One of the key paradigms that is shifting in today’s PR world is the influence of bloggers.
Keeping in mind there are hundreds of thousands of bloggers on the Internet today, there are some who drive opinions far better than even celebrity endorsements. According to the 2011 Social Media Matters study by BlogHer.com, women who read blogs routinely trust implicitly the advice and recommendations they receive, especially if it is from a blogger they follow on a regular basis.
“We find this is true in every study conducted over the past four years and the effect never diminishes,” according to the study’s report to the media. “In this year’s Social Media study, 88 percent of the active blog readers in the U.S. general population trust the information they get from familiar blogs. Asked why they have this level of trust, nearly half (48 percent) say it’s because they had made purchases in the past based on blog recommendations and were satisfied with the results. More than 50 percent of the active blog readers in the general U.S. online population have made a purchase based on a blog recommendation. That number jumps to 80 percent in the BlogHer network community.
Moreover, familiar bloggers are preferred over celebrities, a finding that will certainly find some ad agencies cringing.
This information is key in the book marketplace, especially because 48 percent of all books sold in North America are sold online (44 percent through Amazon and 4 percent through BN.com). With consumer trust in familiar bloggers at such high levels, it’s a fair assumption that bloggers are influencing more of those sales than in the past. Circulations on key book review publications like Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews – which drive opinions with book buyers for the major retailers – are becoming increasingly irrelevant, as more consumers choose to buy online instead of the brick-and-mortar stores serviced by those buyers. Before Amazon was a force in the book industry, those buyers had a lot more influence over what consumers bought by deciding to stock certain books at higher levels. Today, much of that influence has been transferred to Amazon and the reviews posted on that site. And, many of Amazon’s regular reviewers also have their own book blogs, doubling the influence those bloggers have over readers.
It’s a trend we’ve followed, and to which we’ve responded, by including more than 650 of those key bloggers in our media databases for our print campaign clients. It’s something every author and publisher should also consider when approaching any book PR campaign. In the past, bloggers weren’t recognized as thought leaders; they were sparsely read voices in the wilderness. But, today’s crop of book bloggers serve millions of readers who trust them and are opinion leaders in a marketplace that is more Web-based. In fact, Examiner.com hosts one of the most popular book blogs on the Internet with a recorded 7 million visitors per month. That’s 2 million more sets of eyeballs than sees the Sunday New York Times. That’s why we treat bloggers with the same importance that we treat any other print or online journalist from the mainstream.
Think back 10 years ago when a PR campaign yielded an online article. Many agencies wouldn’t even report it to the client thinking, “Oh, it’s only a Web hit.” Today, those Web hits place consumers one click away from making a purchase. So if you’re planning a PR campaign to promote a book – and you don’t include a heaping helping of book bloggers in your outreach – you’re missing a boat the size of a few of the larger states in the Union.
The Internet is changing the way we do just about everything, including selling books. Smart authors and publishers will change with those trends if they want to stay relevant to the only audience that matters – their readers.