Do you consider yourself a blogger skeptic? Have you tried blogging and failed?
Maybe you should have been on the Gold Coast last week where at least 430 bloggers and blogger-aspirants from across the globe gathered at the 2013 ProBlogger Training Event — hashtag #PBevent. Inspiration flowed, with 13,000 tweets making the event trend on Twitter for three days.
Often described as “blogger bootcamp”, the PB event helps bloggers launch, optimise and monetise their blogs.
Pioneered by one of the world’s leading bloggers, Darren Rowse from Problogger, the event had humble beginnings in Melbourne’s inner suburbs and now attracts international keynote speakers and successful Australian bloggers.
As an experienced social media manager and the director of a digital agency, I have seen the financial returns that come from engaging with bloggers who communicate with their audiences firsthand.
A force to be reckoned with, technorati’s 2013 digital report found bloggers have more influence on customer purchasing decisions than social networks Facebook and Twitter.
Disappointingly, though, among the sea of bloggers, very few brands or agencies attended. Sadly, it seems Australia has not caught up to the blogging industry.
Aussie Bloggers Strong
Australian bloggers are rapidly growing media entities with audiences that span from the niche to the mainstream. Our country is full of lucrative bloggers who can rival the best of the world-stage. This year, successful Australian bloggers from a number of industries including superannuation, personal wealth, food and wine, technology and travel attended the PB Event.
Superannuation blogger Aaron Dunn of The Dunn Thing is a prime example of the kind of calibre in the Australian blogosphere, having grown his online audience from 4,000 to 10,000 unique visitors a month in under 1 year.
“Just about every month is a record month, my audience is doubling each year. Most traffic is coming from the professional service industry,” he says.
This isn’t surprising given that bloggers are experts at creating tight-knit communities. Their audiences have a direct and strong connection with the person behind the blog; a relationship that is close to impossible for a brand to re-create.
Why? Because customers know that a brand’s intention is always to sell them something. Leading nutrition blogger Emma Stirling says of the craft:
“This is word of mouth marketing with different tools. It’s also more believable to receive an endorsement from a blogger than from the brand directly.”
Conversation is key
If you’re a business with a target audience, it makes sense to partner with bloggers. But is it as simple as getting a blogger to talk about you? No.
Laney Galligan of Agents of Influence says, “blogs are not another one to many medium, the true value is in the two way conversations and how a brand can earn attention for its content and participate in these conversations.”
So what can Australian businesses do to successfully leverage relationships with the wealth of talented bloggers in our own country? Here are five tips for starting out:
1. THE GOLDEN RULE: RESPECT THE BLOGGER
Bloggers know their audience best and will know what products will work for them. Before you approach a blogger, read their blog and try to understand their audience.
Find a way to approach them for partnership rather than to simply broadcast your sales-pitch. As ProBlogger said in a PBevent session on monetisation
“It’s all about WIN WIN WIN. If a brand approaches me and understands my audience, they are going to get a lot more than someone who wants me to blast their message”.
2. WORK WITH THE EXPERTS
Over the past 12 months the Australian blogging industry has seen a rise in demand for agency representation. Australia’s leading blogging agency, The Remarkables Group, has experienced rapid growth through establishing partnerships between bloggers and brands.
Director Lorraine Murphy says: “If a brand hasn’t had solid experience with bloggers, embarking on a blogger program can be extremely time consuming. Working with a reputable agency will put the brand on the fast track and guide them into successful partnerships.”
Blogger agencies understand the landscape and requirements of bloggers, many of whom are themselves becoming small businesses.
The newly launched Agents of Influence highlights this uniqueness in their approach: “It’s all based on the brand aligning themselves with relevant content and joining the conversation, not interrupting the natural voice of the blogger. We also offer a secondary level of engagement with the blogger’s audience via advocacy programs.”
3. BE STRATEGIC
Just as social media effectiveness is not just about the number of likes, a blogger’s effectiveness is not about their audience size alone. The majority of ntegrity’s work is to help brands utilise social media efficiently. It’s about tailoring the blogger solution to your business’s goals and measuring success in light of that, not about accessing the largest audience, just because they’re there. Keep your end goals in mind when you select bloggers to partner with and ensure you use metrics to measure success.
4. CONSIDER AFFILIATE MARKETING
No budget for bloggers? Consider affiliate programs where the blogger receives a percentage of sales for transactions made through their site. The PBEvent highlighted a number of affiliate programs that bring prospective customers to the brand’s site and generate income for the blogger. These types of affiliate programs can also be more affordable than other forms of media buying.
5. BUILD YOUR BLOG
Driving traffic to your site? Keep them there and eased toward transaction through a blog that assists with search engine marketing. Use the same blogger success methods to tell your brands story and communicate to your customers. If you are not growing, consider approaching a blogger in your category to write content for you and build community.
It was apparent at the conference that even our most successful bloggers are an untapped and misunderstood resource. While we have some of the best bloggers in the world, Australian businesses are lagging in successfully engaging bloggers. It’s time to get on to it. Not to consider a blogger strategy is saying no to the future of marketing.
Read this article at The Australian Financial Review.