I do have a business degree, so occasionally I like to discuss how tech and business collide (yes it does happen). This time it’s about blogging and business.
Most corporate blogging is pretty poor. For the most part it’s slightly reworded press releases put on a blog-styled webpage. A few companies on the other hand break this model such as Lenovo, Sunbelt Software, Sun, and Google’s various blogs (though the official Google blog is rather lame, the product blogs are pretty good as are some prominent Google employees such as Matt Cutts). Even Microsoft has blogs. Apple so far has not been blogging with the exception of WebKit. There are others, but these are my favorite of the tech sites.
Then you have some who have used blogging for grassroots marketing, most notably the Firefox marketing effort. There is also blogging among the people behind it that give anyone interested a good detailed look at what’s coming. In my personal opinion that has been extremely successful in a marketing sense, and as a form of sharing information.
Some companies apparently try to get into blogging through a concept called Pay Per Post. Pretty much as it’s name implies bloggers are paid to link and discuss products/services. In my opinion it’s a rather dishonest technique to boost page rank and convince people that bloggers like their product/service. Of course search engines are effectively helpless in this technique since it would be somewhat hard to tell the difference since they are disguised to look legitimate and done in coordination with the site owner, rather than the linkbombing comment spam does. Search engines don’t seem to mind, though note if the links aren’t relevant it may be the exception to the rule. Though that all could (and likely would) change if it starts to degrade the quality of search indexes. It wouldn’t be the first time a problem was initially underestimated (think spam).
Then there is the ethical side of things. Do they all require you disclose that you were paid for the post? Until now, they haven’t had to, though that’s changing. The FTC obviously has an opinion on what they think of marketing without disclosure. Toni Schneider doesn’t think it will catch on, and he’s one of the guys behind WordPress.com. I hope he’s right.
The ever insightful Matt Mullenweg (also behind WordPress.com) notes that blog posts matter and marketing needs to adjust to the new online world. The question I pose is how? So far the only answer I see is the model Lenovo, Sun, Google use that involves good open honest community building and information. People seem to appreciate the inside look they provide. I know I do. I read several of them on a routine basis. But will they all go this route?
It’s important to note it’s not just blogs that are drifting into commercialization with everyone wondering just how to go about it. Digg is another example with a Pay Per Digg scheme threatening it. YouTube also got fooled by pro’s pretending to be someone they aren’t.
I do believe that 2007 will prove to be an important year for blogging in general. This is one of the ongoing struggles that will likely be realized in the upcoming months. How will this effect credibility of those who choose blogging as a medium to communicate? Dunno. Looking at the success of organizations that do use the medium, I’m pretty sure it will be worth keeping around for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see how things play out. One thing is for certain: these are very interesting times on the net.