The Business Value of Blogging

Over at the APQC Knowledge Management blog, Jim Lee made a bold and provocative declaration to the effect that

I am now clearly on the side of the fence that thinks that blogs and wikis are not ready for business prime time. After many months of mental gymnastics about these two applications, I just don’t think they’re worth the effort put into them—or at least the hype that surrounds them.

I admire Jim for taking a bold and provocative stand, thereby stirring up a spirited discussion in posts and comments here, here, here, here, and here, and for being kind and generous in his response to my questions and the questions of others. Thanks Jim! However, I do disagree with Jim on the corporate value of blogging, and I promised to put my point of view forward for discussion. Here it is.

A recent article in McKinsey Quarterly entitled “How businesses are using Web 2.0: A McKinsey Global Survey” noted that

  • blogs are currently used as a key web 2.0 technology by 32% of companies surveyed (33% for wikis),
  • blogs are one of the “3 technologies or tools that are most important for your business” for 17% of companies surveyed with another 16% investing in blog technology (10% and 13% for wikis)
  • nearly 75% of executives surveyed are planning to maintain or increase their investment in web 2.0 technologies in the coming years
  • the ‘early adopters’ and ‘fast followers’ for web 2.0 technology were most satisfied with their results

The article also noted that social network and peer-to-peer collaboration software were of even more importance than blogs and wikis.

Meanwhile, Charlene Li at Forrester Research blogged here, here and here about calculating the business ROI on corporate blogging, leading to the Forrester Research publications on calculating ROI on blogging that can be found there and there.

Forrester’s report includes the following chart, which has appeared on a number of blogs so I assume it is ok to reprint it (with correct attributions):


That is, Li lists a range of potential business benefits of blogging, related metrics, and the value saved by blogging. Li notes also that the costs and risks of blogging need to be taken into account to assess the ROI of blogging. Li gave case examples, for example GM, where there was clear ROI (in black and white financial terms) in blogging.

Forrester’s paper generated quite a bit of discussion and commentary on the blogosphere, such as for example here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. For example, it was noted that Li’s analysis did not really take into account the opportunity cost of the alternative benefit that might have been obtained had the organisation invested the resources in say, a new intranet/extranet functionality rather than blogging, Li’s estimates of the costs of blogging were rather generous, and it was suggested that the business value of blogging may lie in increased customer intimacy and enhanced customer relationships.

Which brings me to my last point: to mention a couple of case examples of blogging in addition to Forrester’s case study of GM. While a Ph.D student, I supported myself with contract software development, where I experienced first-hand companies such as Microsoft’s and Borland’s entries into the blogosphere. These engagements were absolutely outstanding, opening up developers to rich and contextualised sources of knowledge and bringing developers and software architects in to close contact with customers. It is no understatement to say that Borland software’s move to an open blogging policy was a pivotal step in transforming a closed relationship with the developer community (their customer base) into an open, stimulating and thriving two way interaction. Now, it is hard to measure the ROI on that in dollar terms, but I can imagine going out and building that sort of customer rapport in another fashion would have taken a fair investment, together with clear leadership in cultural change, product evangalism, developer relationship, and a considerably more complicated implementation to be achieved.

On another scale (small business), another great example of successful blogging is Joel Spoelsky’s Joel on Software, who started his blog back in 2000 pretty much before blogs were called blogs. Joel, due to his ability to write and engage to get the most amazing variety of people interested in user interface design, software development and running a business through intertwining his stories into the discussion, developed somewhat of a cult following, in the meanwhile and with goodwill all round increasing visibility of his software company, FogBugz software.

Blogging is not without its risks. It opens an exchange of information which might be more open than companies might like. It allows for variations in styles and personalities, perhaps making it more difficult to brand communications with a single organisational brand message. But it does put companies closer to customers. And, as Charlene Li from Forrester points out, corporate blogging can have a tangible ROI.

On the APQC KM blog, Dale Arseneault refers to the book Blog Rules: A Business Guide to Managing Policy, Public Relations, And Legal Issues as “a good look at the implications of corporate blogging (mostly) and personal blogging” and comments that:

IBM considers “Blogging is a good way to build relationships, demonstrate thought leadership, and help people develop an affinity for IBM.” According to Edelman, “Blogs enable companies to build the type of grassroots relationships with customers that simply didn’t exist before. Business blogs also facilitate relationships with influential bloggers who may be writing about the company.” . . . and ” Because employee-bloggers are viewed as ‘just ordinary guys,’ there is a higher built-in level of trust among other bloggers and readers in general.”

Maybe blogging isn’t for every organisation, but I think there’s a case to be made that for at least some companies, now, there is value and ROI in blogging. Like anything though, to get the greatest benefits from the activity, companies need clear goals for the value they intend to achieve, asses the risks, develop appropriate corporate policy and guidelines, and manage the implementation/activity.

