Monday, October 11, 2010

Social Networking in the Plastics Industry Grows

The Urethane Blog is reporting that BASF has a YouTube "station" (I believe that they are properly called "channels"), while Dow Chemical was providing regular Twitter and Facebook updates at the "K" show. BASF actually has a full page on their website devoted to their social media efforts. [1]

I'm not expecting much from these efforts. They'll probably look pretty much like the PR pablum that marketing departments put out on a regular basis. In other words, it will be the same output as usual, but only the medium will be different. Like the ads that we all learn to ignore on most websites. They will certainly be able to brag to their management about all the hits they are getting, but stickiness and converting those hits to actual business is extremely difficult. Ask me.

Putting out an interesting blog (or whatever type of Web 2.0 option you desire - remember podcasting?) is challenging. While I am employed, this is still my blog and so I can experess stronger opinions and address more controversial topics than a conservative business entity can. The latter would most likely have to run everything through a committee and probably the legal staff too, further reducing any freshness, vivacity and interest.

I've been pushing for a strong blogosphere in the plastics arena for some time. It is progressing at a painfully slow rate, but there is so far to go. Let me give you some details. According to Google Reader, I have 27 regular subscribers. "In the Pipeline", probably the most popular blog on the chemical side of the pharmaceutical industry has over 100 times that, and yet gets only between 20 and 50 comments on a post. Call it a 1% response rate. About the same as direct (junk) mail if I recall correctly. So I'm not surprised in the least that I get few comments. This is all part of a very narrow funnel. If 1% of the readers are likely to comment, it is probably another 1% of that small cut that would actually be interested in doing business.

But it's really worse than this. Total readership is measureably higher. The Sitemeter at the bottom of this page shows that I am averaging about 200 direct accesses per week. (Click on the icon and you can see for yourself. It's fun to see visitors from all across the planet.) Depending on how you slice it, the response rate is therefore at least an order (if not 2) of magnitude worse. [2]

So best of luck to these new commercial undertakings. The numbers above are pretty depressing and that is for a site that tries to be interesting and maybe even a little controversial. Imagine what it's going to be like for a PR machine.

[1] I have a very difficult time accessing much of these site from work. The IT department only allows video downloads between 8 AM and 10 AM and I'm not going to plan my whole day around that. (There's actually more restrictions than that too, but I'll leave those details for another post - maybe.)

[2] Despite what you may read about the blogosphere being the worst of the wild west with all these anonymous postings leading to endless on-line arguments and name-calling and..., most people are just lurkers - they show up, look and leave.


Eric F. Brown said...

I think my comment:reader ratio is about the same as yours.

John said...

My gut feeling is that it would be pretty constant in blogs with a low controversialness index. I'm sure we could get more comments if we start talking about Obama/Glenn Beck/Michelle Bachman/Global Warming/religion but what's the fun in that?

materialsdave said...

I think it depends on what you want out of your blog. Is the goal to generate comments? Or to raise your profile in the online polymers blogging community? Or to generate business for your company, directly or indirectly? Or something else?

Based on your answer, you can have criteria for success, and maybe even ways of measuring it. Depending on your goal, page views or comments might not be the best indicator.

P.S. I'm one of the 27 Reader subscribers!

John said...

I think that comments generate readers, which generate more comments... That's pretty much what makes a blog a blog: the ability of readers to respond. Short of that, it is just a webpage (Web 1.0 so to speak.)

Generating business for my employer would certainly be great. It hasn't happened yet directly through this portal but I am aware of one case where a potential client indirectly let me know that he had done some preliminary investigation on me and had found the blog and that that was a good thing.

Fame and fortune would be great but it ain't happening yet. Maybe tomorrow! As I've said before, the only people getting rich by blogging are people running blogs about how to get rich by blogging.

Other considerations: building a community that encourages discussion of relevant issues and allows for people to grow their network, giving something back, and making sure that the polymer industry doesn't seem like a relic because it hasn't adapted all the latest technologies. Plastics, monomers and additives get a bad enough rap these days. It needs defenders beyond the SPI and ACC. If students can't see an active 2.0 community, why would they want to go into the field?