Corporate Blogging Survey 2005

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February 17, 2006

Why Corporate Blogs Provide More Overall Marketing Benefits Than Customer Forums

When comparing a customer forum to a corporate blog, a forum is more of a closed community, where member discussion occurs inside the forum between members. Occasionally members refer to outside content and websites, but typically the discussion is within. Forums are best moderated not managed; a company with a forum can direct an occasional thread.

Members run the best forums, in that the editorial control of a forum is best left to the membership. There should be some restrictions such as reducing off-topic posts and sales pitches. But its best to give a forums membership the freedom to pose and answer questions freely. Companies can then gain from customer forums by observing customers. Much can be learned from observing customer questions and ideas posted in forum thread. The large number of posts means that a forum is often not the best way to quickly get information out to customers in an informal way.

Blogs on the other hand allow a company to control the editorial content of the website. Yet similar to email and forums a company can use an informal, conversational style of writing. A few years ago I recall one blogger at Macromedia told me the reason he started his blog was because he wanted to get information out quickly about products to customers. Blogs allow companies to quickly get information out to customers compared to forums because each blog post has a higher importance than the multitude of threads in a forum

Both blogs and forums provide opportunities for product feedback. Yet companies providing metrics services from consumer generated media; Cymfony, Umbria and BuzzMetrics have all discovered there is more forum content to analyze than blog content on the web.

For product manager’s forums can provide some of the best information on customer ideas and feedback. Yet I think that a successfully run blogger relations campaign has some advantages over a forum. Here’s why. When a blogger focuses on the ideas of customer for products. A blogger can receive ideas, more links, and higher sales and turn customers into evangelists. Blogs give companies the ability to interact between other blogs in a totally different way than the closed world of a forum. Blogs give companies many tools of interaction, such as commenting and trackbacks. By setting up a company blog, a company declares their company is open to conducting an online dialogue between bloggers. A company blogger is free to comment and trackback on blogs in the community, and other bloggers are free to comment on the company blog. If a company can run a successful blogging operation, a company can gain links and the opportunity to have a dialogue with many other blog readers from the bloggers who write and refer to a company blog post. The readers of a customer blog may not be exposed to the closed world of forums.

Marketing is not just about promotion; the marketing concept is about discovering the needs and wants of a customer. Forums can help companies build better products through online discussion. Corporate blogs can also provide a mechanism for customer feedback and ideas. The editorial control of corporate blogs gives a company a unique opportunity to demonstrate brand online. Perhaps the value or promise a company can provide and keep with its customers.

Corporate blogs allow more interaction between other blogs and websites than forums. That flexibility to interact in the wider online customer community means that blogs can give companies additional benefits in the areas of higher search engine rankings and exposure to new audiences beyond forums. To me both forums and blogs play a vital role in the online design tools for interaction with customers. And even though the amount of content in blogs may be less. It’s the open nature of blogging that allows interaction between individual bloggers that gives blogs their special role in the world of products development, marketing, search engine optimization and public relations.

I was inspired to write this article today after my lengthy discussion with Scott Wilder from Intuit and our presentation on a panel together with Eric Anderson from Adobe at the Boston Product Managers Association last night. At the panel we discussed the differences between blogs and forums for product development. Yet I did not articulate my ideas about the advantages of blogs over forums yesterday, but yesterday’s discussion coalesced my thinking.

Posted by johncass at February 17, 2006 11:06 PM

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