Why Are Two-Thirds Of European Bloggers Hiding?

by · June 20, 20128 comments

As you know from Monday’s review of recent Overblog research, there are stark cultural differences in European bloggers and those of us in America. Perhaps the most shocking statistic from Overblog’s research is the lack of transparency in many European blogs.

According to Overblog’s survey of 5,000 U.S. and European bloggers, just 32 percent of those in Europe say they use their actual identify when blogging. That means that two-thirds of them are masking their identity online and hiding who they really are from their audience.

It seems the world of transparency is a Western Hemisphere tenet. Perhaps this has something to do with more stringent laws and respect for personal privacy in Europe, but it could also be that the maturity of corporate culture there isn’t to the point that someone blogging on their own time is not some sort of threat to company sensitivities.

English: Lone Ranger style mask

Lone Ranger style mask (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My guess is that U.S. bloggers were far more secretive about who they were from the late 1990s to about 2006 or 2007, but the ubiquity of personal and professional blogging evolved to the point that most companies began to accept blogging as a personal, public activity their employees might participate in. For companies looking to Europe for blogger outreach and active social media programs, it would be smart to understand this difference in approaches.

Europe obviously doesn’t have the Federal Trade Commission standards Americans have. The question is: will they? Perhaps a better question in the short term is, “What does this mean?”

For American companies exploring Europe as an emerging market, it offers a temptation: Do you adopt a “when in Rome” attitude and take advantage of the lack of disclosure requirements and a comparatively immature marketplace to push your product to unwitting audiences and aggressive blog authors? Or, do you take the American approach and insist on disclosure and “white hat” outreach and promotional techniques to ensure the integrity of your brand?

Then there’s the more META question of integrity. Does the anonymity or masked identity of a blogger change your perception of them as a trusted resource? Certainly, there are anonymous bloggers in the U.S. as well. But is transparency just a notion the echo chamber of social media evangelists holds sacred? Do mainstream blog readers care?

As a marketer, you should want to know the answer to that, too. A perceived lack of integrity may effect whether or not you approach one blogger over another.

Regardless of the answers, the differences in U.S. and European bloggers in this area is fascinating. It has implications on how we as marketers approach blogger outreach, public relations and even advertising. Discussing the reasons for the differences and the implications of them in the marketplace will only make us all smarter

So, for you European bloggers and marketers, why the secrecy? Are there disclosure regulations in certain countries we Americans should know about? How are European social media practitioners and public relations folks approaching bloggers there and what is effective. Please share your experiences to we can all grow from the discourse.

The comments, as always, are yours.

Note: Overblog is a Social Media Explorer client.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • jeppeengell

    I’m from Denmark in Europe and I have tried to raise your question on Facebook and Twitter. I’m a bit sad, that I can’t look into the numbers behind the survey because there is a lot of question that would require an answer. First of all, there is only one country that have english as their first language. Second it would be nice to see the answer from Europe divided up in countries, because you can’t compare the countries in Europe with the US as such. The cultural difference from north to south is bigger than the difference between Alaska and Florida. Third, if you look at the history of some of the countries in Europe, you would be surprised that many of them are young democracies and therefore don’t have a strong tradition of “freedom of speech”. All of the above mentioned combined with the mere possibility that the internet gives for anonymous blogs might give the answer.

    Thats my 2 cent, but will look into it further.

    Jeppe Engell

    Ps. Maybe this book will gives some more perspective http://www.amazon.com/Cyberliteracy-Navigating-Internet-Awareness-ebook/dp/B0018L79T0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1340354683&sr=1-1&keywords=Cyberliteracy%3A+Navigating+the+Internet+with+Awareness 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the input Jeppe! I’ll see if we have the data to break down Europe by country, but your points are well taken! Certainly further investigation needs to happen here. Thank you!

  • jeppeengell

    Yet another response, I don’t think over-blog.com has any credibility in terms of the survey and they claim a lot of fluffy stuff on their website and it’s very hard to run a background check on them.

    I don’t think this survey is only made by their own users and not 5000+ important bloggers in the US and Europe

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      That’s where I’ll disagree a bit, Jeppe. I helped Overblog publicize the survey. The ‘importance’ label comes from a high degree of bloggers with high Klout scores (self-reported) who completed the survey. The average fr both US and Europe was in the 50s. While certainly not scientific and vetted for a projection-able sample, it is at least an attempt to qualify the survey.

      And Overblog is the third largest blog platform in Europe, so their credibility, even if many of the responses came from their own customers, isn’t minimized. It was a representative sample of users.

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