ReadWriteWeb has a post on Forrester Research’s study about consumer trust of information sources. It puts corporate and personal blogs at the very bottom (with 16% and 18% trust respectively), with personal email from a friend coming in at number one (with 77% trust). Forrester suggests that corporate blogs shut down shop unless their blog is doing a good job of generating good will and/or leads.
This study bothers me on many levels. As Michael Bernstein points out in the comments:
“Trust” is a 4 or a 5 on a 5 point scale, that is, anything above neutral. This means that lots of people could slightly trust a source and it would show up above something which a smaller number of people trust quite a bit and others are neutral on.
Also, the study compares information sources like email from friends and social networking profiles of friends to corporate and personal blogs. I ranted about this a bit on The Noisy Channel, which I’ll just reproduce here:
Comparing “personal blog” or some random “corporate blog” to “personal email sent from a friend” is pretty much like comparing “advice from gin-soaked hobo” to “what your mama always said.” The fact that Forrester can get away with presenting something like this and suggesting businesses act on it to shut down their blogs bothers me. It seems to me that 16-18% trustworthiness is not bad when you consider that much of the time you do a Google search for some product you hit a splog. That’s probably the only experience 80% of people have with blogs. Of course, that’s wild speculation, but this straw man study has gotten under my skin. :P And I do acknowledge that there is a huge amount of untrustworthy information in blogs, but I’m not sure that it’s much different from other user-generated content.
I agree that corporate blogs that are just reproductions of press releases (as Daniel Tunkelang at the Noisy Channel points out) are garbage. That is the wrong way to run a corporate blog. Google has a very good approach. They promote work they are doing by getting employees to blog about their personal projects (at least the Google blogs I read, there are surely exceptions). It comes across as real and beneficial. The value is that they keep you up-to-date on what they are doing with actual content. When that changes to become shameless promotion and unveiled attempts to drive sales, the blog is going to suck. GitHub’s blog is a another good example of a corporate blog done right.
Moving on, Daniel Tunkelang again offers some useful insight:
I think the interesting question for companies is not whether they should publish corporate blogs, but rather whether they should encourage their employees to publish personal blogs that relate to the work the company does. … I think that companies are often too conservative, and incur an enormous opportunity cost in the name of protecting trade secrets. Letting employees blog (and, more generally, publish) not only provides the companies with free marketing, but also provides employees with an avenue for personal development.
My cynicism prevents me from getting my hopes up here, but that would be nice.