Working with bloggers is one of the smartest things an independent brand can do to amplify its voice and presence, even on a modest budget, to compete with bigger and better-funded brands. This is even more true when it comes to brands targeting women. Many indie brands have been successful using this method, but what are the keys to doing it well? Use the following tips as your guide to doing it right.
Know your audience
Before you send an email or pick up the phone to contact your first blogger, figure out who your consumer is. Know how she shops and what media she consumes -- how she spends her time in various content channels all day long. With this consumer insight in hand, you then must take the time to identify bloggers or networks of bloggers that service or engage with this audience -- those who are trusted experts to the women you are trying to reach. Your audience and category will determine whether you reach out to teen beauty video bloggers or mom bloggers who write for women in their 20s and 30s, for example.
Partner with experts
Consider working with a blogger agency or network. Their ongoing, long-term relationships will help you be most effective and efficient in your outreach. A partner will know the preferences of each blogger and how they like to work. Out of dozens of bloggers, a brand might want to start by establishing a relationship with a handful. If your budget is light, pick just a few bloggers and slowly build a personal relationship with each one, just as you would any other member of the press.
Stay clear on your objectives the entire time. Is your goal to move merchandise, increase awareness of a new product, or build the brand? Stay focused on this imperative. Some blogs are more geared to one mindset than another. In beauty, for example, some blogs focus on shopping, others on practical guidance and tips -- and others only review products. In the fashion world, certain blogs are known to inspire women and drive sales with their focus on affordable, wearable outfits, while others would be more likely to create a brand association with art, creativity, and high fashion. In order to create connections, you need to know your brand identity and objective before you represent yourself in appropriate content and community channels across the blogosphere.
Present a clear proposition
Brands can work with bloggers in a variety of ways. A brand can send product samples, invite bloggers to events, hold a design collaboration or contest, create videos, or sponsor content. One note about product reviews: When it comes to sampling and freebies, the best bloggers to work with are those who review only the products that interest them, and are not obligated to write about something just because they got it for free. (All bloggers are obligated by law to disclose freebies and compensation for any posts they do write.) Authentic, heartfelt editorial by an engaged author is the best kind.
For example, Jeannine Morris, Founder of BeautySweetSpot.com, has done all sorts of collaborations with brands, from hosting events to being a spokesperson. One of her favorite partnerships was a recent one with MyHabit.com, for which she curated a beauty sale, hosted a Twitter Q&A on beauty for its readers, and created a how-to video highlighting one of the makeup products she chose for the sale.
Advertising is also an option
If you have some budget to expand the mix, you can enhance your blogosphere play by adjacent advertising. A brand that wants to boost engagement and reach by advertising across a large number of relevant blogs can partner with a blog network in their content area, automate the process, or both. Ad tech partners can automatically buy thousands of impressions on relevant blogs they find through semantic targeting. Layering in an advertising push enhances the blog tactic, by boosting your presence and perceived share of voice. Multiple tactics keep you always nearby, in the eyes of your audience.
Tie into social media
Most bloggers Tweet and use Facebook in addition to posting on their blog. They may be active on other social media sites as well, such as Pinterest, Polyvore, YouTube, or Lookbook. Their social media presence will amplify your message and theirs.
One of the reasons BeautySweetSpot's collaboration with MyHabit.com worked so well is because both parties gave thought to how they would promote the partnership on social media.
"The partnership was well executed as it was promoted by my social platforms and on BeautySweetSpot.com and on MyHabit's leading up to the events, and there were several elements to the campaign that all tied together seamlessly," Morris said.
Other reasons we love the blogger approach
If well executed, there is much to learn about how our brand and our assets are resonating in the marketplace. Consider creative testing.
We expect our brand clients to learn about how consumers are using their products. In some instances, we will use a blogging network for creative testing to see what works. We consider it to be a valuable form of insight and research. It can also tie into advertising. When an ad uses testimonials that come out of research, the advertisement does very well for the brand. Consumers respond to other consumers.
The importance of traffic
And finally, we appreciate the value of incremental traffic -- so we are diligent as we consider where to advise our clients play. When evaluating which bloggers to work with, in addition to content and brand associations, traffic is an important consideration. It's critical to work with the right bloggers, who've got an affinity for your brand, as mentioned above. That said, they also must reach a sizable audience.
Anything below 80,000 unique visitors a month is negligible, but a blogger might have importance and influence beyond traffic based on reputation and readership. Consider both aspects. Traffic in the 80,000 to 300,000 range is significant and typical of professional blogs with paid staff.
As you focus on making this method perform, remember, it is easy to calculate your likely return on investment if you add up the traffic of the bloggers you have in mind. For example, if ten bloggers with traffic around 100,000 visitors monthly post about your brand, you have potentially increased your reach by 1 million people. Sounds like a win, doesn't it?
Bloggers can help brands gain traction online in an organic fashion. After all, bloggers are viewed as trusted friends and peers, so what they say can enhance brand reputation more than a display ad. For an indie or emerging brand, integrating a strategic blog push into the marketing and media mix can make a modest budget sing.
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