B2B: Blogging to Business

Technorati, a top blog tracking site which currently tracks 55.2 million blogs, says that, “there are about 75,000 new blogs a day . . . there are about 1.2 million posts daily, or about 50,000 blog updates an hour.” Along with the explosion of content, readership is also increasing, according to a July report from comScore the number of blog visitors has increased 56 percent over last year. A piece in Corporate Report Wisconsin points out both the pros and cons of this scenario, “Admittedly, much of the blogosphere is riddled with self-indulgent junk copy and teenage prattle, but there’s a growing sector that appeals to the mainstream, and a blog can appeal to a very narrow niche audience.” As the blogosphere evolves, businesses are becoming more involved. No longer the home only of teenage journals and posts from political junkies, blogs from Fortune 500 companies and other large enterprises are beginning to appear with increased frequency. Rightly so suggests Dana VanDen Heuvel, founder of consulting agency BlogSavant, he believes that blogs can be a company’s greatest free market research tool. According to him, “Blogging, when done properly, has allowed everyone – from small, corner-store businesses to the likes of IBM and Microsoft – to connect with their customers like never before.” Taking advantage of this is not entirely new, for a while now the B2C industry has capitalized on the bi-directional nature of blogs, incorporating blog-generated feedback into product development and using blogs as a forum for self-promotion. However, now a greater number of B2B companies are getting involved and for much the same reasons as their B2C cousins.

Sun Microsystems’ CEO, Jonathan Schwartz is a believer, “The blog has become for me the single most effective vehicle to communicate to all of our constituencies — developers, media, analysts and shareholders,” (Schwartz’s blog is now published in 10 languages and, according to the Financial Times gets 50,000 viewers each month.) Though Schwartz is among a small but growing group of CEO bloggers, his involvement indicates that there is a growing number in the B2B community that believe blogs are worthwhile. Research from KnowledgeStorm, “the Internet’s top-ranked search resource for technology solutions and information,” concurs. KnowledgeStorm points out that blogs may represent the shift that marketers have been looking for in the Internet, an opportunity to use it to engage and influence large groups of people. As mentioned in regards to the B2C community, this realization is not entirely new, however, the B2B community is now seeing benefits as well. From the report, “This year, for the first time, blogs have joined top-rated communication tactics such as free-trial demos, Webcasts and white papers as successful means for attracting high-quality technology prospects, according to MarketingSherpa’s 2006 Business Technology Marketing Benchmark Guide.”

The company’s report, How Blogs and Real Simple Syndication (RSS) Impact B2B Technology Purchase Decisions, was administered in August 2006 and represents responses from more than 4,500, “business and IT professionals across a variety of job titles, vertical industries and company sizes.” Overall the report finds that, “Blogs are now commanding a powerful presence within the B2B marketplace, as demonstrated by the large number (80 percent) of respondents in this report who already take advantage of this technology.” Fifty-one percent of respondents read blogs at least once a week, 28 percent on a monthly basis, and only 10 percent have ‘never’ used blogs to access business or technology topics. Readers are finding relevant information on blogs and are influenced by what they are reading. Blogs on specific technology topics are considered valuable by 49 percent of respondents and just over half, 53 percent, “felt the content they read in blogs already impacts their purchasing decisions.” Blog credibility, listed as the primary objection users had to blogs, had respondents on the fence, 57 percent, “rated blogs equally as or more credible than more traditional forms of media such as news outlets, industry publications, vendor white papers, analyst reports and industry or professional associations.” The number two objection was lack of expert content, “Sixty-seven percent of respondents did not feel there were enough expert bloggers currently covering technology topics.” It may or may not be surprising, with all the blogs out there, that discerning readers cite lack of quality content, particularly in regards to technology, as a major drawback. However, it certainly is not slowing down production.

