Thursday, July 20, 2006

Business Blogging Still Bogged Down

Is Big Biz Ready To Blog?

By James Belcher - Senior Analyst

A new report by JupiterResearch says that 34% of large US companies now have a corporate blog, and that another 35% will have one by year-end.

These robust numbers contrast sharply with existing data about corporate blogging. The word "blog" seems inescapable these days, and there is plenty of buzz following the term. Personal blogs now number in the millions, and some public-facing bloggers now wield considerable influence—and some even make money. However, when it comes to businesses blogging, the reality is far behind the hype. Socialtext features a wiki detailing the number of Fortune 500 firms that blog, on an ongoing basis. The current tally: 5.8%.

A 2005 study by eMarketer put the percentage of all large North American businesses that blogged at 4%. The percentage of large firms blogging has not changed much in a year.

Why is this? Why, when blogging is so hyped, and millions of individuals now have their own blogs, is corporate blogging so rare? PR firm Makovsky & Company recently commissioned Harris Interactive to find out. Harris Interactive asked 150 Fortune 1000 senior executives for their opinions on blogs. Only 30% of the respondents even had a thorough understanding of the term "Internet blog." This may shed some light on Jupiter's numbers; many businesses may think that their discussion forum, e-mail newsletter, intranet bulletin board, or other communication constitutes a blog.

More tellingly, almost 8 in 10 respondents believed that their company should have policies about company-sanctioned blogs—and 40% believed they should have policies about blogs that didn't even have anything to do with the company (presumably being written by the firm's own employees). These numbers suggest the top barrier to blogging for businesses: loss of control.

After years of meticulous branding, carefully arranged PR messages, and committee-developed corporate-speak that offends no one—especially lawyers—successful blogging requires ceding message control internally to a single, real voice, and externally to commenters whose feedback may not always be positive.

It is not unthinkable that 70% of large US businesses will blog eventually. However, there's a great distance between 5.8% and 70%; not just in percentage points, but also in business philosophy.

For more information about business blogging sign up to be notified when eMarketer's report The Business of Blogging is published in July.

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