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Consumers review their purchases with video blogs Some postings are created by reviewers paid by stores

The most successful social media innovations are ones that grow organically, created by individual users then harnessed by retailers. Such is the case with "haul vlogs."

They started when (mostly teenage) consumers began recounting their shopping trips on video blogs, then posting them to sites such as YouTube.com and sharing them with friends.

Just as teenagers used to invite their friends over to go through their shopping bags after a trip to the mall, vloggers sit in front of their webcams with their hauls, holding up their latest earrings or pair of jeans, pointing out stylish details, showing different fashion combinations and sharing the prices they snagged them for.

J.C. Penney made a splash recently when it paid six teenage girls in J.C. Penney gift cards to create one 10-minute haul vlog each, to be used in the retailer's back-to-school marketing campaign. The girls were given cards worth anywhere from $250 to $1,000.

In return, J.C. Penney got to post online product reviews from real people, the peers of their targeted juniors demographic, on its website and Facebook page.

But the jury is still out on whether paid reviewers -- even though their opinions were not edited -- can be seen as objective and genuine by potential customers.

It has yet to be seen how retailers will harness other recent social shopping innovations, such as websites Blippy.com and Friendshopper.com.

Blippy.com has been described as a "mash-up of Twitter, Facebook and your credit-card statement" by ShopSmart magazine and bills itself as "a website where people obsessively write reviews about everything they buy."

Any time a user buys something, they can go to the site and post what they bought, where they bought it and how much they paid for it. Friends can then give feedback on purchases, either through posting a comment or clicking a "like" button.

Friendshopper.com helps friends shop together online, getting opinions and pointing out items their friends would like but might have missed. Using a special "bookmarklet," users and their friends can sign into the website from wherever they are, share pictures of items they're considering buying and chat in real time.

It's a digital extension of bringing your friends into the dressing room to get their feedback on the clothes you're trying on.

Big box electronics retailer Best Buy has had tremendous success on Twitter with its creation of @Twelpforce, where customers can go with questions and receive free tech support in real time.

Today, it has more than 32,000 followers. The account is attended by Best Buy employees around the clock -- another example of how social media never sleeps.

e-mail: schristmann@buffnews.com