Blogs and Dell’s Enduring Hell

Blogger influence over corporate reputations can be lasting. A white paper released jointly by Market Sentinel, Onalytica, and Immediate Future examines the experiences of A-list blogger Jeff Jarvis with a Dell laptop as a case study.

A highly public discussion of Jarvis’ troubles with his Dell laptop computer this past summer leapt from dialog on Jarvis’ Buzzmachine site to other blogs, and even into mainstream media. The result is a population of links on search engines such as Google. In this case, postings on Buzzmachine and MSN, as well as other blog and news sources, surpass Dell in terms of “information influence” in terms of customer service issues.

The paper cites a “my story” phenomenon, where Jarvis, the person with the experience, becomes the authoritative voice regarding Dell customer service. This dynamic allowed him to speak on the topic, and often to serve as the solitary reporting source.

“There are a lot of bloggers out there that say, if I get to tell my story then that’s fine,” Onalytica Managing Director Flemming Madsen told ClickZ News.

Further findings conclude the influence blogs wield can have a negative impact on corporate image. The paper says, “Any attempt to redress the public perception of their customer services by Dell will have to pass via Jeff Jarvis’ influence.”

“Online consumers and searchers are the same people who might previously have telephoned a company or visited a store to business with them. Now they are online,” states the white paper.

This behavior creates an opportunity for blogs to act as influencers in a strong way. The paper calls bloggers “powerful advocates” but warns of ramifications if bloggers are disappointed by a company’s product or service.

The actual effect of negative links from Buzzmachine or any other site discussing Dell is not conclusive, according to the paper. However, Dell shut down its online customer forum shortly after the postings unfolded. The company’s sales have dropped, and in October of this year, Dell issued a profit warning for the year.

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