Now is not the time for companies to abandon branded blogs for social channels because high-quality, original content can boost consumer engagement and purchasing decisions.
From 2013 to 2014, the use of corporate blogs by Fortune 500 companies dropped slightly (3%), as Twitter and Facebook continued to increase, according to a study from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research. This small dip, however, does not indicate that branded blogs are going by the wayside and social media is taking the reins.
It’s about balance.
Here are six reasons why branded blogs matter:
1. Consumers like reading brand content in news format
According to a study from last spring by London-based global market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres, 25% of consumers prefer to read content from a brand in news article format, while 21% want feature-style articles.
On Tuesday, Chick-fil-A posted a news article-type piece on the brand’s blog for National Cow Appreciation Day, along with a video to introduce fans to its cow mascots. The full article would probably appear obtrusive on a Facebook wall and it’s way too long for Twitter. Chick-fil-A tweeted about the piece from its news handle and linked to its recently launched blog.
2. Customized blogs give brands a voice
Branded blogs have definitely evolved over the last few years from being part of a company’s website to having their own microsites and IP addresses. Using a separate site is friendlier and less buttoned-up than having a blog tab on a corporate site near the investor’s relation page.
A customized blog site gives brands a more distinct voice, which 15% of respondents in the Taylor Nelson Sofres study said is one of the key reasons why brands should create content. Nearly half (48%) of participants think it’s important for brands to create original web content in general, 16% of which said it gives consumers a personal connection with the company.
3. Consumers prefer branded articles over ads
The majority (70%) of consumers would rather learn about a company through a branded article than an advertisement, so the quality of the piece matters, which is why so many companies are bringing on journalists for their content hubs. Q by Equinox, the fitness brand’s editorial site, is nearly fully staffed with former media members.
4. Branded blogs increase consumer engagement online
On the return side, it may still be tricky for a brand to show a direct correlation between how its blog is affecting sales, but it can measure traffic and the time consumers are spending on each article. Ashley Callahan, content strategy manager at Chick-fil-A, told me this week that the chain has seen some articles on its new site get 10 minutes or more of viewing time from readers.
5. Blogs can lift consumer purchase intent
A study by Research Now showed that 84% of consumers make purchases after reading about a product or service on a blog.
6. The blog - social media mix is most powerful
Consumers today want to get to know a company and its values, and corporate blogs provide a platform to do that. By highlighting entertaining or useful original content on a uniquely designed site, a brand can form relationships with fans in a more meaningful and memorable way than a quick Facebook or Twitter post.
This doesn’t mean brands should nix social– it’s great to engage fans in the 24/7 news cycle. But amidst the real-time social media marketing buzz, brands should keep corporate blogs in mind because the two platforms can complement each other to make an even more powerful impression.