Of the 167 executives and business owners surveyed by Internet marketing firm HubSpot, three-quarters of those that have tried blogging said their company blogs were "useful," "important," or "critical" to their business. Nearly half the companies have a blog, and three-quarters publish content at least weekly.
Mike Volpe, vice president of marketing of Cambridge, Mass.-based HubSpot, said blogs provide companies benefits beyond building relationships with customers. "Not only are you creating a community around blog articles, but all those articles get indexed by search engines, so blogging has elements of search engine optimization (SEO) as well," he said.
The findings about blogging, however, seem to be at odds with a recent study by Forrester Research showing that consumers rated corporate blogs as the lowest-rated source of reliable information among the 18 categories the firm asked about, including Web portals, print newspapers, radio and personal blogs.
Only 16% of those surveyed said they trusted company blogs.
Volpe distinguished the HubSpot results by pointing out that the marketing-related professionals surveyed by the company were mostly from small and medium-sized business, which he believes tend to have more credible blogs.
"In my opinion, smaller companies are doing a better job being more authentic and don't have to vet every post so tightly before it goes up on the blog," he said. "That perhaps makes their blogs more successful and more trusted by people."
What about Twitter, the social media trend du jour? HubSpot itself released a separate study last month finding that the micro-blogging site with 6 million users was adding up to 10,000 accounts a day. Despite its rapid growth, Volpe said most businesses have only begun to experiment with Twitter. That's especially true of the business-to-business companies that represent the majority (71%) of businesses surveyed by HubSpot.
The same reasoning applies to MySpace, which was deemed to be the least useful social media property. "If you're in the music or entertainment industry, MySpace needs to be a priority for you," said Volpe. "But for business-to-business companies, you can basically ignore MySpace."
Overall, blogs and social media accounted for 8% of sales leads generated--the same proportion as trade shows. SEO drove 16%; pay-per-click ads 13%; email marketing, 14%; telemarketing, 9%; direct marketing, 7%; and "other" categories including public relations and print and online display advertising, 25%.
Blogs and social media, however, made up 10% of spending on lead-generation efforts, suggesting a lower return on investment than SEO--which was 12% of spending but led to 16% of leads, and email campaigns, which produced 14% of leads while accounting for 10% of marketing budgets.
Among other key findings, The HubSpot study also found that "inbound" marketing efforts--including blogging, social media, SEO and pay-per-click--had lower costs per-sales than "outbound" channels such as direct mail, telemarketing and trade shows.
Companies that spent more than half their marketing budgets on inbound methods averaged per-lead costs of $84 compared to $220 for those that allotted more than half of their budgets on outbound initiatives.
Small businesses have been especially aggressive in adopting inbound techniques, which emphasize permission-based marketing, according to HubSpot. Companies with less than 50 employees earmarked more than three times as much of spending on blogging and social media than larger ones, and 36% more on SEO.
Founded in 2007, HubSpot, which provides SEO and other digital marketing services, has raised more than $17 million from investors including General Catalyst Partners and Matrix Partners.