When I interviewed companies including Dell, Intel and SAP for a story about corporate blogs, they all told me while channels like Twitter and Facebook were good for initiating conversations, deeper communication was more likely to occur on their blogs. As Bryan Rhoads, a digital strategist with Intel's Social Media Center of Excellence, said:
Our blogs are home base. Whether I am on Facebook or Twitter or any other social site, most of my conversation is still going to happen on the corporate blog.
Perhaps that's what eMarketer senior analyst Paul Verna meant when he said, "Companies are finding that blogs fill a specific niche that other forms of social media do not." After all, some messages can be tough to convey in 140 characters, the length limit imposed on Twitter. Blogs are different from other types of social channels and require different strategies, as David Churbuck, Lenovo's VP of Global Digital Marketing and another source for my story, told me:
We are all guilty at some times of saying, "Oh, it's social media." But there are subtleties in the different channels, and you need to understand those if you want to communicate effectively.
eMarketer released research that includes its estimate that just over one in three companies has a public blog used for marketing, a number it believes will rise to 43 percent by 2012. According to Verna, marketers "perceive blogs to have the highest value of any social media in driving site traffic, brand awareness, lead generation and sales -- as well as improving customer service."
eMarketer cites some blog adoption numbers from other sources, which are all over the board. One of those mentioned is the Society for New Communications Research. Its adoption estimates from 2008 and 2009 are lower than those of the other sources mentioned by eMarketer.
I had an e-mail discussion with Nora Ganim Barnes, senior fellow and research chair of the Society for New Communications Research and chancellor professor of marketing at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, about her 2009 research examining the blogging adoption rate of the Fortune 500. She found 16 percent of those companies had public blogs in 2008. The technology sector had the most Fortune 500 blogs, with eight, including Dell, Oracle, Microsoft and EMC.
She was pleased at the level of interaction she found, with most of the blogs offering frequent posts, ongoing discussion and the ability to follow the conversation easily through RSS and/or subscriptions. Twenty-eight percent of them also linked to a corporate Twitter account from either the home page or the blog. She mentioned the blogs' "ability to humanize" the companies.
Yet companies may have some work to do if they want to get value from their blogs. Last September I wrote about a McKinsey survey on Enterprise 2.0 that found that while blogs were among the most heavily-used Enterprise 2.0 tools, the number of companies that experienced business benefit from their blogs just barely edged out the number that reported no benefit.