets. The community evolved on its own. Now it is loose moderator role that he plays.  Microsoft benefits because the Mobius community-members provide specific things they would like the mobile platform to do.   Microsoft has made feature and functionality changes, based on these community requests.  
John Starkweather’s advice to companies:

  • Take hard feedback.
  • Listen. Change. Evolve. 

And use new vehicles to reach people, think, small screens on handheld devices.   He describes the Mobius community as one of Microsoft’s “…most valuable professional program.  Members are very engaged and will share.” 

How could your company benefit from more feedback and insights from customers and users?  More from the Blog Business Summit later.