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Listen and Engage First, Blog Last

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I had noted Geoff Livingston’s "Blog Last" post a while back.. It made me think of a few things, but I never wrote about it. Recently, I was working on a post that led me back to it, and now I’m ready to dive in.

Here’s the point of the post—I agree with Geoff. I think blog last is solid advice for companies of just about any size.

In this line of work, me (and lots of other folks on the Dell team) get to talk with companies about social media strategy. Some of those discussions happen with companies that are looking to get into social media. Many companies tend to think that launching a blog is a great starting point. On the surface, it’s logical because blogs are a flexible medium that are designed to facilitate two-way discussions. My advice: listen and engage before you blog.

Sounds simple enough, but what the heck does it mean in terms of tangible actions? Start doing searches about your brand using free tools like summize.com, Google, Technorati, or Google Blog Search. Or do searches from within established sharing sites like TwitterYouTube, Flickr and SlideShare. It’s just takes a few minutes in the comment streams to find customers who are evangelists for your brand or ones who are detractors. In what I’ve seen, it pays off to reach out to customers on both sides of that equation.

At Dell, we were a bit slow establish a presence in some of those sites—that’s why we’re still working it. Ford and Southwest Airlines are two companies that have seemed to do a good job on that front. If I had to do it all over again, Dell would have created a single centralized Dell Flickr page, a Dell YouTube channel and Dell Official SlideShare account much sooner than we did.

So what if you are a small company without an established brand, or your company makes products aren’t naturally exciting to folks? Look in forums and discussion boards for a topic that’s related to what your company does. And just like I discussed above, do specific searches in places YouTube, Flickr and Twitter. Once you find conversations in communities that are related to what your company does, become part of that community by adding something to conversations that are happening there.

So I say focus on listening and engaging your customers in any number of ways before you even think about launching a blog. At the very least, that activity will give you a solid understanding about what customers want to talk about.

You might find that your company doesn’t need a blog at all.

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