A University of Massachusetts marketing professor has published an interesting report based on a survey of bloggers. "Behind the Scenes in the Blogosphere: Advice from Established Bloggers" contains useful information, and I recommend it if your nonprofit has a blog or is considering one.
However, in terms of using the report to drive decisions about business or nonprofit blogging, keep the second half of the study's title in mind: the ideas in this paper are based on the "self-reports" and opinions of bloggers who responded to an open call in May 2006 to participate. The study did not measure the opinions of the blogs' readers, readers' use of the blogs, or the effect of business blogs on customer or stakeholder behavior.
Also consider that not all 74 of the survey respondents were truly "business bloggers," i.e., bloggers blogging as an employee of a company or organization. As the author notes, 27% of them were "independent bloggers" such as Marketing Monger.
Therefore, I take the assertions in the report with a grain of salt. I do agree that these "blogosphere truths," as author Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes calls them, are generally true:
- Blogs take time and commitment.
- Blogs must be part of a plan.
- A blog is a conversation.
- Transparency, authenticity, and focus are good. Bland is bad.
However, there are some assertions in the report that have been contradicted recently by other established bloggers:
-- "A good blog is one where posts are fresh and new posts are frequent."
-- "One respondent says, 'Don’t start a blog unless you have people in your organization to post to it daily in an open, friendly, and excited tone.' "
While regular posts are essential, the MarketingProfs blog recently argued that frequent posts may not be desirable. Now that readers can elect to automatically receive new blog posts via email and RSS (news feeds), the promise of a new post daily is not necessary to lure readers, and the volume of daily posts can overwhelm readers and bloggers both.
-- "Participation is essential in the blogosphere. One respondent says... 'A blog is a conversation. Don’t open the line unless you’re ready to really talk.' ”
-- "It is important not to be afraid of giving up the mono-directed control that usually characterizes an organization."
While I believe that allowing for comments is beneficial for most business bloggers, Steve Rubel recently discussed why two popular independent bloggers don't accept comments. More important, in my opinion, is that the content and tone of the blog are conversational, even if it is a one-way communication.
-- "Blogs will make or break your business."
-- "Blogs are not a fad. They are no longer even an option. Those businesses that choose to remain outside this online conversation, will be sidelined. Eventually they will become extinct."
While I believe that most businesses and nonprofits could benefit from some kind of blog, no less than Nicholas Carr, a former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, argues the contrary, and offers some cautionary advice on corporate blogging: In advising businesses not to blog (or at least to be careful in doing so), he says, "And don't buy that nonsense about needing to have 'conversations' with the marketplace. That's an ideology, not a strategy."
I would turn Carr's statement around to say that blogs as conversations are a strategy, not an ideology. For most organizations, blogs are extremely effective ways to build relationships with customers and stakeholders (in a nonprofit's case -- donors, volunteers, clients, and members), and I highly recommend them. However, as I argued in my earlier post, "a blog can be like a business lunch," there are no absolute truths about business blogging.
Thanks to Dr. Barnes for the study and to the smart and succinct Steve Rubel for the tip.