When I got back from Hong Kong and began writing online again, I was struck by the number of people whose blogs I used to follow who just stopped blogging. It was with a tinge of sadness that I re-created my .rss feed to keep up on what is happening in social media from some really smart people. Many of those voices whom I used for inspiration were gone.
That got me thinking. If so many social media “A-listers” had stopped blogging, what was happening in corporate America? I did a little research, and based upon information released last week from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research, blogging by Fortune 500 companies in 2014 declined by three percent, to 31 percent of the companies on the list.
Here’s their data:
I am biased because I do online communications for a living, but the above chart is surprising to me, not because of the three percent decline from 2013 to 2014, but by the still low numbers of large companies that do blog. Why is it less than one third of Fortune 500 companies?
Because establishing and running a corporate blog is really hard. Many people don’t do “hard.”
Compare the 31 percent adoption rate of blogging, to the social media adoption at the Fortune 500 companies:
- 77 percent maintain active Twitter accounts,
- 70 percent have Facebook pages and
- 69 percent have YouTube accounts.
Why the vast disparity? It’s a lot easier to put up 140 characters, a Facebook post or a quick video than do carry out all of the steps to have a successful organizational blog.
It’s hard to consistently produce content that people are interested in reading and that furthers your organization’s goals. It’s hard to find the executive sponsors within corporations who see the value in the blogging. And it’s even harder to teach those who are unfamiliar with it to be patient while you build an audience – and show some form of return on investment. But there is a clear path forward if you decide to get your company moving.
How to Establish a Successful Organizational Blog
- Determine what you want to accomplish. This is often the most overlooked step. If you don’t know where you are going, you can’t know how to get there. Do you want to sell more widgets, raise your online profile, or drive additional traffic to your web site? Or all of the above? Beginning a successful blog starts with figuring out why you do it in the first place. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how infrequently I have seen this be part and parcel of a communications strategic planning process. And I won’t even bring up measurement, because from time to time, you’ll have to justify the investment in blogging to the higher ups.
- Get executive buy-in for your efforts. Oh, the fights you’ll have. You’ll need to
fight withwork with IT, whatever they call corporate communications at your employer (maybe it’s public relations, maybe it’s public affairs), legal, and each and every single person who gets tapped to write for the blog. And when you you these fightsmeetings, you’ll find that it’s extraordinarily helpful to have an 800 pound gorilla in your corner in the way of an executive champion – someone who shares your vision. has your back and can help mediate disputes.
- Get legal approval for a blog, including your comments policies. Aside from getting Legal’s approval just for the right to use a blogging platform to communicate externally, you’ll have to craft some language about things like privacy as well as comment policies. Will you accept comments (and you should)? How do you moderate them? What crosses the line into a comment that you’ll delete, and how do you do so with legal approval? How will you handle haters and trolls? So make friends with Legal early on in the process.
- Line up subject matter experts, teach them how to write for a blog and get them to produce regular content. This is probably the most common reason why many blogs fail after a great launch or start. They don’t get fed with content, the readers whom you built up stop visiting, your audience – and your blog – wither away. You need to feed the beast with compelling content that people want to read – and a big part of this is teaching those people who are expert at something at your organization how to write in a way that works for a blog. Short, concise, lots of bullet points and a call-to-action at the end. This is a skill that can be taught and learned.
- Establish an editorial calendar. Similar to #5, you’ll want to map out, well in advance, what you are going to put on the blog, why, and who is going to write it. Oh – and you’ll likely end up having to nag the hell out of people in the process. Regular, quality content builds an audience.
- Stick with it long enough to ensure success. This is another one of the reasons why so many corporate blogs are abandoned. It’s takes a lot of time and effort to craft and online voice and even longer to get people to come read your content. So think in terms of years, not months, before you begin building an audience. Just because you don’t have immediate success doesn’t mean you won’t. You have to stick to it.
Are these tips the magic elixir for 69% of Fortune 500 companies that don’t blog? Not a chance, because there are a multitude of very valid reasons why many don’t invest in a blog. Blogging is not for everyone. But if your company is going to do it, do it right.
Image: Egozi, via Wikimedia Commons