If someone told you only there was a place where people might talk about your product and 23 percent of the people who saw that conversation would be more likely to buy your product...would you think that was a good thing? I would. In fact, I'd very much want to find a way to get in front of that audience. That's why, I'm a little confused to hear some people claiming the 23% number isn't significant.
In fact, in Media Post's coverage of the study Pollara executive vice president and general manager Robert Hutton said "This shows that popularity doesn't always equate to credibility. Marketers may have to reconsider who the real influencers are out there."
Lisa Barone summed up my response to this statement in a great post over at the Bruce Clay Blog by writing.
Give me a second here. My entire brain just exploded onto the floor.
(Personally, I would have gone with the whole "my head asplode" bit, but Lisa's version works too.)
I just find myself wondering how anyone could look at a number that says 23% of people are MORE likely to buy something if person X talks about it and use that figure to decide person X isn't really so important after all. I mean let's think about this. They're called "influencers" not "purchase dictators."
Marshall Kirkpatrick points out:
The new data from Pollara does say that people use online social networks to make buying decisions, but they trust the advice of their friends and family on those networks far more than they do high-profile bloggers.
Now, why anyone would be surprised by that is beyond me. Of course I'm going to trust the recommendation of a friend or family member more than I'm going to trust some random stranger who has a blog I happen to read. Is anyone really surprised by that? Really and truly? Of course not.
But here's the thing. Bloggers and social media conversations are still absolutely essential when it comes to promoting products. There are two key reasons for this.
1.) Because bloggers are trusted MORE than the companies who own the products. Study after study shows people put more trust in bloggers than they do in company ads. Bloggers are third party sources. As long as they are blogging based on their interest and not on a check showing up in their mailboxes, their posts are viewed as unbiased commentary about a product. If the product happens to be in an area a blogger has built up a reputation as an expert in, chances are good the blog post will carry some weight.
In other words, people trust friends and family a lot, bloggers who have earned credibility a bit and companies who are hawking their wares very little. If you asked me, that's exactly what I'd expect to hear.
If you are a company and you know a blogger's word is going to be trusted more fully than your own word, you'd be crazy not to try and get bloggers to talk about you.
2.) Because it's next to impossible to reach everyone's friends and family but it's pretty easy to reach bloggers. Of course you'd love it if you could make sure everyone in the world had a trusted friend or family member that already used and loved your product. That's not going to happen though, is it? It makes sense then that rather than go after the impossible, you'd focus on what you can do.
What you can do is figure out which bloggers are read the most and work on getting them to talk about you on the theory that while it's not as good as "friends and family" it's a whole lot better than "selling it yourself." Sometimes "it's not the ideal, but it's what we can do" is an acceptable marketing strategy. (Sometimes it's a lucrative one.)
On the other hand, let companies around the world start thinking blogger reviews and mentions aren't everything they're cracked up to be. That will make it easier for the rest of us to keep marketing our stuff.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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