In recent weeks, we’ve seen commentary predicting the decline of corporate blogging. Or more specifically, that there seems to be less value and fewer hours to commit to the activity.
The idea has been bolstered with some excellent research by UMass Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research in their 2011 Inc. 500 Social Media Update: Blogging Declines As Newer Tools Rule. Similarly, Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang posited the “golden age of tech blogging is ending.”
Let’s separate the commonly-defined notion of blogging from the overall activity of content sharing. That’s where opinions flourish and the path both UMass’ Nora Barnes and Altimeter’s Owyang travel. Bloggers’ blogs being acquired by larger news orgs is largely a marketplace function. Editors see great content written by someone who’s established credibility in their space, a few bucks later, both sides win with increased visibility. Is the blogger selling out? That depends on your view of why a blogger blogs. Is he or she blogging as an alternative to mainstream news outlets or is the blogger blogging to share his or her views and expertise? My money is on the latter, more narcissistic view. While there certainly is an altruistic lot looking to make news better, the notion of corporate blogging is something unique.
I write this blog to share my expertise in social media management and analytics. My goals, in no particular order: 1) share my professional experiences with others; 2) express my talents to my employer; 3) demonstrate my expertise to the industry; 4) practice, practice, practice my writing before an eventual book is written. – Yours truly.
Some reasons for the changes seen in the Fortune and Inc rosters of companies?
Anecdotally, from the perspective earned working in relatively conservative cultures in financial services and technology, I see a few factors that contribute to the fluctuating numbers of bloggers:
- Managers justifiably continue to question the value in social media activity. We’re still a ways from being able to comprehensively quantify the ROI to such activities, removing objective review from many decision makers. In most industries, budgets are still constricted by the economy and thought-leaders are tasked on focusing their energies on bottom-line efforts. (More on this below.)
- Blogging takes time. Seriously. This stuff doesn’t write itself. For this blog post, I had to read the UMass study, think about it, re-read Jeremiah’s positions, consider the two together, and decide what I would say here. With work, home and volunteer responsibilities, it’s taken me a couple days to get ready to commit to “ink.” All told, about 6 hours invested.
- Social platform proliferation. Spiceworks, Quora, Focus, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and scores more offer limitless means for social media self-publishing. Folks are finding many ways to express themselves and equally as many online communities to share their knowledge.
I contrast this all with the state of blogging here at EMC. We’re kicking ass. In recent months, we’ve launched a half-dozen or so group blogs all actively sharing thought-leadership around EMC’s products, solutions and the industry in general. One of the blogs features a roster of EMC executives. Browse them all at emc.com.
But let’s step back to ROI. It’s the biggest goal of any social media manager you ask in any company in any industry today. It remains a formidable task, especially when compared to the tried-and-true direct marketing and email campaign metrics managers already rely upon.
Lessons can be learned from Net Promoter Score (NPS) practitioners. What’s the context (and content) behind the score? That’s where we need to go with social. Understand the context to understand the value. The key difference lies in the nature of very structured NPS surveys to very unstructured social media content.
Thought-leaders are experimenting. They’re going to abandon the classic idea of blogging for alternatives to more traditional news outlets. Let them. But prepare for it. Work with an industry-leading social monitoring or analysis vendor. Know where conversations are happening. Engage with them. Do you have a community? Curate these content sources.
Is there an emerging role in all of this? Yes. The Community Manager. These folks’ responsibilities are quickly growing beyond the day-to-day management of a community platform. I see tons of potential, especially where community, social platforms, bloggers and social analytics are (at least in part) coordinated by a central org or hub-and-spoke model. The CM’s ability to curate useful content no matter its source will be key to making thought-leadership a key asset in the socially-enabled economy now emerging.
With so much variation in how folks can share content and opinions, be prepared to embrace content. It’s time to recognize a long-tail, media-mix modeling, socially-threaded strategy. As @jowyang puts it, “Tech blogging isn’t dying, it’s evolving.”
UPDATE 2/2: Are you a corporate blogger in the SMB IT space? Check out this related thread over at Spiceworks.