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Case Study: How One Provocative Post on a Hewlett-Packard Blog Spread Worldwide

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Company: Hewlett-Packard
Contact: Eric Kintz, Vice-President of Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Industry: High-tech (B2B & B2C)
Annual revenue: $90,000,000,000
Number of employees: 150000

Quick Read:

The majority of Technorati's Top 100 blogs—many of which have teams of writers—feature new posts as often as a dozen times a day. Can a corporate blog with a single writer build a large international audience without multiple daily postings?

Absolutely, says HP's Eric Kintz, author of HP's Marketing Excellence Blog. "As the blogosphere matures, the measure of success will shift from traffic to reader loyalty," says Kintz. Yet, as he found out, a single provocative post he wrote gained his blog a big jump in readership and higher search engine rankings.

Challenge:


A blogger criticized Kintz for not posting daily, saying "he had failed to understand the fundamentals of a successful business blog." In response, Kintz wrote a post saying he wants the quality of his posts, not their frequency, to define him as a corporate blogger.

"I wanted to start a discussion on the topic," Kintz says, "and the post I wrote was almost introspective. I said I could understand überbloggers like Robert Scoble [who was then at Microsoft and posting constantly] posting ten times a day, but not the other 56 million who Technorati says are blogging."

Kintz wrote in his blog on June 5, 2006:

Daily posting shows that you are serious about blogging, generates traffic and drives reader loyalty, as readers come back daily to check your new posts. You cannot be successful if you do not go by the rule, right? RIGHT?

Wrong. Daily posts are a legacy of a Web 1.0 mindset and early Web 2.0 days (meaning 12 months ago!). The pressure around posting frequency will ultimately become a significant barrier to the maturity of blogging.

Kintz says he had no idea his post would have such an impact. It has been linked to more than 200 times, vs. an average of 0-30 links to other posts on his blog, and has been translated into several languages. It generated hundreds of comments, vs. the typical 0-10 comments made on his blog's other posts.

"Most people said, 'Thank you. Now I can relax—I don't have to post daily.' Although the bloggers who disagreed with me helped fuel the conversation," Kintz says.

Let's take a look at how the post spread worldwide to understand how ideas ripple through the blogosphere.

Campaign:

  • According to Technorati, 158 other bloggers referenced the post on their blogs.

  • That the post was written as a top 10 list made it easy to read and to respond to its points.

  • Initially, Kintz increased the reach of his post by also making it one of his contributions to the MarketingProfs Daily Fix, which is one of the 25 most popular marketing blogs in the world, according to The Viral Garden. The post generated dozens of trackbacks and more than 100 comments. The post is still one of theMarketingProfs blog's all-time top posts.

  • The post was included in the Daily Fix weekly newsletter that spotlights the top five posts of the week. Because the post stayed in the top five for four months, it was included in a number of issues of the newsletter.

  • Then blogger Debbie Weil included the post in the newsletter of her popular Blog Write for CEOs.

  • Blogger Darren Rowse at ProBlogger wrote a detailed response and challenge to Kintz's post, generating wider discussion.

  • Kintz didn't translate his post into any other language, but bloggers in several countries did. Basic Thinking Blog out of Germany linked to Kintz's post, spreading the post to scores of European bloggers, some of whom translated it. The post also was very well trafficked in South America and China, because the translators in those countries were influencers, Kintz says.

  • The post was picked up by a blog in the Christian blogging community, where it quickly spread through popular blogs that focus on religion. "An HP Labs study (pdf) showed that social context has high influence," Kintz says. Among communities whose social context is close and tightly knit, blog posts spread well. Political, religious, and technical networks also spread ripples through the general blogosphere.

  • Several mainstream media picked up the story, such as BusinessWeek, generating additional buzz.

Results:

  • The first obvious result was links. Kintz didn't expect his post to spread to the degree that it did. Posted on June 5, it's still being linked to today. It's rare for a post to have such a long shelf life.

  • The longer-term result was an increase in search engine rankings as a result of the link love given Kintz's post by so many other bloggers.

  • The attention given the post triggered a spike in traffic. People who hadn't read the post when it first appeared linked to it again when they read the analyses.

  • The combination of distribution channels increased the number of readers in Kintz's blog over time, and that post is still one of his most read to date.

  • Kintz notes that the post itself then became "a case study on how viral networks spread" and provides "insights into how to drive effective word-of-mouth campaigns."

Lessons Learned:

  • "No one factor taken in isolation causes a post to be picked up," Kintz says. "You need a combination of factors to spread content."

  • Message "stickiness" is essential.

  • A bit of edginess is appealing to more seasoned bloggers, who also tend to be influential. Edginess gave them an opportunity to comment, criticize, and add their own story. After all, they're looking for content every day, too.

  • Being edgy doesn't have to mean getting right in people's faces. It can mean, as in this case, taking a provocative stance that engages people in real debate—without offending or insulting anyone.

  • Despite the fact that several of the top 100 most popular blogs in the world are written in languages other than English, according to Technorati, no top corporate blog is translated into more than one language. Kintz says he's thinking of trying at least one post in another language.

  • It's good to have more than one way to distribute a post. In Kintz's case, this was through his own blog and through the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog.

  • Mainstream media, which trolls the blogosphere for story ideas, is important in attracting attention to posts because 99% of potential readers still rely on newsletters or MSM to get information.

  • Level One influencers, often called A-list bloggers, are not the only ones who are important in spreading a message. Niche blogs and non-English blogs also have great reach and influence.

 


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B.L. Ochman is a social media marketing strategist for S&P 500 companies, including McGraw Hill, IBM, Cendant, and American Greetings. She publishes What's Next Blog and Ethics Crisis, where readers can confess their worst ethics transgressions and others can rate them on a scale of one to ten. She also blogs for MarketingProfs Daily Fix Blog.

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