The relationship between bloggers, marketers and brands still attracts controversy. In my view the social web provides unprecedented opportunity for citizens, consumers, professionals and politicians to tell one another what they want and need. Making it possible for products, services, governments and social systems to be more efficient, representative and fit for purpose.
If this view of personal, public and private information exchange is taken – accepting advertising, reviewing products or participating in brand partnerships does not means a blogger is ‘selling out.’
Rather such interactions are progressive ones – for releasing the social world (via bloggers and their commenters) into our products means positive, pro-social innovation. Bringing us full circle to the days when local producers had direct daily interaction with consumers and could easily adapt commercial goods to their desires.
Once past the idea that brand-blogger engagement is inherently insidious – marketers must operate with full consideration that they are facilitating the meeting of very different interests and motivations. The more thought, care and consideration brand representatives put in, the better results will be. GIGO. So here are some practical dos and don’ts to help guide the activity:
- DO – go beyond the A-List – don’t assume everyone is obsessed with the top five blogs. And consider niches in relation to the topic / product you are covering. The long tail of blogging means you can find dedicated bloggers on everything down to garden sheds and ovens.
- DO – enough research so that you can personalize your pitch to each blogger you are contacting – know them, their writing, if they have written about similar products or services before
- DO – put thought, consideration into the initial approach – is it an email, or can you treat bloggers like VIPs – e.g. send them luxury invitations instead of an email
- DO – make sure learnings about each blogger are kept as accessible notes (e.g. in a database / spreadsheet with their contact details) to help you and other members of your project team understand them and the history of the relationship. For example, do they prefer a phone conversation to electronic communication?
- DO – see if you can engage bloggers on other social platforms like Twitter – as innocent did with their recent Twitter parties for parents to share tips and ideas for lunchboxes – resulting in a 140 tips in 140 characters (PDF) booklet
- DO – ask them what they want – and see if you can make it happen, like Three UK did for its Mums on the Go app development activity (Three was my client at the time of this event)
- DO – consider the world of engagement opportunities beyond a static pitch / press release. For example product drops, meetup events, working with bloggers to crowdsource product innovations, private blogger networks like the one set up by NEXT in the UK
- DO – respect bloggers’ rights to give honest opinions about your product or service. In their bloggers network NEXT state clearly that they are giving bloggers a forum share their ‘honest opinion’
- DO – offer unique items or content to each blogger if you can to show you really value their personal contribution
- DO – consider paying them. They are likely to have no income to specifically support their blogging. But bear in mind that paid-for activity must meet social media advertising guidelines (these are for the UK) – e.g. full disclosure on the post about who it is sponsored by. (Sofia’s journal is a nice example of disclosure about paid activity)
- DO – provide as many relevant information points and media assets to the blogger as possible. This need not mean a huge long pitch email if you link out to explainers, pictures, apps, video and audio files
- DO – say thank you when a blogger has covered your item
- DO – keep them warm in between pitches / major activity – i.e. keep up the contact, interact on Twitter, etc.
- DO – have a proof-reader for your pitch emails. However well you write everyone words things badly sometimes (that’s why newspapers have sub-editors) – ensure every pitch is given the twice-over
- DO – read resulting blog posts and their comments, including positive and negative opinions, carefully and feedback insight to the brand
- DON’T send arsey emails to bloggers who are annoyed with you. Be polite and move on
- DON’T – Spam lists of bloggers with press releases over and over again when you have had zero engagement with them. You will NEVER win over some bloggers, so if they don’t respond the first or second time you try – take them off your list
- DON’T assume bloggers are as impressed by celebrities as you, or the journalists you are used to dealing with, are. Blogging has arisen from a culture of equality – so pictures of celebrities holding products might not go down well
- DON’T – waste a word in your pitch. Brevity is key, don’t fluff it out (kinda ironic for the length of this post I know)
- DON’T – secure a blog post and let it disappear into oblivion. Share each appropriate blog post on your Twitter, Facebook, member newsletter, internal corporate social media round-up, even on your advertising. Integration is key to build relationships for the future and make the most of the unique, authentic, brand-relevant content your engagement campaign has reaped
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