Written by: Anonymous
Blogging has grown to a trendy phenomenon during the past decade. According to Kietzmann, Hermkens and McCarthy (2011) blogs were introduced to the public in the late 90s and ever since blogs’ popularity has grown. Nowadays the Internet holds more than 100 million blogs and there are even own Internet search engines devoted to them (Kietzmann, Hermkens & McCarthy, 2011). Therefore consumer blogs hold a great potential for marketers, advertisers and many more. Gummerus, Liljander and Söderlund (2015) point out how cynicism against ordinary advertising has risen. This has stressed the need for companies to find other ways to reach their customers (Gummerus, Liljander & Söderlund, 2015). It is said that the way marketing is done, is changing because social network marketing has affected the scene in a larger scale. These days consumers want more interaction, not one way monologue coming from the marketer. Consumers’ personal recommendations on the Internet can reach hundreds of thousands of people and affect their intentions. Personal recommendations are highly valued and found to be credible information source about products and brands (Armelini & Villanueva, 2011). According to Armellini and Villanueva social media conversations have direct impact on sales. Since consumers’ time spent in the Internet is constantly rising, therefore companies have been advised to get familiar with social media and especially blogs (Gummerus, Liljander & Söderlund, 2015).
A phenomenon of marketers spreading their tentacles over to the blogging sphere is viral and going on strong. In the next chapters I explore this phenomenon briefly. I explain how companies have engaged bloggers to aid them to reach consumers with their marketing efforts. I also disclose with a help of a few study examples how consumers might experience this phenomenon where bloggers and companies collaborate. In the end I propose some principles what bloggers and companies should not forget when they are dealing with consumers in blogging environment. The principles are based on academic studies of the subject completed in the past couple of years and are also stated on the theory part of this paper.
Companies want their share from the blogging phenomenon
Internet era has transformed the way marketing information is presented. Main focus of the marketing ads no longer lay on the company selling the product. Many times consumers rely on information gained from fellow consumers before making their decision to buy the product instead of trusting companies. Online consumer product evaluations have become an effective tool to share awareness of products and services instead of ordinary company marketing strategies. Marketers have found a way to make their voice heard on the Internet within consumers’ product evaluations or recommendations. They have started to sponsor among other things recommendation blog posts. This means that company gives benefits such as gifts, vouchers or money for example to a personal blog poster, when a poster writes a recommendation blog post of this company’s product or service. However, this kind of recommendation blog posts are often regarded as prejudiced and for this reason it may come up as dubious (Long-Chuan, Wen-Pin & Hsiu-Hua, 2014).
Something about consumers’ attitudes towards sponsored blog posts
Variety of studies have been conducted about bloggers reliability when it comes to making blog posts where they promote a company products. These studies reveal different results depending on weather consumers know that a blogger is blogging sincerely on their own, or there is an assumption there is a company who sponsors the blogger or they sincerely show their cooperation with the sponsoring company to consumers.
For example Colliander and Erlandsson (2015) made a study to find out among other things what are the effects on consumers when they are unveiled after a while bloggers’ sponsored relationship with a company in a case where a blogger makes propitious blog posts of company products in exchange of sponsoring from the company. These effects were compared to a peer group of consumers who were unaware of the relationship between a blogger and a company. In this case unveiling the relationship was found to lower the credibility of the blog and the attitude towards it. However the brand of the sponsoring company or intention to buy the brand product were not affected (Colliander & Erlandsson, 2015).
However, another study by Long-Chuan, Wen-Pin and Hsiu-Hua (2014) reveals that when consumers know the fact that a company is sponsoring particular blogger and blogger’s posts and it is stated on the posts where the blogger promotes a product of the sponsoring company, there is no negative impact towards the sponsored blogger post or company. Long-Chuan, Wen-Pin and Hsiu-Hua (2014) assume the reason for this can be the way the blogger and the company honestly reveal their connection with each other. This way the consumer will not feel betrayed or lied to (Long-Chuan, Wen-Pin & Hsiu-Hua, 2014). According to these studies consumers feel the need to be able to trust the blogger and to have transparent knowledge of the information which the blogger and the companies provide. Revealing sponsorship on recommendation blog posts seems to be one of these key factors in holding on the trust.