If I was being cheeky, I’d suggest that: that’s why corporations (still) need consultants, to focus on and specialise in these issues across a number of companies. 😉

Anyway, interested in people’s thoughts on this.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

The Business Value of Blogging

Over at the APQC Knowledge Management blog, Jim Lee made a bold and provocative declaration to the effect that

I am now clearly on the side of the fence that thinks that blogs and wikis are not ready for business prime time. After many months of mental gymnastics about these two applications, I just don’t think they’re worth the effort put into them—or at least the hype that surrounds them.

I admire Jim for taking a bold and provocative stand, thereby stirring up a spirited discussion in posts and comments here, here, here, here, and here, and for being kind and generous in his response to my questions and the questions of others. Thanks Jim! However, I do disagree with Jim on the corporate value of blogging, and I promised to put my point of view forward for discussion. Here it is.

A recent article in McKinsey Quarterly entitled “How businesses are using Web 2.0: A McKinsey Global Survey” noted that

  • blogs are currently used as a key web 2.0 technology by 32% of companies surveyed (33% for wikis),
  • blogs are one of the “3 technologies or tools that are most important for your business” for 17% of companies surveyed with another 16% investing in blog technology (10% and 13% for wikis)
  • nearly 75% of executives surveyed are planning to maintain or increase their investment in web 2.0 technologies in the coming years
  • the ‘early adopters’ and ‘fast followers’ for web 2.0 technology were most satisfied with their results

The article also noted that social network and peer-to-peer collaboration software were of even more importance than blogs and wikis.

Meanwhile, Charlene Li at Forrester Research blogged here, here and here about calculating the business ROI on corporate blogging, leading to the Forrester Research publications on calculating ROI on blogging that can be found there and there.

Forrester’s report includes the following chart, which has appeared on a number of blogs so I assume it is ok to reprint it (with correct attributions):


That is, Li lists a range of potential business benefits of blogging, related metrics, and the value saved by blogging. Li notes also that the costs and risks of blogging need to be taken into account to assess the ROI of blogging. Li gave case examples, for example GM, where there was clear ROI (in black and white financial terms) in blogging.

Forrester’s paper generated quite a bit of discussion and commentary on the blogosphere, such as for example here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. For example, it was noted that Li’s analysis did not really take into account the opportunity cost of the alternative benefit that might have been obtained had the organisation invested the resources in say, a new intranet/extranet functionality rather than blogging, Li’s estimates of the costs of blogging were rather generous, and it was suggested that the business value of blogging may lie in increased customer intimacy and enhanced customer relationships.

Which brings me to my last point: to mention a couple of case examples of blogging in addition to Forrester’s case study of GM. While a Ph.D student, I supported myself with contract software development, where I experienced first-hand companies such as Microsoft’s and Borland’s entries into the blogosphere. These engagements were absolutely outstanding, opening up developers to rich and contextualised sources of knowledge and bringing developers and software architects in to close contact with customers. It is no understatement to say that Borland software’s move to an open blogging policy was a pivotal step in transforming a closed relationship with the developer community (their customer base) into an open, stimulating and thriving two way interaction. Now, it is hard to measure the ROI on that in dollar terms, but I can imagine going out and building that sort of customer rapport in another fashion would have taken a fair investment, together with clear leadership in cultural change, product evangalism, developer relationship, and a considerably more complicated implementation to be achieved.

On another scale (small business), another great example of successful blogging is Joel Spoelsky’s Joel on Software, who started his blog back in 2000 pretty much before blogs were called blogs. Joel, due to his ability to write and engage to get the most amazing variety of people interested in user interface design, software development and running a business through intertwining his stories into the discussion, developed somewhat of a cult following, in the meanwhile and with goodwill all round increasing visibility of his software company, FogBugz software.

Blogging is not without its risks. It opens an exchange of information which might be more open than companies might like. It allows for variations in styles and personalities, perhaps making it more difficult to brand communications with a single organisational brand message. But it does put companies closer to customers. And, as Charlene Li from Forrester points out, corporate blogging can have a tangible ROI.

On the APQC KM blog, Dale Arseneault refers to the book Blog Rules: A Business Guide to Managing Policy, Public Relations, And Legal Issues as “a good look at the implications of corporate blogging (mostly) and personal blogging” and comments that:

IBM considers “Blogging is a good way to build relationships, demonstrate thought leadership, and help people develop an affinity for IBM.” According to Edelman, “Blogs enable companies to build the type of grassroots relationships with customers that simply didn’t exist before. Business blogs also facilitate relationships with influential bloggers who may be writing about the company.” . . . and ” Because employee-bloggers are viewed as ‘just ordinary guys,’ there is a higher built-in level of trust among other bloggers and readers in general.”

Maybe blogging isn’t for every organisation, but I think there’s a case to be made that for at least some companies, now, there is value and ROI in blogging. Like anything though, to get the greatest benefits from the activity, companies need clear goals for the value they intend to achieve, asses the risks, develop appropriate corporate policy and guidelines, and manage the implementation/activity.

If I was being cheeky, I’d suggest that: that’s why corporations (still) need consultants, to focus on and specialise in these issues across a number of companies. 😉

Anyway, interested in people’s thoughts on this.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.