In marketing, word of mouth frequently gets the most traction, earns the most trust, yet businesses have the least control over it. For a long time, the only influence a business owner had over word of mouth was mitigating when someone was unhappy by reaching out to correct issues (i.e., a shipping mistake, a defective product, or providing a refund for something that didn’t measure up). Now, business owners have a conduit to encouraging positive word of mouth. They’re called influencers, or in less buzzwordy speak, bloggers.
The thing is, consumers know influential bloggers are courted by the businesses they post about, but in many cases, are willing to overlook it. Bloggers, at least the good ones, are honest about their affiliation with the products and services they write about, and their readers still trust them to give up the skinny on what’s hot and what’s not. Just because their favorite blogger or vlogger received a sampling of colored contacts for free doesn’t mean their opinion is less valid, and the bonus is the reader/viewer gets to see what those samples are like in “real time.” Added to the buzz are rewards for discounts for a select number of immediate commenters, or discount codes when ordering to promote the business.
So, how do you get a blogger, particularly local ones, to write or post videos about your business? Let’s take a look. But before we do…
Rule Number ONE
You have to know what kind of publicity is most effective for your business, and this will depend on your audience. Are you seeking to be viewed as an industry expert by your peers? Then you’ll need a more professionally toned blogger. Are you hoping for product reviews to reach more customers? Then you’ll need someone with a strong audience connection. Is there a blogger that has sway with your main consumer demographic? Find a way to appeal to them. The more you know about the type of blogger you’re searching for up front, the less time you spend going through bloggers who will not be a great match.
Finding Potential Bloggers to Partner With
This part is crucial to effectively establishing a partnership with an influencer, not only for your pitches to be accepted, but to reach the right audience and gain credibility. It’s more than finding those with a large readership who are already attractive to big brands.
You want someone local, who can drive real business to you. You want bloggers relevant to your niche. And the best bloggers are those who engage with their audience and consistently publish content. It does you no good to find someone who is speaking to the wrong crowd, or no crowd at all because their posting schedule is haphazard.
You have several tools at your disposal to find bloggers who fit your needs:
- Software tools like AllTop, Buzzsumo, and FollowerWonk can help you search by top blogs in an industry, those who trend, and those with influence. You can also simply use Google to find influential bloggers by their ranking for the keywords that interest you the most.
- Do local searches yourself to see who’s in your area. Hop on Yelp, TripAdviser, and dig through local business reviews on Google to see if any reviewers in your area have a reputation as a top reviewer.
- Use hashtags on social media to drill into your local scene and your industry on the whole. Lots of times, industry hashtags are subdivided by region, state, or city. A perfect example is the restaurant industry, where #foodie is particularly rich with influencers. #NewYorkFoodie or even more specifics, like #BBQ are available for your specific area.
- Set up a Google alert on your business. Sometimes, it’s a simple matter of tapping into those who are already talking about you and asking them if they’d be interested in an editorial arrangement.
Yes, you’ll need to consider the number of followers eventually, and how well engaged the audience is. But by the time you’re ready for that, you’ll have already whittled your list down to locals who are more suited for further study.
Do Your Research
So you now have a list of bloggers who you’d potentially like to approach. Read their blogs. Seems like a time-consuming process? If you want the relationship to be solid, with a greater chance they’ll be interested in what you have to say when you ask them for help, it’s worth the effort. Read, understand their favorite topics, learn who they’re attracting, and take note of their overall tone. Are they conversational? Do they have a snarky edge that would fit well with your brand? Are they more journalistic?
Once you’ve been reading for a while, start commenting on your target influencers, but don’t pitch them. Not yet. Establish your relevancy to their areas of interest, and give useful information so you show yourself to be intelligent and mindful of their blog neighborhood. This will establish you as trustworthy and you’ll become part of their community, so when you’re ready to approach them, they’ll be more receptive. Not only that, when they write about you, their audience will be familiar with you.
Now, the Pitch
Most successful bloggers post a few times a week, so that means they’re looking for new topics to write about. Your approach won’t be entirely unwelcome, particularly if you’ve established yourself in their circle of engagement. Be polite, upfront with what you’re asking for (reviews, demonstrations, social media posts, etc.), and tailor your pitch to their specific area of interest. Be mindful of what they’ve recently covered so you’re not asking them to do something repetitive.
Make it easy for them to say yes. The more work you take off their shoulders (linking to your social media, press releases with the information you’re hoping they’ll find interesting, or event details so they don’t have to search it out), the easier it is for them to agree to your proposal.
Grab their attention. If you can tie your product or service to the latest news—your bookstore is having a sale on the George R.R. Martin series Game of Thrones was based on, so if fans want to read the book now that the series is concluded, now’s the time!—or give them something compelling that’s evergreen—5 ways to reduce save the planet while dining out—they’ll see the value in it for their readership.
Don’t shy away from controversy. Bucking conventional wisdom gets people talking, and if the blogger writes about how your business is flouting trends, that conversation will happen on their blog. They’ll get the boost of the search rankings and you get the exposure. Win-win. Controversy doesn’t have to be divisive, either. When the first study on how open office design contributed to workplace sexism was published, people from all industries took notice, not just office designers, architects, and decorators. If you have a survey, statistic, or report that reveals surprising information about what you do, compile that data into a compelling topic for the blogger to cover.
The Follow Through
Once you’ve got a blogger (or a few) who are on board, be professional and deliver the information you’ve promised them. If it’s a sampling of your product for them to review, make sure you send it. If it’s a free meal in your restaurant, send them a voucher proving you’ll stand by it, or better yet, make a reservation and give them the opportunity to invite friends. If you flake, they’re under no obligation to keep that to themselves, and you’ve done the opposite of what you set out to do: you’ve given them a reason to publicly badmouth you.
The post is written. The video is uploaded. The word of the influencer is out on social media. Hold up your end of the deal again by cross-posting links to drive your existing customers to their site or channel in every way you can, social media, on your site, and through your newsletter. This not only helps in Google search rankings for both of you, but it promotes the blogger to people they might not have already reached. The more people you can get to visit their site, the better the conversation will be on the post about your business, and the more engagement you’ll receive from the audience you hope to reach. You’ve contributed to the blogger’s credibility, and they’ve contributed to yours.
Finally, thank them. It’s such a simple thing, but shooting them a quick email takes you minutes, but it really does go a long way. They’ve taken their time to help promote your business, and it’s the least you can do. So perhaps when you have another promotion or a menu change or a new product release, and you approach them again, they’ll fondly remember the first time and be more readily agreeable. Thus begins a beautiful new blogging partnership.
Check the Legalities
Honestly, you should know this part before you even begin searching for bloggers to engage with. There are rules and regulations governing sponsored or paid content on blogs and social media. You really don’t want to step in anything messy here. Not only that, but the transparency a blogger employs with their audience will help keep their trustworthiness with their audience so everybody knows the score, and no one’s getting in trouble. It’s not worth the risk.
There you have it. Now that you’re an expert in establishing relationships between bloggers and your business, go forth and influence. It’ll be fun.
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