Last night's Conversations with Your Market blogging panel went well. The audience was surprisingly light on bloggers -- most were just interested in learning more about "what all the hype" has been about. I'd say the break down was about 40% bloggers, 40% blog "voyeurs" (a term used by panelist Mike Hazzard), and 20% just curious.
The panel discussion was engaging and typical at the same time. It was probably the right mix for audience we had. No new ground was broken and Debbie Weil (who I realized I had been mispronouncing her name since subscribing to her newsletter --- its 'wile' not 'weel') said as we were leaving "It went well, but I'm not sure what we accomplished" to which I replied "Isn't that what blogging is all about?"
One of the topics included whether aggregators will replace email newsletters. Not until recently have I thought perhaps. But it makes total sense to me. Why not subscribe to RSS feeds and have them pulled from a website when email is overwhelming in its volume of not only spam but legitimate email. I give it 2 years until most email newsletters are delivered via RSS. Some of the audience members gasped when Bill Kearney, RSS guru, suggested such a thing.
One other interesting thought I had about the panel was Jeanne Jennings who is an email marketer, kept referring to herself as a contrarian. I thought business blogger proponents were the contrarians. It seems that a shift was made. She's not anti-blog, but thinks they aren't the most effective business communication medium. Jeanne made a terrific point about business blogs .... "I'm a business person, if it's not affecting the bottom line it's not for me." Great point, but I think we need to look at the long-term effects in terms of customer loyalty. If anyone can take a look the recent Harvard Business Review, Hailley Suitt has a terrific fictional case study about a woman at a medical supply company who started a blog without the knowledge of management and attracted quite a loyal customer base for a line of gloves her company was selling. If blogs can create that kind of affinity and can create conversations within a market among your customers you're achieving something that marketers rarely could do, leverage word-of-mouth. Even business people should like that. ;)
After the panel there was some good mingling in the crowd. For the blog newbies, I found some skeptics. Who is going to pay someone to blog all day? Who has time with all the other things that go into a typical work day? I see no difference between blogging and discussion groups. All valid points, but I'm sure someone's salary is much cheaper than most advertising. I bet within any organization larger than 20 people there's a natural born blogger in there that is waiting at the wings to let it all out. Blogs, unlike discussion boards, give the blogger ownership of a website. Conversations are carried across websites, as opposed to on them.
Several audience members told me they learned a lot. It was a great experience for me as well, as I had never moderated a panel before.