Bloggers and online influencers can have a powerful impact on the online image of brands. Many brands, however, have yet failed to build constructive relations with them – mostly because they stick to old formats and practices. These six tips will help you to understand the new rules of the game and avoid mistakes that others in the industry make when pitching bloggers and online influencers.
One of the most noticeable phenomena in online publishing is the rise of the power of bloggers and online influencers. In the last decade the industry fiercely debates whether bloggers are replacing traditional journalists and bringing to the slow death of known media outlets. This discussion has a strong presence on the world of online PR and marketing, as brands and companies ask themselves whether they should abandon traditional PR for the new blogger-outreach and influencer marketing trends.
Fortunately enough for you, you don’t have to choose between the two; investing in your online presence is not a zero-sum game. What you have to do, however, is to realize the immense influence that bloggers currently have on the online marketing and PR industry, and to learn how to properly engage in interaction with them, so they can help your brand visibility.
For many brands, working with bloggers and online influencers is not obvious. Despite the fact that influencer marketing and blogger outreach have been recognized as the most important online marketing trends for 2015, many business still fail to build constructive contacts with bloggers. This happens mainly because they fail to understand what blogging is all about, and stick to their working routines that were good for traditional PR and journalism. Our experience in cooperating with bloggers has taught us six lessons, which we share here with you. When pitching to work with a blogger or online influencer, remembering these lessons will increase your chances of succeeding.
Lesson one: choose your partner wisely
The first step when choosing to work with a blogger / online influencer, is choosing the right partner. Though it may sound easy, the task is actually tricky. When it comes to online influence, it’s easy to be misled by the numbers. Bloggers and influencers who brag with huge numbers of followers make it tempting to work with them, especially if we are beginners in the field and think we just look for “online celebrities”.
But when we talk about “big” and “small” blogs, we have to be careful in the way we measure them. Numbers can impress, but they can also lie; some blogs are not as big and influential as they may initially seem. What we are aiming to avoid here are so-called “vanity metrics”. Vanity metrics are statistics that measure irrelevant things, can be easily manipulated, and may not contribute anything to your brand.
Even if at first sight a blog seems big and popular, it’s important that you don’t get blinded by the numbers, and focus on the truly relevant metrics for you. Focus on engagement and conversation. If a blog is influential, you will see it not only in the numbers of followers it has or in the traffic statistics, but first and foremost in the level of engagement it sparks. If a blog’s Twitter account has thousands of followers but no engagement (re-tweets, replies, etc), that’s a warning sign. The same goes for comments on the blog. Look to see if readers are interested, react with the blogger, engage in discussions. You might be surprised to see that a smaller blog can perform better in this field than a bigger blog.
Moreover, you don’t always necessarily need a blogger with a huge network of followers. What you need is an influencer with a network of followers that suits your brand. For example, if the brand is local, you don’t need a huge influencer on the national or international level. Having a strong local influencer is of extreme value. The key word is “targeting”: whether a blog has higher or lower traffic is less important, what is important is that it reaches out to your target audience. It will save you loads of money, and make your campaign much more effective.
Lesson two: don’t treat blogging as a hobby
This is another place where brands and businesses get it wrong from the very beginning. Old-school marketers and PR specialists still treat blogging as that cute hobby their 12-year-old niece has. They fail to realize that bloggers nowadays are full-time celebrities with a busy schedule and a crowd of thousands (if not millions) of followers – a huge potential for your brand awareness efforts. When they fail to understand the potential of bloggers, they fail to treat them with the proper respect. Don’t be that person – show that you respect the time and the work of the blogger, and start building a healthy relationship.
Lesson three: nobody works for free
This lesson is a continuation of the first one, and is a very sensitive issue. Bloggers with whom we’ve talked report that most of the offers they receive are unpaid. Not surprisingly – marketers who don’t take the work of a blogger seriously tend to think “they will do it just for fun”, which is, of course, not true. Just like any other PR or marketing campaign, if you don’t invest any budget, how can you expect any good results? Remember, if you want to work with a blogger with a big audience, who can have true impact on your online brand visibility, you have to be prepared to pay. Think about it in advance, study the market, and determine a budget. Otherwise you will hear a lot of doors slamming.
Lesson four: blogging is not advertising
The main reason why bloggers are so successful is – trust. Readers trust the opinions of bloggers and online influencers more than they trust ads and brands, and this trust is a blogger’s biggest capital. If the blog turns into one big advertisement, the audience will quickly loose trust and interest, and go somewhere else. Both you and the blogger will lose from it. So take into consideration the format’s limitations, and don’t expect something that looks like an advertisement campaign. The message on a blog campaign should be subtle, trustworthy and honest, and above all – in line with the blog’s identity. Don’t try to force yourself.
Which brings us to the next lesson.
Lesson five: let the bloggers play by their own rules
Bloggers are professionals. There is a good reason why they have achieved their current status. They know what their audience wants and expects, and they know how to deliver it. If you start being too pushy and forcing your own formats and rules, you will end up creating a product that is incompatible with what the blog’s audience is looking for, and is therefore completely uninteresting for them. Result: no impact for your content.
You have to trust the bloggers that they will create something that is right for you, and will work for your brand. If you don’t trust them, go create a blog of your own.
Lesson six: be patient
So, you’ve learned all the previous lessons, made a great offer, gained the trust of the blogger, and you’re about to start cooperation. But you need everything NOW.
No, it doesn’t work like this. The final product that you see in the blog is the result of several days of work. Here is what the blogger needs to do to for your post to be ready: plan the post, write it, edit it, edit it one more time, optimize it for SEO, take pictures, edit the pictures, upload the post, distribute it on social networks, answer comments of readers…all of this, and we haven’t yet spoken about the blogger’s regular content calendar (don’t forget they’re not only writing your post, but dozens of other ones), previous commitments, and other time constrains. To avoid misunderstandings, set in advance the expected deadlines of your branded publications, and don’t sit on the blogger’s neck.
To sum-up, working with bloggers is a whole new world for many marketers and PR specialists. The rules of the game are slightly different, but with these six lessons, you can make it.
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