As traditional channels continue to decline in influence, and consumers are increasingly turning to social media and bloggers for recommendations, more pressure is on marketing departments to find ways to harness the power of word of mouth to drive measurable sales.
Online product reviews, scores, and newsfeed mentions on social media are sought by consumers throughout the sales decision making process. After having a great brand experience, consumers continue to feed the purchase ecosystem by leaving their recommendation on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and other social networks.
Knowing when to intercept and influence consumers on social media can be labor intensive, frustrating, and can create spectacularly embarrassing, career-ending blowback when done incorrectly.
So how does a brand authentically make the connection with its customers and prospects?
We’ve generated the best results from programs that prioritize engaging bloggers in a way that earns their brand advocacy. Blogger brand advocates give you the best chance to directly engage your audience in a way that continues delivering results for months, sometimes years, after the post occurred.
According to Technorati’s Digital Influence Report, 65 percent of brands incorporate influencers into their marketing programs. In Angelsmith’s groundbreaking research on how consumers make dining choices, almost 61 percent rely on digital resources, including bloggers and other review sites, to help them make their restaurant choice.
In our 2014 Digital Wine Report, 89 percent of respondents reported that wine review sites were the second most important place they researched wine, behind friends and family. The single best way to generate reviews is through bloggers who advocate on behalf of the brand.
Angelsmith differs from most agency’s who execute blogger outreach programs because we hand vet each influencer and look for bloggers who are ripe to become your brand’s advocates. Our experience has proven that an influencer who is passionate about your product is 3 times more likely to drive awareness, engagement, sales conversions, and traffic.
While numbers aren’t everything, they can be the basis of influence. The social media footprint and reach of a blogger and his or her content allows us to evaluate if a mention of your brand will reach the type and size of audience that will move the needle.
But if we just stop at the numbers, we would be selling the brand short. We also might end up with big reach, but with content that doesn’t represent the brand well. Finding the right influencers for your products means digging deeper and taking a closer look at the blogs before recruiting them for a campaign. These are a few things that we use to help our client’s find influencers who are most likely to become lifelong brand advocates.
Personality is priority.
Each blog has a personality and tone that will be reflected in the review style of the blogger, regardless of the type of product featured. Browsing existing reviews on the blog is essential because chances are that even with specific guidelines, the review of your product will be similar. We make sure that the style, tone, and language are a good match for the brand.
Before we reach out to any bloggers we consider what end result we are hoping for in a post. Some reviews are thoughtful and thorough providing great detail about your product and brand. If you want the story of your product intertwined with a personal experience, we look for blogs that display this type of writing style and steer clear of those who may only cut and paste the media releases provided to them.
We recently took over an influencer outreach program for a digital gaming company that previously relied on a blog platform that simply sends brand generated content out to its stable of bloggers to pick up and post. It resulted in a stack of impressive looking numbers, but the sum total of ZERO conversions. ZERO. ZIP. NADA. One reason was that there was no passion or personal involvement in the posts. When our agency evaluates bloggers, a key consideration is who is most likely to love the product and become a true advocate. That kind of excitement comes through in posts to readers and generates a significant amount of social chatter that delivers results.
Some bloggers have a knack for lighthearted humor and they may find a way to create an amusing story using your product. We make sure you are open to the type of humor displayed in the blog’s content before pitching.
One of the best examples of an effective use of humor is a program that we ran for Outback Steakhouse years ago. We asked digital dads to write an article about the most horrific and embarrassing experience dining with children. Outback received some heartwarming and hilariously funny posts that readers reposted and shared like crazy on social media. This would not work for every brand.
Still other bloggers find unique and creative ways to use products that can make your product appear more versatile. This can work in your favor, but if you have a very narrow view of how you want your product used, this type of content personality may not be for you.
This is a great blogger outreach tactic to use if you need to show consumers outside of your core user group how to use your product. This can be particularly challenging because you will need to translate your industry-speak to an audience who is unfamiliar and unmoved by inside-baseball jargon. A successful example you can check out is the food blogger outreach campaign Angelsmith executed for Rodney Strong Vineyards 25th Anniversary event.
