A recent article in USA Today reported a trend of companies moving away from blogging and relying solely on social media platforms. The article is interesting as, paragraph by paragraph, some truths are revealed about the ongoing importance of blogging, and the realities of doing it well.
This trend is not fueled by some knowledge that a social-only strategy is a more evolved or superior presence, but is a trend fueled by the difficulty of blogging despite the advantages it brings to the communications mix.
The blog is an important transition base in your online mix. Your website is your branded home, where you clearly articulate who you are, and to the degree possible these days, control and manage every byte, every pixel. Your company's ideal self. And though social platforms appear to belong to the crowds, remember, the crowd is the product and not the customer of these platforms. The platforms belong to their creators first, their advertisers second, the crowds third, and finally to companies that establish their presence there. These platforms are good for getting into the flow of content and connections, but they don't belong to you.
The blog, however, moves you from your primary company presence and story into a hybrid of top-down brand definition and bottom up social engagement. You have the opportunity of being immediate, current, and relevant. You have the opportunity to break down the fourth wall of brand theatre and expose your thinking, your personality, your evolution, your vulnerability. With a blog, you can be people. With a blog, you can create valuable content that is a strong tangent to your company's mission, but that doesn't fit into (or interfere with) the well-planned engagement around the core products and services presented by your website proper. You can give answers that people are searching for (remember, if you don't show up in the search results, you don't exist.) A well-written, well-indexed, well-structured blog will, at best, lead people back to your website, and at worst, will enhance your relevance in the world in which your company exists.
It's worth reading the easily digestible article (remember, USA Today was the first newspaper you could watch instead of read) - but also read the primary source research. Most of the paragraphs in the USA Today article either show the continued value of blogs, or offer factors in the decline that relate more to the difficulty of blogging as opposed to the lack of returned value.
So before you back off of blogging, first find ways of addressing the difficulties. Time commitment? Back off the pressure to blog every day, and promote the expectation in your audience that your posts will be less frequent but no less compelling. Lack of quality writers? Back off the pressure to write a New York Times essay every time you blog, and find someone in your company who can speak clearly and succinctly, knows your company and your customers. Find interesting content on the web, point to it, and explain in a few sentences why it's interesting to you. Find topics where you know there is a thirst for data, information, knowledge or wisdom that you have, and share it. Fear of regulation? As my friend Keith Carsten says, "Live by your convictions, not by your fears." No, that doesn't mean don't be afraid of getting convicted. Many regulated industries have clear guidelines for blogging. Get to know them and live well within them.
And don't generalize every trend article you read as permission to follow the crowd. Sometimes trends are leading indicators of giving up.