From Credibility To Visibility – The Changing Times Of Blogger-Brand Engagement

A once strong proponent of the blogger-brand engagement is now skeptical of the credibility and influence of blogs, the lack of authenticity could eventually lead to their demise

future of blogging

Editor’s Note: This is an exclusive guest post from Palin Ningthoujam – Head, Digital at Avian Media. Views expressed in this post are the author’s personal views.

Way back in 2009, when we used to advise our clients to engage with bloggers, the biggest reasons we gave were credibility, influence, and visibility.

I have been lucky to be among the first ones in India to introduce clients to the power of bloggers in marketing and communications. I have been in hundreds of boardrooms praising bloggers and pitching to clients why we should engage with bloggers. We even used to brief top executives of companies why they ought to treat bloggers better than journalists – that bloggers represent the true voice of the consumer and they can write what they want about any product without any Editor toning down their write-ups. Corporate spokespersons would ask us for special briefings on how to deal with bloggers so as not to bore them or offend them.

Things have changed. Today, rarely do our clients or we expect credibility and influence from blog posts. Only the visibility remains. Many times, bloggers have become a tool in marketing and communications who you pay a fee to create a lot of noise or a trending on Twitter around a launch or a promotion.

Back then, we used to brainstorm what topic would interest bloggers. Now we discuss how many tweets we can get out of them within a particular budget. Those days, bloggers wouldn’t even want to edit a published post but put up a correction or an update. Now, in many blogs, you can get changes done until you and your boss are happy with every wording.

Of course, there are bloggers whose review I would trust blindly, and who don’t believe in charging money for an editorial.

But for the rest, blogging holds a different meaning altogether.

When corporates pump in thousands of rupees for a post, it sure looks tempting, particularly for those who are making a living off blogging. But in the long run, this is going to be the beginning of the demise of the importance blogs have for readers. And we all know that when that happens finally, the money from the corporate will cease to come too.

Readers are intelligent. They can figure out which post is paid and which blogger is increasingly writing about brands, talking brand language, and being very polite and positive in their reviews. There are thousands of blogs to read and readers will just choose a few that they can trust. Sure some bloggers called them ‘sponsored posts’ but what are they supposed to mean! How many people actually want to read an advertorial vs. a well-researched article! Second, when you have taken a fee to write a review, it becomes difficult to write like an opinionated true blue blogger. The content suffers. This is when credibility goes out of the window.

Another trend increasingly happening now is writing on every possible topic on a blog. Earlier, bloggers used to choose a topic they were passionate about. Now the whole objective seems to be aggregating every viral looking content and trying to attract all kinds of traffic. The problem I see here is that I would never subscribe to such blogs. I will read them if their posts come on my newsfeed or if I find them on search, but they will never be part of my Feedly list. The blogs on my list are those that I am a fan of and of whose community I want to be a part of.

What happens for blogs in such scenarios is that their readers hardly engage with them.

We have seen international clients saying about some so-called top blogs in India, ‘Oh! The traffic is there sure, but there is no likes, no comments, no influence.’ Such engagements with readers probably cannot be bought with online ads, but have to be earned the hard way.

In the communications industry, the media and journalists are still very much respected. Most people ridicule paid media. But authentic journalism, people will go all out to earn a small piece of great independent writing.

It is up to our blogger brothers and sisters of today to chart how blogging will evolve in the future and how our readers and partners see us.