Laws and cues help consumers find right track among blogging environment
Internet era has opened the whole world to us. Consumers can shop and read blogs around the world with just a few clicks. Not all countries have the same laws when it comes to blogging marketing regulations. Marketers using bloggers as their advertisers is a fairly new phenomenon that yet is scouting for its place and form. For example, Long-Chuan, Wen-Pin and Hsiu-Hua (2014) point out changing blogging regulations in Taiwan. Hidden marketing trough sponsored blog posts is no longer allowed (Long-Chuan, Wen-Pin & Hsiu-Hua, 2014). According to Gummerus, Liljander and Söderlund (2015) who write about this from Finnish and Swedish prospect to adduce hidden marketing in blogs can sometimes only be suspected (Gummerus, Liljander & Söderlund, 2015). This hints to a direction that there are no clear laws and regulations in this area in these two Nordic countries.
Presumably there is never a time when the Internet has equal international law for all acts what happens inside that “world” despite of the country consumers are surfing from to it. People around the globe can only rely on the country laws they live and rely on best practice rules and laws they know when surfing elsewhere in the globe inside the Internet. Thus maybe it is never possible to know everywhere in the internet is the blog post sponsored or not. Because of this people rely on their own cues. For example one study by Ballatine and Yeung (2015) reveals that when a blogger gives balanced scoring to a product, such as rating three (3), when possible ratings are from one(1) to five(5),this indicates blogger’s trustworthiness and competence to consumers. Giving a higher grade or making a positive blog post can herein indicate that there is a greater chance that the blogger might be misleading consumers or giving a better score or review because of some company is sponsoring the blog and the blogger receives benefits from the company (Ballatine & Yeung, 2015; Long-Chuan, Wen-Pin & Hsiu-Hua, 2014). The research by Ballatine and Yeung (2015) reveals furthermore that negative product or service reviews have much greater negative impact on consumers’ urge to buy than balanced or positive reports in such places as blogs.
Blogs have become an important part of spreading product awareness (Cheng-Hsun, Kuang-Hui & Hsin, 2015). Cheng-Hsun, Kuang-Hui and Hsin (2015) have pointed out in their research it crucial for the companies to know how to choose the right blog types which to be utilized in advertising and distributing their brand knowledge. (Cheng-Hsun, Kuang-Hui & Hsin, 2015). As it is shown on this paper consumers’ value honesty in blog advertising. Whatever company and blogger decide do in their cooperation it is important from the consumers’ point of view to follow laws, be transparent in their actions and make sure given information is true. It means for example that it is important to tell clearly to consumers’ if blogger posts are sponsored or not. Sponsorship should not affect bloggers review posts of the product.
More information of these matters are found from the referenced articles.
Armelini, G. & Villanueva, J., 2011. Adding Social media to the Marketing Mix. Deep insight, Volume 9, pp. 29-36, Available online: http://www.brandba.se [Accessed 19 February 2016]
Ballatine, P. W. & Yeung, C. A., 2015. The effects of review velence in organic versus sponsored blog sites on perceived credibility, brand attitude, and behavioural intentions. Marketing, Intelligence and Planning, Volume 33, no. 4, pp. 508-521, Available online: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/0263-4503.htm [Accessed 19 February 2016]
Cheng-Hsun, H., Kuang-Hui, C. & Hsin, C., 2015. Can internet blogs be used as an effective advertising tool? The role of product blog type and brand awaresess. Journal of Enterprise Information Management, Volume 28, no. 3, pp. 346-362, Available online: http://emeraldinsight.com/1741-0398.htm [Accessed 19 February 2016]
Colliander, J. & Erlandsson, S., 2015. The blog and the bountiful: Exploring the effects of disguised product placement on blogs that are revealed by third party. Journal of Marketing Communications, Volume 21, no. 2, pp. 110-124, Available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rjmc20 [Accessed 19 February 2016]
Gummerus, J., Liljander, V. & Söderlund, M., 2015. Young consumers' responses to suspected covert and overt blog marketing. Internet Research, Volume 25, no. 4, pp. 610-632, Available online: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/1066-2243.htm [Accessed 19 February 2016]
Kietzmann, J. H., Hermkens, K. & McCarthy, I. P., 2011. Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building of social media. Science Direct, Volume 54, pp. 541-251, Available online: http://www.sciencedirect.com [Accessed 19 February 2016]
Long-Chuan , L., Wen-Pin, C. & Hsiu-Hua, C., 2014. Consumer attitudes toward bloggerr's sponsored recommendation and purchase intention: The effect of sponsorship type, product type, and brand awareness. Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 34, pp. 258-266, Available online: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/comphumbeh [Accessed 19 February 2016]