Wait a minute. It’s not about engagement after all!

I’ve been invited to be a presenter on an upcoming B2B Blogging webinar (announcement forthcoming!) so I’ve been studying many company blogs that I regard as best practices.  As I moved from site to site, I noticed something surprising.  There were very few comments.  In fact, there were virtually none.  It was kind of an “a-ha moment.”

As an example, I would direct your attention to General Electric, a gold standard for corporate blogging.  Their site is a glorious mix of art, entertainment, news and inspiration. GE combines beautiful writing, graphics and video to tell their story in a compelling way. And there are no comments anywhere.

Does the fact that there is no engagement on this forum mean GE is failing?  If one of the largest and best-managed companies in the world can’t create a community through their blog, how do we hold out hope for our own clients and company blogs?

As I’ve stewed on this issue, I’ve determined that we need to re-think the whole notion of engagement on company blogs.  In fact, we need to forget about it in most cases.  There are two reasons why.

Nobody’s home

I am blessed with a vibrant, intellectual, caring community on {grow}.  It’s not unusual for me to receive more comments in a day than GE and many corporate blogs receive in a year.  I believe the distinguishing factor is that there is a face to the {grow} community. You know me as a person and once you bump around a bit, you start to know the other community members too.

Company blogs are usually written by a team of people.  There are notable benefits to this approach:

  • Diversity of views and topics
  • Spread out the workload
  • Consistency of coverage even during vacations and attrition

So I’m not criticizing this blogging strategy.  But the downside is that there is no personality to connect to. People are unlikely to form a community around an anonymous team of people.  If you’re employing this approach, I think it’s a long-shot to expect meaningful engagement.

Example of an exception: Randy’s Journal, the personal Boeing blog of Marketing VP Randy Tinseth. Real guy. Real community.

Let’s look at the numbers

A recent study by Compendium shows that 92% of B2C companies claim that 60% or more of their blog traffic are first-time visitors and a vast majority of the time, more than 80% are newcomers every day.

The numbers for B2B are a little better with 64% of companies claiming that 60% or more of their visitors have never been there before on any given day.

In other words, visitors to a company’s blog are not a core group of loyal community members. It’s a constant churn of people who have never been there before … and may never be there again.

Re-thinking the meaning of engagement

For those who have been chanting the “it’s all about community” mantra, there are some pretty shocking — but also exciting — implications to this:

1) Except in very few cases, engagement as measured by subscriptions, return visitors and comments may not be a realistic or desirable goal for your company blog.

2) The data show that corporate blogs act as superb targets for search engines. We already knew that but perhaps it’s time to codify that and respond with an appropriate social media sales strategy. You probably have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of strangers buzzing by your blog every day. Stop trying to engage them.  Just get them to pause.

3) The B2B data show that prospects are almost twice as likely to stick around a B2B blog than a B2C blog. This is great news for the B2B marketer. The B2B sales cycle is long and buyers need lots of information to make decisions. While visitors may not be engaging, they do seem to be reading and coming back for more.

If you’ve made your living touting the engagement benefits of corporate blogging, you’re probably either reaching for your oxygen mask or your flame-thrower.  In any event, I’d like to hear from you in the comment section. What do you think of this re-framing of the objectives of a corporate blog?

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