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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Forrester Finds Consumers Think 84% Of Corporate Blogs Suck

Imb_forresterrethinkblogging_2 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).


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I think we are getting carried away here. We are in an era of institutional mistrust. So depending on how the question was asked, the immediate reaction would be negative.

I agree with the general idea about a larger social media strategy, but that too misses the point about corporate culture. Is the culture ready to be "social" - That is a much larger question than assembling the right tools to use as some might suggest is a social media strategy.

You also say "The cost is one of human labor, not hard cash." As a business owner I have a different perspective, everything is hard cash, whether it is the time an employee is putting into tactic A and not tactic B, even though both need to get done. There is always a cost. It is either hard cash to purchase, or hard cash missed as an opportunity that goes unfulfilled.

The question is whether social media can generate hard cash, which I realize can come in a variety of ways. Personally I bet yes. We'll see what my accountant, and my wife says :)
All the best,

Thanks for highlighting this report, Rohit.

I think you are making an error, however, when you conflate consumer distrust of corporate blogs with the quality or credibility of those blogs. These are two quite separate and, for the social media communicator, critical differences.

No matter how honest, responsible, respectful and un-promotional a corporate blog might be, there will still be a very large percentage of consumers who will inherently mistrust it. And who, really, can blame them? Corporations simply have never been terribly good at honest and open communications, and seizing on a cool new tool ain't gonna make them so.

The challenge for corporate social media communicators, then is two fold. In the first instance, they must adhere to best practices and avoid the temptation to harness their blog to the sales and revenue-producing objectives of marketing and promotion. But even when they do that, they have a far-too-lengthy history of corporate self-interest to overcome before they will persuade all readers that they are on the up and up.

Most corporate blogs might well suck. But consumers distrust them not because they suck but because of their source.

@Albert - Good point about the importance of a corporate culture needing to be ready for the shift. And of course, human time is a cost to a business, though different from cash outlay. The strategic question, to me, is what can social media do for your brand? In some cases, it may generate hard cash - as you suggest. In others it may correct misperceptions about a brand, offer a way to communicate directly with customers, or serve as a crisis management vehicle. All of these are valid business reasons to use social media that can justify its cost, whether measured in dollars or hours.

@Francis - You raise a good point here, and obviously the title of the post was intended to be a bit provocative ... but one of the points that I got from the Forrester report was that a key reason for consumer distrust was because the blogs tend to focus on promotion instead of offering something useful. The positive brand example Josh uses in the report of Rubbermaid blogging about how to get organized demonstrates how having more relevant content can solve the issue of distrust along with improving the quality of the blog. You're right that quality alone may not do it, as consumers may have other reasons for distrusting a blog. But I suspect that improving blog content and making it more about what customers want than your own brand would solve much of the distrust issue.

Interesting post. I'm glad I work on one of the 16% of corporate blogs that don't suck. At least I hope.

Seriously, I would be surprised if someone thought they couldn't trust our blog. I'm not even sure what they wouldn't trust about the things we write about.

Finally, totally agree with corporations needing to have overall social media strategies. I'm going to read Intel's guidelines now. May be something we can learn from it.

Thanks for the post!

Hi Rohit,
thanks for posting this. These are rather encouraging numbers in my book because it shows there is still a lot of work left for social marketers.

We are currently running a social media campaign for the German DMV that is very well received. This the government but we have the freedom to present them in a refreshing manner and are able to really surprise the audience in a positive way. They never expected to be eye to eye with this institution.

We also moved on to put our (potential) clients through a pretty rigorous screening process. We are not afraid to shock them. If we feel that they are not ready yet we will turn them down, rather than accepting the project.

As for corporate blogging I think the willingnes to learn from professionals is as important as havig the right mindset. You could test any client by throwing some offensive statements at them and see how they react;-)

Thanks for your comments on the study. Big fan of PNI and have distributed it widely within our organization, so it was no surprise when your name came up this morning. Your post was highlighted as we were on the topic of upcoming blog posts and it started a lively discussion about whether we are one of the "84% of blogs that suck".

I'm fortunate to working for a company with a "social" culture more accurately an "open" culture. Our CEO's statement on our blog speak volumes about that culture when he says "I want to be very clear - this blog is not a forum to pat ourselves on the back. It is a place to openly share ideas and expressions about our space along with the challenges that we all face day to day in trying to improve our marketing performance."

We use that "open" lens to look at each post we do. It's that type of focus, our contributors commitment speak the truth ( and our company commitment to innovation that I think puts us in the 16% group. But the statistic we most driven by is what percentage of our customer think we suck and I'm shooting for 0% on that one.

16% seems high compared to blogs in general. A lost more than most suck.

It's also possible that corporate blogs aren't written for consumers. Corporations have many audiences, including investors, press, current and future employees.

Which, of course, goes back to deciding how to most effectively communicate online.

Hi Rohit:

My hypothesis for this result is that there is a lack of humanity in corporate blogs. There needs to be a person there who has a point of view and engages readers in something more than pitching their own products.

Blogs are still a broadcast medium, and rarely cross the bridge to conversations.

It has to be human, helpful, real, credible.



I totally agree with what you say about blogs needing a point of view and to be human, helpful, real, and credible.

But as to the rest of your hypothesis, it may have been correct a few years ago, but certainly isn't universally true anymore.

Let's give the good corporate blogs (the ones that don't suck) some credit. There are a LOT of good corproate blogs out there that do engage in conversation, that don't just shill products, and are trying to make a difference in their customer's lives.

We've highlighted a bunch on the Blog Council web site here: Take a look. You may be (pleasantly) surprised at what you see.


