U Mass Dartmouth marketing professor Nora Barnes has caused quite a stir in social media circles with her latest study on the usage of social media by Inc. 500 companies. The research shows the number of Inc. 500 companies blogging declined in 2011.
It actually declined quite a bit. In 2010 half of the Inc. 500 blogged. But in 2011 only 37% did.
While blogging is down, social media usage is up. Facebook is used by by 74% of Inc. 500 members, LinkedIn by 73% and Twitter by 64%. Overall, 91% of the Inc. 500 report using some form of social media.
So why are fewer small businesses blogging? Based on our research the reasons are:
- Blogging is hard and takes a lot of time
- Most small businesses fail to see a solid ROI from blogging
- Small businesses are seeing a higher return from other forms of social media.
Based on our research, the main reasons small businesses fail to see a solid ROI is their customers/prospects: (1) don't read blogs in general, (2) aren't interested in reading/engaging with the specific small businesses blog, and/or (3) don't read the blog because they don't have time and/or are more engaged with other content.
Not only is the R low for most small business bloggers, the I is high. Blogging takes time, and time is a precious commodity for small businesses. So for most small businesses, other social media makes more sense.
Before you send me hate mail saying blogging is good for search results, let me add that relatively few small businesses we've studied have seen a pick-up in search results - and business coming from search - based on their blogging.
But small businesses are seeing solid returns from other forms of social media, which is why usage of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are up.
We're not negative on blogging. For many small businesses blogging is an excellent marketing tool. But like any tool or marketing method, it's not for every job or every company.