Study: Company Blogs Lead Social Media Options

Hubstop pie chartCompared with the rise of newer marketing tools such as Facebook and Twitter, the corporate blog may seem a bit stodgy. But a new study finds blogging to the most important lead-generation source among social media options, followed by StumbleUpon, YouTube, Facebook, De.lic.ious and Digg.

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.

Recommend (8)
5 comments about "Study: Company Blogs Lead Social Media Options ".
  1. Rob Leavitt from Solutions Insights , January 30, 2009 at 8:29 a.m.

    To, the real news of the study is that social media accounts for only 8% of leads. That's pretty small, although probably not bad given that it's still pretty experimental for most companies -- and I actually assume the HubSpot survey is biased somewhat toward early adopters given their constituency. Given these numbers, there's no contradiction at all with the Forrester research that blogs are a relatively less trusted information source. Blogs are not generating a huge amount of leads, neither are they usually intended to. And "trusted information source" is not directly related to lead gen anyway.

  2. Tom O'brien from MotiveQuest LLC , January 30, 2009 at 10:33 a.m.

    I'd like to see the composition of the companies in the survey. The fact that this does not even include forums and other forms of non socnet online communities makes me question the results.

    TO'B

  3. Michael Durwin from Social Media & Online Consultant , January 30, 2009 at 1:09 p.m.

    The story might also be that 3/4 of corporate execs and small businesses just don't know how to reach people! They certainly haven't figured out how to leverage social media.
    As for the statistics, you can get them to mean what you want. This article inspired me to write a post about just that: http://tinyurl.com/cnobyt

  4. Daniel Briere from TeleChoice, Inc. , January 31, 2009 at 7:49 a.m.

    So I read this. It is interesting, but i really have to question the results. They surveyed a bunch of small and mid-sized businesses and asked them questions about their distribution of sales leads by all these different mechanisms? I've surveyed small companies before and found really big distributions in the results. But more frequently, I found that a lot of people there did not really know their own company despite being small. This is pretty specific stuff and not likely to be at people's fingertips. How many people in businesses, much less small businesses, really know how to break down such costs, at least without having to go out and get info to find out? I mean, if someone called me I'd say I'd have to sift through a lot of data to find out. But how do you quantify that SEO drove 16% of leads? SEO is a concept...it applies to your website and press releases and lots of stuff -- how would you track SEO results? If people know precisely how much in sales they are getting from DM v. telemarketing v. pay per click ads, kudos to them, but do you think many people know off the top of their head, to do a statistically-significant survey? So to have such quantification on such fuzzy things with audiences that historically don't have this info at their fingertips, I question the results. PLUS we don't know the variation. You might have three companies that said 100% telemarketing, 0% telemarketing and 100% telemarketing, and it averages to 67%, and yet that's not really that meaningful due to the large distribution. So, I'm not so sure here.

  5. David Thurman from Aussie Rescue of Illinois , February 3, 2009 at 6:57 a.m.

    I see the 8% penetration as amazing myself, since direct mail is 7%, and most of the others are just a few percentage points ahead. For a relatively new mechanism to touch a consumer/customer and garner that number is impressive I think. But alas, since it is so new and so many traditionals are weary of change, we will see a small niche group of web/seo shops steal this thunder as well from agencies...