Reaching new markets via blogs

Published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, Business Friday, April 13, 2007

Blogs are no replacement to traditional media, but can create new clients.

Marketers’ interests are stirred by what is touted today as a novel and new generation way of reaching out to consumers – blog marketing.

Blogs are websites or areas in websites where the site owners and other bloggers post their ideas, comment on each others’ thoughts, tell stories about the brand (if a particular brand is the site owner), share their experience and even post diary entries.

Reading a negative brand story or experience from an unhappy customer whose opinion will likely be read by other bloggers is often discouraging to the faint-hearted marketer.

Most marketers have taken to blog marketing initially as a means to defend themselves from negative blog write-ups. On the other hand, marketers should find merit in using blogs as a means to further a positive brand image, spreading the word about their brand, tapping a new medium to reach a target market not traditionally hit by broadcast and mass media and sustaining dialogue with the brand’s market in a relatively, inexpensive channel.

How to use blogs

Blogs are no replacement to traditional media in reaching a brand’s target market. But it must be recognized as an additional medium to reach potential new users who fall within the brand’s target market but are not presently using the brand. Here are some ways to reach a new market while sustaining dialogue with present loyal brand users.

Mount blogs in good times and not when there is a brand crisis. Most blogs have been put up to address brand issues, complaints, concerns and dissatisfied customers. But this should not be the case. Even while the brand is at its introductory stage, marketers can start building a community of bloggers around the brand and its related category or subject. For example, in an effort to create a dent in the highly competitive British wine market, a three-year old South African vintner Stormhoek Winery created a blog in its web and through it educated its customers on wine freshness, offered them free wine tasting, encouraged its community of bloggers to write about the merits of grapes, etc. From an initial blog community of 85 bloggers, the web’s hits rose to a minimum of 200,000 a month.

Use blogs as a conversational medium. Traditional media like broadcast, print, billboards etc. are non-personal communications channels. On the other hand, blogs are feedback-based and on-line, allowing immediacy of dialogue among online users. How present and potential users view one’s brand comprise valuable information for the marketer. Insightful marketers can use some of the relevant information as basis for a more meaningful value proposition and brand story.

Encourage authenticity when managing blogs. Have topic experts write on blogs, not fictional professional copywriters on the payroll of brands or advertising agencies. Having a topic expert who is an engaging writer at the same time does have its merits. This helps draw people to the site. The overriding criteria for real bloggers is the authenticity of their experiences which is often synonymous with the rest of the community. Blogs are contributed by people who are passionately engaged in specific interest topics and subjects like cars, clothes, politics, culinary skills, etc. and their range of experience and knowledge in a subject is too deep and intense for a fictional, professional writer to capture. Bloggers know when it is an honest opinion or commentary or one that is company or brand influenced or fabricated.

Recognize that blogs are not stand-alone media but complementary to traditional media. Some interactive design agencies are selling the idea that blog marketing can eventually replace traditional media. At this time, while blogs are being recognized as an inexpensive channel to reach a brand’s target market and its potential can not be disregarded, it still works more effectively with traditional media. Use traditional media to drive traffic to the blog. Some of the restrictions of the medium remain to be a country market’s PC penetration, internet usage, socio-economic limitations of online media, creating traffic for the blog, etc.

Creating traffic for blog sites is a key result area of web marketers. Blogs become interesting because of the variety and honesty of discussions and opinions of bloggers not to mention their expertise on the subject. What is challenging to web marketers is to attract these topic experts to one’s blog site. Thus, linking one’s website to other blogs or websites is a way of spreading the word around about one’s blog.

Blogs work best to attract the more affluent, educated markets in the Philippines. According to the research group BSBC Hook UAI and, the Philippines has one of the lowest PC penetration in Asia at less than 10% of the population and internet usage at 9% or an equivalent 7.8M. While there are more than 100 internet service providers, much of their connections have been made through backbones located in the United States. This is largely because internet dial-up connection charges are estimated to be 80% higher in the Philippines compared to the United States. Thus, access to the internet particularly in homes has been limited to the A, B and C classes and companies.

A related research by AcNielsen Consult Philippines in its 2004 Philippine Internet User Survey with a sampling size of 2300 internet users confirms this observation. About 64% of Philippine internet users have completed college; nearly 60% are employed full-time; 35% have a gross combined household income between Php25,000 to Php60,000. 78% of internet users are residents of key urban areas with 60% residing in the National Capital Region followed by 10% in Southern Tagalog and 8% in Central Luzon with nearly 80% belonging to the 20 to 39 year old age bracket.

Exposure to PC and internet usage has been driven largely in the Philippines by the ubiquity of internet cafes. Nonetheless, much of its usage has been online gaming.

The future of blogging

The availability of blogging as an online channel to reach a specific market is here to stay. Creating traffic for a brand’s website and encouraging visitors to become part of the community of bloggers though, is a challenge that web marketers must address. User rules on blogging is another as this continues to be a grey area until today.

Table of Asia Internet Usage and Population

AsiaPopulation2007 EstimateInternet Users,March 2007Penetration % of Population
South Korea51,300,98934,120,00066.5%