Women Bloggers: Whom Do We Trust? - Jory Des Jardins - MediaBizBloggers

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Originally published April 30, 2008.

In 2005, I co-founded an organization called BlogHer. It started as a labor of love with fellow bloggers Elisa Camahort Page and Lisa Stone; we launched our efforts by putting on a conference by and about women bloggers in Santa Clara, Calif. We hosted 300 bloggers in person…and hundreds more were paying attention online.  Since that first, very grassroots effort we've seen marketers start to pay a lot more attention to women who blog.  Makes sense: According to a benchmark study BlogHer commissioned this past March, 36.2 million women in the U.S. alone participate in blogs every week—as readers and publishers of content. The 15.1 million women who publish blogs are the most active recommenders of products and online purchases on the Internet, and their readers consider them a reliable and trustworthy source of information on products ranging from baby strollers to automobiles.

But for many marketers reaching women bloggers is often like going to a party four hours late, and alcohol has already been served.  Even though you try hard to be charming and engaging to these women who have been partying it up and writing blogs, in many cases, for years, you feel a bit like an outsider, like every entree that you make falls on deaf ears. Like you are being contrived. Like a dork.

Some marketers have responded to this outsider feeling by ignoring the Blogosphere altogether. Target, the retail giant, provides us a good example of this approach.  The company employed a "bloggers schmoggers" strategy and refused to engage bloggers who took issue with a print advertisement that some (perhaps nitpicky) media watchers found overly sexually suggestive.  As a result of not engaging with the blogosphere, Target found itself alienating a very vocal segment of its customer base and was left out of the discussion about its own ads.  Target failed to realize that blogging is something that allows people from all backgrounds and circumstances, including their customers, to raise their voices, and your customers expect to be heard…whether they're calling your customer support line or writing in their blogs.  As a card-carrying blogger, I must confess, I don't always AGREE with what my peers criticize in their blogs, but I do trust that they feel strongly about what they say, and that it's worth listening to.

This distinction is important when asking whom do bloggers trust. The short answer is: We trust each other, even if we don't always agree with each other.

At BlogHer's business conference in early April, we released data from a joint third-party study we conducted with Compass Partners and learned some surprising--and not so surprising—things. The top reasons why women in the study who blog do so? Not to make money, actually. And certainly not to endorse products—but you already knew that. Rather, they blog:

1. for fun
2. to express themselves
3. to connect with other women like them

Interestingly, the study also shows that women who read blogs cite the same three reasons for participating in the blogosphere – plus one more: they read blogs to get information and advice. 

It seems we, as bloggers and blog readers, trust others who provide us with the space to have fun, express ourselves, and connect us with others like us. Knowing this shouldn't mean that you don't come to the party and try to engage us.  It only means that you don't come to the party pretending to be one of us (unless you really are), or to convince us of something, or think that we're all going to drop everything in order to inspect the booty bags you brought with you (incidentally, we will inspect everything at some point and likely photograph it and post it to Flickr, but not because we owe you anything.)

In summing up a primary learning from this study, my partner Elisa captured it most succinctly: When it comes to what interests bloggers most, it actually is ALL ABOUT US. The number one subject we like to write about? Ourselves.  It's not that we won't write about products, services, or causes, but most often they have to be relevant to our lives.

Once you remove the you-ness from your message, amazing things happen; we've seen them happen. Bloggers begin to notice.  After successfully connecting with bloggers at our 2006 conference by simply handing over the keys to their Saturn Sky Roadsters, GM is returning to the party this year by providing vehicles to women attending our summer conference who want to carpool and reduce emissions while doing so. They are sponsoring a swag recycling program for bloggers who may not be so entranced by all the tchotchkes they receive at the conference that they care to lug them home in their carry-ons. We have companies who are aligning their sponsorships and advertising programs with causes that our community has determined to be meaningful and relevant to them (breast cancer research, maternal health, and eco-consciousness, among others).

Target's biggest mistake in the Blogosphere was not its questionable creative, but in implying that bloggers were not important barometers; not even customers. Had I been consulting for Target, I would have suggested that they engage, even solicit, discussion among the bloggers and let them duke out the meaning of the print ads. At the end Target could distribute hand towels and bandages, and we all would have been hugely happy with how the retailer embraced our need to just hash it out. Share our opinions. Tell our stories. 

Whom do bloggers trust? That depends on who's actually listening to us.

For a PDF overview of the BlogHer | Compass Partners 2008 Social Media Benchmark Study, click here: http://www.blogher.com/files/BlogHer.CompassPartners.Social%20Media%20Study.ppt.pdf

Jory Des Jardins is Co-Founder and President, Strategic Alliances of BlogHer, Inc., (www.blogher.com) the number-one community and media network of blogs by women. Jory Des Jardins will be writing about trends among women bloggers. 

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