Corporate Blogging Goes Mainstream

Becoming fully incorporated into media and marketing

Blogging has been around for well over a decade—an eternity in internet time. Whereas blogs used to be a thorn in the side of traditional journalism, today they’re an essential ingredient in the media mix. Hardly a news organization exists that does not have a blog where its journalists post updates to breaking stories, offer personal commentary and engage in a dialogue with readers and viewers.

Similarly, blogging has grown into a vital marketing tool for all types of companies, including Fortune 500 marketers and mom-and-pop retailers. eMarketer estimates that 34% of US companies will use a blog for marketing purposes this year, a proportion that will continue to grow to 43% by 2012.

“Businesses are increasingly using the blogosphere to further a variety of corporate functions, such as communications, lead generation, customer service and brand marketing,” said Paul Verna, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report “Corporate Blogging: Media and Marketing Firms Drive Growth.”

US Companies Using Blogs for Marketing Purposes, 2007-2012 (% of total)

While blogging still tends not to rate such high usage as newer forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter, it still has many strengths, including full control over branding and advertising, integration with all corporate web properties, no limits on post length and the existence of a full, easily searchable repository of information. And studies have noted blogging’s usefulness for lead generation.

In addition to marketing, blogs have also become more fully integrated into the world of communications. In the early days of blogging, the established media showed a definite distrust of such nontraditional publishing. By October 2009, according to a Cision-led study, nearly two-thirds of US journalists reported they used blogs to publish, promote and distribute what they wrote. And according to PRWeek and PR Newswire, about a third of journalists used corporate blogs as research sources in 2010, up from a quarter last year.

Research Tools Used by US Journalists When Conducting Research for a Story, 2009 & 2010 (% of respondents)

“This confluence between established and emerging media is making blogging an integral part of the news cycle,” said Verna. “As consumers assimilate blogs into their media consumption, they are less likely to distinguish between a blog and a traditional news outlet.”


Companies Struggle to Keep Social Media Content On-Message

Nearly three-quarters of blog posts don’t reflect corporate messaging

Marketers and other corporate communications professionals may sometimes feel they have a thankless task: carefully craft messages about their company’s thought leadership, social responsibility efforts and new product or service launches, only to find those messages distorted as they’re disseminated through the media.

PR and communications firm Burson-Marsteller analyzed more than 150 messages sent out by companies in the Financial Times Global 100 list of firms and discovered a large gap between the messages that went out and how they were covered on blogs.

Message distortion was highest for companies in Latin America and the US, with a global average of 69% of blog postings not reflecting the message companies were trying to send. According to the report, bloggers tended to include “opinions, personal experience, knowledge of competitors and products, and speculation.”

Distortion of Company Messages Conveyed by Blogs, by Region, May 2010 (% of messages analyzed)

Distorted messages are not a new phenomenon; they have been a problem in mainstream media as well. Still, the message gap between companies and the traditional media is significantly smaller: Less than half of all messages in mainstream media failed to reflect company messages, and here the US performed above average.

Distortion of Company Messages Conveyed in Mainstream Media, by Region, May 2010 (% of messages analyzed)

But as blogs continue to grow in importance and become integrated in mainstream outlets, along with the growth of other forms of social media, the chances for message distortion are likely to be high.

One way companies can combat the message gap is to make the most of owned media. If companies create their own compelling content and distribute it across social networks, there is no room for such a gap. Bloggers are not likely to simply reprint such old-media items as press releases, but relevant branded content can attract links across Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the social web.

According to the “2010 Social Media Usage, Attitudes and Measurability” study from King Fish Media, HubSpot and Junta42, 73% of US companies with a social media strategy were using branded content they created in their campaigns. Such original content was considered the most important part of a successful social campaign, with nearly half of respondents calling it “extremely important.”

Social Media Aids Customer Acquisition

hubspotsocialmedialeadssalesapr2010_thumb.jpg

Many B2C and B2B companies are successfully using social media networks to acquire customers, according to [pdf] the “State of Inbound Marketing Report” from internet marketing firm Hubspot.

Major Social Media Channels Provide Leads to 4 in 10 Companies

More than four in 10 companies overall have acquired a customer from four major social media channels. Forty-one percent of companies have acquired a customer from both Twitter and LinkedIn. That figure rises to 44% for Facebook and 46% for a company blog.

hubspot-social-media-leads-sales-apr-2010

Social Media Especially Helps B2C
When social media customer acquisition figures are broken out by B2B and B2C companies, it becomes clear that B2C companies generally obtain much more value from their social media marketing efforts. Fifty-one percent of B2C companies have acquired a customer from Twitter, compared to 38% of B2B companies. The difference is most stark in customer acquisition figures for Facebook, which 68% of B2C companies have obtained a customer from but only 33% of B2B companies.

hubspot-social-media-b2b-b2c-apr-2010

When it comes to professional social media network LinkedIn, however, the usefulness trends reverse. Forty-five percent of B2B companies have obtained a customer from LinkedIn, compared to only 26% of B2C companies. Figures for company blog customer acquisition are closest in range, with 57% of B2C companies and 43% of B2B companies obtaining a customer through this channel.

