In the competitive blogging stratosphere there is a strong correlation between blog interactivity, specialization and popularity. In other words, finding the right viewers and engaging with them is what leads to popularity
While being popular is important, it won’t pay the bills. This is why professional bloggers also need to understand the relationship blogs can have on purchasing decisions. These purchase decisions are what leads to profitable affiliate relationships.
Luckily, social scientists have spent the better part of the last decade studying websites, online purchase decisions and consumer behavior. Unfortunately, very little of this information has made it out of the academic journals and into the businesses of bloggers. Here’s a look at what the Ivory Towers have been saying and how to use it to increase customer conversions and boost affiliate relationships.
Make it New, Make it Hot
A 2011 study of over 900 consumers in Taiwan by I-Ping Chiang and Chung-Hsien Hsieh concluded that novelty demand increases blog interactivity and popularity. Both of these are essential to getting a blog read and shared. Interestingly, their study did not find that information demand seemed to influence the purchasing decisions of their study subjects as effectively as novelty. In other words if you want your blog to sell it needs to deal with new ideas and hot trends over basic, useful information. Come to think of it Wikipedia does do a pretty good job on information. Damn.
The take away: Follow daily news updates and feeds to jump on the newest trends and keywords that will be searched. Concentrate on those pieces of information that also relate to the products sold by your affiliates.
Convenience and Entertainment
In 2006 De Wulf, Schillewaert, Muylle and Rangarajan (2006) conducted a study in which they concluded that the more entertaining a website was the better chances it had to become popular. This in itself isn’t earth shattering news. However, what is interesting about this study is that they also found that interactive media was easier for many users and that it lowered psychological barriers to the absorption of information. In addition, their study concluded that a site that was easy to navigate and well organized also experienced greater popularity. In 2006, this information wasn’t particularly useful. Interactive video was cumbersome and slow. Apps were just in the baby years. Commenting and forums were just coming into their own. Today this isn’t the case.
The take away: Couch potatoes still rule. Make your blog easy to use and as interactive for viewers as possible. You do the hard work so they don’t need to.
Word-of-Mouth and Traditional Advertising Aren’t Dead
Online, Social, Blog, Huffpost. Is there anything else? Really is there? The answer, actually, is yes. One of the biggest blogging hurdles is turning a blog into a concrete business.
In January 2012 Ford flew 150 bloggers from around the world into their product development center in Detroit to generate buzz over their new Ford Fusion. Ford did this to show the writers how the cars were designed. Ford wanted the writers to watch and touch and feel what they were going to be blogging about. There is a lesson to be learned here. The crossover between the virtual and real world is something to put on the marketing plan. Just like Ford, bloggers need to let their viewers literally touch their blog.
Almost without exception, long-term successful bloggers have developed logos, given speeches, written books, taught classes and used promotional products to make their blog into a concrete business. Promotional products are things like branded mugs, T-shirts and pens that include a company’s name on them to spread the word about the business. The good news is that promotional products from companies like Gopromotional are relatively inexpensive. In the minds of consumers these products propel a blog out of the virtual world and make it into something of substance.
The take away: If crossing the virtual/real world divide is important enough for Ford Motor Co. to fly 150 bloggers around the world it’s probably something to think about.
There are Millions of Blogs Out There. Why Should I Read Yours?
This is a central question every successful blogger needs to ask themselves almost every day. One important part of this answer lies in a blog’s ability to discuss topics that main stream media won’t or can’t. When consumers want to know about these topics, then you have a blog hit. The best part? The big boys still can’t/won’t talk about it and that leaves them out of the race for eye balls.
This is only part of the equation. Johnson and Kaye (2004), Ohanian (1990), I-Ping Chiang et al., (2011) all concluded that the perceived reliability of the source of the information was extremely important in swaying the perceptions of viewers. In other words, specialization, clout and authority all contribute to the weight the viewers give to a recommendation put forth in a blog.
The take away: About Us matters. Add accreditation signs and signals to your blog. Start to establish yourself as a foremost expert in a specific blogging arena. Take a stance outside the main stream. Insider sources also help. Look what Deep Throat did for the Washington Post.
An Interesting Relationship Between Branding, Blogger Friends and Buying
One of the most interesting academic studies about blogging and buying to date has come out of the long cold winters of Sweden. Jonas Colliander and Micael Dahlen From the Stockholm School of Economics (2011) concluded that not only are blogs more effective for publicity than online magazines, they were even more effective when a blogger blogged about and followed brands that were related to the blog. As they put it, “Consumers follow their “fashionable” blogger friends and, as long as the bloggers genuinely follow brands, their readers form friendships with the brands as well.”
The one monkey wrench thrown into this equation is that this positive publicity only works as long as the viewers believe that the blogger’s writings and assessments of products and companies is unbiased. However, as Kristi Hines writes in her post here on FamousBloggers.net, it is possible to write blog posts for affiliates that are unbiased and doubly profitable.
The take away: Following brands on your blog can create long lasting relationships between you, your affiliate partners and your viewers. Keep it objective and make your viewers the #1 priority. The results can become very valuable as your blog grows.
Blogs provide entertainment, information and above all connectivity.
The take away: Sharing is caring. Some of the best Academic journals in which to find studies like those sited in this article include:
Journal of Advertising Research, Human Communication Research, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Journal of Advertising, Journal of Interactive Advertising, Journal of Marketing, Communications of the ACM, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Advances in Consumer Research, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
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