Pleiades Media recently hosted its first Pleiades+ event at Voodoo Lilly Cafe, a get-together of prominent bloggers who, nourished by gluhwein and chocolate brownies, shared their thoughts and experiences and attempted to answer the key question: when does a blogger become an influencer?
At stake was more than just academic conjecture. Will blogging, thanks to the reach and broad accessibility of Internet, cause people to engage, take note, and even change their behaviour? Could blogging become important in the way companies market their goods and services? Will the measurability inherent in the Internet improve marketers’ success in their search for the holy grail of advertising – realistic measurability of their marketing spend?
We were delighted to have on our panel eminent Jo’burg bloggers Jessica Franks – jesska.co.za, who covers food and travel; Ryan Enslin – My Lime Boots, who covers men’s fashion and life issues; Sam Wright – Tech Girl, dedicated to gadgets, games and giggles, and Anne Dolinschek – Anneversations, who covers lifestyle and fashion.
The conclusions were both unanimous and interesting, pointing to an increasingly relevant role for blogging in the marketing mix.
It was clear from the discussion that blogging is entrenched and increasing in relevance. Blogs can and do influence buyer behaviour. But credibility is key. Bloggers have small, niche and dedicated audiences that follow them religiously. Content and opinions need to be informed by expert knowledge and strict independence. Bloggers dare not become captive to suppliers of products or services.
The nature of the content on an influencer’s blog is critical but difficult to define. Sam Wright puts it this way (1): “The content created is not ‘news’ in the traditional sense, nor ‘advertorial’. It’s a whole new world of original content that needs to be redefined. Influencers are not producing advertorial. If they are, they’re bad at what they do.”
Comments from the panel included:
“It’s about being genuine”
“I have a small audience, but it is niched and loyal”.
“My information is focused. Credibility is all-important and I must be seen to be unbiased.”
“I believe that I have authenticity of voice.”
“Loyalty is vitally important.”
One of the key strengths of blogging in the marketing context is its measurability. Details of the visitors in terms of numbers, duration of visits, location, click-ons, etc, can be accurately and rapidly measured.
An area of difficulty for the bloggers is their relationship with suppliers. The use of paid-for advertorials, reviews and advertisements (and the payment for these) can be in conflict with the blogger’s strict status as an independent influencer. Here they are adamant that payment is for the blogger’s time, expertise and access to their networks – but not for their opinion.
Barriers to entry are low, meaning that the blogging space is likely to become crowded, hence relevance and credibility are paramount. Blogs also need to be visually attractive, with first-rate copy and great images. Given new technologies available to bloggers, immediacy is another important factor going forward.
In her article (2), Ivana Taylor sums up the situation: “You must blog if you want to be an authority. You … must provide valuable content that is congruent with … your area of expertise. Blogging is a full page advertisement for who you are and what you promise. Use it well.”
(1) Sam Wright: “You’re Not Buying My Opinion”
(2) Ivana Taylor: “Your 14-step Roadmap to Becoming an Influencer,”