“Join the Bloggers Instead of Beating Them”

Jaap Favier
Jaap Favier

Mr. Favier, in which blogs are you personally active?

Favier: I personally am only active in the Forrester blogs that we use to have a dialogue with our clients about the marketing and strategy issues they are facing.

What does the Forrester survey say about the bloggers’ motives and general background?

Favier: Sure they are highly educated – more than twice as likely to be college students than the average Net user – and the majority of them are female. The Web 2.0 is the women catching up on the Internet. They trust each other and are more open-minded than the average online consumer. From consumer-generated reference information to blogs, the level of trust of European bloggers is higher than for other Internet users. Almost a quarter of bloggers trust general blogs, compared with only ten percent of all Internet users.

How can bloggers make or break a brand ?

Favier: Our research shows that 25 percent of consumers trust messages from companies but that 80 percent trust messages from other consumers, even if they don’t know you. They belong to the same community where they sustain one another and rely less on institutional support. There’s a very well known example, in fact, Sony brought a new CD to market with copyright protection on it. However, some nerd found out about that copyright protection, he was messing with the security of Windows on his machine. He essentially allowed other hackers to enter his machine and Sony was forced to take that CD off the market within two weeks. That just one person giving Sony a very hard time. A positive example where bloggers made a brand in one day have been the Arctic Monkeys made it to the UK Charts with just a home video distributed via the Web, no professional clip, no CD.

How should companies use blogs to adapt advertising, customer relationship management or multi-channel opportunities?

Favier: The power shift from media institutions to consumer communities means that marketers must track a diverse and growing range of influential voices. Business marketers should add blogs to their mix of marketing tactics. Before initiating what could easily degenerate into simply another promotional channel, marketers and their sales and support counterparts should understand whether a blog will engage prospects and customers at a deeper level than can be done with existing communication channels. To keep blogs from consuming marketing resources with little measurable payoff, firms must willingly invest the resources — and stomach the risks — to realize the long-term benefits that blogs offer in thought leadership and customer intimacy.

Are there metrics to measure the impact of blogs on business goals?

Favier: Sure, there are companies that do that, like Buzzmetrics that can completely track how many bloggers are speaking about a particular brand, what they are saying and what the impact is on their consumer behavior.

What stops more marketers from testing blogs and emerging channels like social networks, RSS, games and mobile?

Favier: They have their hands full optimizing existing channels and worry about limited consumer adoption of emerging media. To help firms determine which new channels are worthy investments, Forrester recommends creating a channel innovation team focusing exclusively on emerging channels such as online ad targeting, in-game advertising, and rich media.

To be part of the blogosphere, to counteract or supplement independent blogs, should enterprises set up their own blogs?

Favier: They should set up their own blogs to communicate with their clients, not just to be part of the blogosphere or for the other goals mentioned. They can create a concrete picture of the key benefits, costs and risks that blogging presents and understand how they are likely to impact business goals.

Should businesses establish relationships with bloggers, in the same way they do with journalists?

Favier: Yes you can treat bloggers as journalists and some companies do. That’s how they act as more or less experts that collect and distribute it to the general public. But you can not treat every blogger like a journalist because there are just too many of them. But all of them need to be tracked, and companies should respond to them.

Is it the right way to establish a relationship to give Vista-based PCs to bloggers – as Microsoft and AMD did?

Favier: This practice is very common these days – and it’s fine. The only thing is these bloggers need to tell in the pieces that they write about is that it was a gift from Microsoft or AMD and that any possibility of them giving biased information to the public, is pre-emptied.

You said companies shouldn’t fake a relationship with bloggers or they will experience a backlash. Why?

Favier: L’Oreal faked a relationship with bloggers. Their Vichy anti-aging cream campaign featured “Claire”, a fictitious woman over 35. The blog evoked widespread disdain within hours of launching and the product team pulled the blog and apologized.

So what is Forrester’s top advice for companies willing to do marketing via blogs?

Favier: You can’t beat the bloggers, you have to join them.

Is there a blogging code of ethics similar to what professional journalists are supposed to abide by?

Favier: Yes, the official trade association for the word of mouth marketing industry, “Word of Mouth Marketing Association” (WOMMA) published a code of ethics with the objective to help marketers work honestly within the blogosphere, promote disclosure by marketers within blogs, protect consumers by establishing ethical standards for marketing to and within blogs, and to protect marketers’ reputations from the damage that unethical behavior causes.