Are Bloggers Really Influencers?

The topic of “influence” has appeared a number of times, generated out of the “Why social media struggles in Singapore” post. I was writing that post from the corporation’s point of view, and questioning whether a certain factor (size) may be a factor that has hindered social media’s growth.

But let’s look at this from the point of view of the consumers: Are we really influenced by bloggers?

What The Research Says

Forrester\'s Research

Edelman Research

Result summary: People trust “people like themselves” the most, an “bloggers” the least. Okay wait, before you stop reading this right now and say “Okay, let’s cancel our blogger relations initiative”, read on.

Are Bloggers Really Trusted The Least?
When I saw the findings, my first thought was “But, what if a blogger is someone like me?”. This is something lacking in the research, and is brought up by Jason Mical and Jeremiah in the comments:

[By Jason]I believe about marketing and the direction it’s going in the digital space, and you have a proven record of posting insightful things that I find useful in thinking about this as well. So I would classify you as ’someone with my interests’ before I would classify you as a blogger in this regard.

[By Jeremiah]I agree, I wish I had more insight to how the questions about “do you trust blogs” were done. We need to see the context, as it could be broken down to:

“do you trust bloggers with similar opinions, that you read frequently”

or

“do you trust random blogs you stumble across”

Perhaps the questions could even be posed a different way: “do you trust the opinions of bloggers?”

I don’t think the lines between “people like me” and bloggers are as far apart as the research shows. And I definitely do not think the results are as disparate as the research claims.

I have a couple of case studies I thought of off the top of my head, tell me if they make sense to you, and keep in mind this is written from the point of view of a consumer.

Case Study 1: Xiaxue
I don’t read her, definitely don’t identify with her, to me she’s a “blogger”. But how about the 20 thousand people who read her blog daily? Does she have no influence over them? From the amount of comments generated in her defense whenever someone slams her, I’d say she has considerable influence over them.

Case Study 2: Kenny Sia
I had the privilege of meeting Kenny at the IDC Conference and he blogged about it, linking me. That one post generated almost 1,500 traffic to my blog, the next closest being tomorrow.sg with about 500. I’m not sure how you want to classify tomorrow.sg, but looking at the data, clearly 1,500 people think Kenny is not “just a blogger” but someone who influences them and makes them think “I identify with Kenny, he thinks Daryl is worth putting a link to, so that might probably be interesting to me too”, and hence the clicks. I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s definitely my personal thought process when browsing blogs.

Case Study 3: FriendFeed
FriendFeed is growing in popularity in North America. The level of activity after it opened from beta is exponentially higher than the level of activity before. Let’s look at the other categories from the research. Review on tv? Review on retailer site? I don’t think so.

Friendfeed was spread via word of mouth online from people who follow the early adopters and advocates like Louis Gray. Certainly I don’t know Louis personally (though we’re mutual readers of each others’ blog), but neither is he some anonymous blogger online. He’s someone I know covers a great niche in the social media space on rss aggregation, and I’m interested in all things social media, hence I definitely trust and believe his opinions. In fact I also signed up for LinkRiver, AssetBar and Yokway based on his recommendations. Admittedly I only use LinkRiver with any frequency, but I think that’s attributed to the product rather than the medium (Louis).

This post has gone on a little longer than I thought it would and I have a few more thoughts on reach as well as “weak” links or influences which I’ll try to post this evening. In the meantime, what do you think? As clear cut as the research suggests? Or are there intricacies at work that are unexplored? Do you classify bloggers in the same category as “people like me”? Or are they clear and distinctly separated?

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11 Responses to “Are Bloggers Really Influencers?”

  1. Kenny Says:

    I won’t go as far as to say that bloggers have no influence, but when someone writes a comment to defend Xiaxue or when someone clicks on a link from Kenny Sia’s blog to yours, what are the costs involve?

    Influence, as in purchasing decisions on the other hand (something I think most companies are striving for), is something altogether different. Now we are talking about dollars and cents.

  2. Daryl Tay Says:

    Hi Kenny, I’m not really sure what “costs” exactly you’re talking about. I get your point about conversion rates, but ultimately I don’t think that’s the ultimate goal of reaching out to bloggers. Take a lousy product, put it in the hands of Xiaxue, and no one buys it. Is it the fault of the influencer or the lousy product? Also, I think reaching out to bloggers purely to influence purchasing decisions is a very short term, myopic goal. Relationships are the key, not short term clickthrough rates.

  3. Jonathan Kong Says:

    A blogger who provides a unbiased article on a product review backed up with facts and built up a strong online brand on themselves can be influential. It’s sitting at the bottom of the statistics presumably that there aren’t many bloggers have that kinda of qualities I cited. Not that I’m exactly right.

