Blogging as a Recent Trend in Marketing Strategy
The turn of a new millennium has paved the way for various changes that have unquestionably stunned the world embodied best with the rise of the internet community known as bloggers. Blog or weblog is a newly made communication tool that has pretty much fascinated the internet community and gained much attention from the corporate world because of its unique encapsulating approach and style. Many companies all over the world, especially those in technologically advanced nations, have viewed blogging as an substitute to the present conventional communication avenue as demonstrated by an increasing quantity of discussions committed to business such as the Canadian Blogging Conference, Blog Business Summit, etc. Blogs are created for a variety of reasons ranging from customer service to sales and promotions. Authors of blogs also range from ordinary employees to the members of the executive board. A study on ‘Corporate Blogging Strategies’ by Lee et al (2006) was able to examine how companies listed in the 2005 Fortune 500 Companies have attempted to maintain control while supporting employee autonomy in blogging. Harriet Pearson defined ‘social networking’ as people connecting with each other enabled by new technologies that, like blogs, wikis, the web generally speaking, instant messaging, other forms, peer-to-peer are enabling people to reach out and connect. Consumers get to communicate with companies in a more immediate style with the use of technology such as in websites, e-mails, chat rooms, blogging and through social networks
(Lee et al, 2006).
Most Affected Consumer Segment and the Blogging Phenomenon (Demographics, Psychographics and Behavioral Characteristics)
Blogs are said to be patronized by net-geners who are ‘emotionally open to the net and use the internet primarily as a social technology’ (Leung, 2003). According to a tracking done by Technorati.com, there are about 20 million blogs as of February 2006, which was 60% more of the previous year counted by Google in July 2005. According to Blogging 4 Business, there are over 100 million active members of social networks like MySpace and Facebook. Technorati tracks over 50 million blogs as of 2007. iTunes podcasts have also contributed to affecting the popularity of TV and radio programs in some countries as well. And each day, 70 million videos are viewed on YouTube, the most recent and biggest attainment in Google’s endeavor to take over the fastest rising section of online business (Kharif, 2004).
Many blogs are eclectic, personal diaries recounting vacations, pet behavior and favorite books read. Others convey the blogger’s expertise in some field of endeavor such as tech tips or consumer advice. A small subset of bloggers assign themselves role of news source, analyst and interpreter. Bloggers have become electronic pampheteers, self-appointed editors and commentators who use their own highly selective filter to note, deconstruct, annotate and respin news items produced elsewhere.
From an upcoming book by Paul Gillin (2008), he explained that ‘Social media will alter our lives and institutions in ways that we are only beginning to comprehend. Researcher eMarketer estimates that more than 75% of the U.S. adult population is now online. By some estimates, more than one billion people will be publishing online by 2012. They will be sharing their experiences, observations and opinions with a global audience as freely as we pick up the telephone today.’
Impact of Blogging Trend in Marketing
There are different kinds of blogs and one of those would be the business blog. Lately, business blog has been becoming more and more popular due to some reasons. Blogs are usually known for their user-friendly publishing interface that allows different users namely the companies to update their blogs more regularly compared to having their companies’ respective websites. Business blogs are usually updated once or twice every day to get their information out to their clients. Updating their business blogs also promote the improvement of search engine optimization whenever new contents are being added online. Hence, the clients and other readers keep coming back for the updates. Every well composed blog post becomes a candidate for ranking in the search engines as the time goes by. Blogging can help exceptionally for promoting the company’s image since putting up a post in the blog creates another separate webpage on the website that increases one’s chance of ranking for some keyword, which means a raise of rank in popularity in the search engines. Blogs also use a special delivery system called RSS or XML that promotes the content to the readers. The typical way of reading a blog is to go to a blog and reading the content of the blog while some would require people to subscribe to a ‘feed’ of the blog to get access to that blog via online account.
Blogs, which are highly communicative yet user-friendly in nature, can actually become effective means for a company to tap into their employees’ underlying capability and let them become online ‘spreaders of the good news’ that will bring in supplementary merit to the customers. However, a certain degree of autonomy by an individual is surrendered to the organization in order to achieve larger goals (Barnard, 1968). The issue of control then becomes a controversial issue in such cases. Other than that, business blogs provides an edge in helping companies create customer loyalty as well as speed up innovation, according to Willy Chiu, Vice President of High Performance On Demand Solutions, of the Software Group in IBM. The casualness and increased suitability of information published in blogs aid in increasing transparency and openness in the company’s image. Blogging also promotes team building as it bonds all the experts collectively in a company to provide better services to the clients. The business blog can supply supplementary value by enhancing the level of integrity that is frequently unattainable from a typical business website (Pearson & Chiu, 2008.).
