Opening up a new communication channel with your customers is one of the key purposes of corporate blogs. However, that'll be tough to do if they don't trust you. And apparently they don't, if a new Forrester Research report is correct.
According to a blog post from Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff, just 16 percent of folks who read corporate blogs say they trust them. In contrast, 77 percent of respondents trust e-mail from people they know. (I wish I could say this. My friends keep me busy consulting Snopes.com so I can let them know that, no, President-elect Obama didn't refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance. But I digress.)
While the numbers trusting corporate blogs rise a bit among those who regularly read blogs (24 percent) and those who blog themselves (39 percent), Bernoff notes these aren't exactly killer numbers. It's not a news flash that folks are broadly suspicious of companies' motives. This explains the higher scores for mediums perceived as coming from neutral sources, such as consumer product ratings/reviews (60 percent), portals/search engines (50 percent), and social networking site profiles from people you know (43 percent).
Leveraging consumer reviews and opinions can be tricky, but offers some nice payoffs for companies that do it well. An example that won me (and more importantly, its customers) over: Dell and its IdeaStorm community.
Before you immediately cancel plans for a corporate blog, listen to Bernoff's good advice: Your corporate blog should be more about your customers and their needs than about your company. Illustrate to them how your company can meet those needs -- but do it in thoughtful way, instead of just pointing out how buying your stuff will change their lives for the better.
Interestingly, Forrester spotlighted similar issues with business-to-business (rather than business-to-consumer) blogs earlier this year. The overarching point appears to be the same: Most companies just rehashed press releases or other well-known news instead of giving readers information of actual value to them.
Blogging can also be a valuable way for companies to get on the record about touchy issues, writes Bernoff. This is why you see more companies now addressing events like layoffs in their blogs.
Douglass Karr over on the Start a Business Blog agrees with Bernoff on several points but flags an issue not covered in the report, that corporate blogs can raise a company's profile in search engine listings and thus yield value in acquiring and converting customers. Karr writes:
Josh provides some feedback on when and how a business should blog but he totally left out Search Engine Marketing, an absolute disappointment. In other words, Forrester has perpetuated the myth of corporate blogging as only a tool to build relationships and fuzzy little Web 2.0 terms like engagement.