Over the past 10 years I’ve had more than enough opportunities to consider whether the investment in time and resources to blog has been worth it.
Blogging for business is a question I think many companies ask themselves as they look at current trends towards time more spent on social networks and changing consumer consumption trends, especially with mobile.
This question came to light recently via Stephen Waddington, Digital and Social Media Director at Ketchum Europe who pinged me for an opinion on the future of global blogging for a blog post he was researching. And that got me thinking:
Does it still make sense for companies to blog?
One way to answer that question is to take a look at how many blogs there are and whether the number is increasing:
When I started blogging in late 2003, there were about 1.5 million blogs (Technorati).
It’s actually hard to say how many blogs there are currently, but WordPress.com alone hosts 75.3 million blogs in over 120 different languages world-wide with 100,000 new blogs being created every day. WordPress.com blogs publish 40.5 million posts and attract 50 million comments per month. Over 400 million people view 14.4 billion pages per month.
If you look at Tumblr as a blog platform, there are over 170 million blogs and nearly 76 billion posts published.
This exercise could be continued with other blog hosting platforms like Google’s Blogger and others to raise the number of blogs even higher. Of course, I’m not even counting the millions of blogs hosted on their own domains like this one and most of the business blogs that are online.
While many of the personal blogs are about everything from cats to fashion to recipes to long forgotten ramblings from years gone by, blogging is not simply a domain for self expression.
Business blogging is alive and well.
The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth annual study of corporate blogs in 2013 recently reported the largest year over year increase of Fortune 500 corporate blogs (34%) since they started tracking them in 2008.
From telecommunications to specialty food retailers, companies have found blogging to be an essential hub for their social media, content marketing, SEO and online public relations efforts.
In fact, blogging is even more ideal now that content and brand publishing has become the price of entry for even the most basic of digital marketing efforts.
What about content shock? Is the economy of content marketing too imbalanced for business blogging to be practical? Mark Schaefer made some interesting arguments about issues around the scalability and sustainability of companies creating more and more quality content. If the only reason a company creates a blog is for content marketing, then I’d have to agree. But here’s the thing:
Marketing is not the only reason companies can get value from blogging.
I started blogging to explore the platform and soon discovered an incredibly useful tool for communicating directly with prospects, the media, potential employees, current clients and our own staff. Any reason a company has to communicate can be supported by a blogging platform.
Being committed to blogging as a means for bringing offline experience online and vice versa in combination with speaking at events, has paid off in numerous ways. For our digital marketing agency, I don’t see that changing any time soon.
The proof is in the pudding.
We are a boutique agency and yet we are known all over the world because of our blog. We receive thousands of new visitors every day from search that have never heard of TopRank before. Imagine what we would have to pay in advertising to reach new audiences, day in and day out. Actually, many companies know exactly what that costs because they don’t blog or because they blog and don’t integrate it very well with social networks and community for amplification.
So far, we’ve spent very little, if any budget on advertising to market our company and have never had a sales person or employed a public relations firm. What we have invested, in is over 1 million words about topics our target audiences care about. The payoff is virtually no cost of sale and bringing multiple Fortune 500 companies on as clients and attracting media coverage from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune and The Economist.
The current and future benefits of blogging are literally too numerous to list here, (maybe Stephen Waddington will write an eBook about this) but suffice it to say, in all my years as a marketing and PR professional, business blogging is by far the highest yield investment I’ve ever made for: marketing, public relations, and recruiting.
What’s the Future of Blogging for Business?
With the importance of content in search, social media and PR, blogging continues to be a viable asset for businesses to produce conversational content outside of the transaction oriented online stores and corporate websites.
Rather than blogs being replaced by social networks, media and apps on mobile devices, successful companies will incorporate blogging into their digital marketing mix. Blog content can be consumed with any device and for companies that want a destination on the web to curate their own Vines, Instagram images, and other types of mobile-created content, blogs are a great fit.
Blogs that are supported by a solid, customer-focused strategy and that are integrated with social media efforts still have every opportunity to help a brand become and stay “the best answer” for topics that matter most to their customers. Of course competition continues to grow and customer preferences for information discovery, consumption and action will change. But that’s why companies keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry and their customers, continually optimizing the quality and performance of their communications.
As a hub for brand publishing for virtually any kind of content, I can think of no better fit than a business blog in 2014 and in the future.
What do you think? Does it still make sense for companies to blog?