Fortune 500 blogging

The Downside of the Decline of Blogging Among the Fortune 500

The following post is based on studies conducted by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts as well as studies by other leading researchers.

Social media is rapidly changing the way business operates. Many firms have ventured into the world of social media in hope of generating greater revenues and profits as well as increased market share.

However, to our knowledge, little research has been done to look at not only the adoption, but also the replacement of a social media tool, like blogging, with a substitute or newer generation tool.

Is New Better?

Understanding the life cycle of social media tools and the propensity to introduce new tools will be instrumental in selecting and adopting the best approach for a specific company and target audience.

Specifically, blogging was one of the first tools to be adopted by businesses in the late 1990’s, but the use of blogging by the Fortune 500 is declining and newer tools are emerging to take its place.

Due to the labor intensive and time-consuming nature of blogging, it is likely that it will be slowly replaced by the newer generation of microblogs, such as Twitter.

Unfortunately, microblogs cannot offer many of the core benefits of blogging and businesses may be abandoning an important tool too soon.

Popularity of New Tools Peaks

Typically, the belief is that a new generation of a product will eventually replace the older generation. However, often old and new generations may coexist for a long period of time. The adoption of new competitive platforms seems to have dramatic effects over a short duration of time.

However, studies show the popularity of any given form of social media peaks after four years. As blogs are one of the most mature social media tools, we believe the while blogging is now declining, it will not become extinct, but slowly be replaced by a substitute or new generation of tools.

Today, Twitter has become a dominant force as one of the most widely recognized microblogs, allowing users to share information, pictures, and links with a limited amount of text. Despite allowing users to share content, microblogs function in a remarkably different manner.

Typical blogs allow for more text and information, as well as offer better search optimization and branding options. Microblogs offer short and more visual alternatives for sharing information.

Microblogs are not appropriate substitutes for blogs, in our opinion. The number of distinct benefits offered by blogs that are not offered by microblogs makes microblogs unacceptable substitutes.

Blog Advantages

There is agreement on at least three major advantages of traditional blogging that do not typically result from microblogging tools:

  1. Thought Leadership. The discussion of topical industry issues, answers to significant product/industry questions or taking positions on more complex topics like sustainability, global threats, health and safety or clean water/food.
  2. Driving traffic to the website. Blogs cue search engines that a website is active and provide opportunities to show up in organic searches. This not only brings in traffic, but potential leads and sales.
  3. Serving as a repository of content. The blog can inform other social media and they in turn can point back to the blog. This relationship unifies the message and supports the brand

In addition, there is the issue of ownership. A blog on a corporate website is owned and operated by the company without restriction on length, content or tone. This is not true of the microblogging platforms, which all impose restrictions.

For all these reasons and more, the decline of blogging may have a serious impact without a suitable substitute. Despite the decline in blogging, the Fortune 500 uses blogs to accomplish goals they believe cannot yet be met with newer tools.

Fortune 500 Blogs Will Continue to Decline

The leveling off of blogging began in 2011 and, except for a bit of a surge in 2012 and 2013, Fortune 500 companies have decreased their use of blogs.

blogging Fortune 500

The decline in blogging among these leading corporations will be contrasted with an increased in the adoption of a newer “generation” of tools that allow for microblogging or a shorter and faster format.

Twitter usage:

Fortune 500 blogging

Rise of Instagram:

Fortune 500 blogging

Despite the decline in blogging, the Fortune 500 uses to blogs to accomplish goals that cannot yet be met effectively with other tools.

The primary objective these blogs are thought leadership (42%), branding (26%), informational (24%) and Other, including charity/mascot (8%).

For example, Ford Motor Company writes extensively about sustainability, safety and innovation. Whole Foods Company dedicates posts to sustainability, animal welfare and GMOs in food. Others, like Coca-Cola and Starbucks, use their blogs predominantly to promote their brands.

What the Future Holds

What’s lacking is current research to ascertain why certain tools are being adopted. Despite Twitter and Facebook being popular platforms for consumers are they the best platforms for generating sales, increasing brand recognition or communicating with a target audience?

