An article by S.Chris Edmonds at SmartBlogs, published last November, made me think about bloggers and the cultural phenomenon they generate. Chris explains how corporate culture leaders can influence the growth of their business by positively influencing their employees — and as a consequence, their productivity.
But how could bloggers ever be culture leaders, too?
The reason lies in the power of their message: because businesses, politicians, noprofits and other public entities rely heavily on bloggers’ opinion.
Bloggers are culture leaders in the online world and they have the power to change the course of events. Why? I’ll give you 8 reasons below, all connected to the positive influence bloggers can have on the worldwide web by means of a simple tool: their unique voice.
Chris Edmonds says that successful culture leaders “create specific, measurable, and trackable performance standards” and that they “define values in observable, tangible, measurable terms”. The 8 reasons I list in this article will tackle exactly these aspects of the blogosphere influence on today’s world. Look at the image below. It’s not a random pick and it will make sense as you continue reading. :)
1. Bloggers give authority to a brand
There’s no success for a brand if nobody mentions or recommends its products. This is where bloggers come useful: they spread the word about what brands do, the services and initiatives they enjoy, they make friends and colleagues aware of the brand existence (‘word of mouth’ promotion) and help attract more people to try out the same products, services and initiatives.
What’s in for YOU
As a blogger, you have a lot power in your hands. You can turn any brand you write about into a success, or contribute to its downfall. You don’t need to kiss feet or use excessive sales language to give yourself, the brands and people you talk about an authority: just support your arguments with facts, case studies, white papers, news and annual reports. Informed opinion adds value to the community even when you feel compelled to highlight a negative aspect of a product or service.
2. Bloggers influence the public opinion
We hear it often on the news: “Mr. Who said such and such in a blog post”, “Such singer/politician/public figure was mentioned on X thousands blogs this week”. Bloggers are that important to the public opinion and the traditional media like to report on it. There’s a reason for the sponsored advertising network IZEA to call its bloggers “influencers”.
What’s in for YOU
Because your blog can influence the public opinion, try to keep your mind open when you focus on a sensible topic in your blog post. Engage with your readers in a constructive way and make your and other people’s knowledge (documents, reports, etc.) available to them. Influence is responsibility, so when you’re not speaking of the facts but of your own opinion, state clearly that’s your opinion being discussed and remind your readers that they are entitled to have one, too.
3. Bloggers boost the conversation
In older times, when the Internet was nothing more than a military and scientific tool for a restricted group of people, corporations had no way to learn about their customers’ opinion unless the customers found a way (and money) to send them letters, postcards or to publish a review on a local magazine or newspaper. Today we have bloggers starting conversations about products and services everywhere in the world, they’re instant (no need to wait for postal service delivery!) and they’re effective. An authoritative blogger can lead a company to sell thousands of an item a day with a single well-written blog post (see reason #2).
Because bloggers can be powerful culture leaders, in 2011 FTC decided to take action against any dishonest effort on behalf of companies to influence bloggers’ opinion behind compensation or free samples. You can find the FTC guidelines here.
What’s in for YOU
Use honest and engaging product reviews to draw a loyal readership to your blog. Reviews shouldn’t be your primary reason for blogging, but they add up credibility and show your effort to deliver quality content to your readers. Having reviews on your blog helps you monetize your efforts as well, because quality reviews attract serious PR people and can get you engaged in a sampling campaign. Just remember FTC’s guidelines for disclosure honesty and word-of-mouth. Never publish a fake review just to earn a compensation or a freebie.
4. Bloggers inform the average Web user
When something happens, you will find that millions of bloggers are blogging about it in a matter of a few hours. That means the average user browsing the Web for information will have a higher chance to be informed via a blog post than a news article.
Big businesses and marketers are well acquainted with this phenomenon, that’s why Press Releases exist in the online world, too— so that e-zines, portals AND bloggers can write about it. Bloggers are an important slice of today’s press.
