New report suggests corporate blogging may be at saturation point

A new study of the world’s 500 largest public corporations by the University of Massachusetts Center for Marketing Research indicates that the level of corporate blogging may have flat-lined while the adoption of of other social media platforms, especially Twitter, continues to escalate rapidly.

Corporate blogging

Of the Fortune 500 companies, 22%, have a public-facing blog with a post in the past 12 months, including three of the top five companies (Wal-Mart, Chevron and General Electric).  That’s up just 6% from a 2008 study.

Rank on the Fortune 500 list seemed to influence the adoption of blogging by the F500. The top 100 companies (or to 20%) on the list represent 39% of the 108 blogs.

All 108 blogs were examined to determine the level of interactivity the blog allowed — 90% percent of the Fortune 500 blogs take comments, have RSS feeds and take subscriptions.

Twitter

Of the 108 blogs located, 93 (86%) are linked directly to a corporate Twitter account, a more than 300% increase over the 2008 study.

173 (35%) of the primary corporations listed on the 2009 Fortune 500 have a Twitter account with a post within the past 30 days. Of these companies, four of the top five corporations (Wal-Mart, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and General Electric) consistently post on their Twitter accounts. For more on GE’s social media efforts: click here.

Podcasting and video

The 2009 Fortune 500 were also examined to determine usage of additional social media tools. 19% of the 2009 Fortune 500 use podcasting (up from 16%) and 31% are using video on their blog sites (up from 21%).

Implications

While blogging has more or less flat-lined for the mega-companies, a recent article I posted on the fast-growing Inc. 500 corporations showed a much higher rate of adoption. In fact, nearly half of the Inc. 500 had corporate blogs compared to 22% for the Fortune 500.  What could this mean? I guess you would expect smaller companies to be fleeter in adopting new ideas, but blogging isn’t that new.  Besides, the incredible adoption of Twitter demonstrates that the Fortune 500′s do have at least some understanding of the social web.

I have experienced first-hand how difficult it is to manage a meaningful blog in a public company straddled with so many laws and regulations. It’s hard to be responsive and authentic when you have to get everything reviewed by the legal department.  I’m guessing that many companies are experiencing the same angst –   What is the role of a blog in the corporate communications structure?  What are the benefits versus the cost of approvals and the time needed from executives to sponsor the work?  And just how many blogs does the world need any way?  Does the heightened use of video and podcasting indicate companies are turning to new means of expression?

What do you think?  Has corporate blogging reached its saturation point?

{grow} community alert: Jon Buscall has written a wonderful companion piece that actually answers the questions I pose here!

Many thanks to Nora Barnes and Eric Mattson for their detailed and important research.

Illustration: Web Tycoon

The thrill of victory, the agony of re-tweet

I had two very contrasting social web experiences in the past 24 hours that I wanted to share.

The first came from one of my students, who is urgently trying to learn how the social web can benefit her business.  Yesterday, she had exciting news to share: “We just had out first re-tweet!  I couldn’t wait to tell my boss.  We are so excited!  Now … what do I do?”

We talked about the importance of community-building and connections and how RT’s on Twitter are a nice way to compliment and reach-out to people.

The second episode came from a blog post I read from a Twitter personality who as far as I can see does nothing but re-tweet other people’s links all day long. His post was about how he had now received more re-tweets than the Huffington Post and was one of the top-10 re-tweeted people on Twitter.   Who actually measures these things?  He made no connection between his RT’s and personal relationships or any benefits other than he is on somebody’s list. There were about a dozen comments on the post … none of them from him. There was no engagement, no community, no sharing.  For him, the ridiculous notion of re-tweet count was simply a mythical badge of honor.

These two stories illustrate the best and the worst of the social web.

If you authentically cherish and appreciate those who are connecting with you, you will ultimately succeed in creating personal and business benefits.  Can you hold on to the excitement you felt when you saw your first re-tweet, or the first comment on your blog?

If you approach this as a numbers game to validate your own self-esteem, people will easily see through your veneer and in the long-term you’ll have a lot of meaningless followers trying to sell you a spot on the Trump Network.

Where are you on your social media journey?  Are you creating meaningful connections?

Illustration: www.zazzle.com

The NEW “Four P’s” of marketing

Place, product, price and promotion.

We all learned these basic marketing principles in college and they still stand up today. But the social web is a true shift in the way we communicate and go to market.  For the first time, mankind has access to real-time, free, instantaneous, two-way, global communication — and the good old marketing mantra needs a little updating.  Here are my thoughts on the NEW Four P’s of social media marketing — People, Presence, Pervasiveness and Publishing.

People

The social web is the first true PEOPLE-driven communication channel.  Everybody’s a video star, a rock star, a broadcaster, an author. Everybody creates, reviews, publishes, and bitches.  Publicly.  Permanently.  We have the opportunity to listen intimately and often. We can tune in to laugh and cry with our customers, wherever they are in the world. The consumer-driven web is the biggest marketing revolution since radio.

Presence

This is different from the old concept of “place.”  The old marketing “place” to sell, market or distribute was a tangible location like a grocery store. We knew where our consumers were … and they’ve probably been there for decades.   Where are they getting their information today?  From a video game?  From a link on a tweet?   From their phone?  From a coupon on their phone automatically sent to them by an RFID/GPS system while they are standing next to your product in the grocery store?

To make it even more complicated, a customer’s source of information may be constantly shifting.  Think of the implications if you choose incorrectly or your competitor moves into an emerging platform more rapidly. Kind of makes you want to go back to newspapers, huh? That’s why you need to develop a presence that can adapt and adjust to wherever consumer attention drags you. It will be fascinating to watch the big brands create a unified and compelling presence across so many platforms.

Pervasiveness

Let’s take a lesson from Twitter to illustrate this key concept. For years, Twitter hasn’t focused on making money. It has focused on DOMINATING  and pervading a consumer space. Why? They know that consumers will have the bandwidth for just one micro-blogging site. Once they devote their emotional equity to one platform it will be extremely difficult to get them to switch. Perhaps impossible. And that’s what Twitter is counting on.

So it might be easy to get folks to taste a new brand of cookie or soft drink, but it will be much more difficult to get them to switch to an unfamiliar communication or marketing channel.  Brand marketers jockeying for precious consumer online attention will have to develop ideas and entertainment concepts that are pervasive and with high emotional switching costs.  Not cheap. Not easy.

Publishing

Five years ago, would you consider a shoe company to be a significant publisher?  Yet Zappos has more than a dozen blogs. I contend the biggest challenge to any marketer may be the publishing of consistently engaging, meaningful content. And increasingly that means cutting through the clutter with entertaining content like puzzles, games, contests and videos. The implications of sustaining an organization’s publishing presence is daunting!

So what’s your take on this?  How are you adjusting to the new P’s?  How are you integrating them with the old ones?

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