For a few years now, companies have heard that blogs are great tools to better reach and understand their customers.  But at some point, the rubber needs to meet the road, and actual bottom-line results need to be examined.  So are any companies actually seeing growth coming from their blogging efforts?  You better believe they are!

First, let's start big.  Big companies come with big weight and are slow to move.  But even companies as big as Dell are seeing positive changes from blogging.   In 2005, popular blogger Jeff Jarvis unleashed a firestorm in the blogosphere when he began blogging about the problems he was having with his Dell, and how the company's customer service was sorely lacking.  The episode was capped when Dell, who wasn't blogging at the time, issued a statement saying that they refuse to respond to complaints from bloggers.  This lit the spark that would become 'Dell Hell', and at its height, 49% of blog posts about Dell, were negative.

Dell realized the error of its ways, and began embracing blogging and bloggers.  Today, the Austin company has one of the best reputations for effectively utilizing social media for communicating with its customers.  And what does Jeff Jarvis, the blogger that launched Dell Hell, think about the company's transformation?  In the fall of 2007 Jarvis wrote a feature article for Business Week lauding the company for its remarkable turnaround, and added that after meeting with Dell, he discovered that negative blog posts about the computer had fallen from 49%, down to 22%.

But what about smaller companies?  Stormhoek was a tiny South African winery when the company began working with UK blogger Hugh MacLeod to develop a social media strategy.  MacLeod started working with Stormhoek in May of 2005, and by the end of the year, the winery's sales had doubled.   Besides dipping its toes in the blogging waters, in 2005, Stormhoek also launched an interesting campaign where it gave away 100 free bottles of wine to 100 bloggers in the UK, Ireland, and France.  The bloggers were under no obligation to write about the wine or Stormhoek, but many did both, and the company's awareness among bloggers skyrocketed.

In 2006, Stormhoek expanded on the 'give wine away to bloggers' idea, by setting up 'Geek Dinners', where bloggers around the United States throw their own parties, with Stormhoek providing the wine for free.  This idea just further raised Stormhoek's presence in the blogosphere.

So what's the end result from all this for Stormhoek?  Hugh MacLeod, speaking at last year's South by Southwest festival, stated that before Stormhoek started blogging and involving bloggers in its marketing efforts, that the winery sold around 40,000 cases of wine a year.  When MacLeod spoke at SXSW in March of 2007, he stated that the company was at that point selling 40,000 cases of wine a WEEK. 

Other examples:  In the fall of 2007, Donna Lyons-Miller had this to say about how blogging was affecting her business, GourmetStation.com:

"Our business is really growing nicely on a very very small marketing budget, and I attribute a lot of that (growth) to the blog. In 06 our growth was 30% and in 07 year-to-date it's 40%."

Finally, a company can benefit from blogging, even if the company itself doesn't blog.  Tim Jackson is a brand manager for Masi bicycles, and his personal blog is the very popular Masi-Guy.  And even though his 'personal' blog is his own and not Masi's, he still feels that it has significantly impacted Masi's bottom-line:

"In the time I've been with the company, within the first two years we have doubled sales. And obviously it would be nice to say that it's all about the blog, because I'm such a blog proponent, but I know that that's been a key ingredient to it, because it's allowed me to reach people."


The hype has swirled around the potential of blogs as a marketing tool to help grow companies and small businesses for years now.  Finally, companies are beginning to report results that validate the hype. 

January 16, 2008





Mack Collier is a social media consultant, trainer and speaker. He has been actively immersed in social media since 2005, and in that time, has helped advise, teach and consult with businesses of all shapes and sizes on how they can better connect with their customers via these amazing tools and sites. While being passionate about the social media space, what truly excites Mack is the human connections that can result from the proper use of these social tools. His motto is "Don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate." His goal is to help his clients create those connections with their customers, and nuture them into relationships that help grow their bottom line.

His social media 'homebase' is The Viral Garden, which in 3 years time Mack has grown into an influential marketing/social media blog with a monthly readership of over 175,000. He is also a frequent contributor to the website Marketing Profs, as well as the marketing blog Daily Fix, and small business blog Search Engine Guide. His writings have been referenced in several mainstream publications and websites, including The Washington Post, MSNBC.com, Ad Age, CNET, and The Boston Globe.

