I think that bloggers are the perfect match for small to medium sized businesses to help them get their names out into the world. The big brands are already using us. But there is a lot to be said for focussing on smaller, niche or local businesses instead. So here are my tips on how to go about it if you are a business:
1) What’s the point?
Have you heard that someone needs to hear about your product/service 27 times before they sign up? That’s a lot of times!
Bloggers can help with PR (Public Relations e.g. reviews), SEO (Search Engine Optimisation i.e. being found), Marketing (getting the word out there) and Social Media (twitter, Facebook etc). Some can even write sales copy for you. Plus they can be a very inexpensive and direct way of being seen by your customers versus adverts which are more of a splatter gun approach.
I have a ‘spiritual’ perspective on marketing. It’s less about selling or pushing your business and more about making sure that the people who want to, can find you. If you don’t put your hands up in the air and say ‘here I am‘, then they can’t find you!
2) Some technical points
There are rules about how we can help (some people will break the rules for enough money):
1) We have to disclose that we got money or a freebie in return for our post – it’s illegal not to. (I would not recommend working with someone willing to break this rule for moral reasons, but I’m not fussy about how it is disclosed, officially it should use the word ‘sponsored’).
2) Google doesn’t like people paying for ‘follow’ links because they have adverts for that! A follow link is where google reads the blog post, sees a link and follows it to where it goes to, thereby marking the link as showing an important site. Bloggers who take paid for follow links will want extra money because google can strip them (and you) of their page rank (how findable they are on google). It’s not illegal though. But I wouldn’t advise it. The alternative is a no-follow link.
3) Money, money, money
Remember, if we work for you, we are taking time out from doing other to do’s or being with our kids. But we do understand that budgets can be limited, especially if you are a small business or charity (we are less forgiving for a big company paying a PR team to contact us!).
There are three reasons we will help:
1) We need the money – for this one you will have to pay for our time and expenses fairly.
2) For treats for the kids we couldn’t afford otherwise – it’s lovely in this day and age to be able to do this (holiday offers always welcome *grin*).
3) For something we are passionate about – mine is festivals, being outside, books and music.
How much would we expect?
I charge £100 for a post with a link. £50 for a competition because the admin is tiresome, despite the fact that I get to give something away. I might charge for a review if it is a very cheap product. However, nowadays I do hardly any of these kinds of posts because I don’t enjoy them. I also do free posts, but I limit how many purely because of time constraints.
If I’m busy, but like your stuff I’ll ask you to send me a tweet and I’ll RT it for you (please don’t email it to me; use twitter). I do this for free, for things I like. Other people charge £5 per time.
Some bloggers will do follow links (see technical points) for £200. There are also bloggers would will write you a quick post for £20.
4) SEO – being found
Because of the follow/no-follow rule, a blogger might not be able to help you out too much with follow links which helps you be found on Google (unless they end up loving you so much that they write something for free), but they can write a good post, with great keywords that points to you.
They can also help with the practicalities like setting up your facebook page. For some businesses twitter is also great as many of your customers would expect to be able to use it to get hold of you. Google+ might not be a very active place right now, apart from for bloggers; but being there will help with ‘being found’.
If your business is visual, pretty or product based, then they can help you get started on Instagram or Pinterest.
They will also know tips for you to start up your own blog (posts of once or twice a month are probably sufficient) and the key words (found using google analytics) that will help drive people to your site. A blog is a great way to put a personality behind your business – just a great product isn’t enough when you need to create loyalty.
Some bloggers run consultancies where they help companies like yours by running their social media and blogging for them. It’s a great option.
It’s a great idea to get a blogger to review your service/product as it can be much more indepth than on Amazon or something like that.
But remember, they will be HONEST! So make sure they are a good match and your product is good.
If your product is cheap and you can’t afford to pay anything additional, you might suggest that the blogger include it in a post with other products e.g. if you are selling candles, they could be included in a post about ‘presents for mothering sunday’.
If you would like them to come and visit your location, then they may need expenses too. In the early days there were many times that a blogging event cost me a LOT more in time and money than I received from it. I don’t charge for travel to a festival, but I would to review a film in London (plus ask for the DVD – been there on that expense 6 months later!).
Make sure that you keep a record of the reviews. You can tweet them out every now and again for your customers to read and add them to your website.
As well as reviewing your product (or instead of), you could give them one to give away in a competition. Competitions are particularly useful in increasing your followers on twitter and facebook, as you can have following as an additional entry option to the competition.
Please note however that competitions and writing a post do take time and administration, so unless it is a product that will really increase the bloggers views, they will probably want to charge you an admin fee.