What’s in for YOU
Don’t just state opinion in your posts. Provide your readership with information that comes from authoritative sources. Even if you’re angry about that political decision, make your post not about your anger, but use your anger to bring up social and political issues your readers can relate to. Use your personal life as an anecdote to engage your readers— then get on with the info!
5. Bloggers create a community behind a service or product
When I mentioned Chris Edmond’s line that culture leaders “create specific, measurable, and trackable performance standards” I was referring to blogger communities (conversations) created behind a product or service and how beneficial this social phenomenon can be for companies who need to measure and track the popularity and saleability of their products.
Be honest when you review or mention a product or service, and encourage conversations from your readers. Don’t just recall the FTC guidelines as a matter of rules, but use them as your chance to connect with your audience and provide them with some genuine information that will improve their living. Your effort will put you under a good light with both visitors and the reviewed brands.
6. Bloggers build trust
Internet users trust bloggers. Not because they are some celebrity or superstar, but because they tend to be genuine about what they write. Whether they write for work or as a hobby, serious bloggers are serious about what they do.
Build trust in your readership by showing them that you do your research before you write and that you won’t believe the first stranger that comes up with some fancy story on the Web — but that you refer to authoritative sources and, when in doubt, involve them in an expert interview or even an e-mail or Skype/VoIP chat. Show your readers they’re getting information, tutorials and first-hand experience from you, not yet another baloney.
7. Bloggers can listen (and answer)
In a world of Internet celebrities and contact policies, bloggers are and remain the most available persons to get people’s concern listened to and get a helpful answer from. A 2011 research by Invoke Solutions shows that users trust bloggers (especially if they have authority or a relationship to them) more than social media news. Brands follow suit, connecting to influential bloggers because they know how to ‘listen’ to their needs and answer with a successful word-of-mouth campaign.
What’s in for YOU
Make yourself available to your readers — and brands — for contact, feedback and support. You may consider adding a small forum or ‘ask me’ function to your blog so your readers can leave their concerns there for your to look up later. Another piece of advice comes directly from Chris’ article: “Connect with staff throughout the organization to learn how well the culture is operating”; he suggests corporate culture leaders spend 30 minutes a day wandering around the offices and connecting with the stuff. You, as a blogger, can follow this advice by spending 30 minutes a week (or bi-weekly) connecting with both readers and other bloggers to see how the ‘blogger culture’ is ‘operating’ and help if needed. To know how to listen is a sure way to build authority, credibility and an overall positive reputation that will attract more relevant (and remunerative) contacts.
8. Bloggers can write stories
Bloggers can write stories that engage the public. Their followers don’t just consume information passively, for leisure or to put it to use later, but they are act, practice and discuss what they read and interact with the blogger — whether that’s tips, tutorials or opinion. Good stories can influence human culture to an extent that they become citation-worth sources when a certain subject is discussed.
Brian Clark says, in a Copyblogger post, that “well-crafted stories allow readers to draw the conclusion you want on their own, and people rarely second-guess their own conclusions”. People come to your blog to find information they can put to use right away— will you help them?
What’s in for YOU
Learn how to write good stories to make your blog authoritative and citation-worthy. There are numerous free courses you can join online to hone your writing skills. Among these free resources, the following are top ranked among writers:
Chris is very clear about the ethics a culture leader should abide to: “Be consistent role models of performance standards and valued behaviors yourself. No excuses.”
That doesn’t leave room for poorly crafted blog posts with nonexistent background research. A blogger that wants to influence the blogosphere, the media or even just their readership, needs to put some serious effort into their work. If you are a personal blogger, or a niche blogger that’s just beginning, but want to develop into a culture leader (or even just an humble influencer), start learning and practice what you learn. Put your readership at the center of your efforts.
Luana Spinetti is a freelance writer and artist based in Italy, and a passionate Computer Science student. She has a high-school diploma in Psychology and Education and attended a 3-year course in Comic Book Art, from which she graduated on 2008. As multi-faceted a person as she is, she developed a big interest in SEO/SEM and Web Marketing, with a particular inclination to Social Media, and she’s working on three novels in her mother-tongue (Italian), which she hopes to indie publish soon.