Mack is also a requested speaker and has presented at some of the top social media conferences and events, including South By Southwest Interactive, Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer, and Small Business Marketing Unleashed. He is also passionate about teaching companies how to use social media sites and tools more effectively, and offers training and seminars privately to companies, in addition to his public speaking schedule.

You can learn more information about Mack's social media training and consulting services here. If you need a social media speaker for your event, or want to know where Mack will be speaking next, click here. If you want to email Mack, click here.

Mack wrote this bio. The third-person thingie is just for fun.






Comments(19)

Considering the costs, free, there is no good reason not to blog. If you are a business person who "doesn't have anything to say", hire a blogger. Part-time if you have to.

Terry I can't completely agree on hiring someone else to blog for you. The problem with this approach is that they won't understand your business, or have the passion for it that you do. I would much rather have someone that owns or works for the business to try their hand at blogging, before they turn it over to someone else.

So this post seems to be mostly about how blogging companies raise their brand value inside the blogger community. Now my question would be: What effect does that have in the end on sales? Don't get me wrong, I advocate blogging and getting involved in a conversation myself but I always wonder what power these bloggers really have (ok, admitted in a world of Google companies probably don't want to find themselves in a result list with a negative blog post on #1 but I still wonder).

I agree completely Mack. Unfortunately, getting some people to blog about their business can be almost impossible. Larger organizations have the opportunity to have different employees of different departments do some blogging but that is not always the case for the little guy.

"So this post seems to be mostly about how blogging companies raise their brand value inside the blogger community. Now my question would be: What effect does that have in the end on sales? Don't get me wrong, I advocate blogging and getting involved in a conversation myself but I always wonder what power these bloggers really have (ok, admitted in a world of Google companies probably don't want to find themselves in a result list with a negative blog post on #1 but I still wonder)."

It's not about the power of the bloggers so much as it is the power of a company being willing to listen and talk to current and potential customers. The blog is just a very effective way of doing this.

For example, let's say you want a bicycle and you do what most people do, and go to Google to see what's out there. You might come across Schwinn's website, which probably gives you plenty of technical info about their bicycles, and tells you how to locate and contact your local Schwinn dealer.

Then you come across the MasiGuy blog. You get the same technical info on bicycles, but you learn about the Masi company by reading the blog of a brand manager named Tim Jackson. You find out that Tim is pretty much like most of us, he drives his daughter to school every day (with pictures), and wears goofy socks to work, with pictures (ok maybe most of us don't do that). But he also walks us through how Masi bicycles are assembled, where they are assembled, and shows us the people that assembles them. And he takes us on rides and gives us reviews of Masi and even other cycling products. When you read Tim's blog, it's easy to tell that he is a genuine person, and a trustworthy person. And those qualities transfer to the company he works for.

IOW, he humanizes Masi. Sure Schwinn has brand managers too, possibly just like Tim. But they aren't letting them 'talk' to me. They let their website promote their products.

Schwinn has a website, Masi has Tim. That's a huge advantage for Masi.

"I agree completely Mack. Unfortunately, getting some people to blog about their business can be almost impossible. Larger organizations have the opportunity to have different employees of different departments do some blogging but that is not always the case for the little guy."

From a limited human resource standpoint, I can agree with small businesses sometimes struggling to find the time/people to blog. But on the flipside, a blogging small business can quickly develop an online presence that it may take a big company years to develop. Just from a Google standpoint, an active blog for Joe's General Store will eventually pass a stale website from BigCompany.com.

But on the flipside, there can be plenty of resistance to blogging in big companies as well. Robert Scoble has talked about when he worked at Microsoft, that he would go around the company with a camera and just talk to his co-workers and put the videos up on the Channel 9 website. It was a great glimpse inside the company, and helped to humanize (there's that term again) a large software company that many people did and still do see as 'evil'.

But Scoble said that there were internal memos passed around Microsoft pointedly asking 'Who the **** approved this?!?'. Because its the big company mentality that any communication needs to run through the PR department and 'be approved'. Scoble circumvented the PR department, and just let Microsoft's workers talk 'directly' to the people. If he was talking to a co-worker and their computer running Windows suddenly locked up, he wouldn't edit it out, because that really DOES happen in real life.

He showed that Microsoft isn't the 'Evil Empire', but was a group of real people doing real work. People just like most of us. This again, is why blogging works so well, because it evaporates the line that divides a company from its customers.

