Financial Times asks “Is blogging good value for the C-suite?”

Today’s FT.com has an interesting article that asks "Is blogging good value for the C-suite?’. It’s quite a thought-provoking, if slightly confusing article, by-lined to Urs E. Gattiker, the inventor of My.ComMetrics.com and founder and Chief Technology Officer of CyTRAP Labs in Zurich.

Confusing, because while it asks a lot of the right questions, it isn’t entirely clear in its answers and conclusions. It also has some statements that I would certainly question. It says that ‘some people might argue that social media usually turns out to be synonymous with expensive and time consuming and no clear benefit for the company.’

I’d certainly challenge the ‘expensive’ part of the statement as that definitely isn’t one of the barriers that we normally have when talking to big brands and corporates. Indeed most are surprised at how low cost it can be in comparison to other communications activity such as advertising, conferences and exhibitions.

I would agree that one of the barriers is proving a return on investment (ROI). The difficulty is that it is very easy to provide lots of metrics in social media, but that most of these need to come with a serious health warning as they don’t ‘prove’ anything.

One conclusion that the Financial Times article inevitably leads you to is that if brands and corporates are going to blog or do any other social media or social network activity then it is absolutely essential that they do it with the right support and advice.

And it’s interesting to see the plethora of different companies all desperate to get a slice of the social media and word of mouth marketing pie [Disclosure: my company Wolfstar is a public relations led social media and word of mouth marketing consultancy.]

One of the reasons that the advertising and direct marketing agencies are winning a big slice of this pie is that they ‘claim’ to offer lots of measurement and analysis that demonstrates the ROI. I’m not sure it does. A lot of what I’ve seen is an attempt to baffle ignorant clients with pseudo-science. They do it because that is their background. They are used to trying to demonstrate the ROI of advertising and marketing spend.

On the other hand you have public relations consultancies operating in the social media and word of mouth marketing space. You usually find that they are saying much more intelligent things about ROI and social media. They aren’t pretending there is a magic wand you can wave to measure everything. That’s because PR people have always struggled to measure what we do. Our measurement metrics nearly always come with health warnings, so we are much more honest and realistic about what social media and word of mouth can achieve for our clients.

I particularly liked the last paragraph of the article which offers exactly the same advice that we are constantly giving our clients:

‘So I suggest that you identify your target audience carefully, select the social media channel you want to show a presence in and then join the conversation with some caution. Focus on quality and benchmark your efforts based upon your goals.’

Finally I might have missed this article if it wasn’t for some smart blogger outreach by Drew Benvie at Hotwire who dropped me a quick email about it, while reminding me that he was doing so in his ‘capacity as FT.com’s online PR person :)’.

p.s. I had intended to also comment on My.ComMetrics.com, but the site appears to be broken – SQL errors if you use the free rank your blog service and 404s on other pages (FAQ). Pretty disastrous PR when you’ve just got a by-lined article in the FT, as I can’t imagine many interested prospects going back a second time.

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About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.