Professional bloggers often serve as brand ambassadors for companies

You talk about your hair woes and your colleague recommends this shampoo she swears by. Chances are you will pick up the product next time you see it on the store shelf. It’s all about trust, and banking on this very factor of ‘credibility’, brands are now seeking out bloggers to try their products and write about them. In short they are the new brand ambassadors.

Moving from ‘connecting’ to ‘interacting’ with the audience, brands now see great potential in bloggers as ambassadors to market their products since they have a loyal online readership. Plus, as brands say, this medium helps them get an immediate review of their product and a ‘reality check’, courtesy the readers’ comments.

“Bloggers are seen as reliable brand ambassadors these days because of their unbiased reviews of products,” says 19-year-old Ranjith Kumar Reddy, a B.Tech student from IIT-Roorkee and an avid blogger.

Compared to celebrity endorsements, Ranjith says that readers are aware of the fact that a blogger is under no pressure to write positively about a product. “Both the pros and cons of a product is mentioned in a blog review, therefore readers assume it is honest. Unless critical, the pros overshadow the cons, and thus the company earns another customer.”

The route which brands usually take is to invite bloggers to try their product and then share their experience. Readers leave behind comments and, depending on the feedback, more information is supplied and new strategies planned. A personal care product, for instance, organised a bloggers’ meet in Mumbai, in which the participants — 70 per cent women — were invited to try out the product. Following this, the participants wrote about their experience and generated a readership, whose main audience were those in the 25-35 age group. Besides blog posts, there were also tweets and Facebook posts. The campaign reached 4.3 million people.

“A lot of companies are gradually realising the power of blogging and how our opinions and recommendations can have a profound impact on the decision-making of their target audience,” says Mumbai-based blogger Arti. “The biggest USP that works in our favour, as compared to a celebrity, is that we are more approachable to our readers, which in turn helps us connect instantly. A celebrity is an unreachable star, but a blogger lives in the real world and seems like someone next door,” she adds.

Both Ranjith and Arti have reviewed products and services, based on invitations for a first-hand experience. While Arti says that her blog has had a million page views, Ranjith says his has had crossed 70,000. In this age of increased Internet connectivity, their viewers cut across age, class and gender.

An official at Indiblogger, an umbrella body of bloggers, says that what adds to the credibility factor of bloggers is that they don’t usually write about just one brand, which, if they do, would seem like a paid post. “They write on anything new and maybe of interest to the readers...it could even be on competing brands products.”

According to Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising report which surveyed 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries, 92 per cent consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all types of advertising. Online consumer reviews come next with 70 per cent consumers saying they trust information on this platform — an increase of 15 per cent in four years.