Covering the last 10 years of blogging is about as daunting a task as covering the last 10 years of foreign policy – or the last 60 years of James Joyce criticism! Okay, maybe not that difficult, but there’s a lot that’s happened in the blogosphere. The popularity of blogging has been growing exponentially for the last ten years, and pointing to every important example is more than we have time for today. So, in order to make this manageable, let’s take a closer look at business blog writing.
2002 was a year of launches: Gizmodo, Gawker, and Technorati (which is really not a blog, but an authoritative blog directory). Personal, journal-style blogging was soaring in popularity already at this point with sites like Xanga and LiveJournal, and Blogger.
However, blogging for business wasn’t all too prominent. Wired Magazine reported in February 2002 that “blogging has outgrown its underground trendiness,” citing a number of feature stories and reports from major news outlets. The same article also cites Blogger.com’s Evan Williams, who claimed that in January 2002, roughly 41,000 people had created blogs on the platform. At this point in time, Wired reports that there were around 500,000 weblogs. With blogging losing its indie cool factor, many major corporations and businesses were ready to jump in!
Blog writing had officially hit the mainstream, and there were plenty of statistics to support the claim. Blogcount estimated 2.4 to 2.9 million weblogs to be in existence as of June 2003, but few of those blogs were businesses marketing themselves. Nevertheless, personal blogging was exploding with brand new platforms like WordPress at everyone’s fingertips.
Blogging for business was slowly starting to catch on, but people still weren’t quite sure what to make of business blogs. Remember, this was the same year that MySpace launched a blogging feature that was connected to user profiles – the world of blogging was still considered by most people to be a form of public diary. However, the New York Times ran a story in June 2003 that featured several corporate executives that were blogging, thereby legitimizing the practice in the eyes of many other businesses.
If there was any doubt about the lasting presence of blogs, their significance was solidified for many people in 2004 when Merriam-Webster added the term ‘blog’ to it’s dictionary. Not only was the word added to the dictionary, but it also received the Word of the Year title.
Almost immediately, 2004 ushered in a host of corporate blogs. Stonyfield Farm began blogging in 2004, and their success was even worthy of a case study. The study is an interesting read, especially because of the dramatic differences in how blogging was approached eight years ago. Stonyfield Farm wasn’t even measuring traffic for the first two months of blogging. Oh, how times have changed!
GM also made their first stab at blogging in 2004 with The Small Block Engine, which shut down exactly one year later.
However, the death of The Small Block Engine blog was not the end of blogging for GM. GM came back stronger than ever in January 2005 with The Fast Lane blog, which is still a well-maintained and popular blog now in 2012.
Also, Boeing’s VP of Marketing, Randy Tinseth, began blogging at Randy’s Journal, which is also regularly updated now in 2012. It seems that 2005 may have been the year that corporate blogging finally started to really catch on with the power players. The fact that the White House issued its first-ever press pass to a blogger further legitimized and stabilized blogging as a serious practice in the eye of the public.
In 2006, Jupiter Research reported that 34% of large companies had corporate blogs, and another 35% planned to have corporate blogs. Though blogging might not have taken off in 2006 quite as much as Jupiter Research’s report predicted, the intention, at least, was present.
Fortune was even writing with authority about corporate blogging practices, a clear indication that blogging for business meant something, and that the popularity of blogging was about to really take off.
And, take off, they did. Entrepreneur cites a Marketing Sherpa survey done in 2007 that claimed business blogs to be the Number 4 tool for generating sales leads. With Technorati tracking 63.2 million blogs (same source), there was certainly no shortage of blogs on the net.
Johnson & Johnson posted its first blog post in 2007 to the official corporate blog. Despite the fact that more major corporations were taking on the blog world (and doing so successfully) 2007 was a strange time for blogging as a practice. With social media platforms like Facebook and MySpace on the rise, blog writing started to become… passé, perhaps?
David Sifry at Technorati reported that the percentage of active blogs compared to total number of blogs tracked by his company had declined from 36.71% in May 2006 to 20.93% in March 2007. The popularity of blogging may have been dropping off on the whole, but blogging for business was beginning to really ramp up.
2008 was the first year that bloggers could legitimately write lists like 15 Companies That Really Get Corporate Blogging, which featured power players like Southwest Airlines, Quicken Loans, and Dell. The fact that these blogs (linked) are still around today serve as a testament to blogging’s powerful stance. If nothing else, it proves that blogs are seen as vital by companies and marketing departments – even the ones who aren’t totally sure how to use them!
Also, lengthy and authoritative guides like Darren Rowse’s A Guide to Corporate Blogging were regularly published throughout 2008, generating excited discussion amongst business blog writers. Junta42, a content marketing industry leader, also launched in 2007, and by 2008 was the preeminent leader in all things related to blogging for business and content marketing. Today, Junta42 is known as The Content Marketing Institute.
In 2009, “microblogging” (essentially Tweeting) was starting to take off with individuals and companies. By December 2008, 11% of adults were microblogging (compared that to 15% of all adult Internet users today). Twitter and other social networking sites became even more closely integrated with blogging, many users choosing to promote their blogs through social media accounts.
Copyblogger Brian Clark, posted in 2009 about the relationship between social media and blogs, arguing that blogs are a huge part of social media. “Blogs pioneered social media well before MySpace and Friendster came and went,” writes Clark.
But, at the same time, business blogs were receiving some harsh criticisms. As blogging for business became increasingly popular, many writers were quick to point out that too many business blogs were completely ineffective. Paul Boag in Smashing Magazine argued that many corporate blogs simply didn’t engage (citing Nokia’s blog). Also, too many business blogs, argued Boag, were faceless, glossy, and boring, which simply does not work.
With criticisms appearing in every corner of the Internet, the business blogs that thrived in 2010 were the ones that were personal and revealing. Many companies were catching onto the fact that impersonal, sales-y blogs were not going to draw traffic. eBay Ink was one business blog in 2010 that received recognition for its personal approach to blogging.
In their 2010 State of Inbound Marketing, Hubspot reported that 61% of respondents published a company blog, compared to only 48% in 2009. Even more impressive, “85% of users rated company blogs as ‘useful’ or better in 2010.” For many companies, blog writing became value-infused in 2010. Consumers and blog-readers made it quite clear that valuable content was the only thing that could keep them interested.
You might notice that a lot of my examples of blogging throughout the 2000’s feature high-tech corporate blogs. While these types of big businesses were among the first to successfully jump into blogging, by 2011 everyone was blogging. Mark Schaefer at Business Grow agrees with me, sharing his list of top non-tech corporate blogs in 2011.
Schaefer’s article is definitely worth checking out. His example of My Starbucks Idea is a personal favorite (yes, I’m biased). Schaefer calls the “global brainstorming platform” a brilliant approach to blogging, a statement I have to agree with. Starbucks (and many companies like it) is running a highly-engaging business blog that actually talks with customers – not at them. However, Starbucks really stands out for being so far ahead of the curve; the blog launched back in 2008!
So, now we’re halfway through 2012, and blogging for business is more powerful than ever before. There’s a great Infographic on the current state of blogging that has some impressive figures on small business blogging. The Infographic states that 61% of small business owners are using social media (which includes blogs) to identify and attract new customers. Furthermore, 43% of U.S. companies are using blogs for marketing purposes in 2012. Also, blogging is the main form of social media content generation behind Facebook and Twitter.
Where do you see the future of blogging headed?[adrotate banner=”20″]