Friday, November 24, 2006

More on Corporate Blogging, B to B Style (or not)

Interesting piece in B-to-B magazine on the rise of internal blogging in major corporations. The numbers quoted by author Paul Gillin are telling. According to Gillin, IBM has "more than 300 internal blogs," while about 100 Procter & Gamble employees are actively blogging inside the firewall. Gillin advises B to B marketers to "pay attention to this trend" because of the role internal blogs can play in helping companies efficiently build internal communications and knowledge centers.

The real rub may be how long it will take B to B companies to finally embrace corporate-sponsored, public blogging. To be fair, this isn't another slam-dunk case of B to B lagging heinously behind consumer-focused companies. It's not as if there's universal acceptance of the concept on the consumer side either, as Information Week noted last month.

My read is that the more a consumer company or product impacts people's "lifestyles," the more sense it makes to use corporate blogging to build relationships with the audience. Think Vespa, which hosts blogs written by evangelical owners on its own web site, or Tivo, which has staffers write and moderate a corporate blog aimed at current and prospective users.

Both of these products have inspired fanaticism among their owners. Corporate blogging lets a company tap into that reserve of good will, and thereby further deepen its relationship with the consumer. A pretty sound business case for blogging, I'd say.

Most B to B companies simply don't create similar levels of devotion. As such, blogging in B to B is much more about sharing knowledge than revelling in warm feelings about the experience of X product or Y company. In the tech sector, corporate blogs present a low-cost, high-value method of exchanging knowledge with the company's user base. B to B tech companies like Sun Microsystems blog like their lives depend on it. (Go here to see the directory of Sun's public-facing employee blogs.)

Mega-corp Honeywell sponsors employee-written blogs that support the company's recruitment objectives. Three employees in disparate roles post entries aimed at helping recruits "gain a deeper level of understanding to the culture, people, work and environment of Honeywell" (Honeywell's grammar, not mine!).

On the whole, though, most B to B companies continue to watch from a safe distance. There's wisdom in that prudence, as I've noted before. But sitting on the sidelines until legal and others concerns dissipate isn't sound strategy. By validating or invalidating the business case for corporate blogging now, companies can gain an advantage on competitors and position themselves to reap the business benefits of blogging sooner.

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