Guest Genius: Jory Des Jardins

Each Tuesday, we’re happy to turn over our blog space to a Guest Genius, someone who can give a fantastic and fascinating perspective about making word of mouth work. 

This week’s guest genius:
Jory Des Jardins
Co-Founder and President, Strategic Alliances of BlogHer, Inc.

WOMEN BLOGGERS: WHOM DO WE TRUST? 

Since 2005, when my organization, BlogHer, held its first conference, we’ve seen the attention paid to women who blog — by marketers — increase exponentially. Makes sense: 36.2 million women participate in blogs every week — reading, if not also posting content. And the 15.1 million women who publish blogs are the most active recommenders of products and online purchasers on the Internet. 

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 employed the "bloggers schmoggers" strategy and refused to engage bloggers who took issue with a print advertisement that some perhaps nitpicky media watchers might have found sexually underhanded. As a card-carrying blogger — something that unlike most elite programs doesn’t require a membership fee or high-falutin’ connections, just an online publishing program and an opinion — 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. Among the top three reasons: 

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

The ability to influence our peers and readers is but a nice side effect of pursuing those objectives. It seems we trust others whom 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, 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 Camahort Page, summed it up 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 youness 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 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 all in their carry-ons. We have companies who are aligning their sponsorships and advertising programs with causes that our community has determined to be relevant to them (breast cancer research, maternal health, and eco-consciousness, among others). 

Target’s biggest mistake in the Blogosphere was not its sexually questionable creative, but in implying that bloggers were not important barometers; that bloggers were not customers. Had I been consulting 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. 

Learn more from this Genius: 

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