Corporate blogs and blogs written by companies for consumers were considered a vital part of a brand's social media toolkit a few years back. Then along came Twitter and Facebook and brands had other ways in which they could communicate with their customer. Company blogs became a little unfashionable with fewer brands feeling the need to create bespoke sites. However there are signs that the corporate blogs is making something of a comeback.
So why are corporate blogs back on the agenda?
1. A lot of the content that is shared on social networking sites tends to be smaller, bite sized chunks of information. Some brands have realised that for larger more thoughtful articles that inspire their customers they need a blog.
2. Blogs are becoming increasingly good for search engine optimisation. As mainstream media continues to contract there is more of an opportunity for brands to become content owners in their own right. Here's an example of how this can work. This company
sells CCTV systems and to attract more people to their site they have a blog that features lots of general security tips, as well as information about CCTV. It has performed well on search engines and the posts have driven a lot of traffic to the company's main sales based site.
3. Blogs are becoming content hubs feeding social networking sites and at the same time becoming a place where content created for those sites can also be housed. So for example brands are taking RSS from the blog to get content (thumbnail images and a few sentences) onto Facebook, while at the same time embedding YouTube videos that they have created on the blog .
On one level the arguments for customer publishers producing branded blogs seems very compelling. Customer publishers are expert in creating branded content, they know and understand the brand's core values and generally have very strong relationships with brand's marketing teams. So why are so few customer publishing companies producing corporate blogs? And will this change in the future?
The reason why so few customer publishing companies are producing blogs is more to do with how their clients see blogging rather than anything else. Brands are clearly still a little reluctant to create blogs. Very few of the FTSE top 100 companies have a blog and there does appear to be some reticence about blogging as a method of engaging with an audience. Some brands are clearly afraid that engaging with social media might damage their brand status. Others believe that their top execs have very little to say directly to consumers.
This is a view echoed by Paul Crabtree, Director of Velo
Marketing, a technology lead marketing agency who has worked with customer publishers.. 'Many are reluctant to produce blogs unless they have high profile individuals with reputations and something to say. Blogs are by their very nature authoritative, opinionated and personal - they are one person's thoughts shared with the world. If they invite comments they have the added benefit of prompting and leading a discussion. This is where customer publishing agencies have an opportunity, particularly if they operate within the B2B space.'
There are signs that this is starting to change. Paul Squires of media agency Perrera
agrees that individuals are important and is also adamant that there is a very real opportunity for customer publishing companies in this space. 'If a brand uses their people as the face of their offering, such as the Halifax and the famous Howard then a blog written on behalf of this person is very engaging. It gives a real personal point of view on what it is like to work within a company. From a B2B point of view, Steve Jobs writes regular open letters, the most recent being the use of flash on the iPad and these make very compelling reading.
Ikea's creative agency August Media
have just launched a social media site in support of their lifestyle magazine where the creative agency are providing a service to moderate the contributed content. No one knows Ikea's brand like these guys and is a classic example of how customer publishing agencies can really offer value to clients through blogs and social media.
There are however reasons why customer publishers haven't championed blogging. In some respects they have bigger fish to fry. Producing a blog for a brand is nowhere near as lucrative as producing monthly magazines. Also there Customer publishers don't tend to blog themselves. By blogging customer publishers would have a better idea of how blogging actually works and maybe feel more confident in being able to pitch blogs to their clients.
Paul Keers of Axon Publishing
thinks it is essential that branded content companies have their own blogs. 'I think that customer publishing is largely ignored by the rest of magazine publishing, and as a consequence, it's very important that we do blog and place publishing developments in the context of our profession. Some of my own blog entries
have been inspired by items at places like the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard, who explore issues in mainstream journalism; often these have particular relevance for customer publishing. For instance, they ran an item on the decline in proofreading - I blogged that actually, because clients insist that anything under their name is correct, customer publishers probably have higher sub-editing standards than many mainstream titles nowadays.'
The other side of this issue is how to connect with existing bloggers outside of your owned content. Clearly, there are many ways in which to do this, with the most important summed up in just two words: be useful
. Brands will not deliver emotional connections leading to social coverage, unless they offer something deep, rich and meaningful.'