07 Aug Cutting through the blog fog
Has your business interaction with customers changed in the past year? If so, you might be one of the companies that followed the advice from last May’s Business Week cover story Blogs will Change Your Business, suggesting that businesses needed to get on the bandwagon with blogs.
They advised, “You cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they’re simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself.” Since that seminal article, the number of blogs has exploded with Technorati, one of the blog search engines, now indexing more than 32 million blogs and reporting the addition of over 70,000 new ones daily.
Why this rapid growth in blogs? Blogs are at the very heart of Web 2.0 (see Social Computing in the Web 2.0 era) because they transform the online user experience from simply accessing information to dialogue and interaction. This social interaction has brought blogs out of the fog and into the bright light as an alternative medium and venue for customer interactions.
It’s not just that the number of blogs is increasing – blog readership has grown as well. ComScore Media Metrix reports that 58.7 million people visit blogs, or 34 percent of the total Internet audience. This represents a 56 percent increase over 2005. Another source, Pew Internet & American Life’s Bloggers Project Report, suggests an even higher 39 percent of the online population reads blogs.
Business blogs: A bright light in the fog
Estimates of the number of businesses that currently have blogs or are planning to launch them runs the gamut, depending on the research source, population studied, and sample selected. Compiling the results of various recent reports provides an interesting perspective on the status of blogs by company size.
|Sample||% With Blogs||Source(Date)|
|Fortune 500 Companies||5.8%*||Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki(April 2006)|
|Fortune 1000 Companies||15%||Makovsky & Co. research(February 2006)|
|Large Companies ($50 million+)||34%||Jupiter Research(June 2006)|
|<$100 million||59%||iUpload (October 2005)|
Note:Many companies have multiple blogs, including Sun and Microsoft with over 2000 blogs.
Why the growing business interest?
Research among 73 corporate bloggers sponsored by Cymfony, a market influence analytics company, found that 76 percent of the respondents reported increases in web traffic and media attention from their blogging activities. Cymfony also found that 42 percent of bloggers reported that specific blog posts had affected their company or brands.
In other research, Marketing Sherpa reported on a survey of 1,900 marketers that found blogs were the number one tactic to generate leads among business-to-business marketers. They did caution that blog readers tended to be general business people, members of the press, and other blog writers.
So what’s the state of business blogging in Wisconsin? It is hard to say. I’ve conducted Internet searches, visited the websites and/or contacted the PR functions of the 25 Fortune 1000 companies headquartered in Wisconsin to see if they are currently blogging. To date, only Johnson Controls appears to have a blog – Your Energy Forum. Another large Wisconsin-based company with a blog is the Miller Brewing Co’s Brewblog, covering the brewing industry.
Smaller business related blogs in Wisconsin include WisBlawg from the UW Law Library, Wisconsin Advanced Technology Advocates sponsored by Gehrke & Associates, Pine Needle Lawn with real estate postings, and Skybox from CUES for credit union executives. J.J. Berrall, spokesperson for Red Prairie, a rapidly growing technology company, told me that they were considering blogs but that, “The challenge of course is continuously updating and providing cogent, interesting, and timely information.”
Do you have a blog that you are especially proud of? Send me a link and I’ll evaluate it for inclusion in a future article of Wisconsin-based business blogs.
Now that you understand where blogs are at, and perhaps are thinking of integrating them into your overall strategy, what else should you be doing? Here are some suggestions:
- Learn as much about blogs as possible.
- Visit competitor and industry blogs for ideas.
- Monitor blogs yourself or hire companies that do this.
- Track the industry critics, reviewers, or influential bloggers for trends, stories about your company, products, or competitors.
- For larger companies, consider including social networking sites like MySpace in your monitoring.
- Develop a blog plan and integrate it into your business and marketing plans.
- Set up blogging policies and guidelines. (Most companies don’t have these yet, but are looking at implementing them.)
- Personal blogs.
- Corporate blogs (See Sun Blogs example).
- Start your own blog(s)
- Determine and prioritize your key target audiences (consumers, prospects, media, staff, others.)
- Develop an editorial focus.
- Hire effective blog communicators (in-house or long-term consultants) to write and edit your blog.
- Get your IT staff involved in helping select the appropriate technology and implementing best practices, including “workflow, single-source content repositories, security and permissions, and content auditing and analytics, according to InfoWorld analyst David Margulius.
- Post to your blog frequently (daily to weekly at a minimum).
- Minimize the legal review.
- Be honest and candid.
- Work to make your blog usable and accessible.
- Monitor, respond to, and edit comments.
- Promote your blog.
- Get to know and work with influential bloggers that cover your industry and/or company.
- Consider advertising on or sponsoring appropriate blogs using ad networks like Pheedo, Feedburner, and Google AdSense.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.