According to the blog search engine Technocrati, there are by now around 115 million Weblogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media world wide. On top of this, the blogosphere grows every second by 1.4 blogs and about 1.5 million new entries are added on a daily basis. Furthermore, Technocrati’s “State of the Live Web” study states that 22 out of the 100 most popular Websites are Weblogs. Impressing growth rates, aren’t they? As a logical consequence, the phenomena blogging raises the question of how Weblogs could engage in customer relationship management and branding.
According to Zerfass and Boelter, Weblogs are online publications, characterized by short, reversed chronologically ordered entries, which are dialogue-oriented and offer above all individual, vivid, and authentic ways of expression. Blogs are usually operated by individuals, who regularly update and write new entries, which reflect their personal ideas, thoughts and opinions. At the same time most blogs stand out through a strong linkage to more contents as well as the opportunity of communicating with others by posting comments.
In the world of blogs, there are now a multitude of variations, which can be differentiated according to their formats, for example communication targets (knowledge blog, crisis blog, audio blog, photo blog), or authors (private blog, corporate blog, CEO blog). And as long as we are not talking of a monopoly supplier, a company should at least deal rudimentarily with blogs that have business related topics as their subjects of interest.
According to a study conducted by Proximity, that has researched the subject “corporate blogging”, companies are forced to observe today Weblogs on the World Wide Web to be informed about what’s going on in their target groups. If not, they miss out a public opportunity of getting to know their customers much better. Even though gained information on blogs isn’t necessarily representative, it provides at least authentic insights into highly communicative target groups. Companies should in addition act adequately on public blogs and respond to upcoming questions and problems with self-confidence.
Thus, the screening and the engagement in external blogs offer companies two potential fields: getting to know the customers’ requirements as well as a chance to respond promptly to customers’ information requirements. On top of that a company could initiate their own corporate blog for communication purposes with relevant customers that could be built up according to different key topics. Most of those company-owned corporate blogs usually provide content and are maintained by an internal company division. In addition, there is also the attractive option to create blogs as CEO blogs – as for instance demonstrated by Jonathan Schwartz, COO of Sun Microsystems :http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan/; Bob Lutz’s executive blog of General Motors: http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/). The employee blog (for example, the employee blog of Frosta: http://www.blog-frosta.de/; or the one of Sun Microsystems: http://blogs.sun.com/) are also causing a stir due to the fact that they are perceived by readers to be very authentic. Company-owned blogs enable the person in charge to communicate proactively and openly, with respect to an unlimited amount of topics. But especially in times of crisis it enables companies to respond and react quickly to media statements for example. Or let’s say it simply meets information needs, which is the main reason for the search and reading of a blog, besides being timely as well as authentic.
Through the networking and linking of blogs, information in the blogosphere spreads very quickly. A similar cost efficient and fast way of communication that is at the same time relevant and interesting to customers can’t be expected through any other channel. At the same time, the credibility factor of this transparent and versatile communication medium is extremely high. Particularly in the search phase of the purchasing process, in which the customer would like to compare possible alternatives in detail and is in high demand of specific information, blogs represent a very attractive as well as complimentary tool. A far reaching meaning of external blogs for the CRM consists in the possibility to get to know potential, as well as existing customers, much better. On the one hand there are potentials to identify basic needs of the customer, which than in turn provide directions for the organization of customer-orientated activities. On the other hand arises for the company the opportunity to acquire information from very valuable and attractive customers and therefore obtain a much clearer picture of the relevant target group. All in all, both the conceptual meaning of the communication of content and the accuracy of the CRM can be increased decisively.
Attention: Although corporate blogging contributes enormously to company-specific circumstances and topics regarding the identification of relevant customer needs, it requires permanent as well as ongoing maintenance and has to be constantly updated and linked. Thus, a company that wants to efficiently implement corporate blogging needs to invest a not to be underestimated amount of time, staff and financial resources.
By Daniela La Marca
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