Are blogs a viable marketing tool? That is the question that Jim Meskauskas addressed in yesterday’s Mediapost OnlineSPIN titled Flogging the Blog: Welcome, Marketers!. Mr. Meskauskas attacked the idea that blogs were really a new marketing tool at all. “My personal opinion about blogs is that by and large, they are simply web sites that serve as personal diaries being offered up to the masses in the hopes that someone will care about what the author thinks,” Meskauskas writes. I don’t completely disagree with Meskauskas, many blogs are nothing more than personal web sites or diaries. However, there is an important tool of blogging that Maskauskas fails to mention. RSS is an important part of what makes blogs so powerful. The ability to deliver constantly updated information to the reader (or consumer in the case of marketing blogs), makes this a very powerful force.
I don’t believe Mr. Meskauskas and I see eye to eye on what a marketing blog is. His only example is Gawker’s Art of Speed website for Nike. While this website was interesting and one the first major forays into the blogging field by a non-tech blue-chip company, I don’t believe it should be held as the ideal for what a corporate blog should strive to achieve. What about all those companies out there that are allowing their employees to blog? People like Microsoft’s Robert Scoble are giving a huge corporation and real face and a human voice. This is essentially a marketing blog, even though Scoble often writes on topics far removed from Microsoft. But if the goal of marketing is to make honest connections with consumers, then haven’t Microsoft and Scoble achieved their goal now that Scoble has a loyal stable of readers?
I couldn’t agree with Meskauskas more when he says that blogs are “individualistic personal expressions that are supposed to be for their authors’ authentic manifestations of the self. To let companies co-opt that is to undermine the very power blogs have that is attracting marketers to them in the first place.” This is a fine point, however, by only examining Art of Speed, you Meskauskas missed thousands of other examples of companies using blogs correctly.
What about a blog to keep consumers informed of what’s going on with a product? Blogs are the most powerful tool for this because of the constant updates and RSS capability. People are interested in knowing what’s going on, and this is a great way to keep those interested people informed. Especially as products are in development, blogs can be a powerful tool for building excitement. How can Meskauskas completely ignore this function?
What about the other advantages to blogs? Things like trackbacks allow people to link to one another to continue a conversation on a different webpage completely. It opens up the dialogue and makes the blogosphere a social networking dream-space. Not to mention the comment field that goes along with most blog entries, which allows people to ask questions directly of the blogger (or company) with the answers available for all other readers to see. Isn’t this a valuable tool for technical support? When new functionality is added, developers can be in dialogue with users. Blogs can help maintain brand loyalty.
This is not to say that Meskauskas is completely wrong, and that many marketers won’t use blogs completely wrong. However, I think it certainly nullifies his last paragraph:
But there is nothing unique about blogs that makes them better for this than other environments. Like all new things, to quote Frank Herbert, the author of the original “Dune” novels: “‘this too shall pass away’ applies to all the known universe.”
Art of Speed may pass, however, blogs and the technology, like RSS, that has been pushed forward with them are here to stay. If Meskauskas wants to stand in the way, bloggers will simply link around him.