Priya Ganapati writes in Inc.com that business blogs are growing as a business marketing tool, in particular among small businesses.
I’m quoted in the article (along with blogging buddy Paul Chaney of Radiant Marketing) as pointing out that blogs are tailor made for small businesses.
I believe that the blog as an external marketing vehicle is well suited for smaller businesses, more so than for large corporations.
Certainly we see a few corporations where large numbers of employees are blogging. However, it takes a special corporation to have enough trust in its employees to let them blog publicly. Robert Scoble and the minions at Microsoft come to mind. Most corporations simply aren’t as open as Microsoft.
And what about CEOs and other executive management? Again, I don’t think so.
The idea of a C-level executive (CEO, CFO, etc.) of a Fortune 500 company speaking directly to the public in his or her own voice through a blog may sound attractive. In practice it is devilishly hard to pull off.
Large corporations have too many constituencies they have to worry about offending. The highest level executives are in a virtual straight-jacket when it comes to what they can say publicly. Legal concerns limit their public statements — in the United States think SEC regulations, for instance.
Not to mention that it takes commitment to sustain a blog for more than a few months. Blogging takes time. Corporate executives sometimes have two or three administrative assistants to manage their schedules. How will they find enough “free time” to blog consistently?
More importantly, if you are a shareholder, do you really want to pay your executive managers millions of dollars annually to blog? Instead of focusing on crucial issues such as profitability and growth? As a shareholder, I know my answer.
Small businesses, on the other hand, have more freedom to speak directly to their audience. Their target markets are usually narrower. They don’t have millions of shareholders. Therefore, they can speak plainly with less risk of offending someone. Nor do small businesses have to worry about coming up on the receiving end of an Elliott Spitzer subpoena.
Small business owners may not have more time than Fortune 500 CEOs, but they usually need the marketing push from a blog enough that they will make the time. And when they do, the return on investment to their small business is much greater than the return to, say, General Motors when the Vice Chairman starts blogging. Just look at the recent GM earnings release — they’ve got bigger problems than a public blog can solve.
Does this mean that blogs are not important to large corporations? No! Internal (non-public) blogs certainly have an important place in the large corporation. And I believe non-executive employees can blog effectively on their operational slices of the world. But that means a loss of control. How many corporations will feel comfortable about large numbers of their employees blogging publicly is the issue.
When it comes to public-facing blogs — for marketing purposes — large corporations are better off being talked about positively in third-party blogs than by having their own blogs. The smart corporations monitor other blogs closely. They learn from and respond to what is being said.
With smaller businesses, it’s the other way around. The likelihood of being talked about in other blogs is much lower. Small businesses get greater marketing leverage from starting and promoting their own blogs.