In February, The New York Times ran a doom-saying article about the future of blogs.
“Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online,” read the article. “But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people—particularly the younger generation.”
Not so fast, say some in the b-to-b world. Although there are no figures tracking the number of business blogs, it seems that businesses are still rapidly adopting blogs even in the age of social media.
At least that is how Jeanette Gibson, director of social media marketing at Cisco Systems, sees it. Gibson oversees Cicso's network of 31 blogs and a team of 700 company bloggers. Overall, the company posts up to 15 blog posts a day on a dedicated site and, according to Gibson, garners about 500,000 page views a quarter on its blogs. The vast majority of these are external, non-Cisco visitors.
“Our blogs are destination links,” she said. “People want targeted content, and the nature of blogs very much works for us.”
In Cisco's view, social media doesn't replace blogging, it supports it. The company's bloggers use social applications to push blog entries out into the Web, and there are plenty of ways to add a social dimension to any blog entry, such as Facebook posts on the blogging page.
Eventually, Gibson said, she expects blogging to increase even more, eventually supplanting portions of the company's other Web presence.
Blogging works in the b-to-b world for two reasons, said Mike Rowland, president of Impact Interactions, a marketing services company that specializes in social media.
“When you look at the b-to-b market, what's necessary is thought leadership, and you cannot get thought leadership in 140 characters or a Facebook post,” Rowland said.
Also, blogs allow for more in-depth customer interaction than either Facebook or Twitter. On Cisco's tech blogs, for example, the tech community can have detailed, high-level conversations in a public format.
“It's not so much self-promotional as educational,” said Tony Zambito, president of Goal Centric, a marketing services company that helps companies identify and develop buyer profiles. “B-to-b blogging allows potential buyers to really get to know you.”
Even if the reports of b-to-b blogging's demise have been exaggerated, the rise of social media has transformed blogging in important ways. For example, video blogging is rapidly growing, Gibson said. She said the company's video blogs get five to 10 times as many views as text-only entries, and Cisco is encouraging video blogging across all its platforms.
Effective blogs are also closely tied into the company's marketing and sales campaigns. Ideally, blog entries are information-rich, researched pieces posted on a regular basis—Cisco bloggers are trained to develop a blogging schedule and stick to it.
Successful blogging also requires follow-up and feedback. Cisco bloggers are instructed to post negative comments and respond to them.
“If we get negative comments, we make sure they post them,” Gibson said. “It gives us a chance to have that conversation in public.”