For the last several years, marketing experts have implored corporations to "join the conversation," namely through blogging. One problem: several years into the blogging phenomenon, not many consumers trust their blogs.
A Forrester Research study (www.forrester.com/corporateblogging) found that only 16 percent of consumers trust what they read on blogs, a trust level below such hallmarks of veracity as direct mail and message board posts. Of all information sources, including traditional and interactive media, corporate blogs finished dead last in consumers' eyes.
Newer forms of corporate social media didn't do well, either. Social networking profiles from brands were trusted by just 18 percent of consumers, the second least-trusted information source of the Forrester survey.
Forrester concludes that many brands make the mistake of blogging about what they know most about: themselves. Instead, Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff urges companies to focus on customer problems and cater to brand fans. It helps to have a celebrity face, like Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Donald Trump.
Yet for now, corporate blogging remains a stale affair, Bernoff concludes.
"Company blogs are in a vicious cycle now," he writes in the report. "Those companies that selfishly blog about their products will reinforce the idea that corporate blogs can't be trusted. This will make it even harder for new corporate bloggers to be seen as anything other than company shills."
Companies like Dell have launched blogs as part of efforts to better communicate and learn from customers. Dell credits its foray into blogging in 2006 with helping it reverse several years of negative online buzz. It has also added short-messaging service Twitter to its new ways to reach consumers.
Like many such surveys, Forrester found people typically trust other people, particularly those they know. E-mail from people you know topped the list with a 77 percent trust rating. Reviews gained 60 percent and social networking profiles of friends got 43 percent.
Traditional media, on a whole, still garners more trust from consumers than digital outlets, according to Forrester. The Yellow Pages are trusted by 48 percent of respondents, newspapers by 46 percent, magazines and radio by 39 percent and TV by 38 percent.
In contrast, newer forms of digital media fared worse. User-created wikis like Wikipedia were trusted by 33 percent, message board posts by 21 percent, online classifieds by 20 percent, personal blogs by 18 percent, followed by company social network profiles and blogs.
The silver lining: respondents who themselves are bloggers are much more likely to trust company blogs--and nearly all forms of information sources, Forrester found. Nearly 40 percent trust company blogs and social network profiles. Over 40 percent trust message board posts. Even traditional media like TV, magazines and newspapers got significantly higher trust ratings from bloggers.
The demographic profile of those trusting blogs isn't all that different from those who don't trust them. The trusting are slightly more likely to be female, about four years younger on average and a bit richer but less educated.