Blogs Pose New Ad challenge
This article was published in a UK supplement - Media Week. It’s an interesting take on how Blog advertising is evolving with the brands.
Brands must tread carefully to open up a dialogue with bloggers
Web logs – or blogs – represent a fundamental step change in the way we communicate. This change is part of a general trend that began with the rollout of the internet and the uptake of e-mail, through to people being able to build their own websites and the popularity of chatrooms. These tools have helped the general public to create their own communication platforms.
The key shift with blogs has been that they enable people to quickly and cheaply build their own micro-media channel on the internet. In essence, blogs are, as they say, "democratising the written word" albeit, as one Times journalist bluntly pointed out, "most are unreadable".
The reason this is changing the way we communicate is that media outlets no longer have sole ownership over the flow of information.
Before the internet, most people sourced their information from newspapers and TV.
In the new digital world, this is no longer the case, as people communicate and share information directly with one another and search engines consistently list information from both media and non-media sources alike.
As the flow of information is no longer distributed solely from the top down and as blogs allow us all to build our own communication platform, advertisers have to be very careful how they communicate in this new environment. A broadcast message simply will not fit in with the myriad of blog subjects available and the vast number of communities that already exist.
Smart advertisers will instead engage in a dialogue with these communities. Most likely they will have discrete dialogues that are relevant to each community's specific interests, rather than deploying a traditional broadcast message.
These dialogues should form part of a grassroots marketing campaign which, at its most basic level, would include placing discrete adverts within blogging guides. A step on from this would be developing relationships with blogging sites in order to establish a tailored communication within their communities, or even using specialist bloggers, to engage in a direct dialogue with appropriate blogs.
Any form of manipulative advertising or broadcast message will simply backfire. This is why the best communications in this area fully engage with the medium and are transparent with their message. A prime example of this is the General Motors blog (http:// fastlane.gmblogs.com), where the content is completely transparent and whose blog principles follow a code of ethics.
The blog provides factual logs to ensure both consumers and the business community alike have a clear understanding of General Motors' current activities and role within the global economy. The GM blog will also respond to questions from bloggers and, as it is a dialogue with individuals, they can ensure they deliver the most appropriate response for each individual query.
To carry out this type of activity effectively, brands require a specialist, as the bloggers control their content and these small integrated communities are capable of reacting negatively if they feel that their blog or community is being manipulated. Coupled with this is the huge number of blogs in existence and the fact that the technology is constantly evolving, for example PODs (voice over web logs) are now becoming prevalent.
Specialists have the technical knowledge to implement a campaign, the tools to monitor blogs and the experience to execute activity that will engage in an appropriate dialogue with these communities.