Mack - There's absolutely no doubt that businesses should be blogging. The return depends on the quality of the blog(s) and the type of business, but our tests with clients show a dramatic increase in traffic, a percentage of which positively turned to sales. It's all in the approach and, of course, the blogger's networking or following.

Blogging is absolutely one of the most effective ways to distribute information to an interested population. Both with posts on your own blog, and posting like this on relevant blogs.

One of the things we are testing, is "Blog Seeding" . Using structured Google searches, we are finding relevant conversations like this one in which to paricipate. Tagging posts with links back to our website.

We did this for a client with a very specific "green product". Submiting content to relevant sites, has significatnly increased his web traffic, and web sales by almost 15%

www.roundpeg.biz

We are Web Design Company in Mumbai, India. and we have been blogging for a few months now.

Our Blog has helped us in reaching out to a great number people than what are online advertising, our website and all our other web presence could do.

Our business is quite connected to the internet hence we see scope in using the blog medium, but for business out in the real world like someone who owns a store or restaurant on high street how blogs can help, is still something that i'm not quite sure.

I suppose they need to get other bloggers excited and start talking like what the winery guys did.

thanx
Alexander

Blogging today is as important as answering email.

What company wouldn't want to hear from it's customers?

Maybe the ones that don't have telephones?

The technology changes and increases the speed of the feedback loop, but the basics are the same. To succeed in business, you just

1. Find out what people what
2. Get it for them

A blog just makes this happen a whole lot faster!

Great post. am thinking of how to use this info to tackle one of the leading bad service companies in south africa, incredible connection. maybe some blogging will make them take note and try and mend their ways.

I sell glass art on my website and I also blog about the glass that I am making. I get a lot of custom orders through my blog. My blog postings rank higher with the search engines than my website. Blogging is helping me build my business.

Christine

I am quite aware of the power of blogging but have no idea how to get the major bloggers to pick up on my unique visual marketing engine.

I had a very favorable article written about it in WebProNews last Friday. Some bloggers picked it up off that article and wrote favorable blog posts, but thus far none of the major bloggers have done that.

How can I get it in front of them? It is indeed a better mousetrap. They will see that within 30 seconds.

"I sell glass art on my website and I also blog about the glass that I am making. I get a lot of custom orders through my blog. My blog postings rank higher with the search engines than my website. Blogging is helping me build my business."

Christine I think that a blog is an excellent idea in a situation such as yours, where you are making the product you are selling. Readers love seeing the creation process, and I think it helps us trust the seller since they are showing us how exactly the item is being created.

I don't believe that EVERY business should be blogging, but in a case such as yours, where the person is creating their own products, I think a blog is about the best marketing you can do to promote your business. Congrats on your success!

Jim I think we all do this from time to time. Sometimes I will work on a post for days, and then no one notices it. Other times I will tap off a post in 5 mins before I got to bed, and wake up the next morning to see that it's received dozens of links/comments overnight. Blogging is a funny animal in this regard.

If you are trying to get the attention of a particular blogger, my advice would be to link to their blog, and/or leave a comment on their blog. As time goes by, we all read more and more blogs as we meet more people. I'm not reading over 100 blogs a day. If someone wants me to read their blog, they are going to have to do something to break through the other blogs that I am already reading.

But if someone links to my blog, or comments, I will definintely see it. And that highly increases the chances of my reading their blog as a result.

Blogs do work - the same way that websites do. Even more so because of its casual and interactive nature, and because we can interact with blogs more than regular sites. The best thing about it is that it is virtually costless, yet the rewards are great. With blogs the consumer has a say -- and we provide a free service of information to the customer -- and hopefully, with the glee of great content comes the desire to consume your product or service.

Blogs are the most important thing to use for your business now. Everyone either has one or reads them.

I agree with some of the comments . We have tried blogging in the past , I tried delegating the work to one of my staff , that didn't work . I am now trying it our for myself and I am convinced it will work . I am learning as I go along , surely any relevant content is good for exposure on the web.

Blogs are great for any business, small or large, and even if your small or large business does not have a website, a blog is a great place to start! With a blog, you can promote your new products and services, and you can even fill your blog with text ad links, like google adwords or adsense, and it is a great way to get more acquainted with your customers ,)

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Search Engine Guide > Mack Collier > So Does Blogging Really Work? Here's the Proof.