The report came out last week, so it might be old news for publications that are used to being on top of technology trends, like ReadWriteWeb and The Inquisitr. [We discussed it briefly on Friday with Sarah Wurrey and Doug Haslam in the CustomScoop podcast.]
Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb stated, "Technorati says blogging is mainstream, we think the numbers indicate otherwise." I'm tempted to air my dissatisfaction with how Technorati is not updating my blog posts on their site despite the frequent pings. Could this be a cause to the reporting of a slow down in posts?
Duncan Riley's analysis at The Inquisitr is more expansive, "Technorati numbers highlight the changing nature of blogging." Indeed there are many communities with blogs that may not be cataloged by Technorati. What can we say of questions and answers on LinkedIn? Many of those are as substantial and useful as some of the better blog posts. Riley is onto something.
The new development with portable comments through Disqus and FriendFeed was flagged a little while ago by Louis Gray. Aren't comments also potentially blog posts? Many of the ones I receive here would qualify.
What do the Numbers Mean?
As a participant to the survey, I was curious to take a look at the facts and figures and to discuss what they may mean to you - publishers, brand managers, journalists and news media, communicators and customers.
It's interesting to note that of the 24 bloggers quoted by the report, only 4 are women (about 16-17%) - 3 of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting virtually, to date. Yet, one third of bloggers represented in the study are female (34%). Was that to keep in line with the findings that men tend to be expert while women tend to be more conversational? Note that the numbers reflect the survey.
This reminds me of what I learned about TV reporting - apparently, to add credibility your inflection needs to go down, and not up (as it does in questions). TV anchors are taught to make their inflection go down at the end of each statement to drive it home.
From my own conversations at professional association events, blogging is still seen as a lot more work than having a newsletter. It is a lot more work because it's not a one time deal you push through to an email list, or a static Web site. The biggest concern is also coming up with enough content to publish.
Blogs are dynamic environments where the expectation of interaction is directly proportional to the willingness of the writer to participate herself. Comments in other social media, online relationships and exchanges are all par for the course. While great content will keep people interested, you first need to get them there. It's not exactly a build-it-and-they will-come medium. If you have no time for all of that, I suggest a newsletter may be better for you.
But it's not an either/or. No one medium has entirely replaced the ones that preceded it. What you use to interact with other professionals, businesses or customers depends on where they are and what they are looking for, not the other way around.
So far, corporate adoption is the lowest of the three figures. That's because many organizations still do not recognize blogs and other forms of social media as useful. Some companies have gone as far as putting in place policies that exclude participation in social media by employees during work hours. Corporate firewalls take care of the rest.
No wonder employees feel skittish about mentioning their company or work in their own blogs.
Yet, according to another report, the 2008 Business Social Media Study* from Boston consulting firm Cone, almost 60% of Americans interact with companies on a social media study, and one in four interact more than once a week. 93% of Americans believe that companies should have a social media presence and 85% believe that in addition to being present, companies should interact with customers via social media. 56% of customers feel both a stronger connection with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.
Tomorrow we'll discuss how corporate bloggers are faced with a unique challenge. They must simultaneously speak the voice (and the message) of the organization while also "fitting in" with a community of real people. The Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) has also a Twitter account so stay tuned (updates at #, and feel free to add your comments to my post with the presentation here.
It is more likely that professionals who have experienced blogging and social media directly, as well as the corporate environment, be able to navigate the delicate balance. One thing that both companies and the online environment have in common is that they are highly political. Each can also be highly rewarding in distinct ways.
How we Measure Success
Personal satisfaction is still the highest metric, which goes a little way to explaining why companies and brands have been slower at adopting social media, especially in B2B (reports on spending aside).
The number of comments to me is still highly dependent on the popularity of the topic and the blogger style. Regular lists add to the popularity of the blogger, for example. It would help track metrics correctly if Technorati itself accounted for links properly. I do agree that any form of feedback is energizing, even that of the contrarian kind, which is the most feared by companies.
There is one very important metric that blogs do not capture - nor do Web sites - that someone has gone ahead tried something new and made something great happen as a result of learning what a blogger shared. Readers here, for example may not leave a comment, yet I hear from them off line that they took action, were inspired, created as a result of this content. In this case, the community is engaged at a very personal level - not apparent sometimes to a casual observer.
If companies are a little slow in entering the blogosphere, brands are less so. According to the Technorati report:
More than eight in ten bloggers post product or brand reviews, and almost nine in ten blog about brands that they love (or hate). Interestingly, men and women are equally likely to blog about products or services. Marketers are catching on that the blogosphere is an important place to be — one in three bloggers has been approached to be a brand advocate. Of those, more than six in ten were offered payments of some kind.
On more than one occasion I felt that you do not necessarily need trade media or media alone to launch a new product or an enhancement. You could do that with your own blog. That would also be a way to reach potential customers and bloggers, with your own voice.
Measurement is very different when we talk about corporate marketing. We're still finding the right metrics. The companies that have most to benefit from blogs and social media are those in dire need for a patch in reputation - whether that be for terrible customer service and corporate attitude or products that need help. If the company does this well, you'll find conversation there.
I have an inkling that once the honeymoon is over, once the internal story is that we've communicated and fixed the problem, some might be tempted to retrench behind the old ways. This is a situation where when the cat is out of the bag, you're not putting it back so easily.
Overall, while the report is interesting, I am feeling a bit like asking the "so what?" What do you think? Were there any surprises in it? Does the report highlight future trends for you? To me, Charlene said it best.
“Blogging isn't defined by a technology or the way words are laid out
on a page. Rather, it's a mindset, and as such, will be around for a
long, long time, evolving and improving.” [Charlene Li, Thought Leader, Altimeter Group]
I leave you with the most telling chart on why female bloggers are seen as more conversational - 83% have personal blogs vs. 76% of men; 66% tend to write about personal things, with 36% being family updates.
Being more connective is a definite advantage, one that might be appreciated yet in years to come. And not a moment too soon.
* Online survey conducted September 11-12, 2008, by Opinion Research
Corporation, among 1,092 adults comprising 525 men and 567 women 18
years of age and older.