Bloggers may be influencers but don’t decide things for you

I write this blog post as a reaction to the Social Media Club Question of the Week in which they ask a simple question that requires something more than a blog post: Are bloggers responsible for getting the facts right?

This isn’t necessarily a straightforward “yes” or “no” question because bloggers are supposed to be independent but as most people would tell you, the credibility of the information is questionable based on the source. For example, if you’re getting information on the Amazon ranking debacle over the gay & lesbian books not appearing (see #amazonfail) from PC World or TechCrunch, you might be more inclined to respect the information. However, if you got it from a site that might not necessarily cover this type of news, then you might need to do some further investigation just to see if it’s true or not.

I believe that bloggers are responsible for acurately listing the facts for whatever they’re writing about, but at the same time you can’t believe everything that they’re posting on their blog or what they say. It’s not as if they’re being deceptive on purpose, but rather that they often put their own opinion into their writings. I’m guilty of this. That’s how people become interesting to others because they want to know what other thought-process and/or judgement is taking place – in other words, readers want to know blogger’s point of view. But to believe everything that a blogger tells you word for word is a bit extreme, no matter who that author is.

In a recent conversation I had with Liza Sperling, we were talking about influencers. Just how would you define someone who is an influencer, regardless of the industry or profession they’re in? I would say that an influencer is someone who I trust to help me make a decision by offering me some valuable input that would sway my decision, but not necessarily make it for me. Within the social media and marketing industry/profession, I’d gather it would be some people like Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Brogan, Peter Corbett, Brian Solis, Chris Heuer, Adam Jackson, Beth Harte, Adam Helweh, and many others. But just because one of these writes something good about a product or technology they’re testing or using doesn’t mean that it will equal a favorable review on my part, nor should it. Perhaps said best in one of Christine Lu’s tweets: 

Real influence is ability to make real impact in areas you actually touch…

If people find that you have an impact in what they’re interested in and offer some real value that they want to sit down and listen to what you have to say, then you can consider yourself to be an influencer. Perhaps this somewhat “controversial” analogy will help explain it best: the Bible is one of the greatest books in all of civilization. People find that when they want to look for deep soulful & philosophical answers, they turn to what’s inside this book. But do you believe in everything that is written in the text? I hope not. It’s not meant to be taken literally but more as a means of guidance. So you see…the Bible is an influencer in how to live your life, but it helps “influence” the means and can help direct the path you take. But influencing something doesn’t mean controlling the decisions. You are not a robot, so don’t believe everything you read.

Bloggers should have journalistic integrity and offer up some sound truth with supporting evidence to back up. Otherwise it’s mostly just their own voice offering an opinion. Regardless of whether they have evidence, research, or other data to back up their claims and no matter what the content is, if you read what they write, take it with a grain of salt. It doesn’t matter what the topic or who it is. You are your own person and bloggers should just give you different perspectives.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently Flipboard's Assistant Managing Editor, overseeing news curation in technology, science, gaming and health. In addition to his day job, Ken's the co-host of "The Created Economy" podcast, examining the Creator Economy. In a past life, he was a former reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding.