Listen...your consumers are talking

In a prior blog, I raved about official corporate blogs. This week, our discussion focused on the existence of unofficial corporate blogs.

Check out the unofficial blogs we viewed and discussed this week:

All Facebook
Unofficial Disney
Google Analytics ROI
The Notre Dame Nation
House of Chanel
Starbuck's Gossip
Google Maps
XBOX 360 Fanboy
Positive Fanatics: The Unofficial Ikea Web Journal
Author Natalia Rose
The Apple Blog
Coca-Cola Conversations

So, what do these unofficial blogs mean for the companies they represent?

Classmate Julianne Davis said the unofficial Disney blog is a great way for Disney to recognize and understand the some of the safety concerns parents have when taking their children to visit a theme park such as Disney World. And, classmate April Trent pointed out the relevance of the unofficial Apple blog's polling feature. For example, one poll asked the question, "Will you be purchasing one of the new MacBook/MacBook Pros?" As April explained, the site lists how many users said "yep", how many users said "nope", how many users were unsure, and the total amount of votes. “This information,” she said, “could be used to gather an idea of how effective their marketing and/or product is within the market and help the company to figure out what steps need to be taken in the future.”

In my opinion, yes, unofficial blogs can certainly play a role in everything from the success of a newly launched product to the reputation of the company. In fact, market research conducted by JupiterResearch (a Forrester research company who conducted the survey of more than 2,000 online consumers in the US) has found that blog readers are strongly influenced by blog content when it comes to purchase decisions across a number of categories, and that blogs play a key role in ushering readers to the point of an actual purchase (Jarboe).

The company's August 2008 Harnessing the Power of Blogs survey found that blog readership has grown 300% over the past four years. The results also suggest that consumers who read blogs more than once per month -- or frequent blog readers -- use blogs as the top online navigation tool to discover other blog content, ranking higher than general Web search or blog search (Jarboe).

Looking more closely at how blogs factor into consumer purchase decisions and the nature of blog influence on buying behavior, the survey found:

  • Blogs influence purchases: 50% of blog readers say they find blogs useful for purchase information.
  • Blogs sway more purchases among readers than social networks: More frequent blog readers say they trust relevant blog content for purchase decisions than content from social networking sites.
  • Niche focus ups influence factor: For those who have found blog content useful for product decisions, 56% said blogs with a niche focus and topical expertise were key sources.• Blogs go beyond tech: Outside of technology-related purchases, for which 31% of readers say blogs are useful, other key categories include: media and entertainment (15%); games/toys and/or sporting goods (14%); travel (12%); automotive (11%); and health (10%).

According to the study, blogs factor in to critical stages of the purchase process, weighing most heavily at the actual moment of a purchase decision. When it comes to respondents who said they have trusted blog content for purchase decisions in the past, over half (52 percent) say blogs playeda role in the critical moment they decided to move forward with a purchase.

Blog readers were also surveyed about the influence of blogs as it relates to the following steps of the purchase process:

  • 21% decide on a product or service,19% refine choices,
  • 19% get support and answers,
  • 17% discover products and services,
  • 14% assure,
  • 13% inspire a purchase
  • 7% execute a purchase.

For frequent blog readers, ads on blogs are on par with sponsored search results. However, trust of blog advertising exceeds that of social networking site advertising. A quarter of these readers say they trust ads on a blog they read; paid search links also accounted for 25% of the responses, while 19% say they trust ads on social networking sites.

The study also suggests that ads on blogs spur a number of activities: 40% of blog readers have taken action as a result of viewing an ad on a blog; 50% of frequent blog readers say this is the case.

The top activities include:

  • 17% read product reviews online,
  • 16% sought out more info on a product or service,
  • 16% visited a manufacturer or retailer website.

Furthermore, one in five consumers who have read a blog in the past 12 months -- or general blog readers -- use blog links to discover new blogs. And, the study suggests blogs are not consumed in isolation -- 49% of blog readers and 71% of frequent readers read more than one blog per session.

Other key findings include:

  • Links more powerful than search: For frequent readers, links beat search as a navigation tool: 38 percent said blog links were the top tool for discovering new blog content as compared to 34 percent who voted for Web search.
  • Links signal trust: For frequent readers, blog links appear to have similar impact as a trusted recommendation from a person (a response from 39 percent of survey participants).
  • Blog search not yet mainstream: Blog search engines received the lowest ranking from respondents: 6 percent of general readers and 11 percent of frequent readers say they use these tools to discover new blogs.

This is pretty impressive information for marketers to consider. From unofficial blogs, marketers and other company officials can better determine consumers’ likes and dislikes about everything from customer service to the features of a new product. As Jarboe mentioned, blogs are nothing new, but rather, a communication medium that has matured and moved from early adopter phase to the mainstream.


Jarboe, Greg. “Blog Content Influences Consumer Buying Behavior.” Search Engine Watch. View entire article here

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