As part of my business development efforts, I regularly speak with business leaders (CEOs, Presidents, CMOs, small business owners and marketing staff) about the things they're doing well and the areas they feel they're deficient in. The comments are widely scattered - ranging from discussions about marketing technology to what the best lead generation techniques are. For some strange reason (maybe it's me subconsciously guiding the discussion in a particular direction!) the subject of blogging comes up frequently. When it does, the reaction I get hasn't really changed much from the one I got one, three or five years ago - kind of a thousand-yard stare and eyes-glazing over reaction and a quick change of subject.
I thought I was imagining things or blowing the feedback out of proportion - this type of reaction couldn't be emblematic of low levels of blog adoption, could it? To allay my suspicions I did some Google research and was not that surprised to find studies indicating that the majority of businesses are still not blogging, and worse yet, have stopped their blogging efforts entirely. In 2011, 23% of Fortune 500 companies "maintained a blog" ( I would love to know what qualifies as maintaining a blog.) - so 77% are on the sidelines if my math is right. Another survey of Inc. 500 companies showed 37% of the companies on the list blogged in 2011 (down from 50% in 2010) - part of a downward trend in blogging for businesses in general. (Research from UMass Dartmouth's Center for Marketing Research)
I did my own non-statistically valid research by looking at a random sampling of companies that were part of several marketing-oriented groups on LinkedIn. My expectation was that I would see a higher percentage of companies blogging in these groups due to the high penetration of marketing companies within the groups. The trend was slightly higher than the Fortune 500 trendline - 27% for the LinkedIn groups versus 23% for the F500 group, but l thought the LinkedIn number would be in the high 30's to low 40's.
So what's the thinking behind these trend numbers - why aren't businesses blogging at greater rates - especially when it has been proven that when done correctly, blogging can be instrumental in driving incremental traffic to these sites? Here are some of the oft-cited reasons (culled from a variety of sources):
- Too much of a time commitment
- Don't know what to write about
- Ran out of ideas/topics to write about
- Fearful of negative reaction
- Concerned about legal ramifications of blog content
- Shifting focus to social media platforms
- Tried blogging and it failed
- Too much competition in my industry
- Our blog writer left the company
- It wasn't worth the investment
- The boss/C-suite won't approve it
- We already publish a newsletter
- We don't have anyone to write it
If you're a business owner or marketer and you aren't blogging because of one (or more!) of these reasons, let's look at some potential solutions for your business.
For the time commitment-we don't have anyone to write it-our writer just left-we don't know what to write about-we ran out of ideas: it's rare to find one writer capable of covering the depth and breadth of potential material present in most companies. At a minimum, consider gathering key players from every customer-facing department within your company to brainstorm ideas. A great place to start is with the questions (especially the repeatedly asked ones) that come in from prospects and customers. A good way to frame this exercise is to look at the frequency with which you want to blog (shoot for 2X per week at a minimum x 52 weeks = 104 per year) and develop a list of 104 questions. When you think of the departmental breakdown in a typical company - Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, Accounting - that's four groups contributing roughly 25 questions each.