The Wrong Question
In some ways I believe the question in the title is almost wholly wrong, but it seems to be a major topic of interest if you do a search, as I did, for articles on business blogging. If you feel it is inappropriate now, it was even more inappropriate in 2008. However apparently Business Week did not think so.
In 2005, it published an article entitled Blogs will change your business.
Look past the yakkers, hobbyists, and political mobs. Your customers and rivals are figuring blogs out. Our advice: Catch up…or catch you later.
It was an excellent article and received wide coverage and many downloads. So not surprisingly they updated it and reprinted it in 2008. The surprise was that they changed the title. Now they proclaimed, Social Media Will Change Your Business.
Why It Might Appear Logical
Although businesses in general are not moving en masse either to blogging or to involvement in the social media, it is not surprising that commentators might think that social media represented a more fruitful terrain to explore.
One indicator of this can be seen by using the Google Insights tool. If you do a search for 'blog' then you see the results below:
Over the years there has been a steady and gradual growth in searches for blog which is perhaps an indicator of the ongoing interest in blogs.
On the other hand if you do a search on Google Insights for Facebook, one of the social media, you get a dramatically different picture. Facebook in the last three years has taken off almost exponentially.
If you compare these two analyses in one picture, then you might feel the argument for getting involved in Facebook rather than blogging must be without question. The line for blog can hardly be seen when measured against the scale required to display the Facebook explosion.
Why For Most Businesses,This Argument Is Wrong For Many Reasons
The fact that many, many more people are talking about Facebook than are talking about blogs does not necessarily prove that social media will be more useful to business than business blogs. Indeed if you consider some of the factors involved, you may rapidly be dissuaded.
Social Media Are Often Trivial
Unfortunately without question, a high proportion of the communication that takes place in social media is about very trivial matters. Indeed a good article by Tom Davenport quantifies this as he laments, Let's Tweet About Something Important!
So here we are again: a promising new medium being used largely for vapid chattering about celebrities. Couldn't these technologies be used for good?
Unlike Social Media, Blogs Are Search Engine Friendly
Whereas social media have immediate impact, they provide little visibility in search engine keyword searches. This is where blogs have a real advantage since their natural architecture creates many links that are particularly important in Google searches. Blogs also create associated RSS news feeds that provide instant impact in the news feed readers and increase the search engine visibility.
Business blogs provide information to searchers
Having a blog or blogs means that businesses can create for themselves privileged ways of communicating with searchers who are interested in their products and services. Of course many of these searchers are also purchasers. What could be better than coming on a prospect's radar screen as they are searching for possible suppliers.
Business Bloggers Make Mistakes
Given the above arguments, it might be assumed that a goodly proportion of businesses would have one or more business blogs. This is far from the case. What often seems to be the case is that a business starts off a blog with the very best of intentions but in some way loses the momentum.
A good article in Mashable, lists the Top 5 Business Blogging Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. Here is their list of Mistakes:
- Treating Your Blog Like a Press Center
- Not Blogging Regularly
- Not Enabling Conversation
- Making New Content Hard to Discover
- Expecting Too Much, Too Soon
The blog will only be of interest to prospects and clients if these mistakes are avoided. It is also usually true that whatever is proving weak for human readers may also represent weaknesses in gaining search engine visibility.
Social Media Are Not An Easier Solution
Lest it be thought that blogs represent the tough alternative, a major word of caution is appropriate about social media. The very nature of social media is that people talk to people. They do not wish to be talked at by companies seeking to hawk their wares. It is therefore a tough challenge for any company to decide on the best way of letting their people be involved in social media activities. As yet, there is not a large body of successful case studies to suggest the best approach.
Marketing Is a Dialogue
The best marketing communication is a dialogue between a business and its customers and prospects. This can be difficult to manage in social media. On the other hand, blogging is an ideal vehicle for such a dialogue.
The final choice in whether blogging or social media or both is the best strategy depends very much on the particular market. If new products and services can easily create a buzz so that people want to tell their friends then social media should undoubtedly be included in the marketing mix. For more technical products and services, social media will be less useful. However in both cases appropriate blogs will provide an important support for other marketing initiatives.