Jeff Foster is co-founder and CEO at Tomoson, the influencer marketplace. The platform allows bloggers and social media influencers to get paid for posting sponsored content, and lets businesses connect with targeted, niche audiences.
Blogger outreach is a critical part of digital marketing. It’s an amazing opportunity to connect with large audiences that want to buy your product or service. Better still, readers trust good bloggers – so their seal of approval is incredibly valuable.
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Talking to bloggers isn’t rocket science, but it can go terribly wrong. Bloggers aren’t journalists or employees – they’re independent souls who have built a following by keeping their readers interested, amused and engaged. They don’t like to be controlled or deceived, and they definitely don’t like you to waste their time. Forgetting this will get you into trouble.
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If you’re just starting a blogger outreach campaign, then the biggest challenge is actually contacting bloggers. They say that first impressions count – and when it comes to bloggers, this is true in spades. If you get it right, you’ll create relationships you can count on again and again. Get it wrong, and you’ll create enemies for life.
Don’t … send badly written, impersonal emails to hundreds of bloggers without knowing what they actually write about. Avoid starting an email with “Dear Sir or Madam, attached you will find some information about a new product we have just released. We would appreciate it if you could write a positive review about it on your blog.”
This will just end up in the trash – or worse. The Internet is full of completely justified rants by irate bloggers who receive this sort of garbage. Not all publicity is good publicity, and this is the type you really don’t want.
Do … take the time to look at each blog you’re planning to contact. See whether or not it’s a good fit for your campaign. Once you’re ready, write a friendly email to the blogger – and use their first name. Talk about their blog, so that they know you have actually read it and that you like it.
Explain briefly why you think you would be a good fit for each other – but don’t make a hard product pitch at this point. Another excellent way of contacting good bloggers is to use an online introduction site such as Tomoson. When a blogger signs up to an introduction site, you know they want to be contacted – which is half the battle. You can also use the sites to research how influential each blogger is before you talk to them.
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Bloggers need care and feeding. If you want to create and maintain a relationship with them, then you have to work at it. If you’re just planning to treat blogger outreach as a one-off activity, then you’re wasting your time. Instead, you need to create an ongoing dialogue with each blogger. Long-term relationships deliver much better results, and they take much less effort in the long run.
Don’t … just get in contact with a blogger when you want them to write a post. They’re going to feel exploited – and they’re absolutely right. If someone treated you as disposable, would you be well disposed towards them? Of course not. Everyone wants to feel valued, and bloggers are no different. Also, don’t make the mistake of talking to bloggers just because you have to – try to develop a genuine interest in what they do. Otherwise, you’ll appear insincere and cynical, and they will spot this a mile away.
Do … stay in regular contact with bloggers even when you don’t have anything in particular to promote. Don’t waste their time, but there’s nothing wrong with sending them a nice thank you when they talk about your product or brand. Show them that you think what they’re doing is cool and important by retweeting their tweets and publicizing their blog posts.
Keep them up to date about what’s happening with your brand – even give them exclusive access to developments behind the scenes. Occasional gifts or samples will also help to keep things on track, but make these spontaneous – if you send a gift to a blogger every time they mention you on the blog, then it just looks like you’re paying them on the cheap.
Controlling The Message
Bloggers are an incredibly opinionated lot and they treasure their independence. There’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s the reason they are successful. If you want to control your message, then you’re better off hiring a PR agency. If you try to put a blogger in a straitjacket, they’ll just get cheesed off and write bad stuff about you. Remember, blogger outreach is about relationships – you need to influence bloggers, just like they influence their followers.
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Don’t … ask bloggers if you can approve their blog posts before they publish them. Even if you pay a blogger to write a sponsored post, trying to get editorial control is a very bad idea. You’re paying them for the effort they put in, not for the opinions they express. Even if you do somehow manage to convince a blogger to follow your script, their readers will probably notice. When this happens, the blogger loses credibility and you lose face with their audience as well.
Do … try to turn each blogger into an enthusiastic ambassador for your brand. Then you won’t have to worry about what they write. There are several ways to approach this. For example, ask for feedback – and then act on it. This will show that you value a blogger’s insights, and will give them a sense of ownership.
You should do this anyway – bloggers understand your target audience better than you do, and will help you to develop better products and marketing messages. Other good approaches include inviting bloggers to write for your corporate blog – expect to pay for this – and giving them advance notice of upcoming news so they can be the first to break it.