Forrester’s Charlene Li and several colleagues have published a new best practices study on The ROI of Blogging. It’s fascinating reading for those of us who’ve been wrestling with the question of how you can quantify the impact of a corporate blog. I’ll make a few comments about Forrester’s new report in a moment.

Does corporate blogging need to be tied to the bottom line? “No…”

But first I want to tell you about a rather surprising response I’m getting to the “ROI of blogging” question in an informal survey I’m running. Thus far over 250 respondents have responded to the corporate blogging and social media survey I posted on Feb. 2, 2007. (Respondents range from Fortune 1000 to small business and one-person shops. Majority are small business.) The answer to the question “Does corporate blogging need to be tied to the bottom line” is a pretty clear “No.”

Specifically, 60 percent say that the success of a corporate blog does *not* need to be measured in dollars. 25 percent say it does. And another 15 percent have interesting comments to make. A sampling follows:

Q: Does corporate blogging need to be tied to the bottom line?

A: from Senior Consultant at a Fortune 500 company: “No”

A: from Marketing Director of a small company (under 100 employees):

“No” would be an irresponsible answer; of course it has to be tied to
the bottom line, but it doesn’t have to be measured like e-mail or a
coupon campaign. It’s more like event sponsorship or PR.”

A: from Communications Director of a small company (under 50 employees):

“Yes, but it is not a direct investment to return measure. It is more
about here is the investment we made to change our culture (or the
perception of our culture) and here is how the new culture has
benefited the bottom line.”

The survey is still open. Click here to take it. The survey is now closed.

Oh, and what do I make of the survey results? Well, I guess it’s pretty obvious: many marketers, execs and business owners aren’t as concerned with calculating the ROI of blogging as they are with more practical challenges: how much time will it take? Who will write the blog? What should the topic be??

More about Forrester study on ROI of Business Blogging

Roi_of_blogging_forresterI’ve been as fascinated as anyone by the ROI of blogging question. I devote a chapter to it in my book where I call it ROB (Return on Blog).

I like Forrester’s approach to quantifying the ROI. The model they’ve built is elegant, smart and tidy. Quantifying “risk” by 1) identifying uncertainty and 2) calculating probability (…that something will go terribly wrong; a PR disaster, etc.) is especially clever. 

I also like the way Forrester uses proxies to calculate some of the benefits. For example, a blog provides an on-demand focus group compared with the cost of running a traditional focus group once a month for a year (total cost: $180,000). See nifty diagram. That last number came out of the accompanying case study on GM’s FastLane blog: Calculating the ROI of Blogging: A Case Study.

Trouble is, even Forrester admits that “calculating the ROI of blogging has limitations” and “the exact benefits of blogging are impossible to measure” (I’m quoting directly from the Jan. 24, 2007 Best Practices report.)

So where does that leave us?

Pretty much back where we started, wouldn’t you say? Corporate blogging is valuable because:

– it creates a conversation with customers

– you can learn a lot from the conversation

– it can lead to mentions in mainstream press (so PR value)

– Word of mouth marketing

– it gives a company higher Google search results, etc.

What do you think?? Would leave to hear your thoughts on this. (Hint: use the Comments link below.)

Useful Links

New ROI of blogging report from Forrester (Charlene Li)

Corporate Blogging ROI – Now We’re Talking (Mario Sundar on the MProfs blog; read the comments. Very interesting.)

Forrester creates a model to measure blogging ROI (Steve Rubel on Micro Persuasion)