Be thoughtful about how you want the competition advertised. There are sites that we can put the competition on in order to increase the hits. But this means that ‘professional compers’ are likely to enter, who might not be interested in your product at all.
7) How to find them
You can contact companies that provide an intermediary service e.g. Tots100, Britmums and Best British Bloggers. I do not know what the charges are. You can also look through the Tots100 and Ebuzzing lists, but bear in mind that not everyone places themselves in the lists. The Britmums roundups will give you blogs with specific interests.
Or you can do some research using key words that help: e.g. mummy blogger St Albans, Top uk mummy bloggers, mummy blogger weight loss, mummy blogger crafting, mummy blogger style
Or you can go into twitter and search on key words e.g. St Albans, vintage, candles, festivals etc
Once you have one blogger, they might be able to get you a list of other bloggers for you to check out. This can be a BIG hassle though (bloggers can be difficult to organise) – I’ve done it before and probably wouldn’t do it for free again, apart from for someone I loved a LOT! I now tend to offer to put your email address in a specific facebook group instead, and let you deal with the impending chaos ;o)
8) How to make contact
Bloggers tend to love twitter (about 99%). So find your blogs, follow them on twitter, and add them to a specific column or list so that their updates don’t disappear into a huge pile of updates.
DO NOT send them a twitter message saying ‘Hi, I’m local, please tweet out my page’ – you are a stranger to them, it would be like walking up to someone you don’t know in the street and asking them to hand your business card out. Basically you would look like a weirdo (I unfollow people who do this immediately).
Relationships online take time – use some discernment. Don’t follow people just because they are popular. Follow people because you are actually interested in them and give the relationship some time to brew.
Then when they say something that is interesting, reply to it. If they write a good blog post retweet it for them (subscribing to their blog would be a good idea). Start to chat regularly. Then when it feels right you can mention that you have a product/service and would they like to chat about working with you. It’s quite possible that if you are up their street, they will mention it before you even get there – I have done for festivals I fancied. Try not to be sycophantic or to jump to offer your services without first establishing a need.
Alternatively, once you have a list of bloggers, then you can send them an email. Always approach them using their name in the ‘hello’ of your email – I don’t reply to anything without my name in it. I would recommend sending a separate email to each blogger with a sentence or two that shows you have read some of their blog. If you send a blanket mail, use BCC (blind copy) for the email addresses, but I warn you, it’s less likely to be popular.
Remember, however wonderful you are or your product is, these bloggers are busy mums and may get several PR pitches a day. They don’t read their email every day. They need time to plan things. They can’t do 100 reviews all at once. They are less available during holidays and the week before and after them. They also talk, so if you send out a second round of invites due to little interest in the first round, they are likely to know they were your second choice!
9) Picking Bloggers
Make sure that you read their about page and check the ages of their kids and their suitability. Is it likely that their readership would suit your business? For example, I do NOT blog about parenting, just about being a mum. So I don’t want posts about baby food or pushchairs on my site and my kids are too old any way.
You could pick LOTS of less popular blogs and get a bigger coverage. Or pick a handful of blogs that are more popular.
Have they reviewed similar things? That might be good or bad news, depending on your subject! For example, loads of positive reviews on push chairs, might not make them sound reliable. But lots of interesting reviews about holidays or adventurous things to do as a family might make them be considered a bit of an expert on the subject.
This takes time, but otherwise you are wasting your money and resources.
10) What to expect
Ask them how long the post is likely to be, and how they will ‘pimp’ it out for you. You are looking for 500 words or more with photos. Videos are great for reviews, especially by kids.
I tweet 3 times at different times of the day over a couple of days. I send to my facebook profile, page and google once. But for some posts they will be marked with tags e.g. summer or festivals, which means that I will probably reuse them during quiet periods. Also some of my posts are listed on pages too. Probably not product reviews, but a couple of the holidays have been so good that I included them in my ‘Adventure’ page.
Some bloggers ‘hide’ their reviews somewhere other than the home page – make sure that they aren’t doing that for you. They can also ‘hide’ them by publishing them over a weekend if that is their quiet time. Watch out for this.
Ask how many reviews or competitions they will be running. Unless that is what the site is all about, you don’t want to be hidden away under a huge pile of them.
Afterwards you can ask for how many ‘hits’ the post received. If it is a good post, it should also get hits/reads all throughout the year and beyond. Your webstats will be able to show you when someone comes to your site via the blog (of course, this misses people who come to your site because of the blog, rather than via it).
Stats don’t mean everything, for example, they don’t show you how trusted a blogger is; but they can be helpful.
