When clients ask me if they should write a blog, I always respond: “Heck yeah.” I’m all about quality content and the more keywords you can get into your pages the better off you’ll be, at least I think so. Blogging is just another way to feed searchbots.
After reading Josh Bernoff’s “Time to Rethink Your Corporate Blogging Ideas,” report, I’ll be more inclined to reply “That depends,” the next time the question comes up. Bernoff is an analyst at Forrester Research, a technology-industry market researcher. The firm recently conducted a survey to gauge the opinions of customers and consumers who read corporate blogs. I guess it’s not surprising that less than one-fifth of people who read corporate blogs trust them.
Should you give up on corporate blogging, Bernoff asks. No, but you must make them relevant. If all you’re going to do is yammer about your services or products, fergetaboutit. On the other hand, if you can demonstrate you’re plugged into what’s happening on social networks; that you’re up on the latest news and ideas in your field; and you’re willing to give your press relations people opportunity to respond to issues that affect your company, then you’re on to something.
Here’s a quick take on what Forrester learned from its survey
1. Only one in six people who use company blogs say they trust them. This ranks lower than every other form of content we asked about, including broadcast and print media, direct mail, and email from companies.
2. Regular blog readers and bloggers trust company blogs a little more. Among those who read blogs at least monthly, 24 percent trust company blogs. And 39 percent of those who blog at least once a month trust them. Even among these groups, trust in company blogs lags behind most other forms of content.
3. Those who trust blogs also trust other media. Those who trust company blogs are a little younger, a little richer, and slightly less educated than those who don’t. More tellingly, if you trust company blogs, you’re also likely to trust other media, even direct mail.
Forrester says: Don’t Create An Ordinary Company Blog
When people say they mostly don’t trust corporate blogs, you can interpret their response similarly to when they say they don’t trust TV commercials or corporate spokespeople. Even as customers and consumers ramp up their blog reading, they seem to believe company blogs created to further corporate goals are not balanced and are basically an extension of a company Web site. Of course they’re skeptical.
If your strategy is to create a blog about your company and its services or products, give it up. You won’t get many followers for that kind of self-promotion, and as our data shows, the amount of trust you’ll earn will generally be low. Search engines love blogs but only if those blogs get links from other sites—and an ordinary product blog won’t get very many.
If you’ve already created a blog like this, we recommend that you carefully measure results from that blog.
Traffic is nice, but are the people visiting changing their attitudes about your company or buying your products? If your blog generates leads, links, positive reviews, buzz, or PR, it’s probably worth keeping. If it doesn’t—or you can’t figure out how to measure its value—then it may be more cost-effective to shut it down.
When And How To Blog For Business
Like any other marketing channel, blogging can work. But it’s not about you; it’s about your customer. Our rule of thumb is that if the person reading the blog says, “Sure I don’t trust corporate blogs, but I don’t think of your blog that way,” then you’re on the right track. Here are some ways your blog can effectively escape the low-trust trap:
1. Blog about the customer’s problem–the same way you would with an e-newsletter or customer success story. Don’t blog about your service; blog about something your customers care about. Rubbermaid blogs about getting organized, for example. Emerson Process Experts blogs about factory automation. If you can bring value to your customers around their problems, they’ll remain interested in you. Blogging about your customers’ problems makes it far more likely that bloggers in your space will link to your blog, which increases both traffic and search relevance.
2. Blog to your hordes of fans. If your product really is popular, you can energize your enthusiasts with a blog; social applications make sense in this context. This is why Moby and Benetton can blog effectively. If you make car mufflers, this probably won’t work for you. In the absence of an Apple blog, its fans settle for blogs about Apple and the fake Steve Jobs blog, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.
3. Blog about issues at the core of a community. If your customers form a tight-knit group with a lot in common, you can benefit from enabling them to connect with one another. An online community serves this need, and communities are interested in what you have to say — your blog can become a key part of this community. That’s how it works at the highly successful customer community that National Instruments created, for example.
4. Blog because you’re a recognized expert in your field. You can succeed in generating an audience because people want to hear what you have to say. But if you get too corporate and self-serving, your blog will suffer the same trust problems as any other corporate blogs.
5. For B2B companies, get your employees in on the act. In companies that sell to other
businesses, corporate communications typically sponsors the corporate blog. This is a mistake because product executives, product managers, and field marketing or sales support people better understand audience needs. When these staffers speak, B2B audiences recognize their expertise, trust their messages, and engage in the conversation. This is how dozens or hundreds of corporate-sanctioned bloggers at companies like HP, Microsoft, and Sun develop product connections with their particular customer groups.