Blogs: Retailing Angel or Demon?
By Al McClain
What’s the deal with blogs? Blogs (short for web logs) may be a great opportunity for retailers and marketers and/or a big pain in the neck.
To me, blogs feel like chaos. Not controlled chaos, just chaos. Basically, blogs are nothing more than online diaries with accompanying comments and related links. People appear to talk about literally everything on blogs. You can pick a subject and get more than you ever wanted to know about it in a hurry.
According to an article in the New York Sun, there are now 34 million blogs worldwide.
While started for non-commercial purposes, marketers have now embraced blogs — Edelman Public Relations has nine full-time bloggers and Unilever has promoted both Dove and Axe in the U.K. on influential blogs.
For marketers, there would seem to be two distinct opportunities with blogs:
- Start your own blog, providing content and letting consumers respond (although some companies are doing “one way” blogs, which I don’t think are really blogs).
- Monitor blogs about your company for research purposes and/or to comment on or rebut statements made about your company.
Just for kicks, as a novice in this area, I thought I’d use Google’s Blog Search to see what people have to say about Meijer (Wal-Mart is too easy). A Google Blog Search reveals 48,584 blogs that include “Meijer” in them and right away you get the feeling that blogs may be unmanageable. You might think the results, when sorted by relevance at least, would yield some major insights. In this unscientific example, there may be some insights, but there was a lot of noise to wade through as well:
- Blog ranked # 3 linked to an obituary for a pet bird bought at Meijer, and a rant against selling pet birds.
- Blog # 4 yielded a link to a Meijer press release on their specialty food site and a very lukewarm endorsement by a consumer.
- Blog # 5 linked to not even a blog but a straight press release from “Clean Edge News” on General Motors/Meijer opening ethanol fueling stations in Indiana.
- Blog # 7 led to a pitch for Mormonism, followed by the tale of a consumer’s encounter with a Nigerian man in a Meijer store and the person’s attempts to convert him to Mormonism.
- Blog # 9 was an enthusiastic review of new Meijer shopping carts that have “beer holders” on the sides.
Wow, now what do we do with this “knowledge”? Should Meijer be analyzing all 48,584 blogs that include its name or is that a waste of time and effort? Should they start their own blog? They may have one for all I know but I’m not going to sort through all of these to find out.
Discussion Questions: Should retailers and other consumer marketers concern themselves with monitoring and possibly
responding to third-party blogs? What role, if any, do you see for company created blogs?
In a discussion we had on RetailWire in August of 2004 (Blogging
Takes Word Of Mouth To New Level), George Anderson said an estimated 10 percent of the online population read blogs. It’s no doubt grown since then, but it’s still
a fraction of a fraction and an extremely fragmented market, both of which make me question the opportunity blogs represent for commercial interests. In that same discussion,
Joanne Fritz said that she seriously doubted that large companies can produce effective blogs, because they won’t be candid enough.