Friday, 20 June 2008

Firms mull over blogs; doubt its business value

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A majority of U.S. companies are now at least considering corporate blogs, but there are still plenty of businesses not convinced that blogging has business potential.
  • Forrester Research Inc. surveyed 275 IT decision makers at U.S. companies with 500 or more employees and found that while 54% of those polled said they are blogging at some level -- or at least considering an investment -- 46% have no plans to invest in blogs.
  • According to the Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm, the reason so many of them have no interest in blogs is because they see no business value in blogging. It's a headache they don't want and many have more critical problems to solve.
According to a Forrester analyst, strategic decision makers see adoption of blogs in the consumer world and they see the chaos that goes on. They see the flame wars and so forth, and they question the validity of its business value. But the main stumbling point on blogs is that the business return isn't as revolutionary as most people expect. A lot of companies look at blogs and think, 'Boy it should be doing a heck of a lot more for us.' It provides incremental value, but not revolutionary value.

Blogging is used as a communications channel that allows for more improvisation and flexibility. Still, it's just not living up to the hype. However, some companies have found blogging to be critically important. For example, Eastman Kodak Co. - the $13.3 billion company known for its photographic technology. In an age of declining interest in film photography, Kodak was at a crossroads. Kodak was a company that was struggling with its transition to digital photography. They had their employees start blogging to share their passion for photography, and they had the scientists talking about the technology they're working on to get customers excited. Kodak has two blogs, with about 50 employees contributing to them.

Kodak considered a variety of new media options, such as podcasts and RSS feeds, before settling on blogging. Kodak saw Fortune 500 companies such as General Motors Corp. doing well with blogs and decided to try it. "A Thousand Words," a blog where employees share their passion for photography and other personal interests, receives up to 20,000 visitors a month. "A Thousand Nerds," where Kodak scientists blog about research and development, receives up to 10,000 visitors a month.

It's difficult for some companies to calculate an ROI from the blogs because it's nearly impossible to connect blog visitors to actual retail sales. But many executives see a clear business case for the blogs. The sheer volume of visitors has created a dialog between customers and the company and helped educate the market about Kodak's new business initiatives. Blogging has also raised employee morale.

Although Kodak has enjoyed success with its external-facing blogs, more companies use the technology internally. Forrester asked adopters of blog technology to list the business reasons for using it. Sixty-three percent said they use blogs for internal communications, and 50% use them for internal knowledge and content management. Forty-seven percent said they use blogs for external thought leadership and 46% said they use them for marketing to customers and prospects.

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