In our last blog, we looked at the role of great customer service in building your sales during the holiday season. But if you really want to rake in the store visits, you need to be able to entertain another group of individuals, who may not be customers but are equally important to the reputation of your business – bloggers.
Many businesses are indifferent towards the blogging community seeing them as nothing more than prima donnas who expect freebies and special treatment at the expense of the business owner. Yet, this is usually just a narrow-minded, insular approach to business or even just a case of sour grapes from business owners who didn’t deal with blogger well enough and got called out for it on his blog the next day.
While the threat of having your business reputation tarnished by a blogger is very real, it is merely a misinformed urban legend that all bloggers are gremlins. The fact is bloggers are often well-informed individuals who through good quality reportage have amassed a loyal following. They have a responsibility towards this audience since their word is both respected and trusted. In that sense, they are very much like business owners who have a responsibility towards their customers. Bearing this in mind, let’s look at some of the simple yet effective techniques to get bloggers to develop an honest and favourable view towards your business.
Are you looking at the right bloggers?
This may seem like an easy task- pick the most popular bloggers and shoot off a press kit or an email to them. But you could end up shooting yourself in the foot instead. Picking a blogger is a lot like choosing a celebrity endorsement. The most popular bloggers may not be the best suited for your industry and even those who are relevant to your product may not be suited to your brand image.
Added to this, if you pick only popular bloggers it might be weeks before you hear back from them because they usually have a backlog of pending invitations and requests. And every day you spend chasing them, is another day lost towards promoting your brand.
To get past this, try to identify some top tier bloggers and some who are just starting out but have a good mix of followers. This allows you to get product conversations going while you wait for the more established bloggers to get back to you.
So who is a good blogger, anyway? While that question cannot be answered simply, here are some key criteria for choosing a blogger:
Does the blogger write well?
Is the content thoughtful and engaging?
How regularly does the blogger post? (At least once or twice a week is preferable)
Are there positive mentions or link backs from other, more respected bloggers?
Is it easy to contact the blogger and do they respond appropriately?
Some online tools can help find the right bloggers for your industry. These include:
Klout – This service measures social media influence and covers both companies and individuals.
Tomoson – This website matches bloggers with companies offering free samples for review.
Page Rank Checker – Through this service, you can check any site’s Google PageRank, which identifies the site’s importance and position in search engine results.
Looking isn’t enough. You have to read.
There are many ways entrepreneurs put their foot in their mouth when talking to a blogger. The first, and somehow still not obvious to many, is reaching out to a blogger without reading their blog. Not reading a blogger’s work is the equivalent of going into business without studying the market. If you won’t be caught dead doing the latter, then you sure as hell shouldn’t be seen doing the former. Get into a daily habit of reading the blog of every blogger you plan to contact. Every single one. We suggest using a tool like Netvibes.com or Feedly to stay up to date on new blogs as they come out.
Knowing their audience matters too
While a blogger may be right for publicity, you also need to consider if they are right for your brand image. A good way to gauge this is to study the profile of their audience. A blogger’s audience gives you a pretty clear insight into their area of interest, their tone (both in their own work and towards brands) and acts as a decent wind flag for how your brand is likely to be received if covered by this blogger.
If you approach the wrong blogger with your product, you may end up getting negative press that could be disastrous. Maintain a database of each blogger you identify as a potential option. Next add in their handle, a profile of their audience, areas of interest, blog address and how far along you are in forming a relationship with them.
Poke the bear, but be gentle
We’re referring to the subtle art of commenting on a blog. Now, we understand the word ‘art’ doesn’t spring to mind when it comes to commenting. After all, we do it hundreds of times a week across our social media channels. But remember this…an influential blogger gets hundreds of comments all the time. So if your goal is to get the blogger’s attention (and eventually build a relationship) then you have to rise above all other commenters.
The first step to achieve this goal is to always be one of the first 2 or 3 comments on a post. Ideally, you get the top comment spot every time. But being first is not a goal in itself. You also need to appear to add value in order for your comment to be approved and potentially getting a response from the blogger.
Don’t just subscribe. Try to imbibe.
Once you’ve got into a routine of reading blogs and you’ve fined-tuned your commenting skills, it’s time to show a little more commitment and hit that scary ‘subscribe’ button. Now, this doesn’t mean opening yourself up to email tsunami. For starters, only subscribe to the following kinds of blogs:
Bloggers who write post that resonate with your brand
Bloggers who engage with you when you comment
Bloggers who have actually promoted products in the past and who provide you the best chance of getting a link to your eCommerce store.
