Steve King from the Institute of the Future has a great post over at the IAOC Blog (here – via Corporate PR) about the impact of blogs, and the trust that consumers have in those blogs, on purchasing decision-making.
While his research does not find much impact of blogs on purchasing decisions yet – he lists the reasons why people “trust’ a blog. Not surprisingly, those reasons include:
- their view of the credibility of the author and content;
- the amount of traffic they perceive the blog to be getting;
- the number of other sites linking to the blog;
- how active the blog is;
- the look and feel of the blog
The questions Steve has are “will blogs achieve high levels of consumer trust, and if so what kinds of blogs will be trusted?? What will this mean for corporations and how they communicate with their customers?? What role will professional blogs play in customer communications??”
What do you think? Let him know if you have an opinion. The way I look at it, blogs will increasingly play a role in market conversations. As such, they will have an impact on the buying behavior of certain products – especially those products that tend to generate conversations and buzz. Companies, therefore, will need to jump into the fray and start participating in those conversations. And when they are ready, they have three options to do that:
- do it directly and in a controlled fashion – that is when companies have one or more executives or PR employees blog within strict guidelines (i.e., stay on message)
- do it directly but in an uncontrolled fashion – that is when companies encourage their employees to blog and give them the freedom to say what they want (there are many examples of companies embracing such blog strategies – Microsoft, hopefully IBM, etc.)
- hire outsiders to do it for you – that is when a company hires existing bloggers to write on their behalf.
The second option is clearly the best strategy to quickly gain trust for what is being said, but unfortunately I suspect that many companies will not be able to embrace such openness. There are instances where the first strategy works in being able to establish trust (i.e., GM, HP, etc.). In general, I suspect that those corporate blogs will increasingly face an uphill battle in terms of upfront credibility. The last option is my least favorite option. Many companies will hire professional bloggers to stimulate online conversations on their behalf. Even under full disclosure, I think that there are very few people that can establish enough trust for themselves so that their personal trust can carry over to the conversations that they are having on behalf of the companies that pay them.
Of course, there is always the option of treating bloggers like journalists and influence them to write about your company and its products. You should always do that! But in addition to that I believe that companies have to participate directly in the market conversations as well.