Ten percent of small business owners in a recent study reported that they have included blogs in their marketing plans. And 16% plan to invest in blogs over the next 2 to 3 years.
This is from a study of small business owners that HP announced last week. The study was conducted by Harris Interactive in March of 2005, and was part of HP’s activities during national Small Business Week. I was pleased to participate in discussions about the Harris/HP study results.
The HP study covered a wide variety of topics. It’s an interesting study on a number of fronts, and I will be writing more about it.
But right now I want to focus on the information about small business blogs.
Of course, no actual count of business blogs today exists. But the number in the HP survey, suggesting how many business owners’ marketing plans and future plans include blogs, is quite interesting, especially when you compare the numbers with those whose plans include websites. When you consider that not quite half of the small businesses surveyed even have websites, the fact that 10% are including plans for blogs is pretty remarkable.
I created the following charts with information from the HP survey to better see the comparisons (click each for larger image):
Note that more women surveyed have incorporated business blogs into their marketing plans than men. There could be several explanations for this. I find the data notable because it goes against a Pew Internet study suggesting blogs are male-dominated. That appears not to be the case when it comes to small business blogs. Bloghercon organizers take note.
So what are the business implications? (NOTE: the following are my own thoughts, not part of the survey results.)
For all my friends out there who are blog consultants, it sounds like there will be plenty of work to go around. Small business owners will be looking for affordable help to set up blogs and learn the ropes.
Web design firms need to incorporate weblogs into their offerings. Partnering with blog consultants could be a good marriage, since blogging is such a different animal from a typical business website. Let the blog consultants worry about the unique marketing aspect of blogs and training clients how to use them. The design firms can focus on what they do best: customizing the designs, actually building the blogs, and integrating them with businesses’ commercial websites.
SEO firms also figure in this mix. As the number of business blogs grows, it becomes harder to stand out. Search engine optimization (SEO) for blogs will become important just as it is for websites.
For businesses providing blogging software and blog-related services, targeting business bloggers could be an excellent niche. Today’s offerings are poorly suited for business blogs. Key features to include in future offerings are:
- ability to set up categories and excellent built-in search functions, so that business information can be found more easily — chronological archiving is better for personal diaries and not very useful for business blogs
- features that are more like commercial websites, including “About Us” sections, press room pages, and better navigation functionality
- easy ability to build customized RSS feeds for individual pages such as press rooms
- search engines that target business blogs specifically
- plug and play integration of eCommerce features such as product catalogs and shopping carts on sidebars
What are your thoughts?