Blogging has been around for a good 5 or 6 years now – but, as usual, it’s taken the corporate world a good few years to catch up and, in essence, corporate blogging is only really starting to take off now.
But how important are blogs, considering the fact that there are more blogs than blog-readers out there (or so the general internet stats say)? Well, I guess that all depends on what the reader is after, and whether or not the blog they’re reading fulfils that need.
Technically, a blog is meant to be weaved around something that’s personal – a person’s take on an event, or idea, a person’s recollection of something, a person’s thoughts on something, etc. If a company like the fictitious ABC Shoe Company were to post a ‘media-release’-style article about their new shoes, it wouldn’t technically fit into the ‘blog’ genre unless an employee of ABC Shoe Company was blogging about the technology behind the shoe, their thoughts on the benefits, the design problems they ran into along the way, and so on. Posting a media release about new shows and filing it under a ‘blog’ heading would probably annoy a few readers (who may then never return to the blog, because it has become too ‘salesy’).
This in turn damages the reputation of the blog, and it eventually becomes pointless because no one reads it. Management see the stats and realises no one’s reading, and in turn, the company (which was trying to be ‘new age’ and ‘Generation Y friendly’) closes down their blogs and vows to never post again. This brings to light the risks of blogging.
For good reason, a lot of companies are against ‘silos of knowledge’ – if someone quits their job or is made redundant for whatever reason, the company should be able to continue to function without any problems. For this reason, companies like making everything generic – like a generic sales email address that anyone in the Sales team can access, a ban of giving out mobile numbers so that all enquiries can in via the primary channels and so on. Lots of companies do this, and it’s for good reason. From a management perspective, it makes complete sense when you think about it… but blogging is the complete opposite and goes against this – so how can it work in a corporate environment?
Well, in many cases – it doesn’t. Take the above example as a case in point. The process goes a bit like this: Company starts blogging. Management see’s blogs are working (via the reader-statistics), and push for blogs to become more sales-oriented. Bloggers change their writing trends to suit management’s wishes. Blog readers notice this change, and stop logging on to read. Management wonders why blog-leads & sales are down and asks bloggers (with their big user-base of readers – which is now rapidly declining due to the change in writing style) to become even more ‘salesy’ in their posts. Bloggers do so, but after a few weeks find that no one reads anymore, because what used to be a personal account of something, has now become an obvious push for more sales. The blogs get canned.
Getting back to my ‘impersonal’ train of thought – if a blog is highly successful because of a writer & their writing style, and then that writer leaves the company for whatever reason, it is likely that blog readers will follow the blog poster, and not stay with the company he or she works for. I guess it’s that ‘hairdresser syndrome’ all over again – if you have a really good hairdresser that does exactly what you want, you’ll probably follow him or her around regardless of what firm they work for. The same can be true for bloggers.
While there are a few more topics I don’t have time to cover right now (like accidentally revealing company secrets to competitors who may read a blog), there are definitely some bonuses for a company that is pro-blogging. Businesses that blog are seen as proactive, Gen-Y friendly and ‘fresh’ or ‘hip’ (to use old-school terminology). This of course appeals to Gen-Y readers, who will naturally be the “next wave of customers” (if they aren’t already) – so you’ve already got your foot in the door.
Because companies do take on some risks (for all the above reasons) in allowing blogs, I believe that in the eyes of their blog-readers (read: potential / future / current customers) they are seen as being more trusting, and open to new ideas and technologies. To customers, this shows the company in a great light, and will in turn, eventually win more Gen-Y votes.
While this may not have any immediate effect on sales or lead generation, it’s important to think of the long term picture. In 5 or 10 years time when every company out there has a blog on their website, it’s the Gen Y readers that you are impressing right now who will remember that your company has always been ahead of the curve. And in 5 or 10 years, it’s those Gen Y’s who may indeed be managers, directors or key decision-makers of your biggest clients.
To close, I’d like to say that blogging is a great idea – so long as it’s kept fresh, updated regularly and that the blogs aren’t too sales-oriented. There is a very fine line between genuine personal experience and ‘the hard sell’ – but sometimes, with the right people and a good writing style, you can get away with it. First and foremost though, the top priority of a blog needs to be about the human touch.
Blogs have a personal touch …it’s not about ‘why’; someone should buy your shoes, but rather ‘how we invented the new technology that we use in the shoes, a ‘behind the scenes tour of the shoe factory’, or ‘something funny that happened when we were testing the shoes’.
If you need a hand getting started, please get in touch. Good luck, and happy blogging!