Can You Measure the ROI of Blogging?

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Since joining b5media four months ago, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with corporate executives about the pros and cons of blogging. Many can get their heads around the idea that a blog can be yet another marketing/public relations tool but they remain extremely hesitant about actually launching a corporate blog. Some of the biggest questions are things such as: what’s in it for us?, what are we going to blog about?, and who within the company is going to write the blog.?

Some of the answers that executives need to embrace blogging may be answered by a new report by Forrester Research called “The ROI Of Blogging: The “Why” And “How” Of External Blogging Accountability” (15 pages, $379). Forrester attempts to apply metrics to corporate blogs such as whether the blog generates media coverage, and how many comments a blog generates. For example, Forrester estimates the 100 comments that GM’s Fast Lane blog generates a month is equal to holding a $15,000 focus group each month.

Forrester analyst Charlene Li concedes it’s difficult to accurately assess a blog’s ROI given there are no measurement standards in place. Still, give Forrester credit for taking a stab at ROI because it could give some companies a higher comfort level when it comes to launching a blog(s). For some companies, especially consumer-facing companies such as GM, blogging is a no-brainer because it provides an effective way to communicate with consumers. In Canada, companies that should definitely have blogs are Tim Horton’s, Canadian Tire and Loblaws, which could have a terrific blog based on its popular President’s Choice brand.

It is telling that one of the most common concerns I hear from executive involves negative comments from potential blog readers because they don’t want to wash their dirty launch in public. While I think there is nothing wrong about moderating comments that are profane, inappropriate or spam, it would be wrong to shy away from comments that offer constructive criticism. That’s what a conversation is all about.

My advice to many companies thinking about blogging is spend the $379 on the Forrester Report….or take me out for lunch and I’ll “evangelize” about blogging until the cows come home.

Update: In terms of why people blog, it was fascinating to see Robert Scoble have a temper tantrum over the weekend after Engadget declined to link to a long video story he did on new chips from Intel. Putting aside whether the video had news value, the disappointment over the lack of linkage puts the spotlight on why people blog. Some do it for glory, some do it for the pleasure of writing, some do it for ego, and some do it for the money. If you’re going to blog, it’s probably a good idea to figure out why you wan to do it in the first place.

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  • Eric

    You hit the nail right on the head with, “whats in it for us”. We had a debate on wether to start blogging for our company but the owner felt that for a ver y weak potential return, we would be exposing ourselves to great risk. Not to mention that everyone works long hours where we work an that they did not feel like dishing out more cash for this venture.

    Mark, I have followed the blogosphere for about a year now, and I maight be wrong, but I havn’t seen many corporate blogs from companies based in Quebec. Do you have any info on this.

  • Mark Evans

    I think this debate is happening within a lot of companies. As for your question about corporate blogs in Quebec, there are none that I’ve heard about. In fact, few Canadian companies are blogging right now.

  • Hockey hacker

    Most corporations want to have conversations with current and prospective customers and others on their terms…focus groups controlled by them, written questionnaires devised by the corporation, etc…all techniques where the corporation can control the content and distribution of the responses.

    Corporate blogging is all about the conversation with no filters (except for rude, vulgar, or demeaning content). It assumes a level of transparency that does not exist within corporate cultures. This is the biggest barrier. The corporate response of lack of ROI or resource constraints is a convenient shield they hide behind.

    If one doubts this view, examine closely PR’s role and influence within the corporation and it becomes abundantly clear.

  • Jim Courtney

    Yesterday Michael Seaton, Director of Digital Marketing at Scotiabank, gave a presentation to the Assn of Internet Marketing and Sales on how Scotiabank evolved from an email newsletter, The Vault, to a weekly podcast, The Money Clip. They were careful not to appear as any type of Scotiabank promotion while providing personal and business financial management advice. Botton line: Seems like Scotiabank’s management is sold on the value of web-based media such as blogging and podcasts.

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