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Business Blogging Resources For The Little Business That Could
Measuring the state of business blogging can be difficult. Statistics are contradictory and change almost daily due to the exponentially rapid growth of the blog as a medium (not to mention its novelty).
A recent research survey by Pew Internet the amount of businesses using blogs to be found around 7% (a research survey conducted by American Express last month suggested a similar percentage). Meanwhile, another survey by Guidewire Group suggests that 89% of companies are either blogging now or plan to in the near future. Despite these very different figures, the point of agreement is that business blogging is growing. The pace seems to be the heart of the dispute.
About 175,000 blogs are created every day (or about two per second), but don’t let that number scare you: the business part is a drop in the bucket. Experts estimate the number of active business blogs in the US today at around 5,000, with half of them less than a year old and only 10% older than three years. Many new business blogs, like all blogs, are abandoned after a few months, and only about 39% of total blogs are in the English language (Japanese is best). What all this says is that blogging is becoming a global norm but is still very open to newcomers.
Trends vary by company size, with smaller companies tending to make more use of business blogging, while larger companies maintain a healthy share. About 55% of all business blogs are started by companies with fewer than 100 employees while about 15% are accounted for by companies with 1,000 or more employees. However, of the largest 500 companies in the United States, 40% use blogs in their comprehensive strategy.
Outside of the uncontrollable statistics, what actually succeeds in the world of business blogging itself is a little more clear. Almost all research and opinion on the topic points to a handful of critical factors, including:
- A writing style that is able to both connect on a personal level and be entertaining. This includes getting to know your customer and establishing a meaningful relationship in the blogging environment.
- The company’s willingness to engage in honest marketing dialogue with its clientele (the source of any blog’s infinitely valuable credibility).
- The individual blog writer’s time given to the blog itself, for relevant research, thought, responding to readers’ posts, and the general construction of quality work and frequent updates.
Of course, individual companies in their unique industries face their own quirks and requirements. For example, depending on the situation or industry, your business may want to focus most carefully on the writer’s tone and style. Companies with reputations they would like to save or improve (oil companies, for example) may find particular interest in the transparency aspect of blogging. While in a fast-paced industry (such as technology or media), a corporate blog may need to weigh its time dedicated to updating material for the blog more carefully. Many businesses start blogging with clear goals in the beginning, or even test a blog internally before developing an external blog. Some businesses also run more than one blog. General Motors, for example, runs an entertainment blog (Fastlane) and an information blog (FYI) combo that has been very successful.
The General Motors blogs are a great example of successful business blogging in its maturity. Both are easy to navigate and subscribe to, are concisely written, and utilize costume-generated material, including photos and videos. There are also many links (not only to GM but other car sites and even other blogs), so the reader gets a real sense of genuine dialogue and openness. A look at the high volume of comments and responses on the Fastlane blog shows that successful blogs are both social and relevant.
In the blogging world, there is still disagreement about who should write the business blog. As for Fastlane, it’s vice president Bob Lutz. For some companies, however, the difficulties might outweigh the privileges of having an executive who does the blogging. The boss’s voice doesn’t always come across well on a blog. Also, an executive may no longer continue blogging for a simple lack of time. This is the situation for about half of all blogs that are created: after three months, the entries stop and the blog is essentially dead. Therefore, typically the most successful business blogs are run by the employees rather than the CEOs. Therefore, it might make more sense for your business if the employees do blogging because they generally have the energy and detailed understanding (and voice) to make a blog more readable because of the readers’ peers, and thus legitimate.
Legitimacy has proven to be of central importance to any success in business or marketing blogging. A few years back, Dr. Pepper tried to top this in the marketing of their now infamous new product, Raging Cow (a flavored milk drink). The company hired teenagers to try the drink and blog about it after being trained. Dr. Pepper’s efforts were met with cruelty and even boycotts to try to infiltrate the “integrity” of the blogosphere with marketing through trained clients and “hipness.” The whole thing went sour and Raging Cow remained unpublished. In addition, many of us are looking at the fate of “Pay-By-Mail” and its legitimacy in the near future.
Another beverage company, Jones Soda, offers a much different and more successful model of blog legitimacy and customer outreach. A visit to the blog gives more the impression of a teenager than a business. The blog, in fact, serves as a hub for many client blogs. All of the usual business stuff is present: an online store, a product locator, and message boards (with posts reaching into the thousands). But the folks at Jones very obviously know their customers well and have developed a very successful blogging equivalent to their business by loosening the reigns and putting the customer completely in control. As terrifying as this might be for some executives, it seems to have worked brilliantly for Jones.
In summary, business blogging can best be viewed in its infancy even though the sheer statistics of blogs appearing every day seems to be high. Businesses wishing to enter the blogosphere should do so with caution unless they have a strategy that meets several of the above requirements. However, when executed carefully, a business blog can be a great source of customer intimacy, relationship building and brand extension of your business.
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