312-932-9000 / [email protected] / twitter: merubin
I am a Blog Council employee and this is my personal opinion.

Totally agree. Most people think just having a blog on their website is enough, or just heard they should have one and then never do anything with it. If it isn't current it isn't relevant and doesn't keep consumers coming back for more. Thanks for the post!

I am part of the 84%.Too often company blogs don't have that 'personality' that you find in all other blogs. And unless the content is top-notch and something that you cannot get anywhere else then it is crossed off.
I just checked my reader and I don't have any corporate blogs RSSed for the exception of a friend's business blog.

What can social media do for your brand? It can do plenty which is why I am an advocate, as you probably know. We have implemented successful social media programs for many clients. So we agree. Now that we have that established let's talk cash.

I believe social media is a priority and should be used, but there is a cost, and right now cash is king. Don't believe me, ask the auto makers. Will social media save them? well I don't see them creating an online social media donation site. I'm being a bit flip. Social media has helped them tell their story, put a human face on the reasons they need your money and mine to stay in business.

But, I'm not getting any cash from the government, and I still need to make payroll in 4 days. So all the accountants can tell me about hard cost, soft costs, opportunity costs, but twice a month millions of people like me sign checks and they need to have cash to do it.

You and I agree of the many benefits of social media. My point is about this disconnect between labor and not hard cash. I have employees, you have colleagues that work on social media programs they are labor, they need hard cash very two weeks.

The further social media advocates drift from the understanding that social media has its cost either in something you stop doing as much of, or you add social media (and the labor required to implement it) to what you are doing, you can kiss it good by as a means to improve business.

Rohit, this is very timely. Here we are in an economic crisis throughout the globe. Consumers, B2B or B2C, they're still 'consumers' are more distrustful of Corporate America than every before. With good reason.

A very big part of the market today is female. The female consumer is not interested in corporate blogs that ... well, are corporate. Blogs offer an opportunity to add personality to your image (where did I get that idea? from your book, of course - it gets a place on my Top 5 of the year, BTW); blogs give visitors a glimpse into the people part of who you are, and that's what the ladies want: they want to know who you are, before they will buy what you sell.

I say your blog is your online office - where you invite me in for coffee to chat. You can rearrange the furniture, get new drapes (redesign your blog header) and it's still the comfy, warm, inviting place I feel welcomed in. I will open up to you there, and expect you to open up to me, also. Let your website store the corporate speak.

This subject hits home to me as I am passionate about the blogs I write and/or manage for clients. I firmly believe that 2009 will be a tipping point for blogs and social media. We will see businesses begin to 'get it'... to understand that blogs and Facebook and Twitter are tools, not toys. As such, they require a learning curve, best taught by experts, not stumbled through by your PR department.

To the cost issue - hmmm... what's the cost of having an 800 number? Just in the payment you make to the phone company, or is there a value in being available 24/7? What's the cost in attending a local networking luncheon for $50 - where you hope to connect with the influentials in your market? Isn't that $50 supposed to return hundreds of dollars of value, by introducing you to possible new clients? What if you can't make that luncheon but you know several of the people have blogs... hop over and leave a comment. The issue isn't the COST - it's the ability to utilize the tools you have at hand to increase visibility and open the door to conversations that can increase business.

Blogs and social media are merely tools. If you don't know how to use them, hire someone who does. If you want to be stubborn and do it yourself, you risk turning a large portion of your market off - because women are watching (in the millions) and we have more power today to choose whom we work with than every before. We are choosing to work with companies that show us the real deal: and who communicate with us on our blogs.

Read Rohit's book, folks. And then, read Tactical Transparency by Shel Holtz and John Havens. You'll be lightyears ahead of your competitors.


That's too bad that you don't have more coprorate blogs in your RSS feed. You're missing some terrific content.

I would encourage you (and everyone else) to give them another try. This isn't 2003. Corporate bloggers do get it, and are writing with personality, panache, and a sense of mission. They're trying to help make their customer's lives better.

For example, look at one of the example Josh wrote about in the Forrester report: Rubbermaid. (*) You have Jim Deitzel blogging about getting organized, preparing for the holidays, getting ready for New Year's, etc. It's fun and personal. He even posted pictures of his kids. Yes, he talks about Rubbermaid products, but in the context of getting organized and helping to solve real world customer problems.

How any of that could generate mistrust is beyond me.


312-932-9000 / [email protected] / twitter: merubin
I am a Blog Council employee and this is my personal opinion.
* Rubbermaid is a Blog Council member. I write about them because I like them and they are good people.

I think what experience socialmedia folks, bloggers, groundswell folks etc agree is today most people see this blog = human beings + dialogue.

When I looked at the data presented in the study my surprise is not that corporate blogs are untrustworthy. I am surprised that they are less trustworthy than company emails, direct mail, and online classifieds!

On the funny side, I think It looks like the Nigerian spam/scam emails (419 scammers) narrowly lost out to corporate blogs on trustworthiness.

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I don't think we should perpetuate the 16% number to be honest Rohit. I think it is a result of bad methodology. I think the results are right, but the number is kind of meaningless. I wrote a post about it here:

A different take from a media strategist's perspective:

It’s official, Corporate blogs suck.

I do want to point out that what Forrester Research actually reported was that only one in six people (16 percent) trust company blogs. It was Rohit who concluded that “84% of corporate blogs today probably suck.” However, my suspicion is that the truth is not far short of this statistic.

Nice post! Internet marketing is indeed gained popularity and has earned its spot of being a money making IT field.

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