If there is a disconnect between brands trying to reach consumers in a comfortable setting, and yet consumers do not appreciate this outreach, it is possible some tools may do more harm than good.

New tools may come and go in accordance with well-established theories of adoption, but when it comes to blogging, companies should remain vigilant in utilizing a blog for information, and for securing a reputation of expertise and trust.

Despite their decline in adoption, blogs still serve a greater purpose, and companies should think twice before jumping ship for a smaller and less substantive experience for their target audiences.

Inc. 500 study social media U. MassachusettsDr. Nora Ganim Barnes is Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The Center conducts several studies every year of social media usage by the Fortune 500, the Inc. 500, Millennials and social media, and social media usage among charities and in higher education.

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  1. Thanks for this great post!

    Diane Rehm was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning. She is ending her long running 2 hour daily radio show next year (at which time she will be 80 years old). She indicated her decision to end the show is timed for after the presidential campaign, for the exact reasons indicated here…the depth needed to make a properly well informed voting decision cannot be made based entirely on information presented in a micro format.

    • Jeff — thanks for stopping by. There is simply no substitute for a blog to capture the nuances and detail required to discuss complex topics. With provocative sound bites, politicians can appeal to the basest instincts of people who don’t want to know the facts. They just want their own points of reinforced. It’s sad and scary at the same time.

  2. I totally understand why blogging would be considered old hat, just even from the perspective that social media is often driven by the desire for “newer, better,faster “. And it’s true that people don’t have the time to read lengthy posts. But I see that that perhaps something between a tweet and a smaller post could be the answer, with interchanging with an image based platform such as instagram. It will be interesting to see how it develops.

    • Kathy — social media is still evolving and different companies in diverse industries will eventually settle into what works best for them — and it might not even be available yet!

  3. Technology is always adopted for use in business. Sometimes, it is business that forces the adoption of technology onto society.
    Your post brings up many interesting points and also concerns.
    I am wondering if posts could be outsourced by these companies. We know many bloggers who now do product reviews; what happens when these blog reviewers are now paid by the companies? Do their posts then become irrelevant, and if so, do all review posts then decline in popularity? and then would then translate to all bloggers?
    This could also be transferred to other platforms, such as Twitter and FB. Could we now see the beginning of all social sites being controlled and manipulated by big business and hence, making them obsolete and ineffective. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • William — Companies are already outsourcing posts. For four years I wrote the weekly post for a training consultancy, but they were based on detailed conversations the the “owner” of the content and written totally from their point of view. I agree that many bloggers are now writing posts for pay — they have an obligation to reveal that and the bloggers I know do. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for manipulating the content or hiding the fact that the information is actually paid advertising.

  4. To me, there is something special about blogging. It gives me the opportunity to share news, thoughts, and information with my readers. It gives the opportunity to read their responses to what I have written and engage in meaningful dialogue. It is not the same as social media, where it’s just a few words that are the nugget of the interaction.

  5. I sincerely hope blogging doesn’t disappear. I like Kathy’s idea of a smaller blog, maybe limited to 400 words or so. Some blogs are very long and I can understand why busy people can’t be bothered reading them. Shortening them means the writer needs to get to the point faster and that can be done – look at Twitter with only 140 characters.

    • Lenie — actually 400 words isn’t all that short. It’s the microblogs of 140 characters that don’t allow for a more nuanced and thoughtful post.

  6. Terrific post Nora. Thanks for your guest Jeannette.

    It actually makes sense to me – the decline of blogging among the Fortune 500. After I refreshed my mind with the companies that make up this group, their market likely is NOT interested in long readings of information. Heck even my financial planning company just sends up 1 page reviews about quarterly.

    Many in the group are highly established brands: Christian Dior, Merck, Delta – and quite a wide variety. I love it when I know I can Tweet Delta and they MIGHT reply. I just had that kind of positive experience with Southwest on Facebook.

