Friday, July 11, 2008

Corporate blogging's mixed bag

One of the great things about the book Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, is the many case studies and stats it includes on how companies have successfully added social media to their business efforts (Disclaimer: Charlene and Josh sent me an advance copy of the book, which I highly recommend). A great example of this is that the book includes a complete cost/benefit breakdown for a large executive blog, based on estimates from the cost/benefits that GM's Fastlane blog saw in Year One.

Li and Bernoff claim that a large company blog would have expenses of $283,000 in Year One, with benefits of $393,000, for a total 'profit' of $110,000. The cost section assumes $35,000 in first-time costs for planning and training. The main benefit of the blog is assumed to be PR value, which the authors place a $240,000 value on. This assumes that a large corporate blog, if well-written and executed, should show a benefit of around $145,000 a year to the corporation, after Year One.

But, this information flies in the face of recent findings by Forrester, which discovered that corporate blogging growth fell off a cliff in 2007, after surging in 2006.
"The gap between blog hype and reality widened in 2007," said Laura Ramos, Forrester analyst and chief author of the report. "After counting 36 companies that started promoting corporate blogs on their Web sites in 2006, the number of B2B firms starting up blogs dropped sharply to 19 in 2007."

Disconnect, anyone? Do these findings mean that corporate blogging has simply been overhyped as a business growth tool? The report also offers an explanation:
B2B marketers should embrace strategies prominently used by mainstream bloggers to attract readers, build conversations, and engage community members in sharing their experiences with their online peers, the report's author advises.

Exactly. The problem with many company blogs, is that they aren't positioned properly. Instead of attempting to create an environment where readers are given valuable content and interaction is encouraged, many companies are attempting to use their blogs as an extension of their weekly circulars. The report added that 56% of the blogs reviewed simply 'regurgitate' company news and executive views. Another telling stat was that 74% of the blogs studied receive few or no comments or trackbacks.

Again, it's not broadcast media, it's social media. The findings from the Forrester study simply confirm what we have all seen; most companies aren't willing to use blogs as we do, and for the same reasons. They attempt to approach blogging as a one-way communication channel, which is what they are most comfortable with. The results, i.e. disappointing returns, are completely predictable.

The real question is, will these companies now regroup and re-assess their blogging efforts, or dump them? This report doesn't invalidate corporate blogging, but rather corporations that attempt to use a blog as a promotional channel, instead of a communication channel.

Bonus: Lois adds her thoughts on what the findings really mean.


Veronica Giggey said...

Was it you that said companies don't blog, people do? That's where the disconnect is.

Amber said...

This is exactly why education on social media can be such an uphill battle. Until companies can embrace and understand that this medium is different and requires them to create something of real value for their community, they will fail. And as with many other things, they'll blame the tool for the failure, not their own approach. Here's to guys like you, Mack, who keep trying to drive home the underlying keys to using these tools well.

Chris Kieff said...

The main problem being that most corporations approach blogging with a committee. Thereby eliminating any personality. Couple that with the Legal department's neutering of anything with any substance and you get mindless boring newspeak.


trav said...

"Again, it's not broadcast media, it's social media." That sums it up perfectly and I want the t-shirt to wear around the office.
What business doesn't want to engage their customers? So the question, for businesses, should no longer be "should we blog/do SM"...
but should be "to what degree do we blog/SM".
The above comment said it nicely about it not being about the tool, but the approach.

drew said...

I completely agree with this. I started a blog at my company about three months ago and so far I have been the only one who has posted anything.

We still have weekly meetings about who is on the schedule to post next, but each week comes and goes with nothing.

They don't understand the time and effort it takes to create good content on a regular basis.