00:03 AM

Do blogs and online forums make it easier, not harder, for companies to influence “market conversations”?

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

The blogosphere with its millions of blogs and bloggers prides itself on its iconoclastic and anti-establishment views and activities. This fragmentation of media into millions of blogs is deemed a good thing, and I agree.

But the blogosphere might not be as resistant to influence as people might believe. In fact, I could argue that the rise of blogging has made it easier than ever for corporations to target/influence people.

I came to this idea following a meeting with Doc Searls on Wednesday. We were on a panel and talking about, well, I think you can guess what we were talking about. . .

Doc is a huge name in the blogosphere because of his blog, and because he is co-author of the seminal 1999 book, Cluetrain Manifesto. Doc has a gentle humility about him and never tires to talk about the central thesis of his book, that “markets are conversations.” People talk to each other about products, services and companies, and these comprise “market conversations.”

This might seem strikingly obvious today, but Doc says that that was not the case about ten years ago, when he formulated his ideas, and when blogs were just beginning to be seen.

Yet how could anyone find out where the many millions of market conversations occur each day and what was said, in the time of Doc's blog-free world?

Now, thanks to massive amounts of blogging, many of the market conversations that were private and offline, are now on public blog sites and in the public domain and they are being tracked by a multitude of tools.

Companies can see what is being said about them and their products in the online communities, and they know where it is being said, on which sites.

And although there are more than 50m blogs, the ones that count are very few in number and they have become regular meeting places for discussions.

Therefore, it must be easier than ever for organisations to attempt to influence those now very public “market conversations” because they are grouped together, rather than fragmented into the normal daily noise of society.