Consider this piece of data that leads a new Forrester Research report (free registration required in order to download report): only one in six consumers (just 16%) trust company blogs. For believers in the power of social media, this just doesn’t seem right. After all, using a blog to put a more human face on any business should be the most trusted form of communication, right? It turns out that many businesses who are launching blogs are doing so solely to promote their latest marketing messages. As the report points out, "companies that selfishly blog about their products [are reinforcing] the idea that blogs can’t be trusted." In other words, 84% of corporate blogs today probably suck.
What’s driving this prevailing consumer distrust? It can be many things, from pressure within an organization to make sure that a blog is "branded" enough in what it talks about, to inexperience of a random member of the marketing team charged with launching a blog but without a strategy in mind for how to make it something compelling. Usually, the deficiency comes down to content. Launching a blog with nothing to say is like paying for a blank magazine ad … sure you own the space, but you’ve done nothing with it.
So what’s the solution? As Forrester’s report argues, part of it is to make sure that blogging is part of a larger social media strategy. Intel is a good example. They have launched several corporate blogs – but more than that, they have an innovative program to bring social media influencers behind the scenes at Intel, they have many employees who have their own personal blogs, and just yesterday Intel publicly launched their official Social Media Guidelines which demonstrate to employees and the world exactly what their commitment to social media is within the organization.
The biggest lesson in all this is one of commitment. Launching a corporate blog or deciding to engage with social media is something you need to commit resources and attention to. The cost is one of human labor, not hard cash. And in a recession, the one thing you should be willing to commit more readily to than anything else your time and the time of your employees to something that can have a big impact if done right. Should you be worried that only 16% of people trust corporate blogs? Not at all. The thing you should worry about is whether or not your customers trust your blog.
*Disclosure – Intel is a current client of Ogilvy PR and I have worked on their business and advised them on social media in the past (but I did not work on the social media guidelines mentioned in this post).