Over the years, brands have worked hard to control their image, and critique was limited. Today, critique has free rein. Brands recognize the power of social media -- both good and bad -- but many still try to control it. This is most apparent in the advent of paid-for-endorsement by bloggers. Although consumers consider multiple sources when making their purchase decisions, it is peer-to-peer influence that carries the most weight, especially for Gen Y.
Brands need to be conscious of how they insert themselves into that conversation. Authenticity is crucial to Gen Y, and when brands pay bloggers to endorse their product, members of this generation quickly sniff it out and stamp it "fake." The credibility of the brand and the blogger are both weakened. This is not to say you shouldn't use blogs in your marketing efforts. As research shows, this is one of the most powerful tools marketers have today. Our study, "Why Y Women," showed that 42% of Gen Y women have discovered a new brand or product from a friend mentioning it in a status update, and 31% of Gen Y women have favorite blogs that they read regularly.
It is imperative for brands to understand how to leverage the right blogs in the right way. Below are some tips for adding blogs to your media mix:
However, do not mistake lack of click-through for lack of impact. The exposure brands get on their various partner sites needs to be measured through engagement, which comes in multiple forms. Work with your vendor pre-buy to understand what measurement should look like on-site. Understanding the mechanics of the blog and what engagement means will be critical to understanding the campaign's success.
With the online landscape continuing to morph, combined with Gen Y's fickle behavior, we are learning together how to use social media and blogs to get our message heard. These are some of the tips we've been able to share with our partners this past year. What have you learned? I'd love to hear what has worked for other brands out there.