"I'm a mother. I'm a writer. I'm a tax-payer. I'm a citizen. I'm a member of corporate America. I'm a recycler. I'm a daughter. I'm a consumer. I understand needing to break people into demographics when you're trying to get messages out in a short amount of time, but the product that stops treating women as having just one facet of their personalities will make a lot of inroads with BlogHers - I'm sure of that."
Choosing a presidential candidate was on the mind of blogger Rita Arens, SurrenderDorothy.typepad.com, when she wrote this paragraph, but she could just as easily have been writing about buying movie tickets, shoes, or soap. Her phrase about making "inroads" hints at a crucial communications issue: how you treat a woman who blogs will determine how much she - and her readers - can trust you.
Six short years after mainstream media and the men's blogosphere asked, "Where are the women bloggers?" many communications experts are, quite rightly, working to earn "her" trust. In today's marketplace of 55.6 million women who read and write blogs monthly, it's widely acknowledged that investing time and effort in developing that trust is a best business practice. A blogger's personal trust, or the lack thereof, will apply directly to her recommendations on everything, including the clients and brands you represent.
As women, we trust our friends first. That's no surprise. What is surprising, however, is the fundamental shift BlogHer reported in 2009 between women who use social media and women who don't: women who actively use social media every week trust every single social media source more than they trust every single traditional media source. The converse is also true: the dwindling group of women who consume only traditional media trust only traditional media sources.
Dig deeper and the data reveals a pecking order. For a woman who uses social media and is also a BlogHer blogger, her addictive use of social media tools transforms her into a "super-communicator" - a consistent, always-on personal broadcaster. She is eight times more likely than the average woman online to read blogs every day and seven times more likely to Twitter daily. In fact, these women enjoy reading blogs more than any other media-related activity, including TV.
This behavior has enabled women bloggers to rise from obscurity to a marketplace of their own, sought by brands and courted by agencies. Eighty-five percent of BlogHer's audience reports buying a product based on a recommendation from a blog, while 82% of women bloggers rely on blogs for information about shopping.
We women buy - or don't - and talk about it. Blogs have become the go-to media source when a woman who blogs seeks advice about what to purchase. BlogHer's 2010 study of women online, conducted with Nielsen, confirmed that all US women who go online prefer blogs to social networks when it comes to investigating new products. Women who blog say their top goal when blogging is to express themselves (82%), followed by giving advice (51%) and persuading others (20%).
So it's blogger trust you need to cultivate - and yet it's not enough to lure Rita Arens to your company's blog or to build a fan page on Facebook. If you're smart, you'll also visit Rita where she lives, broadcasts her opinion, and shares advice online - on her own blog.
How do you do it right? I'll let the bloggers answer that with these guidelines:
- Disclose, disclose, disclose. "Say who you are, what you want, and why you're doing this. Don't make women guess - and don't try to trick us."
- The technology exists, so leverage it. "I'm sure this is a terrifying thought to brands and products, but technology has enabled us to actually have a conversation. Let's have it."
- Beware treating women with brains and wallets as the only demographic or as a niche. "Not all women are mothers or married. Reach out to single women, as well as to women without children."
- Women want to hear directly from com-panies and candidates. "It's irrelevant what media think. I want to hear from the companies and products and decide for myself."
Lisa Stone is CEO of BlogHer and works to advocate for bloggers, partners, products, and events that fulfill the mission of BlogHer, co-founded in 2005 with Elisa Camahort Page and Jory Des Jardins. She is a leading expert on developing successful online communities and interactive programming for women.