Earlier this month, we attended the Financial Blogger Conference near Chicago. The weekend was packed with great conversations about personal finance online, and about how bloggers can help shape the dialogue about it.

Half of the online population reads blogs, according to a recent study, and 52 percent of consumers say blogs play an important role in their purchasing decisions. In fact, consumers generally trust blogs more for a purchase decision than the content they read on social networking sites. These statistics indicate that bloggers’ influence may reach beyond what many of us have assumed, and that they can be a vital tool for consumers looking for all sorts of information – including the latest personal-finance news and trends.

Common Goals

“Accessible,” “transparent” and “trustworthy” were just a few of the words we heard from bloggers when describing the qualities that the banking industry should aspire to. They also happen to describe the qualities we here at Ally try to bring to our customers. It was good to see that, whether we’re bloggers or a bank, we all have the same goal in mind.

Financial planner June Walbert, who blogs at the Motley Fool, was even more focused in describing what she looks for in a bank. She advocated actively looking for ways to make your money work for you. “Look around for the best deals on interest rates, savings accounts, money market rates, and save more for [your] financial future. It’s the best way to secure it.”

Walbert wasn’t the only one who wanted banks to deliver better, more user-friendly products to their customers. With the wave of ridiculous fees popping up across the industry, bad banking behavior was popular topic among attendees.

“I really expect a bank to be upfront with me – I’m giving them my money,” Julia Scott of Bargainbabe.com told us. “But all the legal jargon and the hidden fees are just way too much. There’s no reason why banks shouldn’t be straightforward with you.”

Andrew Schrage of MoneyCrashers.com was in full agreement. “[A bank] shouldn’t have any hidden fees. No fees in fine print. No fees that really shouldn’t belong. The recent Bank of America $5 debit card fee? Stuff like that should not be introduced.”

An Education

Consumers’ close attention to blogs gives banks yet another platform – if not a responsibility – to inform their customers. That’s one of the reasons we have the Straight Talk blog, and it’s why we closely monitor our Facebook page and Twitter feeds. We know that a significant number of our customers look to the Internet for answers to their questions, so we take the Internet and social media very seriously.

Many of the bloggers we met want nothing more than to help people make good financial decisions, which blogger Baker of Man vs. Debt eloquently touches on in his bio. He writes, “We hope that by sharing a transparent and honest account of our own journey to remove barriers – primarily our debt and excess clutter – we can empower and inspire others who find themselves on similar paths.”

Education was the impetus behind Bobby Lee’s 2 Minute Finance. His site features short videos that give quick, lucid personal finance lessons on everything from compound interest to bank fees. He says he’d like to see financial education become a major trend in the future.

“I would love to see people be empowered to manage their own money,” he said. “They have to take ownership and feel empowered to really take advantage of their financial situation.”

The Ally Standard

At Ally, we believe an open and honest personal-finance conversation is the only one worth having, which is why we feel financial bloggers can be such useful resources. They bring a frank insight to the personal finance conversation that falls right in line with our dedication to no-nonsense banking and financial straight talk.

Do the blogs you read influence your purchasing decisions? What words would you use to describe what the banking industry should aspire to?