Planning a Successful Marketing Strategy: Product, Promotion, Pricing and Distribution
The world of blogging has no doubt challenged the conventional business strategies employed by companies all over the world. Yet the true impact of blogging remains to be seen in the following years to come. Mostly, business blogs are highly applicable in promoting the fields of corporate communications, corporate and social responsibility, internal communications, public relations, marketing services and advertising. Blogging is meant for opening up to the outside world from the inside. The executives communicate with the employees and with the use of blogs, the employees serve as a bridge to narrow that gap between the boss and the customers (Jackson, Yates & Orlikowski, 2007).
With regards to the products or kinds of services best applicable for the business blogging trend, one would suggest the technology related goods and services. One example for such category would be mp3s. Through the use of blogs, one can post pictures or flash presentations of the mp3 product as the viewer clicks on the blog page, the pictures or the flash presentation appears. Using eye catching vibrant colors and texts may also aid the promotion of the said product. Melodious music automatically played in the blogsite can help augment the image of the product, especially when the mp3 product itself is music-related. The proponent took into consideration the influence of mp3 targeting the younger generations who are into music. To make it more realistic, a brand name is given to the proposed mp3 product and it shall be called ‘Sonorous’. Unique specifications and features, apparently lacking in other mp3 brands that shall be indicated in the blog, will boost the perception of the consumer regarding the value and quality of the product. This serves as the competitive advantage of Sonorous. Most of the major competitors are multinational companies and are located within and around the country. The product will be packaged in a 4x4x4 inches box labeled with the brand name, specifications, included tools and name of the company as part of its labels (Jackson et al, 2007).
To promote the product, the use of external links from other famous blog sites and search engines such as Yahoo and Google is indispensable. Selling out one’s product through every possible means of advertising is the key towards a successful marketing strategy. Likewise, the blog for promoting the mp3 product must include an evaluation having comparison and contrast of other mp3s against one’s very own mp3 product. The pros and cons of Sonorous mp3 product must be laid out vividly yet candidly as to gain the trust of potential customers. Blogs of employees who have used the product can create blog entries thereby reinforcing the claims of the company to fortify the image of the product. It is always important to note that the rights of the consumers must always be protected, thus one must not be biased on providing feedbacks on the said product. A balance of judgment must be preserved at all times (Jackson, Yates & Orlikowski, 2007).
In view of the pricing, an intended amount of price is to be included in the main page of the product. However, since one’s main concern would be the business blog and coordinating with the potential online customers, a section for the comments and suggestions regarding the pricing of the product is essential. In this way, the company may be able to adjust to the needs of the consumers or at the same time defend their rights over their suggested pricing. The potential online customers can in the same way suggest possible solutions to the needs of others. Arriving at a compromise is one of the key themes in this aspect. The payment can be made either thru electronic payments or via major credit cards. A purchasing form must be downloaded by the customer that must be filled up with complete and authentic information. Credit card payments can be done online from the blog to a secured and highly encrypted syndicated link of the company. But if ever the customer is worried of fraudulence and other potential threats in doing credit card transactions online, then the cash basis would serve them best. The cash basis can be made through the nearest accepted and recognized banking institutions for their convenience. Additional payments are to be indicated in the form depending on the location for the delivery of the said product (Jackson et al, 2007).
And last but not the least would be regarding the place for distribution of the product. After payments have been received by the company from the customer, the company will immediately deliver the product to the customer using the best express mail service company such as Fedex. The blogs would also include major events for the product distribution. The wholesalers and retailers can provide the company with consumer feedbacks and competitors’ status which will be a big advantage to the new entrant in the country. The importance of having a long-term relationship between the wholesalers and retailers is that they could give advice on whether the price of the product can be sold on a higher or lower price depending on the industry’s condition. The particular places of end distribution are major shopping malls, electronic shopping centers and major appliance centers in the capital city (Jackson et al, 2007).
The end of the marketing strategy with the employment of business blog does not end here. In the business world, a mutual relationship between the producer and the end-user has become a precondition for business success. Thus, an evaluation of the product with the help of the end-users can help relay to the producers the necessary steps and solutions that they ought to take to improve their products. A portion for comments and suggestions indicating the name of the product used by the end-user together with his or her commendations and criticisms must be especially created within the blog site. The company must then provide prompt response to the feedbacks left by the customers either as a protocol of work or out of courtesy. Providing a space in the blog site for troubleshooting, repairs and other services is also important in this marketing strategy. Always keep in mind that one should not only sell good products but one must also sell good services (Jackson et al, 2007).
