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
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”
“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?