|Image credit: Express Monorail (Flickr)|
With all of the Facebook and Twitter commentary, out there, you'd think there's nothing else of significance worth doing on the Web any more. But of course, you know that's just crazy talk.
Corporate blogging has been with us for quite some time, with some major companies having forayed into the space in the early to mid 2000s. Yet there's surprisingly little attention paid to it today. Why is that? Is it that the shiny object / GMOOT ("get me one of those!") syndrome has worn off? Or is it that there's a purpose that isn't served by blogs?
"I was misinformed."
If you look at the recent statistics shared by eMarketer ("Corporate Blogging Goes Mainstream"), you'll see that only about a third of companies use blogs. But if you look at the growth over the last three years, the use of blogs has actually doubled (!).
The focus on Twitter and Facebook is understandable: they're nearly universal, they're easily accessible via mobile devices, and there's the ability to instantly connect users' thoughts, actions, and comings and goings via those platforms. But blogging is more than that - or at least has the ability to be more than that.
"Can I tell you a story, Rick?"
The first thing is, it's long form content. It gives companies the ability to have a greater narrative and develop more nuance around the message. Stories can be told in serial format so that a predictable cadence is established, with regular posts on known topics. Over time, this builds a relationship and perhaps even loyalty from readers. And fundamentally, marketing is about storytelling.
"In Casablanca, I'm master of my fate!"
While blogs are typically identified by having comments enabled for a two-way dialog, in reality the site owner is really in the driver's seat and has more control over it. This is a reassuring fact for many marketers, who can decide which comments to publish and what major topics they'd like to cover in their next post. Many marketers still prefer the stability and perceived brand control this gives them - even though we all know that you brand is what your customers say it is. But the other benefit is that when you run a blog, you have the ability to own the platform and content, which isn't necessarily the case when you're using Facebook, Twitter or the like. When a crisis is brewing, this means that your blog can become a central hub of all activity - one that you control - that can still be engaging and two-way in nature, should that be required.
"Take it anyway." [sic]
One thing I've always found about blogs is their infinite variety. They can be based in text, photos, videos, or a combination of any of them. They can be written by a team or by an executive. The topic can be singularly focused or can be an aggregate of other blogs. They can bring enthusiasts behind the scenes or collect ideas from fans. The point is that it's a flexible platform that will function any way you need it to. For a great set of examples, check out Mashable's 15 Excellent Corporate Blogs.
"I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
There's no reason your marketing efforts have to be an either/or mentality. If done well, blogging can incorporate the benefits of traditional marketing as well as the new. For example, integrating blog content or headlines into the corporate website in order to keep it fresh. Doing so not only gives customers a reason to return to your site frequently, but also helps with SEO (search engine optimization). In addition, the shorter form platforms (Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc.) can easily be integrated into your blog, either through buttons on each post or by making it a part of the commenting platform. I use Disqus, which allows readers to log in with other accounts and share the content out on those other platforms as well. The point is, when you integrate your content plan, it allows your content to spread to wherever customers happen to be searching for it.
"Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."
Blogging was something of a curiosity in its first wave. Now that it's been around for a while and proven its worth as a communications and marketing tool - not to mention the new platforms, content types and technology advances - it's beginning to mature and defend its rightful place in the pantheon of marketing channels. Now the challenge is for us to determine how best to supply a stream of story-like content and integrate that into everything we do so that the blog is not another site that's competing for attention, but one that is strategically integrated into many other efforts.