Blog Post Frequency Makes a Difference
Examining company blogs closer, the unsurprising finding is that the more posts a company makes, the more success it will have driving new business. One hundred percent of companies posting multiple times a day on their blogs acquired a customer, and 90% posting daily acquired a customer. This figures declines to 69% for companies posting two to three times a week, and all the way down to 13% for companies posting less than monthly.

hubspot-blogging-drives-results-apr-2010

Most Business Blogs Post Weekly
The majority of business blogs in 2010 post weekly (38%). Another 29% post two to three times a week, and 17% post monthly. Only 3% post multiple times a day. Only 58% of companies making weekly blog posts acquire a customer, meaning most companies are leaving a significant tool for customer acquisition on the table.

hubspot-business-blog-post-weekly-apr-2010

Bigger Business Blogs Better Lead Bringers
Business blogs begin generating significantly more leads when they have a median of 24 or more articles posted, according to other research by Hubspot.

Businesses with blog article numbers above this critical threshold are likely to have enough content to make a significant impact on search engines through additional indexed pages and new keywords with which to associate. In addition, other sites are more likely to link to a blog that offers a steady stream of content. Businesses with blogs of 24-plus articles are more likely to be committed to updating their blog frequently and, thus, are likely to generate more traffic from referring sites.

Business blogs that have 0-11 articles posted will generate a median of three leads. Once blogs reach the 12-23 posted article threshold, this median dramatically rises to 10. However, blogs with 24-51 posted articles generate a median of 13 leads, and will generate a median of 23 leads when the posted article threshold reaches 52. This represents 77% lead growth, more than twice the 30% lead growth that occurs when the number of posted blog articles reaches 24.

Bigger Business Blogs Better Lead Bringers

hubspotblogsizeleadsapr20101.jpg

Business blogs begin generating significantly more leads when they have a median of 24 or more articles posted, according to research by internet marketing firm Hubspot.

Businesses with blog article numbers above this critical threshold are likely to have enough content to make a significant impact on search engines through additional indexed pages and new keywords with which to associate. In addition, other sites are more likely to link to a blog that offers a steady stream of content. Businesses with blogs of 24-plus articles are more likely to be committed to updating their blog frequently and, thus, are likely to generate more traffic from referring sites.

hubspot-blog-size-leads-apr-20101

Business blogs that have 0-11 articles posted will generate a median of three leads. Once blogs reach the 12-23 posted article threshold, this median dramatically rises to 10. However, blogs with 24-51 posted articles generate a median of 13 leads, and will generate a median of 23 leads when the posted article threshold reaches 52. This represents 77% lead growth, more than twice the 30% lead growth that occurs when the number of posted blog articles reaches 24.

Businesses with Blogs Generate 67% More Online Leads
Businesses with blogs generate 67% more online leads than businesses without blogs. A business with a blog will generate a median of 15 online leads, compared to a median of nine online leads for a business without a blog. Blog size does matter to a degree, as businesses with a median of 10 blog entries or less report similar online generation numbers to businesses without blogs.

hubspot-blog-advantage-apr-2010

Advice for Bloggers
Based on its research, Hubspot offers the following advice to business bloggers:

  • Increase the number of keywords marketers rank for in Google. Through blogs, marketers have the opportunity to create unique content that can be different from their web site content. They have the potential to significantly increase the number of keywords they rank highly for in Google.
  • Generate inbound links. These are a central factor in Google’s organic search ranking algorithm. Other related sites are likely to link to a blog that provides interesting and fresh content.
  • Increase repeat visitors.Blogs give visitors a reason to come back and interact with sites.

Google Page Indexing Creates Leads
In addition to blogging to generate online leads, the more pages a company has indexed by Google, the more leads it will generate, according to related research by Hubspot. There is a strong positive correlation between the number of Google indexed pages and median leads. An incremental increase of 50-100 pages indexed by Google can cause lead growth in double-digit percentages. For example, going from 60-120 indexed pages to 121-175 indexed pages can increase a company’s median leads from seven to 12, creating 58.3% growth.

The most significant improvement in median lead growth comes when a company increases its indexed pages from the 176-310 range to the 311-plus range. Median leads skyrocket from 22 to 74, representing triple-digit 236% growth. After exceeding the 311 indexed pages mark, median lead growth subsides.