This morning I went to a panel discussion here in Seattle about corporate blogging and how businesses can use blogs as a conduit for two-way conversations with their customers. Among the panelists were Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, co-authors of Naked Conversations – How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk With Their Customers. It was incredibly interesting to hear how some companies have embraced blogs (notably Scoble’s experience at Microsoft) and others seemingly have turned their back to this rich source of customer feedback (Dell was the example mentioned). Meanwhile, several people I met asked me about the Zillow Blog, asking what got us started, what have been our challenges, and how it’s going since we launched our beta site about two weeks ago.
When we first decided to have a Zillow blog, we all agreed that this could be a powerful way to talk to people, hear from people, and engage in conversations with real customers using the site. And with this we realized that you can’t have a “real” blog without allowing comments — basically opening up the floodgates for the good, bad and ugly. As Zillow’s head of communications, I’ll admit the idea of providing a raw, open space for people to pontificate on their love or hate of Zillow both intrigued and terrified me – particularly when launching a beta, or “test” site with some kinks to work out.
So how has it been? In a few words — empowering, enlightening — and quite frankly a little exhausting. Empowering to our employees who now have an opportunity to explain things about Zillow that they know best. Enlightening to hear what’s working for site users and what’s not. (Yes, some of the comments make me cringe. But hearing directly from you, our users, is the only way we’re going to make this thing better). And exhausting because, wow — you guys like to talk to us and comment. And we read every single thing you say… whether or not we respond, it’s being noted.
So… we’ll keep using this forum to update you on new additions and changes, and give more explanation as to why things work the way they do (or how we’re changing things to make them better). On your end, please keep telling us what we can do to improve your experience. We think we’re on to something that can be incredibly useful to buyers and sellers of homes. But we also realize that we have a ways to go to get this beta site more useful and accurate for everyone. Thanks for your help.