Corporate Blogging & Its Discontents

Fortune 500 Blogging Adoption, 2008-2012 [CHART]

  • 28% of Fortune 500 companies have public blogs this year [TWEET THIS STAT]
  • That’s a 5% increase from 23% in 2011 and 2010
  • And is up 75% from 2008, when just 16% of the Fortune 500 had public blogs

Photo of a laptop keyboard ready for corporate blogging

THOUGHT: My standard operating procedure when someone tells me they want to start a blog is to try my damnedest to talk them out of it. And if I can’t talk them out of it, I try again. And Again. And Again.

If I still can’t talk them out of blogging, then I know they’re ready to be a blogger.

I really don’t think you can be a successful blogger if you don’t have a burning desire to blog. It might be that you are so passionate about a topic that you have strong opinions you need to share and feel are worth sharing. It might be because you are fascinated with the format and need to discover how it works. It may simply be that you recognize the value and potential blogging offers and therefore you know precisely how you want to use a blog.

I don’t try and convince people not to blog because I’m a killjoy. There are some very practical reasons for my insistence that people blog. First and foremost among them is the fact that blogging is hard work; it requires a ton of effort, discipline, and stamina.

A close second reason for not blogging is that abandoned blogs speak ill of those who abandoned them. An abandoned blog can advertise to the world that you don’t know what you’re doing, or you haven’t got much to say, or you’ve got commitment issues, or a whole host of things, none of which are positive.

Despite all this, I do find it a bit shocking that only 28% of Fortune 500 companies currently blog.

Small businesses have the obvious reason of lack of resources for failing to adopt blogging (though they may have the most to gain from it); but a Fortune 500 company certainly can find budget for a blogger.

It makes little marketing sense that 75% of Fortune 500 companies use Twitter but only 28% blog.

Twitter, of course, is shared media while a blog is owned media. The question is: Would you rather lease an audience or own one? With Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, you’re leasing the audience. Those platforms are granting you access to their audience.

But with a blog (and, coupled, perhaps, with an email newseltter), you’re developing a relationship directly with your audience while circumventing those meddlesome middlemen.

It appears to me that Fortune 500 companies have got it backward.  They should be using Twitter and Facebook as tools to build their own audiences on their own terms and through their own channel.

So why have they got it bassackwards?

My guess is that it’s tough to build a successful corporate blog for a large company because the nature of the organization tends to discourage it.

If you’re lucky enough to have a top executive who takes it upon themselves to blog, possesses all of the passionate qualities I cited above, and has the clout within the company to get it going, and then leads by example by sustaining the blog, they you may have a company that will fully benefit from all that blogging has to offer.

But that’s not usually the case.

When you don’t have someone leading from the top and by example, then risk looms ever greater in the equation for anyone considering proposing a blog. You need the right person who is also willing to stick their neck out by starting a blog, is willing to fight for resources to make it successful, is strong enough to absorb and deal with inevitable criticism, and someone who recognizes how and when a blog has been successful and can communicate those successes to the powers that be.

We are also at a point in history where the generations have yet to align that will open the inevitable floodgates of corporate blogging.

I truly believe that corporate blogging will eventually become as ubiquitous as having a simple website is now. But right now, the top echelons of corporate leadership are occupied by Baby Boomers, for whom all too often, blogging and social media is merely a bizarre exercise in narcissism. And you also have the first half of Generation X, who are more likely to share a certain technophobia with their Boomer brothers and sisters than the technological awe  the younger half of the Gen X generation will more likely share with Millennials.

Leadership of corporate America may not be very interested in blogging right now but, as the great line from Casablanca goes, they will be: Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. And for the rest of your life.

RANDOM READ: The Wally Hilgenberg story by Star Tribune reporter Mike Kaszuba, highlights the toll concussions take on professional football players and the consequences they may face later in life as a result of having their “bell rung” multiple times. I would not be surprised (nor necessarily disappointed) to see professional football eventually become a touch or flag football league.

Consider that the demand for youth football equipment appears to be on the decline since 2004 coupled with the rise of sports like lacrosse, and it’s easy to draw the obvious conclusion that parents are nudging their kids toward less violent sports.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.