“I got to test this product line through a blog partnership – and I must say that it's just wonderful!”
Today, this kind of stuff is what’s written in virtually all popular Finnish fashion, interior decorating and lifestyle blogs. It’s more than a regular thing that a large number of blog postings include advertising links directly to presented products. They are written in cooperation with various companies, whose products received as gifts are presented repeatedly. The cherry on the cake is discount codes for products offered by the blogger’s co-partner.
Corporate cooperation and advertising links have increased tremendously. Blogs have become more and more important as marketing channels for enterprises, and as a result of this, bloggers have taken a professional approach. In Finland as well, the most popular bloggers reap big rewards these days, though no one here is likely to match the annual income of Norway’s most popular fashion blogger Ulrikke Lund, at one million Norwegian kroner (approximately EUR 107,000).
If a company were to publish the same sort of content on its own blog, it would be quickly overlooked or may even be viewed with hostility. A corporate blog must under no circumstances contain purely advertising- and marketing-based material. This, if anything, repels readers – as stated in numerous books on communications and marketing as well as international research articles.
Instead, one should skilfully build a confidential relationship with consumers by offering them content that gives them added value. It is only after long and persevering work that content producers may be rewarded when the consumer buys such products and, in the best scenario, recommends them to friends as well.
Why is it different with fashion, interior decorating and lifestyle blogs?
Because blogs have the capacity of influencing consumers’ purchase choices: readers regard bloggers as a reliable source of information. Elina Pohjonen’s marketing pro gradu thesis, Asiakasuskollisuuden teemat muotiblogeissa “Themes of customer loyalty in fashion blogs” relates the same thing: according to this, readers do not regard blog postings as direct advertising but rather as information coming from a personal source.
Many popular bloggers have succeeded, as a result of many years of work, to establish a close relationship with their readers to the extent that readers even regard them as their friends. This way, it goes unnoticed that many bloggers are entrepreneurs, and the blogs concerned are actually their corporate blogs. The blog is the channel for the blogger’s business to tell about a brand that, in this case, is the same as the blogger.
If the owner of a brick-and-mortar store were to flout the excellence of his products on his company’s blog, would he be regarded as a trustworthy source? Of course not.
How about when fashion bloggers praise products that, indirectly or directly, give them their livelihoods: are readers convinced of the value of the products? According to the research results, yes.
The blog world is changing rapidly, and it will indeed be interesting to follow how the relationship between readers and popular bloggers develops if the direction of the content continuously goes in a more commercial, advertising-based direction. Will a friendly relationship be maintained when stories providing an interface for personal identification are increasingly replaced by poorly hidden advertising – if hidden at all?
General attitudes can change in a flash. For this reason, businesses should closely follow any shifts that occur on the blog front. Although many companies may regard bloggers as perfect co-partners today, the situation may also change rapidly.
In examining the work of fashion bloggers in a study written by Elina Noppari and Mikko Hautakangas, ”Kovaa työtä olla minä – Muotibloggaajat mediamarkkinoilla” (“It’s hard work to be me – Fashion bloggers on the media markets”), it was already concluded four years ago that enterprises would possibly soon have to look for new operational models. Social media is known to be a very windy place.
The writer is a communications professional who is currently working on her doctoral thesis studying interest group communications occurring via corporate blogs.