Skepticism in Social Media

I was talking this morning with someone about which blogs that review products and/or services are the most popular around my part of the world – Asia. I consulted Google Search but could not come up with an answer. I did however come across a recent report (June 25, 2012) by Kristen Sala, Senior Manager, Electronic Media at Cision (a public relations software and media tools firm) that lists the Top 50 independent “Product Review Blogs” in North America. Mama-B Blog is first, followed by Computer Audiophile, and 48 others.  Still, I could not find much information in the Asia region about the prominence of such blogs. 

Brand information are in abundance online and consumers get their dose of brand re-inforcement from a variety of blogs, video sites and other social media. I know brand owners want to know which blogs consumers turn to for advice and even more importantly, to what extent consumers (both users and non-users of these blogs) do believe in what they read. Understanding the level of their skepticism towards these blogs can offer invaluable insight into the effectiveness of such blogs.  Obviously, skepticism does not only apply to online product review blogs, but all across social media.
A highly recommended Likert-scale to measure skepticism is reported in the Journal of Consumer Psychology (see note 1. Scale reliability alpha ranged from .808 to .922). This scale has been adapted and validated in the blogging context and the results published in a paper I co-authored in the Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal (see note 2, reliability alpha of .960) and was presented at the 2010 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Conference in Portland, Oregon (see note 3). 

The nine-item, 5-point Likert-scale is shown below after being adapted from the original “advertising claims” context to an “online blogging” context:
  1. One can depend on getting the truth in most product/services/technology review blogs
  2. Blogging’s aim is to inform the reader
  3. I believe that most of these blogs are informative
  4. Most of these blogs are generally truthful
  5. These blogs are a reliable source of information about the quality and performance of products and services
  6. Blogging is truth well told
  7. In general, these blogs present a true picture of the product/services/technology they write about
  8. A reader can feel accurately informed after reading these blogs
  9. Most of these blogs provide readers and consumers with essential information
Hope to see more research being done in Asia to determine the level of scepticism among different market segments across different types of social media, in particular blogs that review products and services!
Further Reading:
1. Obermiller, C., and Spangenberg, E.R. (1998) “Development of a Scale to Measure Consumer Skepticism toward Advertising”, Journal of Consumer Psychology, 7, 2, 159-186.
2. Ghazisaeedi, M., Pitt, L.F. & Steyn, P. G. (2010) Believing the Bloggers: Some Implications of Consumer Skepticism for PR Professionals, Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp. 79-91
3. Pitt, L. F., Steyn, P. G., Salehi-Sangari, E., van Heerden, G. and Terblanche, N. (2010), Consumer Skepticism and Blogs: Implications for Marketing Communicators, Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Conference, Portland, OR, USA.

Thumbnail source: The Situationist