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Blogs Scientifically Proven to Matter

December 8th, 2005

uh-oh bloggers

Another piece of “marketing science” (it works great, see the Names@Work survey of CTM trademarks to check for conflicting trademarks for the .EU Sunrise) brings “proof” that blogging is powerful. Or does it?

A long-running skirmish between Dell and an unhappy consumer, Jeff Jarvis, which included the wonderful “Dear Mr. Dell” letter, has been analyzed for its effect. A study (PDF), reported by Steve Rubell and TechBlog, among others, “shows first that Dell has sustained long-term damage to its reputation, and secondly that the cheerleaders for the poor reputation of Dell’s customer services, are bloggers.”

Well… One could (and I would) argue that Dell’s customer service problems might originate with its actual customer service, rather than the trumpeting of it across the Internet, but there’s no doubt of the megaphone power of bloggers acting as a group. It’s unclear to me, though, whether bloggers will always act in concert as they did in the “Dell Hell” case.

Blogging is still very much in its early stages, and as such it has attracted a larger share of early adopters of technology than will be the case later when everyone and her brother will have a blog. It is certainly dominated by the younger set. It may well be that early bloggers tend to care about the same sorts of things — for instance, bad customer service for their computers. The study doesn’t address the pre-existing biases of bloggers, and I think we’ll need to wait a while before we can talk intelligently about how blogs will affect society or even companies. Or — more to the point — how bloggers will affect one another. Or, even more to the point, given how the blogosphere is governed by power laws, how the A-List bloggers will affect one another as blogs inevitably become more diverse.

What’s more interesting than the Dell “hook” (this was a press release, after all), though, is the following:

The white paper uses the science of citation indexing: applying maths to calculate a writer’s authority in a particular context and producing an index of dominant authorities. This is familiar in academic use, but is here applied to the web for the first time. The analysis demonstrates how bloggers exercise their power and how their authority has come at the expense of the conventional media sources such as the Washington Post and The New York Times.

Now that’s fascinating. So much of the writing about the power of the blogosphere has been blah blah anecdotal, or just dead wrong. I’ve been trying to harness some of the very interesting social science research on human perception and behavior, as in my efforts with the DomainsBot Labs, and it’s encouraging to see others make these efforts as well.

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Comments

  1. Companies are beginning to use services like bloglines to keep track of mentions of their name or brand names. Judging by anecdotal evidence quite a few people are making buying decisions based on what they read in blogs that they trust, so the traditional marketing methodology, whilst still valid, may need to be expanded to include bloggers and the blogosphere

    Michele | December 11th, 2005 at 9:01 am

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