Marketers relying more on blogs in the business world

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Although Facebook and Twitter are highly rated from internet consumers, blogs are the standard approach for marketers in the business world (b2b).

eMarketer just released a study that states 34% of all US companies are running a public blog. The outlook for 2012 is even more promissing: The study projects an increase by 11 points to a total of 45% by 2012. In 2007 only 16% of companies used a blog for their communication strategy.

“Studies have shown that marketers perceive blogs to have the highest value of any social media in driving site traffic, brand awareness, lead generation and sales—as well as improving customer service.” Paul Verna, senior analyst, eMarketer

Especially smaller companies with less marketing bucks see the potential of blogs. Short sign-of processes, faster internal dynamics and more flexibility in choosing social technology make it easier for a managing director of an SMB company to set up a blog. Larger companies like stock listed companies have more restricted options to go live on WordPress, Blogger or Typepad in terms of potential legal, IR-related and logistical issues.

Though Twitter and Facebook are easier to set up and kick off the conversation with clients, the impact of blogs is manifold. Blog posts are indexable and searchable on Google as well as on other search engines. And blogging has a long-lasting effect. While tweets cannot talk about complex topics and disappear quite quickly from search engines, blog post stay – no matter if you are looking for that information today ot in five years time.

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If companies can manage it from a resources perspective, the best way to go forward is to set up many social media access points. The professionals have identified by web analysis and social media monitoring where client engagement takes place and where their clients are talking. In a perfect world, users will find the blog post via Twitter and then use the „Like“ button to get to the Facebook page – and ideally find some interesting and relevant content there again. But creating different content for different access points is the biggest challenge…, bigger than writing a blog post. Don’t you think…?

Product strategists think social innovations could increase

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If there are more and more people engaging with brands on the social web, the opportunity to collaborate with the social community becomes a lucrative meaning for brands – and their product strategists. These managers could open up a new „external R&D department“ when they use social technology in order to increase product innovations by integrating their customers in the process of product creation and development.

A recent Forrester study of 181 consumer product strategy professionals from companies around the globe states that product strategists in companies strive for social innovations. Though Forrester makes clear that social innovation is not yet where it should be from the product strategist’s point-of-view. The study shows the familiar picture that we see in more or less all departments in companies: It is still early days also for product strategists to work with social media. And only some leverage social media in favor of social innovations.

Still it seems to be a big challenge for companies to find their way from being engaged with their customers on the social web to understanding the impacts and chances to social innovation management. This becomes clear when we see that 83% of the companies use social media to drive customer conversation but then not even half of those have product teams that influence product design, creation, or strategy by using social media.

It is also surprising for me to acknowledge that it is not the resources that are lacking. More than two-thirds of the responding product strategists have dedicated social managers or teams. On the one hand, it lacks the right technological connection bridges between the different company departments. On the other hand, when not more than one-fifth have formal policies in their companies for sharing data from social technologies with product teams, the road to succeed with social co-creation efforts seems to be long.

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The best way to produce the right products for your customers is to ideally let them inspire a business. In the past, we had focus-groups which were cost-intensive, time-limited and time-consuming. The concept of social creation and social innovation can work on a day-to-day innovation platform. Just think of Dell Ideastorm, MyStarbucksidea, Adobe’s ideas lab or the IKEA Hacker approach. Nevertheless, companies should be aware that customers very often need or want some kick-back for their inspirational efforts. So, in my eyes the point of giving away some form of incentive will be necessary to get such communities started and make them sustainable.

Or will customers in the future co-create for free to receive better product-price-quality? What do you think?