Guest entry by Elise Bauer
Why is marketing to bloggers a good idea? Inbound links from blogs improves Google rank, which increases traffic from search engines. Exposure from bloggers can land a company’s website on a social bookmarking site like Digg or Del.icio.us, driving thousands of new visitors to the site.
Bloggers are perceived to be more “authentic” than traditional media, making them disproportionately influential given their size. They can also be highly targeted, engaging the very audience that a marketer might want to reach. But bloggers are a more fickle bunch than most traditional media people. Marketing to them appropriately can yield great results; approaching them the wrong way can backfire.
As someone with a well-trafficked blog and a high Google rank I get bombarded with marketing requests every day. “Your site would be great for my SEO, would you please link to it?” “You obviously love food. I would love to send you some of my ice cream for dogs and you could write about it if you wanted to.” (Both real examples.) Most pitches receive a cursory glance and get deleted without a second thought. A few get a response from me, especially if the pitch is respectful and polite. Even fewer get the response the marketer was hoping for.
So, what’s the trick?
If you are considering reaching out to bloggers, here are a few guidelines that may help you be more effective in your approach. Note that marketing to bloggers is sort of like selling vacuums door-to-door in a neighborhood where almost everyone knows each other, and most are chatting with each other over their fences. In any strong blogging community there is a lot of back-channel talk going on. This can work to your advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you approach the bloggers in the first place. Now for the guidelines, let’s start with the “Don’ts”.
Marketing to Bloggers Don’ts
1. Do not send obvious form letters. Did you know that we bloggers share the form letters we receive from marketers with each other? We do. This is a great way to get nowhere with the very people you are trying to influence. It also demonstrates that you have done practically no research whatsoever on your audience. Form letters result in promoting pork sausages to vegans or pitches for ready-to-eat cheesecake filling to gourmet scratch cooks.
2. Do not ask for links, unless you are willing to pay for them, at which point the conversation turns to advertising policy and rates. This whole reciprocal link thing might be barely tolerable on a blogger-to-blogger level, but is considered annoying spam when it comes from a company pushing products.
3. Do not leave blog comments plugging your products. Talk about generating ill will! It’s called blog spam. As a blogger I don’t really care that you think my readers would be interested in your ready-made lemon syrup. I’m not interested in allowing a company to promote its products on my blog without my permission. If you abuse comments, eventually you’ll generate such bad feelings that people will start writing in their blogs about how your company is spamming the blogosphere. Then the next time someone looks your company up in Google all they’ll see is a litany of complaints. Not exactly the intended result, eh?
4. Do not come on too strong. If you send out product, you can follow up with a “did you receive it?” but not a “when are you going to write about it?” Do not insist on anything. And if someone doesn’t want to promote your product, please don’t argue with them. Thank them for their time and move on.
5. Do not put the blogger on your mailing list (unless they have requested it.) This should be obvious, shouldn’t it? But clearly it isn’t as getting put on some random marketer’s email newsletter or mailing list happens all the time. Bloggers hate it.
Marketing to Bloggers Do’s
1. Start by creating a targeted list of bloggers. Use tools such as Technorati, BlogPulse, or Alexa to help find blogs that speak to your target audience. Note that although the biggest blogs may be more influential, they tend to get hit up all the time for marketing requests and may not be that responsive. So don’t ignore a blog just because it has 20 inbound links (as accounted for by Technorati) and not 200. It may be just the blog you want.
2. Know the blogs you are approaching. Before you email a blogger with a pitch, read through the last two months of their posts. Really. At least that. Understand what they care about, what they write about. You’ll get a much better feel for how your pitch will be received if you know who it is you are pitching to. Learn the name and gender of the blogger; it may not be immediately obvious. Address the blogger by name instead of just “Hello” or “Dear Webmaster”. Check to see if the blogger has posted a review policy. Many bloggers simply will not do product reviews; you risk annoying them if they have a published policy that you have ignored.
3. Treat the blogger with the same respect you would a professional journalist. It’s good manners. Many bloggers have a lot more influence than you would imagine, yet they are often treated as if they are inconsequential. If you treat them well, you will be rewarded in kind.
4. Be open to constructive feedback. If you send out a pitch and it’s off the mark, most likely you will get more than a few angry emails back. If you are lucky, someone will take the time to offer polite, constructive feedback as to how you could reach out to bloggers more effectively. Listen to this advice. Consider it valuable consulting that you would normally have to pay thousands of dollars for and here this very nice blogger is giving it to you for free. Treat that blogger well. Assume you know nothing about marketing to bloggers, because believe me, unless you are a blogger who gets pitched all the time, you don’t.
5. Offer to send product, no strings attached. If you have a book you’re promoting, offer to send it to the blogger. Don’t suggest that the blogger write a review. If she likes it enough, she might. Or she might recommend it to another blogger who ends up writing about it. Don’t underestimate the social power of reciprocity. By giving a gift, if the receiver likes it, he’ll likely find ways to make it up to you. This is also why some bloggers don’t accept gifts or promotional product. They don’t want to be indebted to anyone. So, if a blogger says no, don’t take it personally.
At the end of the day it all comes down to the Golden Rule, treat bloggers the way you would like to be treated yourself. Unlike you, the marketing professional, who probably gets paid to reach out to them, most bloggers do what they do purely for the joy of personal self expression. They pour hundreds, if not thousands of hours of their lives into their personal blogging outpost. Respect that and you might get somewhere with them.
Have more examples to add to the list? Please let us know in the comments.