I recently glanced at this USA Today article outlining how organizations have shifted away from blogging and towards social media. The article reports “the percentage of companies that maintain blogs fell to 37% in 2011 from 50% in 2010, based on its survey of 500 fast-growing companies listed by Inc. magazine. Only 23% of Fortune 500 companies maintained a blog in 2011, flat from a year ago after rising for several years.”
Why? "Blogging requires more investment. You need content regularly. And you need to think about the risk of blogging, accepting comments, liability issues, defamation," says Nora Ganim Barnes, a professor at the university who wrote the report.
So, are blogs dead? That’s a little like asking if television is dead because of the rise of the Internet. It’s not that a form of communication is dead; it’s that it is constantly evolving and we need to understand its relationship to other tools in our marketing toolkit.
Blogging and Social Media: Yes/And, Not Either/Or
I’ve personally done a lot less blogging since the rise of Twitter and Facebook. It’s just simpler and faster to develop a brief post than a longer blog post. However, less blogging is not necessarily a good thing. I’m lazier with social media. I tend to retweet and post others’ work vs. showcasing my own original ideas. After all, anyone can “curate” interesting links and retweet them, but that in no way shows off your own expertise and insights.
A blog showcases, at its best, your organization's personality, thought leadership and unique perspectives. It can include any number of content types, such as written copy, pictures or videos. Good content becomes a magnet on your web site to pull in (hopefully) qualified viewers. After all, all those social media retweeters have to retweet something. It might as well be your expert insight.
The USA Today article went on to outline some of the reasons organizations have tossed in the blogging towel. I have a few ideas to share that are highlighted in our Meaningful Social Media workshop (we’d love to have you join us!). Here are the things we discuss:
The article states: “Companies often underestimate the amount of work a blog requires, says Pete Steege, director of marketing communications and Web strategy for Rimage, a digital storage device maker. "They think it's like a newsletter or an ad." That is absolutely true. A blog is a commitment to publish, and to publish requires editing, writing, approval and other processes that many organizations under-plan and under-resource.
However, that can be overcome through the use of a little education and some simple planning tools such as these we’ve shared in the Meaningful Social Media workshop. In addition, through new, speedier micro-blogging tools like Tumblr, your blog publishing can become more streamlined with briefer, punchier posts vs. long, extended form blogs (like this one, for example).
Milton Gray Draper, director of investor relations at Core-Mark Holding, says they don’t blog because “it’s worried about running into trouble with federal regulators about proper disclosure.” That is an appropriate concern, but it’s not an excuse for abandoning your blog. Highly regulated (and often sued) organizations like banking and insurance companies need to streamline their compliance and review process for the Internet-speed economy, not ditch the medium altogether.
Instead of routing a blog post through endless rounds of attorney review, policies and guidelines can be set up beforehand to guide content producers. These policies need to leave room for the organization’s personality to come through lest they become limited to tweeting insanely boring “approved factoids.” For the most part, there is no federal law against being interesting, but many organizations use compliance as an excuse to put their customers asleep.
From the article,T.J. Crawford, a Bank of America spokesman, says the bank dropped their blog “because its social-media strategy is focused on Facebook and Twitter. ‘We want to be where our customers are,’ he says.” Yet that is an erroneous “either/or” statement. Yes, of course, Facebook and Twitter are where customers are, but the point of a blog is that when the consumer is ready to engage a little deeper in your content, your blog is THE primary showcase that YOU control. It’s a next step in the consumer development funnel. To limit your engagement on social media platforms is to relegate your conversation to superficial levels.
To be sure, Facebook is providing marketers with more flexibility on their pages so more content and content types can be presented without having to leave the Facebook page. While that is of course a self-serving goal of Facebook to keep users on their network, you have to think through whether it makes sense for your goals to limit your engagement on the still relatively rigid controlled environment vs. nurturing the customer over to your web site. Again, it’s not either/or, it’s “and.”
Lack of Content
Finally, a blog post represents a rich source of social media material. Re-purposing content is one of the most underutilized tactics in marketing today. Every company builds content in the form of PowerPoint slide presentations, reports, marketing plans, newsletter articles. Yet few realize that each of these sources are rich in “tweetable” material. We like to suggest that each blog post can produce between 5 to 10 tweets (and we’ll demonstrate that with this blog post).
Organizations often get tunnel vision when it comes to content. They think that only a handful of assigned team members should be responsible for content ideas and creation. Yet the most effective content marketers (and therefore social media marketers) are those organizations who have learned to put the spotlight on their customers and partners for content ideas, and who tap a broader set of internal team members for ideas and contributions to the publishing stream.
Your blog is still your best platform for representing your brand’s personality and unique value proposition through the use of compelling, unique content. As it draws clicks, it enhances your search engine ranking credibility. It’s a powerful interest-generating step in the consumer funnel towards purchase.