Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blogs Are a Mature Medium

Blogs and their predecessors have been around for awhile (Wikipedia has an interesting history), but many of us only became aware of them in the early years of this decade. We watched with interest as several blogging services gained traction, specialized search engines and advertising networks were introduced, and, recently, blog audience metrics were developed. These are all signs of a mature medium, and one might expect businesses to take advantage of this low-cost way to reach their customers directly.

The sheer size of the blogosphere has clearly exploded. According to Technorati, in April 2007 they were monitoring over 70 million blogs. 120,000 new blogs were being created every day—1.4 per second! True, most of those are personal, political or news blogs. eMarketer’s newsletter (May 1, 2007) quoted a study that found that only 8% of the Fortune 500 firms, and 4% of their Global 1000, have public blogs. Reason given: they did not have policies governing the use of social media and were concerned that employee comments would damage their brand.

Policies can be established, and it doesn’t take much technical savvy to establish a blog—I’m living proof of that! Is it that most marketing managers--who aren’t part of the social-networking demographic--are not aware of the potential benefits of direct interaction with customers? Or is it a reasonable fear that the brand could be harmed? Or is it purely the fear of making a mistake, of looking foolish in the eyes of one’s colleagues and peers? What have your experiences been?

Tomorrow we’ll see one example of learning to use social media effectively and another that represents just the opposite.

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