In a world with so many shiny balls to chase—such as Snapchat and Instagram—are blogs still viable? Important?
A few years ago, I did a comprehensive study of the best company blogs in America, and it’s time to reconsider this channel. What is the state of the art in company blogging? What are the best company blogs today?
I did a study of Fortune 500 blogging efforts and made notes on these categories:
- Quality of content (Is it interesting, creative, well-written, human?)
- Consistency of publishing
- Engagement with audience
- Social sharing activity
- Alignment with corporate objectives
Here are the best blogs at the Fortune 500 companies with an important note: The blogs at high-tech companies such as IBM, Google, Dell, Intel, Cisco and Microsoft are so good that they are in a category by themselves.
If I did a true “top 10″ list, the elite designees would be all tech blogs. It’s really unfair to rate those blogs with the rest of the pack. So here is a list of the best non-tech industry blogs from the Fortune 500 (in no particular order):
Coca-Cola has several content sites, but “Unbottled” is what company blogging is all about: rich content; stories aligned with corporate objectives; responsive engagement; diversity of views from customers, employees and partners; great emotion and human connection. It’s the Real Thing.
Coke is one of my favorite companies, because when it comes to marketing communication, you can count on Coke to do it right. It’s a case study I use frequently in classes and workshops.
Wal-Mart tops the Fortune 500 list, and it has a great blog to go with that status. The site features a breathtaking variety of content featuring products, shopping tips, company history, seasonal features, and news. The human interest stories really shine, though. One of Wal-Mart’s goals is to be seen not only as a low-cost leader, but also as a company that sincerely cares about people and its communities. Its blog is an effective extension of that message.
The posts seem to be written by real employees, even down to the floor-level associates at its stores, which is wonderful. The blog shows the heart of the company.
This blog almost hits on all cylinders—but not quite. It is a site filled with useful, relevant content to help safeguard families, homes and businesses. The site is attractive and well organized, and its blog posts get an enormous amount of social media shares.
However, this blog looks as though it is created and maintained by an ad agency. It lacks real people and real stories, which is why it gets so little active engagement. We are told the first name of the post author but nothing about him or her. Overall, it’s a great site, though a little too clinical. My advice would be to bring out some real people and add a little soul to the site.
This is clearly one of the best blogs on the social media landscape and a reflection of a company culture that is open, responsive and attuned to its customers.
The content is sparkling with helpfulness, and company reps write posts in response to customer questions. It is well organized, and the variety of the content is fueled by an array of diverse writers.
This is one of my favorite company blogs; it has rock-solid and relevant content written by real people. It’s well organized and very helpful. It gets a respectable number of comments and social shares.
It makes two big mistakes, though.
First problem: The blog is disconnected from its main website. Why would you create all this great content to direct people away from your website? You wouldn’t-or at least you shouldn’t.
Second problem: It doesn’t consistently respond to comments. If you have customers (or potential customers) taking time to connect with you, what message does it send when you don’t connect back? Blogging is a great way to build loyal connections. Don’t leave customers hanging.
Keep working, guys; you’re almost there.
Celanese is a chemical company, representing an industry not normally at the forefront of social media, so let’s give props to Celanese for being bold with its blog.
This blog has a nice balance of content, but what I love most is that it has real heart. This is clearly not checking a box or outsourcing the work to ad agency content-bots. The company is showing off its employees.
It is getting a fair amount of engagement, but like ADP, it has the serious flaw of being disconnected from the main website. I want to click somewhere to engage with the company-but how?
I have long been a fan of the innovative community forums established by Caterpillar, and if you are looking for a B2B company that’s doing it right, look to CAT.
Caterpillar has blogs and forums for different industry segments, real people writing about their passion and expertise, and a highly engaged and passionate community. It’s probably time to freshen up the look of the site, but it is a truly great corporate social media effort.
I have a love/hate relationship with the Disney blog.
It’s the Happiest Blog on Earth, featuring insights on Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh, as well as Magic Kingdom trivia. It also does a great job of featuring personal stories from visitors. What’s not to like?
But there is something missing. People, for one. Who is writing these posts? A few years ago it highlighted its writers, and now that feature is gone. I’m curious as to why this company would decide that anonymous content is better than content connected to a real person.
This blog is perfectly aligned with the brand and a lot of fun, too. Everything you would expect from one of the greatest content companies in the world.
GE has always been one of my favorite companies, and I have followed its social media progress for years. Five years ago I would have put it at the very top of the field when it came to blogging and social media. Then something mysterious happened, and GE Reports became nothing more than a conduit for self-serving PR puff pieces. Frankly, I used it in my classes to spur discussion on what makes a terrible company blog.
I’m happy to report that this stylish news magazine is on top again, with exceptional storytelling that makes me go down the rabbit hole every time I visit the site. GE is trying to tell the world it has moved beyond appliances, and if you love in-depth tech and science reporting, this is a great place to geek out and get lost. It doesn’t feature its writers, which is a shame, because there is such good work here.
Home Depot is skillfully using its forum to teach people how to use its products better without being overly sales-oriented. It gets a moderate level of engagement, expressed through comments and social media sharing. This is a case study in a great way to use short, helpful “hygiene content” to attract and nurture customers.
Like many companies, Home Depot lacks links among big data, social media strategy, and customer connections that could really propel its customer relationships and sales. There’s a ton of potential here to connect data/content/customers. Here’s hoping it keeps moving its blog and content strategy forward.
Disclosures: Among companies mentioned in this article, Dell and IBM are the author’s current customers. He’s done consulting work in the past for CAT and Cisco.
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