Photos say it all.
The written content of a post is important, but the images are what will grab readers and draw them in. Anyone can snap a Smartphone photo. In fact, maybe that is the exact type of photography your campaign is centered around. But just because everyone can take a photo does not guarantee high quality images.
We review current images and if part of blogger participation is sharing original photos, we ensure the blogger is not using stock images. Special attention is also given to styling, props, colors, and lighting. If your plan is to ask for permission to share these photos on social media or on your own blog in connection with the campaign, you want to be sure the final results are something you are comfortable using to promote your brand.
One of my favorite examples of fantastic photography that demonstrates how to use sparkling wine in everyday elevated ways is from Chris who writes the blog Celebrations at Home. We engaged Chris on behalf of Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards. She created a spectacular popcorn bar and paired it with the sparkling wine. Even though she posted her article and photos more than 3 months ago, they continue to drive social engagement for the brand on Pinterest, Facebook, and her blog.
Know how they’ll use it so you don’t lose it.
How a blogger uses your product could surprise you. Are you okay with that?
Often the creativity does benefit your brand. When it comes to recipe development, party ideas, or crafts, make sure you are okay with your product being used in any way, otherwise we can help you outline your requests in the initial pitch. For example, do you have a strict definition of healthy and only want your product used in that way? Maybe you only want your product used with vegetarian recipes, or don’t want desserts. If you have a beverage, are you okay if a blogger mixes it to make a cocktail? Be clear about your expectations and be sure the current content of the blog reflects them.
Get to know who is behind the blog.
Blogs reveal a lot about a person, and the influencer revealed should match the goals of the brand. If a fit and healthy lifestyle is priority, a blogger who makes a point of mentioning a dislike for exercise, or who regularly posts about unhealthy habits will confuse readers. If you’d like your natural food used in a homemade recipe, we steer clear of bloggers who craft their recipes around processed, pre-packaged foods. There may be instances when it is beneficial to introduce your product to a new audience or a blogger with a differing perspective, but define those goals before the campaign is pitched.
Identify red flags.
One of the most critical pieces of our vetting process is heading off disaster before it can start. Below are some of the red flags we evaluate in advance of any program.
- Does the blogger appear to be receiving free products or publishing sponsored posts without disclosing a relationship with the brand? We have a blacklist of bloggers who are not complying with FTC Guidelines.
- Does the blogger have multiple blogs? If so, we specify the blog where we expect the review to be published so we get the reach we are expecting.
- A lot of influencers have valid, strong social media followings, but there are many with fake followers, and unethical ways of getting followers still exist. The engagement rate in the form of comments, likes, and retweets needs to be in a realistic range given the number of fans and followers.
Mind the gap.
To get the most from any influencer program, just having the blogger create a post isn’t enough. In the good ole days of blog outreach and social media, if you posted it, they would come. Not anymore. Angelsmith bridges the gap between the influencer posts on their blog and social media accounts with an activation plan so it gets as much reach as possible.
In our Digital Wine Survey, more than 8 out of 10 (84.8 percent) respondents reported that they are somewhat to very likely to do additional research on a wine they see in their social feed if they are not familiar with it. For one of our wine clients, we discovered that website traffic originating from influencer blogs was 10 times more likely to funnel into the wine club and 21 times more likely to sign up for the newsletter than Adwords traffic.
Earning brand advocacy from bloggers can act as equity for your brand by delivering value long after the initial post. The best blogger engagement programs come from finding the right brand fit when vetting influencers, and looking for opportunities to create a wow experience for the influencer. As a result, they will want to work with the brand again, but most importantly they will feel passionate enough to continue telling their social media fans about the positive brand experience.
Angelsmith’s artisanal blogger outreach method isn’t for everyone, but for those brands that are willing to lovingly develop relationships with influencers, the return on investment can be significant.
It simply takes a little extra effort to look beyond the initial numbers, or ‘tops lists’, and find individuals who will be the best fit for the brand. The more work that goes into the selection process, the better the relationship and support you can build with influencers and their readers.