We exist in an era where half the communication remains a virtual reality. Twitter, blog, SMS, chat, Google, podcast, wiki and what can you not accomplish sitting in the comfort of your indoors. Neologism comes as a part and parcel of the online revolution, which is seeing unprecedented changes with every passing day.
Blog, a contraction of the term weblog is a personal webpage or in simpler terms a personal online diary. “Blog” like “Google” is used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. Google ‘Dell hell” and you get 33,800 results even today, three years after an upset Dell customer created this term through his blog.
Negative publicity & negative press coverage through a single webpage was enough proof for Dell to understand the power of blogs. Thus was born the Dell corporate blog. Dell blog attended to the complaining bloggers and in 2008 saw a 27 point decrease in negative blog posts, from 49 percent at the peak of Dell Hell. Not only did they earn positive buzz via the same medium, but also saved hundreds of millions, in lieu of the otherwise unavoidable face-saving ad and PR campaigns.
“If you blog, you exist.” opines Shai Agassi, former Board Member, SAP
With the blogosphere 60 times bigger than it was three years ago, it is no wonder that companies are creating “fake blogs” as a marketing tool to promote a product. A classic example of relevance is the FAKE IPL blog doing the rounds on the web now. Currently, 34% of large corporations have a blog solution, and 70% of the rest plan one by the end of the year.
Corporate blogs classified as internal, external and CEO blogs have become an unavoidable ingredient of the corporate world. The Dell is a classic example of an external blog where company employees, teams, or spokespersons share their views, explain and clarify policies, or reacts on public criticism. The business blog provides additional value by adding a level of credibility that is often unobtainable from a standard corporate site.
Blogging has many a time come to the rescue of the company. One of the biggest case in point of blog turning a crisis manager is the Johnson & Johnson story. J&J sued the American Red Cross for using their oldest trade mark of the ‘Red Cross’. J&J used their blog to take the dialogue beyond the standard corporate PR, and communicates on their blog, resulting in what no other crisis communication could achieve. Yes, they garnered a large number of comments providing broad support for J&J’s point of view.
A company needs to take into consideration factors of culture, transparency, time, dialogue, entertaining writing style and personalization for being successful in blogging. Bloggers of today have a strategic plan and felt that it’s important to have blogging goals.
So what criteria does a company hold in selecting a corporate blogger? “A Passion for the topic, the ability to listen to your audience, the ability to communicate a personality online, not to forget the perseverance and commitment, expertise in a field, good writing ability and openness to criticism” – says Kiruba Shankar, CEO of business blogging.
“We require unique company experiences, good blogger engagement, and the freedom to comment to go back and read the blog again” – opines Smitha, a software engineer with TCS.
Considering such insights, most of the corporate allow moderated comments, adding more responsibility on the content. The feedback helps to “shape the products that are coming out.” It also gives pride of ownership with customers and retailers who read the blog—in a way that promotes a more personal connection with the brand – says one of the most prominent bloggers, in terms of anonymity.
“However big be the company, we forget to go through the blogs if they aren’t updated frequently. The aesthetics also is important for me.” – says Arun, an engineer with HAL, Bangalore.
Increased frequency of posting could be correlated with increased readership. In addition, fresh content and incoming links can garner better search engine rankings. The frequency of writing for a blog can vary depending on the abilities of the blogger and the industry in which they are writing. Putting Search Engine Optimization (SEO) marketing helps a company achieve top rankings on search engine keywords and also a perception among their audience that the company is a bigger brand than a competitor.
Some undeniable reasons why blogs are both popular and effective when used for business marketing purposes are blogs masquerading as the most cost efficient advertising platform via the reach, simple setups, and uniqueness demanding no hard selling. An unlimited number of customer insights are a distinctiveness that only a blog can boast via the comments received, even before a product is launched. This not only saves a lot on advertising and research budget, but also helps improve the outlook of the company while delivering newer products from the stable.
“We as a blogging team establish key metrics that are important to the company, including views, comments, backlinks, RSS subscriptions, etc,” says a mid-sized company’s blogger.
Though associated with all the mentioned benefits, corporate blogs are never immune to pitfalls. Once a blog loses on the personal, compelling voice, people stop reading. At times, the receipt of less traffic compels a company to stop blogging anymore. Yet another drawback is the impossibility of evaluating success with the qualitative intangibles.
After weighing the pros and cons, one can consider corporate blogging as a platform for current and potential consumers to associate the brand with a face and a personality. The distant gap that has existed between the “inaccessible” company and the “average” consumer converges here. Blog becomes a medium that is less corporate and more human, though not immune to the chances of falling prey to success. Quantity, a corporate truth in terms of selling, is but fallacious for the blogger. As the publishing industry has come to understand, irrespective of the number of page views received, it is relevant, engaging blog content that educates and forwards corporate goals.
Corporate blogging is becoming nearly a mandate for many organizations. Its value in promoting brand awareness, thought leadership, and market education cannot – and should not – be underestimated.