Is your company blog doomed to failure? The web is littered with the graveyards of failed corporate blogs that faded after a handful of poorly received posts. Others limp along as part of an approved marketing campaign, chewing resources but never quite returning the glowing response originally promised.
Recently, Forresters Research revealed some eye-opening data on their company blog, reprinted in the latest issue of NETT Magazine. Turns out, corporate blogs are the least trustworthy forms of online information.
Only 16% of online consumers who read corporate blogs say they trust them. If you’re a corporate blogger or somebody who advises companies, you need to take this into account.
Yet, company blogging is still a popular social media strategy and continues to be evangelised as the best way for brands to start a conversation with their target market. I have myself been guilty of proclaiming blogs as a possible answer to many businesses seeking advice on how to boost traffic and attract a target audience to their website in a competitive niche market.
Does my personal blog bias and the new research expose me as a ‘dodgy social media expert‘ as defined by Laurel Papworth (Silkcharm) or a ‘social media carpetbagger‘ as characterised by Beth Harte and Geoff Livingstone over at The Buzz Bin? Sheesh, I hope not. Yet, we could be seeing a bit of a backlash against corporate blogging as a legitimate and effective marketing strategy.
There is definitely a lot wrong with corporate blogging and many do dive in without properly surveying the waters. It’s not surprising so many blogs wash up on the rocks. But is there more to this?
Geoff Livingstone also wrote a very persuasive post on why blogging should be the last piece of a social media strategy, rather than the first salvo in a campaign. A clear understanding of social media principles and the two-way interaction customers desire is needed before anyone, corporate or otherwise, plans to launch a blog. There is definitely far too much hype surrounding the ability of blogs to generate income and boost traffic. This new research from Forresters proves that the average web user can see through the bluster and bias, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways for corporate blogs to shine, build trust and present the company as a thought leader in the chosen field.
The key problem is with a deep-rooted misconception among many about the purpose of blogging and social media in general.
“Where’s the Call-to-Action?”
A blog is not a sales tool but a networking one. It isn’t a place to plug the latest product, talk about business growth or trot out reheated press releases. There should be other places on your website better suited to corporate communications of that nature with a more appropriate context.
Blogging is networking and relationship building – end of story – and should be devoid of corporate spin, calls-to-action and internal back-slapping.
If you’ve ever attended a networking dinner, you will know that the best results are not achieved by walking up to people with a drink and a carefully rehearsed sales pitch. You don’t hit everyone with a call to action over the canapés. Networking is about making connections, swapping business cards and demonstrating that you may be a person worth knowing with the potential to add value in the future. It is about swapping industry stories and opinions, gaining an understanding of the target market you are talking to and opening channels of communication that can bear fruit later.
Yet, far too many corporate blogs use it as a blunt instrument, hammering out a honed sales message or corporate line without paying attention to the reader.
This is true of all social media, not just blogging. Twitter users will block you in seconds if you only tweet product offers and sales pitches. Facebook users want interaction, not advertising.
The big truth far too many companies don’t understand is that the people you want to read your company blog don’t care about your company.
“What’s in it for Me?”
Why is it so many marketers, bloggers and businesses forget the basic motivation that all customers have? People will not buy a product to boost your bottom line, are not interested in your expansion plans or internal politics and will not read your blog to receive propaganda. This is, I believe, at the centre of the research statistics. Because online users are cynical about business goals and corproate spin anyway, blog posts are seen as another biased attempt to persuade them to take an action. They tell the reader what they want instead of providing what they need.
One of the most popular types of blog posts is the ‘How to…’ guide. many people use Google to solve problems and blog posts provide a wealth of tutorials and helpful tips to do so. But if your solution revolves solely around purchasing your product or following your example, it isn’t surprising readers assume bias. By offering genuine solutions, unbiased help and real advice, you may instead create a reputation as a thought leader with a genuine understanding of the customer’s needs and the knowledge to back it up. Then, when the custoemr is looking for a business to help, they may be more disposed to you.
A recent post by Jeremiah Owyang provides a simple health check to determine whether your corporate blog will generate trust or languish as a cynical corporate puff-parade.
Marketers should not be discouraged by the research figures; what it indicates is that people should blog smarter instead of panicking and changing tactic. A blog may not be right in every corporate scenario, but by understanding the readership and writing for them instead of the Board of Directors, you stand a far better chance of achieving the results you hoped for.
Do you trust corporate blogs? Are they mere propoganda dressed up with WordPress or valid platforms for customer communication?