Where Are They Early Business Bloggers?

02/21/2008

When Diva Marketing launched in the spring of 2004 business blogs were barely a blip on most people's radar. To help marketers understand why organizations were beginning to view blogs as a business tool, how to sell-in to management and most importantly to pass along critical lessons learned, in 2005 I launched the Biz Blog Profile Series where people who were doing "it" shared their experiences.

Fast forward to 2008 and blogs are just one tactic in an over-flowing social media tool box that are now used by Fortune 100 companies, small business and not for profits.

Recently Alex Brown and I had an interesting email volley. Alex was one of the first people I interviewed for the Biz Blog Series. He had the innovative idea of turning the Wharton Admissions blog in a portal which has since become the go-to place for how to get into B School.  Inspired by Alex, I thought wouldn't it be fun to  take a look at "Where Are The Early Business Bloggers Now?"

Seemed appropriate to start with Alex. I think it's fair to stay that social media has not only changed Alex's life but impacted thousands of people and horses too!

Alex_brown_2 Background: I now manage alexbrownracing.com which is a horse racing web-site that focuses on horse welfare.  Our mission statement (something we needed to create once we became a large community) focuses on ending horse slaughter, and rescuing horses that are in the slaughter pipeline. To date we have rescued more than 2,000 horses headed for slaughter raising close to $850,000 in doing so (not bad for an organization that does not exist ?)  alexbrownracing.com used to be timwoolleyracing.com and gained traction on the internet as we followed Barbaro's fight for life after his accident in the Preakness Stakes.

Basically I was in the right place at the right time and chose to blog about Barbaro with all the access anyone would need.  We gained a large community quickly.  Along the way I had to add a discussion board as the community grew too large to be managed simply by a blog.  Subsequently I also created a wiki to manage additional content: alexbrownracing.com/wiki

We are now working with others in the anti-slaughter community to put together Americans Against Horse Slaughter, two days of lobbying in DC, March 4 and 5.  We are gaining momentum and hoping to end horse slaughter once and for all.  I have committed to this project to the extent I no longer teach at the University of Delaware (Internet Marketing) nor work at the Wharton School (MBA Admissions).  My business card now reads: Horses.

What were your success?
I think as a community we can be proud of what we have accomplished.  2,000 horses have been saved to date, we have helped gain some ground on horse slaughter legislation.  It is wonderful to be doing something you can be truly passionate about and something that combines all my interests (Internet Marketing: which I began teaching in 1997) and horses (I have worked in horse racing on and off for more than 20 years, in the US and in the UK.)  Site data is also pretty cool.  Our busiest day, 70,000 visits.  Our discussion board gets on average over 1,000 posts a day (thanks Prospero).  Our community is large and active.

What were your challenges?
We have a huge online community that while can all agree on one issue (horse slaughter is wrong) has fundamental differences of opinion over many other issues.  Myself and one other administrator (WendyMI) has to try to keep this community together, and when things start to unravel, we need to figure out how to get people back on track.  I have realized that I do not have to agree with everything, and to be perfectly frank, I don't have to like everyone, but I do have to act with a very even hand.  That is very hard.  Some issues that came to the community came from previous history of which i was unaware.  There is a group of people on the internet who absolutely dislike more than one participant in our community.  Their goal is to get them banned.  Banning people is another issue.  When you ban someone, their friends leave with them.  These sorts of things I had not factored when we began.  Shit, I thought we would have no problems given the mission of the site.   Well welcome to the horse rescue / slaughter world to me!  I can provide links of discussion threads on other boards that absolutely bash me and the work of the site, and these are from anti slaughter people.  Odd stuff! 

Tomorrow the site may be over. It is unique I think, but a challenge to keep it going for sure.  It is the most intellectually challenging job I have undertaken, and I am thankful of a little knowledge in game theory and other fields to compliment my internet marketing background, and what I learned setting up communities at Wharton and teaching Internet Marketing with Blogs at Delaware.

What would you do differently?/What lessons have you learned?
Fortunately the mistakes I have made have not (yet) been catastrophic in terms of managing the community.  There are a few people I banned that perhaps with hindsight I should not have banned.  Early efforts to get help managing the site were a little rough, but overall I think for what we have done and the size of our community we have managed to bumble along without too much disaster!

What's next for Alex and the Barbaro in the world of social media?
I truly hope we can end horse slaughter this year.  I also want to explore a little more deeply what we have done, and what we can learn from it.  I want Knowledge at Wharton to do a case study on it etc.  I also plan to move out of this grotty motel room in Houston ... and by the end of 2008 be back in the UK!

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Comments

thanks for doing this Toby. its interesting how things have changed for me, all thanks to social media i guess!

Posted by: alex on Feb 22, 2008 12:07:29 PM

Very cool to post about Alex. It's truly amazing what he has done in keeping this community together. I don't think many could do it. I just help out the best I can while doing my full time job in golf. It's really cool stuff.

Posted by: WendyMI on Feb 23, 2008 8:23:15 AM

Yup, Alex, I agree - tough job!

An interesting case study, indeed.

LaserRob

Posted by: Rob on Mar 24, 2008 4:41:02 AM

Yup, Alex, I agree - tough job!

An interesting case study, indeed.

LaserRob

Posted by: Rob on Mar 24, 2008 4:42:34 AM

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