    Now, if we look at the champions, their friends and acquaintances whom customers trusted. We see one thing in common. These group of people are people whom they know well, whom they trust. So, if the blogger… over the time, creates close relationship with it’s readers by means of engaging conversations in honest and unbiased fashion, it’ll works.

    In short, build a niche for yourself, writes plenty backed with facts and unbiased views and creates/maintain relationship with your readers and I can see the blogger gaining grounds on influencing his/her audiences.

    Great article Daryl!

  4. the(new)mediaslut Says:

    Let’s put the question back to you Daryl.

    How much of an influence do you have on your readers?

    Is it quantifiable?

  5. Daryl Tay Says:

    @Jonathan: Thanks for dropping by again, Jonathan. I’m definitely behind your points!

    @Mediaslut: Are people going to say “I’ll use Twitter because Daryl says it rocks”? I don’t know. Is the influence of a magazine quantifiable? Of a politician? I think it’s relative as well as subjective. Just because it’s not quantifiable, or harder to quantify, doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Or I guess we could just stop bothering about things like reputation and image and culture until someone invents a unit of measurement.

  6. Daphne Maia Says:

    it’s not really that simple. btw, do u subscribe to the belief that every single person makes a difference? if so, there u have it.

    unless a blog is a locked one which only the writer has the password to, then i would say, every blog can have an influence on another person. and it can keep growing! it’s a pass-it-on thing. here’s why:

    people who read ur blog regularly are people who can identify with you, or what u write. and some way or another, if they link to a post of urs, or to ur blog, someone else who reads them regularly will, at one point or another, start reading ur blog too, n linking to it. and there u have it. ur circle of influence has grown.

    n u know, believe it or not, there are people out there who do count on ur opinion before making a decision themselves. i’m not just talking about products that u ‘promote’ on ur blog, but also about other people. like u mentioned, kenny linked u, n that’s important for his readers to actually evaluate u n say maybe, “oh, kenny thinks he’s worth reading, so he must be.” that forms the first impression of a reader who didn’t previously know u, n who is visiting ur blog for the first time. undoubtedly, with the recommendation of a blogger whom a reader can identify with, the linked blogger will have more credibility.

    i admit that i have changed my opinion of someone based on whether my friends like that person or not. not completely, but of course, if someone i like or identify with dislikes that person, i will take a step back n think, hey, is this person really like that? maybe i shd re-evaluate him/her.

    ok i’ve digressed. my point is this: ok. shit. i forgot what’s my point. (this happens often 😦 )

    aiyah!! u know. things aren’t just that simple. u can’t just say “i have so few readers so i can’t be influencing someone.”

    p/s: ur influence in the blogosphere has jus grown even more now, cos u’re constantly in top 10 on ping.sg! haha.

  7. Are Bloggers Really Influencers? More Thoughts « Unique-Frequency Says:

    […] Unique-Frequency Eyes & Ears on Media – Are You Tuned In? « Are Bloggers Really Influencers? […]

  8. Sham Says:

    @MediaSlut – Well ok, i think daryl’s efforts in general has made me opened to the potential of twitter. so that’s one up for Daryl? LoLx

  9. Harro! Says:

    Anyone who lives, breaths, and is able to talk is an influencer. The challenge is how influential are they.

    When Xiaxue decides that iPhone is bad for long fingernails, her community of 20K pick up the point and its a valid one for her 20K readers.

    With practice, we will see the common person become a seasoned critique, opinion leader, as we see happenning through treats.sg, podfire, tech65 etc…

    Why Singapore is behind the rest of the world is because opinions have been suppressed for a long time. At the end of the day a person/blogger has to decide whether or not he chooses to matter to the community.

    If you keep silent, or have frivolous opinions, you can be sure that you no longer matter to companies, or the government and thus no one will listen to you.

    Malaysia and especially China are very very vocal.

  10. Ian On The Red Dot :: Are Bloggers Really Influencers? Gosh - Do We Really Still Need To Ask This? Says:

    […] “Are Bloggers Really Influencers,” asks Daryl from Unique-Frequency. […]

  11. Daryl Tay Says:

    @Daphne: Yes it’s not that simple! We definitely need more research to know better where exactly the influence is coming from. Haha thanks! I’m glad people on ping.sg want to read more about such stuff =)

    @Sham: Haha thanks dude!

    @Harro!: Thank you. I think the comment distinguishing between actual critiqes and frivolous opinions is key. As always, people who choose to view bloggers as “one size fits all” and think everyone is an influence or no one is an influence will be both worse of. The answer is somewhere in between and research has to be done to know who’s worth your time and who isn’t.

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