With the wheat and the chaff both increasing at an astounding rate, blogs are now creating what their insightful and link-rich postings used to alleviate, information overload. This will soon join the top of the list of challenges blogs face. The KnowledgeStorm report suggests that a pairing of blog content and Really Simple Syndication (RSS), as a tool to distill the information overload, is a good one. RSS makes blog, and other content, “available for syndication or distribution across the Web. Instead of bookmarking favorite Websites and periodically visiting them, RSS allows users to have news and information from these same sites automatically delivered to their desktops in one convenient and organized reader.” Despite the power of coupling blog content and RSS delivery, the survey found a disparity among respondents in regards to the two. Only 59 percent said they were ‘somewhat’ to ‘very’ familiar with RSS, compared to 86 percent for blogs; and only “Thirty-one percent of respondents said they receive RSS feeds. Apparently, most buyers of technology products and services still visit Websites and blogs themselves.” Still, one third, the number of technology buyers using RSS, represents a substantial portion and KnowledgeStorm suggests that, “technology marketers should experiment with RSS in order to push relevant content out to their audiences, especially as spam filters and firewalls continue to reduce the effectiveness of e-mail marketing . . . As RSS continues to penetrate the mainstream, it will be an essential part of the marketer’s toolbox if companies want to ensure that their content becomes visible in the vast expanse of the blogosphere.”

Converts among B2B companies may swear about the effectiveness of blogs but the verdict is still out for many. Sun’s Schwartz is among the evangelical, as is Robert Scoble, formerly of Microsoft. Scoble has said that blogs allow a company to monitor and react in real time to what the press and public are saying; as an example he refers to a time when he was able, via his blog, to squash a rumor before it made its way to the headlines. However, quantifying the results and judging the ROI is difficult. In regards to RSS Cliff Bell, CIO of Phoenix Technologies, a maker of electronics components for PC motherboards says, “How do you judge the ROI of accessing information more easily?” The same might be said for the production of content.

A more complete version of this posting, with accompanying informational charts, journal articles, and research reports can be found at the website of Analyst Views Weekly.

More information on this topic can be found at Northern Light’s Software Market Intelligence Center

And in the following articles:

Apostles of the Blogosphere
Financial Times, September 25, 2006
A few weeks ago I mentioned to a friend, who works in the “new media”, that I was to start a blog for FT.com. He was not impressed. “Blogging is over,” he informed me coldly. I shrugged off the rebuke. After all blogs – personal online journals – are proliferating. According to Technorati, a firm that monitors such things, more than 50m blogs had been created by last month – and the number is doubling every six months.

Cardinal Takes Web Surfers Along on His Trip to Rome
New York Times, September 22, 2006
His day job requires adhering to traditions that are thousands of years old, but Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley’s newest hobby is decidedly modern. Cardinal O’Malley, the leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, just started a blog, complete with Internet slang and personal stories.

Chief Executives Find Worldwide Audience through Blogging
Seattle Post Intelligencer, September 18, 2006
At the helm of Sun Microsystems Inc., Jonathan Schwartz became “un blogeur” recently when he started publishing his blog in French and nine other languages. Schwartz, whose Web journal attracts 50,000 viewers each month, says going international will generate new customers and attract prospective employees in Europe, China and elsewhere. That puts the 40-year-old CEO at the vanguard of a trend in corporate communications, one that tears down barriers between executives and the general public.

RSS to Impact Advertising
MarketingShift, September 6, 2006
The adoption of RSS readers has been steady but still has yet to penetrate the mainstream, but that will change during the next 18 months. And when it does, advertisers and publishers need to know how to respond. Using RSS to track the day’s news can cut your surfing time by more than 50 percent, which makes them invaluabl. It also greatly reduces traffic to the home pages of websites since people will be able to go directly to the content that they want.

By Invitation Only
CIO, September 1, 2006
Cliff Bell came to a somewhat shocking realization last year: The two most important Internet software applications in recent history—e-mail and Web browsers—were failing his company. But Bell did notice that “blogs get traction.” That led him to explore Really Simple Syndication (RSS), a new model for keeping employees, customers and business partners up to date, one that pushes relevant information to them via subscription rather than relying on their ability to find the information.

State of the Blogosphere, February 2006 Part 1: On Blogosphere Growth
Technorati, February 6, 2006
The blogosphere is over 60 times bigger than it was only 3 years ago. New blog creation continues to grow. We currently track over 75,000 new weblogs created every day, which means that on average, a new weblog is created every second of every day – and 13.7 million bloggers are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created. In other words, even though there’s a reasonable amount of tire-kicking going on, blogging is growing as a habitual activity. In October of 2005, when Technorati was only tracking 19 million blogs, about 10.4 million bloggers were still posting 3 months after the creation of their blogs.


One Response to “B2B: Blogging to Business”

  1. Ronan Jimson Says:

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