As blog readership rises, some smart marketers are wisely dipping their toes into the blog marketing waters. However, they’re overlooking perhaps one of the most attractive and untapped opportunities -- signing bloggers to product endorsement deals.
In 2004 the blogosphere established itself as a major influence on public opinion. According to a study released earlier this month by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a full 27 percent of all online users now read blogs, a 58 percent increase from early last year.
With interest in blogs rising, some bloggers are rapidly becoming celebrities. They’re popping up in the press, attracting flocks of followers and, in some cases, even a roster of advertisers. And why not? They deserve it. After all, these “A-listers” can easily sway the opinions of thousands.
Unfortunately, minus a few exceptions, most marketers are still playing very safe when it comes to blog advertising. They’re taking a big media approach to the new wild, wooly micro media world. This includes buying ads on blog advertising networks operated by BURST!, BlogAds, Pheedo and Google AdSense, or sponsoring entire blogs outright as Audi did with the Jalopnik auto blog.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these methods, they fail to capitalize on the blogosphere’s greatest value -- their influence. Blogs are very different animals than mainstream sites. They are written by passionate individuals you can reach out and touch, not by professionals. Bloggers share a deep sense of connection with their readers that marketers would die to tap into. They’re like rock stars. This is why you should treat bloggers like celebrities who can have tremendous power to inspire and lead others, rather than treating blogs as just another place to advertise.
Consider this. Mention the name Michael Jordan and what product immediately comes to mind? Naturally, it’s Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers. For years millions purchased Air Jordans simply because they wanted to “be like Mike.” On a smaller level and at a far lower cost, you can sign bloggers to different types of endorsement deals. Here are five ideas worth considering:
Hire a Blogger to Write a Custom-Published Blog: Many bloggers feel a higher holy calling to maintain their integrity by not outwardly endorsing products on their blogs. Nevertheless, they still might be interested in making a buck on the side. Consider enlisting a well-known blogger to write a blog for you either about your product/service or perhaps a broader subject that’s related to it. For example, if you sell enterprise antivirus software, you could hire an IT blogger to track this issue on a separate custom-published blog.
Put a Blogger in Your Ad Campaign: If there’s a blogger you feel will be instantly recognizable to your target audience, consider getting in touch with him or her to see if they would be interested in appearing in your online/offline advertising campaign. Like celebrities, they can carry instant cache.
Get Bloggers Using Your Product: Sports marketers have been doing this for years. They identify a personality who they feel resonates with their audience and then pay him or her a nice hunk of change to use their product on the field or court. You could easily do the same thing with a blogger.
Build PR Campaigns Around Customer Evangelists: If you have a valuable product or service offering, there’s a high likelihood that there are some vocal yokels talking about your product in the blogosphere. Find these individuals, learn how they’re using your widget and build a case history PR campaign around them. If you are successful in generating media coverage, you can go for a two-bagger by encouraging the blogger to spread the word.
Hire a Blogger to Work for You: If there’s a particular blogger you have your eye on who has truly achieved superstar status, hire him or her to work for you. Microsoft’s “investment” in Robert Scoble, who was hired 19 months ago because of his Scobelizer blog, has already paid off ten-fold through positive PR and online word-of-mouth. You get extra credit if you hire a blogger who was recently fired from another company for blogging.
Now that blogging has gone mainstream, savvy companies would be wise to endorse bloggers. It’s cost effective and, if it’s done right, can offer a high return. I even bet that new firms will soon emerge to negotiate endorsement deals for bloggers, much like CAA does for celebrities. Now is the time to get in the ground floor while the fees are still low.
Steve Rubel evangelizes the application of blogs and RSS in traditional public relations campaigns. He is Vice President of CooperKatz & Company, a New York City public relations firm, and author of the Micro Persuasion blog.