At the start of 2009 the IIA Social Media Working Group undertook a survey among Irish businesses that already have blogs. We asked them a number of questions to try and understand the objectives of their blogging activities, what results they were seeing and how much time and effort they put into managing their blogs.

We will be discussing the results in detail at the Business Blogging breakfast briefing on April 22nd, but in the meantime here are the high-level survey results:

The above post was first published on the IIA website and there was a news release to go with the official release of the results. I thought I might take the opportunity to draw attention to some of the findings of the survey:

On target audience for business bloggers: while customers, both potential and existing, are the primary audience for a blog it is clear that business bloggers are very conscious that there are other important people to consider. These are the “influencers” – in particular other bloggers and also journalists. In a later question “positive comment in other media” is the second most valued measure of success of a blog. It is early days in business blogging and many Irish organisations are seeing the potential that exists to be held up as case studies in this space.

The number one objective of most business blogs in Ireland is to present a more human face to the business. Because of the informal style of blogs, they offer the ability to break down barriers between customers and faceless companies. You don’t write a blog in the same way as you write copy for a brochure or a press release. There is a different tone; it is conversational and welcoming of responses. Once again there is a real opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves amongst customers by engaging with them in this manner.

Search engine optimisation is a hotly debated topic among business bloggers. It is a definite positive side-effect, since the search engines give higher weight to websites that have regularly updated, relevant content that receives lots of links from other sites. SEO should not be your primary motivation in blogging , as readers will very quickly tire of key-word laden content, but it is clear that many Irish bloggers see it as an important objective of their blog.

By far, the most significant measure of success for Irish business bloggers is the positive feedback they get from their customers. Sales revenue (at 21%) is at the bottom of the list, however it would be foolish for us to imagine that this is not the bottom line motivator for all businesses. The thing is, the hard sell in blogging simply does not work. Your audience will simply ignore your blog if you are constantly trying to sell. This lesson has been learnt by Irish bloggers and they are seeing the development of a positive attitude towards their brand as the most important measure of this activity.

Building connections with other blogs is a very important part of growing awareness of your business blog. Most business bloggers actively comment on other blogs where topics are mentioned that are relevant to their particular business. This is acceptable, and welcome, behaviour so long as the comments stay on topic and are not trying to sneak a plug  or hard sell in.

There is less of a monetary commitment and more of a time commitment required to keep a blog going. Most Irish business blogs cost less than a few hundred euro to host and serve on an annual basis. Writing at least one blog post per week and staying in contact with other blogs will require a commitment of several hours each week. There are many blogs started in a burst of enthusiasm and now lie idle and out of date; poorly reflecting on the business they are linked to.

So who should write your blog? Of all of the Irish business bloggers surveyed not one outsourced the ongoing scripting of posts to a third-party. Where a blog’s primary objective is to present a more human face for your business, there is an expectation by definition therefore that it is someone within or who is part of the business that blogs on behalf of the business. Transparency, openness and honesty are all part of the value-set that governs the world of blogging.

If you want to dig a bit deeper on the potential monetary benefits that Irish business bloggers are seeing check out this well written article from last Sunday’s Business Post.