Bloggers. What’s with all the hype? Can they really help my brand? Can they hurt my brand? Should they be considered an option in my next marketing push?
The answer, my friends, lies in an age-old, tried and trusted marketing scenario – peer-to-peer recommendations. We’ve seen them on late night TV for over 20 years, people just like you and me standing in front of a camera and telling us how great the product is. Most people have taken the advice of a friend or a family member when deciding on what to purchase.
Blogging has grown rapidly over the last few years. The lines between social media and blogging have blurred, mobile blogging is on the rise, and the increase in women and mommy bloggers has had a major impact on brands. Technorati estimated there were over 200 million blogs at the start of 2009, with exponential growth since then. Blogs have become independent think tanks, trusted sources of news and opinion, and fertile ground for the dissemination of ideas and perspectives.Blogs are daily destination points for their readers, eagerly awaiting the next thought, the next opinion or the next recommendation. Their readers chose them because they identify with the bloggers.They live parallel lives, they empathize, they trust, and have the utmost respect for their chosen bloggers.
The relationship between bloggers and their readers is a powerful one. It is an authentic relationship. Being a part of this online dialogue is important to any brand.
So how does one tap into the blogger market?
There are a number of canned options available.Networks that specialize in blogger outreach offer paid incentives to their community of bloggers.The bloggers are required to disclose to their readers that they have been paid. They then write a story, or review of your product. Authentic? Eh…not really. Many of the readers see through the pay-to-play and discount the opinion.
Another option is to do what we, LazBro, Inc., did for our brand marketer clients.We created our own community of bloggers who were not looking for a payday, but were looking to provide authentic content to their readers. Their readers count on real opinions and real feelings about the products. Sure, we provide a sample of the product to be used, but only to facilitate an honest response based on trial.
Sound scary? It doesn’t have to be.You, as the brand, should be open to the feedback. Accept the accolades graciously, but if negative feedback is in your stars, be prepared to step up and own the problem. Here is what we do know: great customer service ALWAYS trumps a negative review. Make the problem right, let the blogger know you heard them, and you have successfully turned a naysayer into a brand ambassador. Most often consumers who participate in online dialogues with brands want to know they have been heard, and have been taken seriously. We have seen time and time again, a blogger who started with a negative review follow up with additional postings about the stellar customer service and ultimately become a more loyal supporter of the brand.
Lets look at a recent blogger program we did for one of our Health & Beauty clients.Our task was to hand out 100,000 coupons online in 30 days. This was the first time the brand had ever run any digital promotions, so we started with no previous insight into their digital consumer. They had no social media presence to speak of, and no consumer database to use.We did know from their internal data that trial of the product would lead to purchase.
We reached out to our blogger network and asked them to try the product, and tell their readers about the experience, good or bad.We created a contest where the top ten traffic-driving bloggers could win products that they could give away to their readers. We created blogger-banners with unique code identifiers. Bloggers could place the banners on their blogs and redirect their readers to our coupon download page, allowing us to track where the traffic originated.
We coupled this with a strong Facebook promotion to drive up our fan base and to create a social media foundation. We also ran targeted display media purchased on a direct response model to offer low risk, high impression advertising that we could optimize in-campaign.
Our Facebook outreach and our media outreach performed better than we would have expected: three times industry standard response rate, with coupon downloads and redemptions to match.
The bloggers were an even better story. Our blogger outreach helped us reach our goal within one week. It generated a massive amount of brand-centric, SEO optimized content and spurred a noteworthy social media conversation, while gaining valuable consumer insights through the monitoring of the conversations. Bloggers posted our offer on their blogs and websites, tweeted the offer and created video-blogs (vlogs) that they posted on YouTube.
Was there negative feedback?Of course there was.No brand or product will please everyone all of the time. What did we do with it?We responded immediately to anyone that left a comment, within an hour. We created a special email address for this promotion only, and encouraged users to reach out. We began the process of identifying problems with the product, and made sure we let our bloggers and social media fans know that their feedback created change. We took the opportunity to educate the consumer on how to use the product effectively. We watched as the conversation took on a life of its own, where fans of the brand stepped in and began helping with the conversation, offering an authentic voice, and the holy grail of marketing – word-of-mouth referrals.
We saw our social media venues grow by the tens of thousands, and our consumer database grow past six figures in less than a month. We exceeded our goals and created a significant online presence for our client that has formed a baseline for us to build on for years to come.
I don’t want to place the entire success of our campaign in the hands of our bloggers. We believe that digital and online marketing is an ecosystem, where one element affects the other. The synergy between each of the marketing elements we used: SEO, search, email, bloggers, media, and social media, drove the massive success metrics we saw, but there is no doubt in my mind that the bloggers were the ones that took us over the top.
The time has come for brands to pony up and be more than a friend. Don’t be afraid to dive into the conversation and hear what your consumers are saying. Give online consumers the tools they need to pass on your message, and they will. Incentives work, but you must keep the conversation authentic for maximum effect. Brands must also participate in the conversation. Throwing content out there, and then never showing up to the party is not the right way to go. Remember, it is important to the blogger to provide their readers with compelling, honest content. Brands are in the unique position to be able to provide the inspiration for that content.
We encourage all of our clients to explore the blogger environment to add that extra sizzle and substance to their online campaigns.
About the Author
Evan Lazarus is CEO of LazBro, Inc. a full service, digital marketing agency that specializes in marketing for the Health & Beauty industry. Over his 15 year career, he has worked on digital initiatives for brands such as P&G, Murad Cosmetics, Whish Body Products, Mystic Tan, VersaSpa, Peachy Pink Cosmetics, Little Tikes, and California Olive Ranch.
Evan can be reached at: LazBro, Inc., 13323 Washington Blvd. #100, Los Angeles, CA 90066. Tel: 310.279.5032, Fax: 866.273.2652. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org