"Blog" is an abbreviation of "weblog," which is used to describe web sites that maintain an ongoing record of information. "Weblog" was created in 1997 and quickly following by the most commonly used term, "blog" in 1999. "A blog is a web page made up of usually short, frequently updated posts that are arranged chronologically like a 'what's new' page or a journal. The content and purposes of blogs varies greatly from links and commentary about other web sites, to news about a company/person/idea, to diaries, photos, poetry, mini-essays, project updates, even fiction." (Blogger, 2008). The earliest blogging attempts are the online diaries, which can be traced back to 1994. Early weblogs were manually maintained, with the authors editing the main pages of their websites to add new content, then republishing the sites with each addition. This made blogging the exclusive realm of the technologically savvy. However, browser-based software that allows users to publish their entries in reverse chronological order without the need to know HTML (HyperText Markup Language) coding has opened up the blog world to a new set of individuals. (Blogger, 2008). All blogs tend to have a main content area with articles (sometime called as posts or entries) organized into categories and listed chronologically -newest on top, an archive of older articles, a way for people to leave comments about the articles, a list of links to other related sites - blogroll and one or more "feeds" like RSS, Atom or RDF files.
Blogging demonstrates to customers that a company cares about its products and customers. (DeFelice, 2005) Blogs are helpful in signaling that the company is truly on the cutting edge during the process of building industry credibility. They can be utilized to keep clients informed while earning their trust. In an up to date company blog, writing articles about the latest industry events and providing tutorials to help the readers will do the job. For instance, Ximnet's website is used solely to provide information on the company's latest cameras as well as photography tips. The company also uses its blog to better handle queries from customers and potential customers.Blogging also helps market their products and their website. News in blogs appears faster in search engine results than regular HTML pages. (Chin, 2005)
All means of corporate communication create an image of the organization in the market. Maintaining it can deliver a good image, which ultimately develops a positive word of mouth (Arora, 2007). Blogging brings an unusual dose of openness and frankness to corporate communication. Corporate blogs are a fairly new tool of corporate communication but they are considered to be a sign of sincerity and confidence. Firms which are brave enough to maintain a corporate blog take the risk of receiving negative comments from the consumers which are publicly available. Firms with corporate blogs are not only thought to trust their products but also openly communicative. A feeling of involvement or participation with an organization can also encourage customer loyalty and recommendations (Arora, 2007).
Personal blogs are maintained by one or many individuals and can talk about politics, education, music, fashion, travel and many other subjects. Personal blog is the most common type and it is not only used as way to communicate but also to reflect the writer's personality. Bloggers customize their blog site in a variety of ways; playing with the colors and adding gadgets etc. Though, an extreme way of personal blogging has emerged; micro-blogging, where bloggers publish brief messages very frequently to the extend that they capture every moment. Micro- blogging is more on a person-to-person level of blogging where micro- bloggers can choose a restricted group of followers.
Provided by the RSS feature of blogs, news in blogs appear in search engine results within an hour after posted. With the help of the browser-based software anyone even at the absence of HTML knowledge can write a blog. These two combined make blogging the fast and easy way of sharing news and ideas.
In our study, we have approached to the concept of blogging and following blogs in a way that identified the links between the Turkish blog writers' and readers' intentions of using this particular medium. We have formulated our questions as to find the way how blog followers get affected from the blog so that we devise a system to use blogs as a marketing tool. Blogs constituted a great opportunity as they become the new form of communication. People used blogs to share their opinions and researches have proved that user experiences are very much effective.
Word of Mouth
To increase the sales volume companies need to increase the number of customers and/or the frequency of their purchase. The ever existing word of mouth seems to be working better than mass media communication. Satisfied customers share their satisfaction with their group but unsatisfied customers share their disappointing experiences more and faster. Now, they share their satisfaction or dissatisfaction through blogs.
In the US context, many research agencies stated that word of mouth is the future requisite in marketing. The following are the recent findings related to the influence of word of mouth:
- According to E-Marketer (www.emarketer.com), two-thirds of all economic activity in the US is influenced by shared opinions about a product, brand, or service.
- According to researchers at Northwestern University, 15%of every conversation includes something about a product or service.
- An April 2005 survey by CMO magazine, which asked marketers what type of digital media they were either using or planning to use, found that 43% planned to employ WOM campaigns within the next six months. (Arora,2007)
The word of mouth in the online area is more powerful since it reaches more people faster than offline. Blogs are linked in ways that promote viral distribution of a popular idea or product. Every five minutes a new blog is created. About 39% or about 57 million Internet users are regular blog readers and this rate increasing dramatically. Even Vista and Internet Explorer 7 have built in RSS feeds/blog readers now. This will make blogs readers as common as email (Kaufman, 2007). So, it is inevitable for firms to pay attention to this developing channel. They can either choose to be proactive and do something before blogs do something to them.
Blogging as a Marketing Tool
Blogs may help companies mainly in two ways which are in Figure 3. Firstly, through blogs companies can collect new insights and opinions. They can learn how their products are used, evaluated among alternatives and after use and disposed. They can discover their flaws and better ways to communicate their product messages. The key difference between Internet advertising media and traditional advertising media is that the latter is interruptive - advertisers stop you from doing what you were doing to bring you their message - while the former is participative - advertisers can join in with whatever the user is doing (Goldsborough, 2006). Firms can also discover better means to achieve their goals. Through corporate blogs firms can express themselves and from other blogs they can collect information about consumer's attitude towards the company or the brand.
Internet is calling on consumers to take control; create their own messages and share with the rest of the world. People blog about the products they use and the experiences of certain services they paid for. They recommend some of them to their readers and they discredit the others. A Fortune cover story entitled "Why There's No Escaping the Blog" described how blogs build customer relationships, take the puise of consumer trends, expose shoddy products (e.g., Kryptonite was forced to announce a program to exchange defective locks after a swarm of bloggers revealed a Bic pen could open them), and support creativity. (Dearstyne, 2005)
For the consumers searching for information, blogs constitute a more sincere alternative since they are unedited and unfiltered. People tend to find blogs more reliable than traditional media. They enjoy the collective experience better when making their own decisions. According to a study conducted by Leo J. Shapiro & Associates, nearly half (48%) of all Americans have searched online for information or advice before purchasing a product or service in the past year, and rate user generated content three times more influential than TV advertising (Ellington, 2008). Because what they read on blogs and forums is a real consumer's experience with a product or a service, they evaluate it more trustworthy. Our research shows that people evaluate blogs more convincing and sincere than traditional media and also the most dominant reason behind their preference of blogs over traditional media is that the blogs are more up to date and in-line with the trends.
Blogs provide instant information sharing. They may include links to other blogs and websites, providing readers with quick, easy means of pursuing additional information, and have the capacity to "swarm" by sharing and spreading information quickly (Dearstyne, 2005). Due to the speed and plurality reasons blogs are more preferred.
Establishing a company or a brand blog appears to be an effective way of building a brand and brand image renovation. We see in Heinz Beansz's case that a blogging 'superbean' can provide information about the product's new value in a rather simple and effective way. Such a blog makes the company/brand the expert in the area and connects it directly to consumers (Webdale, 2004).
In this particular study we have examined the Turkish blog society to understand the ties among readers and writers and further investigated the influences of blogs on consumers' behavior. Our aim was to identify why and how blogs affect Turkish consumers because there is a late followed up trend in Turkey that more and more companies leverage blogs in their marketing campaigns.