When you do subscribe, use a branded email address that specifically identifies who you are. Ideally, the email address you use makes it easy to cross-reference you with the comments you make as well.
Another reason for using a branded email address is because every time you open and click the links in the email, your branded email address shows up in the email marketing stats of the blogger’s email marketing software and this hopefully makes you a little more visible.
Remember to play it cool
Now that you have a handle on the kind of bloggers you want to approach, let’s discuss the best way to go about it. Bloggers are generally open to communicating with new people but they are also careful about their space. Before you approach a blogger, check their site to see if they’ve laid out any ground rules about how they prefer to be contacted and if they have any specific dos and don’ts.
The safest way to establish contact is through a brief email, where you introduce yourself, establish why you contacted them, and make your intentions clear through a brief but effective pitch. Whenever possible, try not to overburden your email with too much supplementary information. Instead, offer it as an attachment or better still hold off on providing it until requested.
Start with casual (brand) name dropping
Outfitting posts are the easiest way to get a foot in the door with a blogger’s audience. Most bloggers regularly mention the brands they endorse in each video, whether it’s clothing, accessories, tech or gear.
By examining the brands they choose to mention, you can get a fair idea for on the how well your products will fit into their personal brand and if it will look like a natural fit. Also, you need to send out these requests ahead of time, because most bloggers queue up items they will feature much before writing the blog. If the blogger does accept to feature your product, be sure to share the post with your networks as well to amplify the impact.
Get on the tour bus
Bloggers are known to take various types of tours – closets, apartments, streets, neighborhoods. These videos are a great way to get featured because each usually covers five to six products at one time. A good way to slip your product in with their next tour is to simply ask if they can mention the brand/site in their photographs or video. Also make sure to send over the flashiest, most attention-grabbing product you have in stock to get extra attention on your brand.
Build a look around the blogger
Look books are a flattering way to approach a blogger and convince them to work with you. However, you need to be sure your brand aligns with the blogger’s style and lifestyle naturally, so as to not look like an awkward force fit.
A good way to indicate this is whether or not they’ve ever used your products before, or if someone has mentioned it to them in their comments. If you’re launching a new product, include a top local blogger as a model for your photo shoot. A creative storyline coupled with the blogger’s already recognized face will definitely get more views than just a regular online product launch.
Throw an (in-store) party
This is your chance to make a great first (or second) impression on the blogger and build a relationship in person. With the atmosphere of a party, the blogger will also feel more relaxed and will naturally be inclined to take pictures of themselves at your store or stall.
Also, parties tap into the blogger’s natural sense of vanity. They love to be handpicked and invited to exclusive events. So if you can keep the event light-hearted, build a fun atmosphere and hand out fancy gift bags to take home, you can be sure of positive blog mentions and posts on Instagram. To make this even more effective, make sure to include a hashtag for your shop or event before inviting them.
Roll out the exclusive offers
Sometimes a simple gesture can go a long way in building a relationship with a blogger. And few gestures are as simple as offering your blogger of choice an exclusive look and the option of reviewing a product before anyone else.
If you can make it happen, you should let the blogger know that he will be getting access to your product before it is launched in the market. Bloggers always want to be perceived as the influencer and thought leaders in their community. But you have to let them make up their own mind about the product.
Don’t be shy to return the favor
The last thing you can do to curry favour with relevant bloggers is buy something from them. It may be an book, an information product such as a online course or even just a T-shirt. To make your purchase seem genuine, don’t forget to write a 5 star review of the purchase and send the link of the review to the blogger.
However, there’s a reason we’re mentioning this last. Unless you’ve gone through the hard miles with them as mentioned above, doing just this could backfire. But if you’ve shown your commitment to building a relationship with the blogger, a small display of solidarity like this could go a long way. You could end up being seen as a blogger’s superfan. And superfans are the ones to get promoted first. Once you’ve done this, it’s a natural progression to get the blogger to link to your products.
Send them a free sample, and then ask for a review. They really won’t refuse.
Once you’ve set up a relationship, worked on it and convinced a blogger to review your product or service, you have to be quick to share it back on your blog, website and social media channels. This helps your business gain credibility and is the reason for approaching bloggers in the first place. It also gives the blogger airtime which is a positive for them, driving more traffic to their site and increasing their followers. Be sure to let the blogger know their post has been shared and guide them to where they can access it.
In our next post, we’ll look at making your product range pop through the right packaging and photography. In the meantime, remember that blogger outreach programs take time to nurture but the rewards for being fastidious are seriously worth it. So start slow, work hard and always, always be genuine.