You’ve probably heard a fair bit about blogger or influencer outreach. It’s something trendy ad agency strategists have been noodling on about for quite a while now – and there are even specialist agencies out there who only talk blogger outreach. So what is it, and why should you care?
Well, blogger outreach sits somewhere between disciplines like traditional PR, SEO/SEM, content marketing and social media marketing, and utilises skillsets from all of them. And there are a number of factors coming into play that make blogger outreach important.
Firstly, Google’s series of algorithm updates over the past few months have placed an emphasis on quality content over keyword stuffing and other SEO ‘black hat’ stuff. This means that if you want to get your product found easily online, a blogger’s honest review of your product may well gain more traction with Google than your own perfectly optimised piece of fluff.
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Secondly, consumers are getting increasingly savvy too. According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research, the number of pieces of content the average consumer looks at online before making a purchase decision is increasing all the time. And consumers are notoriously skeptical about a brand’s own claims: much less so if those claims are made by a peer or a friend.
OK, so blogger outreach could work for your business. But how do you go about getting these guys to talk about your product? There are a few key tactics you can use:
- ‘Gifting’ a product to a series of bloggers or influencers with the hope of gaining product reviews. This works best if it’s done in a careful, personal way. Sending out a blanket press release with a free product sample is unlikely to win you any friends. Taking the time to write a letter to the blogger, referencing their blog in detail and talking about why the product is a good fit for them might get you a bit further.
- Approaching a brand advocate to gain feedback and advice on a new product or service. This involves looking for bloggers who have already shown an affinity for your brand and then playing to that pre-existing behaviour.
- Creating a blogger launch event for a new product or service. This is PR bread and butter, and bloggers within a particular sphere often enjoy the chance to link up with other like-minded people. Just make sure its fun – no-one wants to sit through a product briefing!
- Providing remuneration in exchange for a link or written feature. This is a slightly less structured form of SEM, and a number of businesses have sprung up to create ‘networks’ of bloggers that advertisers can access. It’s the dirty side of blogger outreach, and potentially less credible to readers as bloggers tend to clearly label the content as ‘sponsored’.
- Building relationships with bloggers to gain earned media. This is another PR type discipline – it involves cultivating a relationship with bloggers so that they are more inclined to mention your brand in their blog posts. Again, this is about much more than just sending out press releases.
- Launching competitions or polls where bloggers create content in order to participate. There are some great examples out there including Asics’ award-winning ‘left-right’ program.
So what will you get out of it? There are a number of benefits. Blogger engagement can help you target niche communities, and piggy-back on bloggers’ authority in those communities. It’s a great way to gradually build what I call ‘authority to publish’ – starting by getting acknowledged influencers to talk about your products, services or brand positioning message, and then gradually starting to publish on the subject yourself. It will help widen your digital footprint beyond your ‘owned’ channels. And it can boost your SEO – as previously mentioned, from an SEO viewpoint you may be better off getting a niche market, expert blogger to talk about your products or services than to try to do it on your own website.
It’s important in all of this to recognise that the ‘blogosphere’ is an incredibly crowded space, and before embarking on any kind of blogger outreach program it’s important to spend time identifying which bloggers genuinely have influence, and which are preaching to an empty choir. There are some great services out there that can help you do this, not least LittleBird. And it’s equally important to note than more and more bloggers are looking for remuneration for any brand mentions – a practice which actually removes a number of the advantages of using bloggers in the first place. So blogger outreach may not be a valid strategy for ever – but it’s certainly one that can’t be ignored right now.
Richard Parker is head of strategy at content marketing agency Edge, where he works with brands including Woolworths, St George and Foxtel.