There are a lot of trends that develop online. But unlike that “25 Random Things” survey that was all the rage on Facebook a few months ago, blogging isn’t a fad. By some counts, there are more than 50 million blogs online, and I doubt that number is going down anytime soon. (A perfect example: Classes like the one I’m in, that require students to create blogs to enhance their understanding of online communications.) The marketing world has even acknowledged that blogs are a powerful communications tool. Web publisher Susannah Gardner even wrote a book, Buzz Marketing with Blogs for Dummies, that explained how powerful blogging could be for businesses.
So I was pretty surprised when I set out to find offiicial company blogs this week. I had a lot of trouble finding them! For a medium that can be so powerful, I amazed to find out that many of the companies I love and adore — and whose loyal customers would likely flock to a well-done company blog — hadn’t tested the blogging waters. Cold Stone Creamery? No. Dunkin’ Donuts? No. Jones Soda? No. Old Navy? No. The Gap? No. Finally, I started just frantically searching Google for “official blog” and random companies’ names.
I eventually found a couple, but boy, was it hard! The biggest thing I learned, as it turned out, was that far too few companies take advantage of the marketing opportunities offered by the blogosphere. According to a Socialtext wiki maintained by marketer John Cass, only 60 of the Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. had active public blogs in mid-February. That’s only 12 percent! Just one or two of the top 25 blogs listed by TIME in late 2008 were company blogs, and only a couple more brand blogs were listed among the top 25 by Technorati today.
I assume most of these companies have questions and concerns about operating a blog. What should you post? How often? Should you permit user-generated content? How do you monitor it? How do you convey a consistent marketing message, but preserve authenticity? There are a lot of issues associated with operating a blog, but the potential benefits seem to outweigh the possible pitfalls. A 2006 study by Porter Novelli and Cymfony found that a majority of companies with blogs saw their Web site traffic increase as a result and felt they acheived their goals for the blog. Though some wanted to see more interaction, most said blog monitoring had shown that posts had a positive impact on the brand.
Most of the blogs I managed to find were well done, and I enjoyed reading through the posts — both by the company and consumers. Dairy Queen, for example, had a blog I really liked. It just lauched earlier this year, but the posts were interesting, thought-provoking and funny. They covered everything from a wedding at DQ to what customers would do for a year of free treats, and it boosted my image of the brand.