Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Consumers, Blogs and Trusted Sources of Information

[Tags: , ]. Interesting piece of research about the impact of blogs on purchasing decisions and the importance of trust in that. To quote Emergence Marketing's post on the research:

"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
"... Companies ... 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."

Ironically, this comes at the same time as this story about bloggers being paid to sing the praises (or "shill") of certain products and services. To quote:
"The problem is that the posts are not reviews at all. They are in fact paid advertisements disguised to look like the actual view or opinions of the person or consumer writing the blog.

"The blogger is not required to say anywhere in the post that the views presented have been paid for by the advertiser. Even though it’s common practice for advertisers to write copy that has the look and feel of a news story or a consumer endorsement, according to the FTC they are required to include that the information in the article or review is in fact a paid advertisement.

"So who’s responsible for violating the FTC guidelines? Would it be the responsibility of the agency or company that approved and paid for the review (ad) or their client, and not that of the person writing and posting to their blog. In other words, the blogger is merely writing poor copy that amounts to a deceptive ad. Or does the responsibility rest on the shoulders of the blogger posting the paid review on their site without disclosing that the reviews are actually paid advertisements?

"I phoned the FTC to ask how these rules apply to bloggers. Unfortunately they were unable to answer my question."
It would be well worth investigating how these rules apply in Britain as well...

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