The latest research figures suggest that 35 % of US large companies plan to implement corporate blogging by the end of 2006. If you couple this with the 35% already blogging, by the end of the year 70% of large US businesses will have adopted it as part of their online marketing strategy. The current lists being compiled on UK businesses show we have a lot of catching up to do.
Currently Thomson holidays and Guiness appear to be the only large scale UK businesses blogging. The rest of the group is composed of mainly Internet savvy PR, marketing consultants and a few niche businesses. So why arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t UK businesses following the US in such as numbers?
I recently attended the Milton Keynes Chamber businesses exhibition to distribute some leaflets. Of the people I spoke to, only about half seemed to know what a blog was and none of them knew how it could be used to market their business. Once IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d explained a few points, such as the ability to develop relationships over time and the SEO value, I was able to generate some interest and a few enquiries.
Chris Lake, editor of E-Consultancy, has compiled a list of fourteen reasons why UK businesses arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t blogging. I would agree with all his points in that it is simply due to lack of awareness and misconceptions that are holding back its growth in this country.
Many traditional marketers in large organisations are still struggling to understand the idea of a two way conversation, and perhaps donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think the US business model applies over here. Us Brits are, after all, supposed to be a reserved lot so why would people want to leave messages on your website other than to complain and create bad publicity?
What these marketers fail to realise is that if they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t provide a forum for feedback then disgruntled customers can simply post their comments on another site. You just have to look at the damage done to Dell computers reputation by failing to engage with bloggers to understand that putting your head in the sand isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t going to work.
Responding to feedback should be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate good customer service practices and to engage with your customer base. The answers you post in resolving problems can be used as a resource for helping other people with technical or service orientated questions. Blogs are designed for feedback and interaction so why not use it to improve your companiesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ image?
Another good point Chris makes is how businesses should be measuring the ROI of a blog. This had previously been a stumbling block, or so I thought, as although blogs such as Englishcut and Stormhoek have done wonders for their sales I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really promote them as typical examples.
The ROI of blogging should instead be measured in terms of SEO, relationship building and customer retention. These can all measured in terms of ROI with fixed costs. The number of more visitors you will receive from being on the first page of Google, the number of responses to an email campaign and the cost of customer retention are all facets of marketing with costs and measurable ROI. A blog can achieve all of these at once and far more cost effectively. Employing an agency to get you on the first page of Google can cost thousands, whilst a blog can achieve this for free whilst also marketing your business.
Many small businesses probably think they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the time or sufficient news to feed a blog every week. Building trust and confidence with your marketplace can be achieved by discussing industry news, how you have solved a customerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s problem or how your product can be used. So long as what you write is of value, there is plenty of scope for showing your knowledge and expertise in your field.
Business blogging hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t taken off in the UK as it has in the US yet. The benefits it presents in marketing your business and developing online exposure means it is inevitable that its adoption will grow as awareness spreads.
Some would suggest that the tipping point when they become more widespread wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen for another eighteen months. This presents an opportunity in itself for the first pioneering businesses to receive the most exposure and position themselves as knowledge leaders for their field.