The Burden of Coporate Blogging as a Marketing Strategic Trend
There are corresponding barriers to the promising benefits that the blogging trends in business have explicitly implied. There is always the opportunity cost that must be considered. In some corporate blogs, all posts go through a review before they’re posted. Some corporate blogs, but not all, allow comments to be made to the posts. While blogging can be a means to providing effective communication between the producer and end-users, it entails a scrupulous process in regulating corporate blogs wherein hundreds or even thousands of employees could post up blog entries. While obtaining and expressing both free and unbiased opinions from both employees and end-users are the main goals of corporate blogs, reading and evaluating the blog entries within a day by hundreds and thousands of people who want to express their views about the company is a time consuming undertaking. Likewise, updating the blog every now and then is a must. And being a CEO with a corporate blog to handle would mean getting this fitted into your schedule when all other activities have already filled up the time table. With regards to time, Fulk et al. (2004) found that individual contributions to a knowledge repository tend to be influenced by individual gains, and the experienced costs are both subjective and variable across individuals.
Furthermore, when comments have been made by online viewers, one is expected to reply as prompt as possible. In a paper presented by Jackon et al, it was revealed that several people did not only want to comment thoughtfully, but that doing so would also entail committing to coming back later to check for responses from the blogger, possibly obligating them to a further round of comment and response. People do not want to be ignored and sometimes, the busy corporate bloggers can not simply accommodate their queries all at once. The inability to respond to the commentators promptly could bear a slight negative bearing on the company’s image. Kalman et al. (2002) suggest that communication is a lowcost/low-risk first step that may lead to higher cost/risk collective action. Blogging may seem like a dicey undertaking. On one hand, it appears to be user-friendly, probably to most computer literate users but then again, not everyone knows how to use RSS or XML. While the intention of promoting the image of the company is a good thing, sometimes, blogs are manipulated into protecting the interest of the company to the extent that the real deal behind the company is concealed. Business blogging is complicated and a risk potential endeavor. One simple mistake of not being able to reply to posted comments or a slight misunderstanding could spark a larger problems. And the problem with trends is that you never know when this trend will end. You just know it when another big sensation is already in fashion.
Sun Microsystem and Dell: Two Companies to Benefit from the Blogging Trend
Business blogs interrelate with a target market of customers in a more individualistic level at the same time as developing bonds of reliability. Normally, the corporations that benefited most from this technology-wise trend are the IT companies. Information technology has recently been incorporated into another one of man’s major episodes in his life. IT makes the world better than it was before, presumably. Corporateleadersblogs.com enumerates top 10 CEO blogs wherein Jonathan Schwartz of the Sun Microsystems topped the list. Most of the CEO blogs that have high rankings belong to the industry of technology. Companies running the information technology industry are most likely to benefit from the business blogging phenomenon today. It does make utter sense to rely and tap into technology in order to promote technology. Other industries such as in entertainment and finance have also gained top spots in becoming best blogging sites by their company executives (Global Neighbourhoods, 2008).
Blogs have become an entrée into great intelligence, thus business blogs will on no account be out of style for the following years to come. It becomes a customers’ prospect into getting to know the company more. And the end result of which would be trust. While Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems claims that “… having a blog is not going to be a matter of choice, any more than having e-mail is today.” (Global Neighbourhoods, 2008).
From a 2004 article in Business Week, one can see how blogging has contributed in the booming of the business. It was reported that Jonathan Schwartz, president and chief operating officer of server maker Sun Microsystems (SUNW ), first assumed that his blog was a success when his salespeople started reporting that clients were reading his posts and sealing deals faster. After which, the blog began having a rush of traffic from users with e-mail addresses ending in “ibm.com” and “dell.com” who are supposedly people working in par with Sun. Other than Sun Microsystems, the recently plagued controversy Dell has also benefited greatly from the blogging trend (Global Neighbourhoods, 2008).
From an interview with Michael Dell, he stated that after the ‘Dell Hell’ blogging incidents in 2005 and 2006, it gave him the response to find out about customer’s problem with Dell equipment in order to resolve the issue and learn from each opportunity to get better every time. The marketplace changed, global markets expanded and there was tremendous growth in the blogosphere. Dell was able to continue their goal of joining the conversation and speaking directly and candidly with their customers from late 1980s until today via establishing an Online Community Outreach team composed of tech support experts that reaches out to bloggers around the world who have questions or may require assistance. Like Sun Microsystems, Dell is also sharing the company’s thoughts and ideas in different prominent languages such as Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, Norwegian, Arabic and others. Dell was able to uplift its tarnished image after the battery recall with a big help from their Direct2Dell, DellShares and IdeaStorm (Global Neighbourhoods, 2008).
Darrell Zahorsky (2007) wrote that blogs build community that provides business with a chance to share their expertise and knowledge with a larger audience. In fact, computer companies like Sun Microsystems and Dell have tapped into the potential assistance that blogging can provide. Blogging has proven to be a useful tool for both companies since they can now engage a larger audience with a lower cost. Both have now gained the opportunity to connect with a wider audience and build a community is a strong benefit for consultants and knowledge workers.
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