    My point is, while smaller businesses might find blogging to be of tremendous benefit in all the ways you mention, “generating sales, increasing brand recognition or communicating with a target audience” these large corporations often need to be more present moment to moment with their consumers. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, heck even Pinterest to a degree, allow this.

    Likely as the research continues the real reasons will surface. In the meantime, this self-development coach, author and blogger (solopreneur) will be blogging on!

    • Patricia — I’ve used Twitter more than once to get the attention of customer service in big companies. Much more effective than going through menu hell on the phone. However, that is a transactional experience and, in my view, can never replace a blog as a source of authority, information and to build a brand.

  7. Blogging will still remain one of the best ways to develop thought leadership and develop a sense of community for those drawn to online communities. While much in our lives is getting shorter in length, there is still a place for lengthy and informative information. The trick is how to make content stand out in a sea of information.

    • Jeri — your point is well taken that content is king, as they say. There are just so many blogs out there and many are of poor quality. It’s no wonder that some companies hesitate to start blogging if they don’t feel they can keep up the quality.

  8. Very interesting. I think blogging offers a unique way to communicate and connect, being able to provide more information than many of the social media platforms. Companies need to make use of social media platforms, but that doesn’t mean abandoning all blogging.

    • Donna — agree that blogging will always be a core tool for companies to demonstrate their authority and promote their brands.

  9. Really fascinating topic and information. I follow quite a few blogs and it is true that there has been a subtle and ever growing shift in the way people are delivering content. Personally, I am a reader, and there’s nothing that annoys me more than an article that has no depth. I don’t care at all for video and there is only one podcast I follow, and my only reason for sharing that is I think those that are going “all in” for audio and video are missing the fact that not everyone consumes information in the same way.

    Regardless of my personal preferences, or maybe because of them, I just surveyed the subscribers to my blog to find out their preferences, along with the biggest issues they’re facing now. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved when the message I received in return was that my readers are … well readers. That said one of the questions I asked was how they felt about having content available to download and while not overwhelming, the response was high enough that I’ve added that to my goals for 2016. Fascinating what you can learn when you just ask! Thanks for the great information and inspiration!

    • Marquita — as you said, it’s essential to learn how your readers or customers want to consume your information. I, for one, never listen to podcasts. It’s too time consuming and I can read the transcript much more quickly. I like to watch video, but, again, I can read the transcript more quickly. Possibly I’m in the minority because all the research I read says that the use of video will keep growing.

  10. I believe blogging will remain a place to develop a sense of community for those drawn to what you have to share, and of course, many online communities. I can attest to the fact that my time seems to become shorter day by day. Nevertheless, there is still a place for longer informative posts. The hard part for me is how to give my content a chance to stand out in the ocean of all the is out there.

    • Susan — we all face the same problem: getting readers to visit our posts. My traffic has declined — in large part because I’ve gone to a twice a month schedule — but even before then the numbers were inching down. There is just so much content out there it’s hard to get noticed. On the other hand, not all your business will come from search. Potential clients will look at your blog and LinkedIn Profile to assess your abilities and services. A blog is essential, in my view, to establish your authority and display your “wares.”

  11. Funny to see blogging described as ‘old hat’ – just ‘yesterday’ it was brand new. Nora brings some excellent points about the value of blogging, such as bringing web traffic to one’s website, owning the content, and having a blog serve as a repository of valuable content. However, if not done properly, a blog is not worth getting started. It is an investment of time and energy.

    • Leora — Nora states, too, that it is an investment of time and energy to keep a blog going. That’s why companies are turning to microblogs, like Twitter. Twitter and other social networks have their place but for all the reasons Nora states, blogging should remain a critical piece of any company’s communications strategy.

  12. This is so interesting and very timely for me. I’ve been wondering lately about my own blog. As my social media outlets are growing, my blog readership seems to be dropping. I’ve been wondering if less people are reading blogs, and are just scrolling through social media instead for inspiration. Thanks for the encouragement to keep writing!

    • Meredith — I think as more content is generated (and it is) the harder it is to grab the attention of search engines. I do believe, though, that a blog is essential to establish your authority and to demonstrate your skills and promote your services.