It seems bloggers are everywhere and in every niche. Their influence grows daily across all market sectors and social media platforms.
As marketing budgets dwindle and marketing directors are demanding measurable results, you might be wondering why you would deviate from the tried and tested promotional routes.
There are four very simple reasons why bloggers are an important part of your marketing mix.
* We can talk direct to your customers and consumers and ask them direct questions which you may not be able to. This may be even more effective than running an expensive focus group.
* Not only can we promote, but we can influence the creation of new products and services (sometimes even markets) by adopting yours or by using these in ways your product development team hadn’t thought of
* We can push your product / service out there quicker than the more traditional methods of print advertising. Ask us to review and promote and it can be turned around quickly – sometimes even in 24/48 hours.
* We offer incredible value for money when compared with other forms of promotion.
Make no mistake. Bloggers are no longer the home-spun, frustrated creatives looking to make a little pocket money. Many of us consider ourselves professionals and our blog is our job.
Mine certainly is after over 20 years experience as a senior marketer, and latterly marketing director of a large Welsh law firm before I took a career break to have my children.
I am fully conversant with all aspects of marketing and PR so I see things from both sides of the fence, so to speak.
There are, however, things you need to consider when working with a blogger.
The issue of blogger disclosure
Collaboration (aka sponsored posts) is a funny thing. The rules about disclosure are a little vague in the UK, far vaguer than those set out by the Federal Trade Commission governing disclosure in the US. Here there is guidance not only from Google but from the Advertising Standards Authority.
The ASA is a non-statutory organisation and so cannot interpret or enforce legislation. However, its code of advertising practice broadly reflects legislation in many instances. The ASA is not funded by the British government, but by a levy on the advertising industry.
Basically bloggers must make it clear to their readers that they have been paid to promote or endorse an item so that the reader can decide whether what they are reading is truly objective. Most bloggers wouldn’t dream of misleading their audience, however, because what would be the point? A loss in credibility would be extremely damaging to their reputation.
Follow links vs nofollow links
There is constant discussion about follow and no-follow links in the various blogger forums.
Google does NOT like paid for follow links because it considers, reasonably, that paid promotion gives a product or service an unfair advantage by sending extra ‘link juice ‘ (viewing figures) that a rival might not be able to afford.
Some bloggers will accept follow links and some won’t touch them with a barge pole, figuring that link insertion is for SEO purposes and that has little to do with the creativity of their writing.
Others reason that a ‘proper’ collaboration will be no-follow links because any brand / PR worth their salt will recognise that Google may apply a penalty not only to the blogger but to the brand itself if caught out.
What do bloggers do?
There’s also a lack of understanding about what bloggers actually DO when they put a post together.
For example there is
– content creation (researching, editing, proof-reading)
– time spent testing, (reviewing, cooking, crafting, reading etc)
– photography (scouting locations, shooting, editing, often in different formats depending on the social media platform)
– social media promotion across multiple platforms, (commenting, responding to comments)
When you look at it like that you can see why lots of the old ‘bung a few quid at a blogger for a quick post’ approaches are starting to fall distinctly out of favour as bloggers recognise their worth and charge accordingly.
What you are also paying for, alongside the blogger’s expertise, is access to their audience who may be far more engaged than those seeing your product flash by on a billboard on their daily commute, or flickering in the sidebar of their hotmail account.
Any good marketer knows that building brand awareness takes consistent investment, effort and monitoring, and working with bloggers can give you an extra, and a distinct advantage.
The problem brands and PRs face is that, as things currently stand, it is very difficult to compare bloggers on a like for like basis. This means that metrics such as Moz’s Domain Authority or Majestic’s Trust Flow are relied upon to give a sense of the blog’s quality. These are, however, a moveable feast and fluctuate regularly.
These metrics, along with stats from Google Analytics which shows unique monthly visitors (how many individuals visit a blog each month) and page views, build a picture of how successful a blog is.
Then there are independent ranking systems such as that run by Tots100 which ranks parenting blogs, lifestyle blogs and travel blogs.
The various ranking systems have their own algorithms and so you can’t really compare these on a like for like basis.
And of course, they generally rely on the blogger having added themselves to the list. There may be a gem of a blogger out there who hasn’t registered with any ranking system.
Lastly there is the size of the blogger’s social media following and their email lists. My social media following is around 22,000 across all platforms and I work hard to keep each audience engaged and with appropriate content for that platform. You would need to pick the blogger with the right number of followers on the social media platforms most important to your business.
So how much do bloggers charge?
This will depend on the metrics mentioned above and, in particular, their viewing / user figures. Blogging is a community based activity so you can be sure that everyone tends to know who charges what. That said, there is no hard and fast charging scale.
My charges currently start at around the £100 mark for a basic sponsored post for copy that is submitted to me and my prices rise depending on whether I am writing the copy myself and the amount of additional work and promotion I am expected to do. You may, however, find bloggers at the top end of their niche easily charging much more than this because of the size of audience they can command.
The ‘Free’ Guest Post
Often, less scrupulous agencies will try to get a blogger to post a ‘guest post’ for free on the promise of exposure for them on their brand or client’s website.
That ‘guest post’ of course will include a follow link or two and bloggers are wise to this method of trying to secure a free advertisement on their blog. A good blogger may occasionally accept a guest post if the content is of particular relevance to their blog or they want content with a fresh eye and a different viewpoint but if your initial approach to a blogger is to try to ‘wangle a free guest post’, then you may well receive short shrift.
Budgeting for bloggers
Often PRs seem to be given a fixed amount which they then split up to get a certain number of bloggers per promotion – e.g. £600 gets you 10 bloggers at £60.
This seems to be a very random way of doing it. You would surely get far better value by picking two bloggers with engaged audiences in your sector for £300 each who you know would do a great job than randomly assigning small bits of budget to bloggers whose output may be of varying quality.
And wouldn’t it be better to build a long term relationship with those bloggers so that there is two way dialogue between not only you and the blogger, but their audience as well?
Despite the fact that there have been bloggers for years, the industry (if that is the right word) is very much in its infancy with everyone feeling their way to see what works and what doesn’t.
This is why collaboration should be a long term thing not just a one-off for a particular campaign, the results of which may not even be measured.
If you are considering working with bloggers then they should form part of your longer term tactical marketing plan – and their input often sits closer to advertising than it does to PR.
Budgeting for blogger input as part of your advertising strategy may be a far more practical approach than trying to shoehorn it into your PR consultancy fees whilst trying to keep the cost as low as possible.
Working with great bloggers should be considered as an investment, not just another line on the marketing expenditure spreadsheet.
If you want to know more about how a blogger could help you, then get in touch. My contact details and all my statistics are on my Media page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.