The next profile in our series of B2B Social Media examples is Boeing, specifically the Commercial Airplane Business Unit, located in Seattle. The cornerstone of Boeing’s social media presence is a longtime blog, started by Randy Baseler, Vice President, Marketing Commercial Airplanes in January 2005 as a way to expand the conversation of commercial aviation to the Web. In its first two years, Randy’s Journal, as the blog was named, saw more than a half million individual visits, according to Randy’s bio statement.
There is lots of reader engagement with many regular readers contributing comments. In addition to aviation industry people and airplane enthusiasts, many commenters appear to be Boeing employees expressing both positive and negative opinions about their employer. And Randy became so popular that the post where he announced his retirement has 73 comments from his well-wishers. Boeing lucked out in finding his replacement for the VP position, as his name is Randy as well. This meant that neither the blog name, nor the URL needed to change for this corporate blog to thrive. Now written by Randy Tinseth, the blog didn’t miss a beat, as it has reached near a million visits in another two years.
Since airplane projects are long term affairs, he may write about a single plane over a series of years. The latest project that is working its way through the process, as well as Randy’s blog is the 787 Dreamliner. As the plane finally moves out of testing to the flight line, Randy is completely honest in his blog.
I don’t need to tell you that it’s been a tough, tough couple of years – on many levels – and we’ve taken a lot of knocks and endured a lot of criticism. Through it all, though, the teamwork, emotional resilience and dedication of this Boeing team – and our partners around the world – has been nothing short of incredible. It’s been a nearly superhuman effort getting to where we are today.
Here’s a photo from the blog of the 787 in the paint hangar
As Randy’s blog is another communication outlet for a large public company, he also includes transparent reflections on quarterly earnings, orders and and how the impact of results financial results on production and development of ongoing projects.
We’ve just been through another tough quarter, not only for Boeing but for our industry. So, understandably our results are somewhat parallel to what’s happening in the global economy and its deep effects on the commercial airplane market. Boeing’s first-quarter earnings dropped 50%, to $610 million.
As for the 747-8 Intercontinental, engineering is proceeding as planned. However, we announced today an adjustment in the schedule for the Intercontinental. The first passenger model is now expected to deliver during the 4th quarter of 2011 rather than the 2nd quarter of 2011 because of the softening freighter market and our resulting decision to delay a planned the increase in 747 production.
Randy’s blog also has a simple guidelines page that states that the opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Boeing company. This gives Randy the flexibility to be open and honest on his blog without worrying about misrepresenting the company. Yes, he is still VP of Marketing for Boeing and does represent them, but nothing he says on his blog will cause harm as a Boeing statement. This is a pretty major condition of this blog and I would like to hear more from Randy about it.
And finally, a couple things that could be done better on the blog, because even the leaders in social media B2B space can use a bit of advice. I was unable to find any link to Randy’s blog. It is very easy to find using a Google search for Boeing Blog or even a search on the Boeing home page, but both of those assume I know of its existence. There needs to be a link somewhere on the Commercial Airplanes home page. There is a quicklinks box on the right hand side that contains a link to Wallpaper, and nothing else. That would be a perfect place to provide a direct link to Randy’s blog. I also have a problem with the navigation of the blog itself. When you come to the blog you only see six posts. There is not a link at the bottom to see older posts. You must click on the Archives link in the right hand sidebar to view excerpts of all the posts. While this is perfectly functional, it is not an intuitive way to navigate a blog. Randy should explore the possibility of this navigation upgrade.
My last thing that I think Randy needs to address is more interaction with his readers. His blog gets a decent amount of comments, especially for a corporate blog, but I have not seen that he has responded in comments. In one recent post, he calls out “informed outsiders” who blog about aviation projects and frequently post misinformation. This post generated great discussion in the comments, which is a sign of a good blog post. Write in such a way that your readers respond, but Randy missed an opportunity to further engage on this topic within the comments.
So, in summary, if you are looking for a good example of a corporate blog from a large public company, check out Randy’s Journal. Subscribe to his RSS feed so you can see how he addresses a variety of topics over time. And Randy, if you leave a comment below, I will reply in the comments. We can also do a follow-up post, as we have done with others.