Merritt, Sarah; Lawson, Lauren; Mackey, Dale; & Waters, Richard D. (2012).  If You Blog It, They Will Come: Examining the Role of Dialogue and Connectivity in the Blogosphere in S. Duhe (Ed.), New Media and Public Relations (2nd ed., pp. 157-168).  New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.


One of the principal characteristics of social media is connectivity. The blogosphere is an excellent example of connectivity as organizations and individuals create original posts and link to others’ posts on their own websites and social media accounts, share posts via email and text messaging, and ultimately communicate with one another through dialogue. This research examines the interrelatedness of Web connectivity and the role of dialogue in the blogosphere. Specifically, the project measured how well the blogs from the Philanthropy 400 nonprofit organizations incorporated the five dialogic principles and then examined whether those organizations with higher proportions of dialogic principles received more global Web traffic and whether they were connected to other websites and social media outlets more than the nonprofit blogs that used the principles with less frequency.

The results of this study echo previous works which found that the principles of dialogue were only modestly incorporated. The most often used principle, conservation of visitors showed that organizations understood that they did not want to lose website or blog traffic to their competitors. However, the blogs were not capitalizing on the social media platforms that would allow them to not only retain visitors but also motivate them to attitude change and behavioral changes to become active supporters of the organization online.


The research tested a census of blogs for the 2010 Philanthropy 400 organizations (n=124), which ranks the United States’ largest nonprofit organizations based on their total revenue. The project analyzes the blogs based on dialogic principles outlined by Seltzer and Mitrook (2007).

Key Findings

1) Of the five principles, nonprofit bloggers most often incorporated those focusing on design and layout strategies rather than content into their blogs.

2) Statistically significant differences were found in terms of blog traffic and the number of non-organizational websites linking to the blog. In both cases, blogs that implemented more of the dialogic principle measures were more likely to have increased blog traffic and more links from outside entities.

3) Sadly, blogging was more often used as a one-way promotional outlet rather than tapping into dimensions of conversation and dialogue.

Implications for Practice

While blogs may be an extension of an organizations website, the platform’s design, the necessary content, and the users’ expectations are very different. The claims of a dynamic website failed to emerge despite indications of importance from consultants and academics; Web 2.0 and social media technologies largely were created to provide the interactivity and engagement individual users were looking for.  The results of this study provide evidence that the same “virtual brochure” approach is being used in blogs. The significant difference, however, is that by taking the social media route, organizations hope to turn the virtual brochure into a “virtual megaphone.” Despite their best intentions with creating blogs that have useful information, organizations—nonprofits, for-profits, and government agencies—must realize that social media success stems from involvement and community building.

The blogs examined reiterate that authors have solid design principles; however, they failed to interact and engage. To truly benefit from a social media presence, organizations must engage in a give-and-take exchange where all ideas, even the negative and critical, are open to all for a frank and open discussion.

Article Location

The book that contains this chapter can be ordered online at:

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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