Back in the mid-90's, as the Internet became a household word and past time, companies felt tremendous pressure to get a corporate site for sales or to use one as an online brochure or both. No one knew how to monetize the darn things and actually make money. No one knew how or what they were actually supposed to get out of those web sites.
A little over a decade later, the issue of corporate blogging is quite similar. Everyone talks about blogging, but everyone has a different idea what it should be used for or how to achieve exactly what.
I ran across this wiki recently; a labor of love put together by Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine, Ross Mayfield of SocialText and a faceless army of volunteer watch dogs combing the blogosphere to monitor how businesses are using blogs.
Here are some of the more interesting findings of this admittedly unscientific aggregation of data on corporate blogging.
- As of this month, only 57 of the Fortune 500 companies actually have an official corporate blog (roughly only 10%).
- The uses and strategies of those blogs vary widely. The same team that put together the Fortune 500 blogging wiki has also put together this visual to show how blogs are used (information versus commentary, formal versus casual).
There are no hard figures on the number of small to midsize businesses that officially blog. Clearly, it is lifeblood for some businesses and the lowest item on the priority list for others.
What can we learn from those smaller companies that lost their shirts in the 90's racing to launch corporate sites with no measured ROI? Answer: plenty.
- Blogging takes a lot of human time to maintain and its more often a long wait to build an audience of regular visitors making it worth the effort. Don't make the committment unless you have the patience and resources to give it time to grow.
- Don't do it unless there's a clear objective, strategy and way to measure your ROI for the business.
- Lastly, first do no harm. Customers love transparency, but companies have a responsibility to keep somethings internal. Before you blog, be clear what's okay to make public and what needs to be kept within the family.