I would ask for
- followers on their online communities e.g. twitter, Facebook etc
- monthly views
- monthly unique views (i.e. how many people, not how many pages they view)
- awards or inclusion in Britmums roundups or Tots100 faves
- media coverage
- rankings in lists
- page rank (how important google thinks they are – probably from 0-5)
- If they have youtube – what are their visitor stats
- Klout shows how much they tweet
Here are mine, to give you some kind of example. I’d say I’m an ‘above average’ blogger, not one of the ‘top’ ones, but with a definite brand, message and trusted reputation.
12) Top Tips
Keep working with a small number of bloggers where possible – stop flitting from one to another. It might add breadth, but no loyalty and as you are likely to have less budget, what you want to create is loyalty.
We don’t need guest posts written by your PR people. We are bloggers. We write. We probably have loads of draft posts that we haven’t managed to write yet! So don’t get fooled into offering us ‘free content’ as though we should be glad to get it.
Mummy bloggers are flakey. We over promise. Our kids get sick. We get sick. So you probably want a few more than you would think for your campaign, and expect to have a couple fall by the wayside.
We aren’t interested in press releases. We might be interested in your newsletter with news about what is going on though.
I think that by far the most successful use of bloggers I have seen is in long term relationships with a campaign.
You will need a proper project plan for the campaign for this, which means that you can then fit it in around important dates in your diary as well. Create a hashtag for the campaign e.g. #WeLoveForests #DoSomethingYummy so that everyone involved can keep track of related posts and RT them.
Be careful and check what other campaigns are running at the same time, especially if you are a charity. There can be ‘charity overload’ especially at the beginning of the year.
If you have a number of bloggers involved, you will need to create a calendar and plan ahead when everyone does their posts. Personally I prefer them all spread out than all at once.
You could have a twitter party with the hashtag, but it can be unpopular, read this post for more information by Geekalicious.
It’s a great idea to have a badge as well for each blogger. They would put it on their sidebar to show that they are associated with you. I worked with Siblu holidays last year and they have sponsored a few of us to go to Britmumslive in return for a badge and a couple of posts. They have also created a page where they list all the posts that we did last year for them and another specifically for Britmumslive.
Nickie from ‘I am Typecast’ ran a campaign for Clic for a month and was brilliantly orchestrated. It had a huge sense of community and really got them noticed.
I’m an ambassador for the Forestry Commission. I thought I was just writing a blog post reviewing the local forest in review for a membership card. But it has been a lot more than that and I’ve actually really enjoyed it. We have a hash tag, facebook group to create a community amongst the bloggers, and pinterest board. I may not have made lots of money from this campaign, but it has actually helped increase my own interest in forests and I now have a big passion for the whole thing.
In comparison I’ve reviewed some clothes for Joe Browns which I love. But they don’t connect the bloggers they work with, so there is no way that we could create a community and RT other posts. They are just going for more of a scattergun approach with reviews on lots of blogs.
Some companies create blogging competitions, where we have to write a blog post in order to potentially win the competition. Personally I hate these, but I can see that they are worth it if the prize is good enough.
It might be worthwhile to look into advertising on a blog if what you are looking for is a regular reminder of your shop or product. But it can be an expensive option, so it really depends on your product/service, budget and who is available.
There would be times when it would be useful for the readers to have a link to your site e.g. an advert for your kitchen utensil business on a local bloggers side bar, or for a kids craft boxes business on a craft blog.
An advert costs about £10 per page rank, per month. You are most likely looking at a blog of Page Rank 3, so that is £30pm. You will need to pay 3 months in advance, but you could get a discount for a long term blog. It’s not bad value when you look at an advert in a magazine etc. Definitely better value than a facebook advert, but you could still do with a Google Ad for your key words.
I’m not really convinced by affiliate programs. I think that it only works if they have also done a review and there is a clear match with their blog, especially as it puts the bloggers opinion slightly under question as it could be influenced by earning money.
Also they probably need to be getting a mammoth amount of hits per day for it to be worth it for the blogger. This would be ideal for a craft blogger – one of the big ones gets thousands of views a day. I was once an affiliate for a membership site, where I got 50% of the join up fee – this worked really well for me and the client (it was before my blog), I think that the lesson there is to be generous with your affiliate %.
At the end of the day
Remember to use discernment. Don’t jump on a band wagon on how to behave if it doesn’t suit you or your company or feels dodgy.
There are no quick options, but bloggers make a great long term option for any business that has ‘people’ as it’s customers, and I think that they can be much more useful to you than adverts.
If you would like to know more about blogging, check out the rest of my posts.
Here is a list of all my reviews, just incase you want to see what sorts of things a blogger might do.
So bloggers, what do you think? – this tends to be a controversial subject!