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Blogging: how to make friends and influence people

Apart from reach, credibility, trust and direct sales, what have bloggers ever done for marketers and brands? Quite a lot, argues Amanda McKenna, director of digital consultancy Zone, so why do brands often get it so wrong?

Mummy bloggers receive and average of 90 generic/blanket emails a month

Mummy bloggers receive and average of 90 generic/blanket emails a month

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Bloggers play an increasingly broad role in the modern marketing plan. From a starting point as a credible way in to a loyal, engaged audience sector, through to a powerful reach-generating influencer, brands are hunting out the right bloggers to spread awareness and drive engagement.

So you’d think that long-term relationship building with bloggers would be a no brainer in this day and age. Alas, still, not much, it seems.

You’d think that long-term relationship building with bloggers would be a no brainer in this day and age. Alas, still, not much, it seems

Damning research

A new piece of research asking bloggers about their dealings with marketers and agencies, commissioned by Zone in advance of the first ever Mumsnet marketing-to-mums conference Mumstock on April 23, tells a damning tale.

We’ve heard anecdote after embarrassing anecdote, each one demonstrating an attitude that smacks of old-school number-crunching and blanket coverage, and fundamentally missing the point that the top bloggers understand so well: create a personal connection with your audience.

From those who start their mass emails with "Dear blogger" - really, looking their name up was that difficult? - through to the astonishing number of requests to review products that the bloggers haven’t ever seen or heard of, it seems as though the industry still has a lot to learn about the opportunity that bloggers represent.

On average, mummy bloggers receive 90 generic/blanket emails a month. That’s four or five per working day with minimal personalisation or attempts to clarify why this opportunity/product suits the blogger’s particular niche. They might as well use "This is a mass email" as the subject line.

This isn’t to suggest that we all have the time and resource to do lots of research but then, it doesn’t take much. Like any personal introduction, an effort to find out who they are and what they do isn’t just polite: it’s sensible. 92% of these emails, according to our research, go straight in the bin.

There were also plenty of examples of bloggers being pressured into keeping quiet about payment or sponsorship. It may well be that the legislation is behind the times: 61% of interviewees felt that making the law clearer on this subject would improve brand/blogger relations.

As one of the bloggers put it: "Honesty and integrity are very important… and clear guidelines on what we expect from each other." Another basic human truth, writ large: treat people as you’d like to be treated and don’t ask them to perjure themselves on your behalf.

On a more positive note

On the bright side, nearly two-thirds of respondents said things were getting better. And, in fairness, there are occasions when the ‘wrong’ strategy can work perfectly (look at Ariel’s Surprise Collection campaign, created by Agencia Africa last year: a blanket comms approach that targeted bloggers).

We’ll offer the last word to Tara Cain, author of ‘Sticky Fingers’ and consistently voted the UK’s most influential mummy blogger. You’ll find this on her site: it gets straight to the point.

"I do not want to advertise your competition for free. I am not interested in interviewing your experts. I don’t need your kind offer of content – I have vast wells of my own. I will not repost your press release. Just best to get it all down there in writing."

This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk

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