Along with podcasts and RSS feeds, blogs are showing up on business marketers’ radar. Of the 210 B2B marketers who told us that they use these emerging tactics today, over 70% said they planned to boost their spending on social computing tactics during the next 12 months. But just because firms like Boeing, HP, NetApp, Sun, and Unica have entered the blogosphere, does that mean every marketing executive should as well? My answer today is a qualified “Perhaps.”
Successful blogs have two interconnected ingredients, a community that finds reading the blog -– and contributing to it — valuable. Outside of high tech, B2B marketers will find it hard to hand content control over to customers, prospects, and public commentators. Mainly because they worry that bloggers might say things that hurt their company’s image, brand, or standing in the market. So although many B2B blogs use an authentic voice, they come across as more promotional than openly communicative. Jim Firestone’s “Big I, little t” blog is such an example, although Xerox gets credit for taking steps to get closer with customers.
From our own experience at Forrester, blogs are a bit like children –- they demand constant attention and nurturing to grow up properly –- so deciding to initiate a blog is not a decision taken lightly. Questions marketers should answer are: What is the purpose of the blog? Who is the audience? Will the blog encourage participation? And, who should own the blog’s content? Beyond these, B2B marketers should know:
• Does our business – or industry group – change quickly enough to support the realtime publishing model? While innovations among industrial components like ball bearings, pumps, and compressors may not keep pace with Moore’s Law, their manufacturers shouldn’t rule out blogs entirely. Niche industry publications like Chemical Week, Masonry Magazine, and Scrap (the bimonthly magazine of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries) have readership that blogs, as a less expensive publishing media, could supplement or enhance.
• How does the blog fit into the rest of our communication (notice, I didn’t say “marketing”) strategy? Consider whether the blog community can help boost customer service, innovate new products/services, or enhance the flow of information inside the organization. Promotion is not the sole reason to establish a blog.
The bottom line? Get familiar with blogs by reading and contributing to relevant, related ones. But don’t prioritize blog investment above other interactive tactics like search marketing, email, and Web seminars where the results are easier to measure and the value is easier to quantify for now.
And let me know if you disagree or see things differently.