As the world turns digital, blogs have become a powerful marketing tool. This is because blogs are about person-to-person marketing – a personal recommendation, shared experience, a unique point-of-view on any product or service is more meaningful than the glossiest of advertisements because it represents reality and not a vision of what we’d like it to be. So when a mummy recommends a recipe that worked for her fussy toddler or a teenager tweets the hairspray that saved the bad-hair-day – people listen and marketers close in.
According to the 2013 Digital Influence Report, blogs rank high with consumers for trust, popularity and influence and account for a significant (and growing) chunk of annual marketing spends for businesses. As a result blogging has become a very lucrative industry and full-time career for some people with hundreds of blogs added everyday to the blogosphere. However, as a result of the overcrowding that now exists, it is becoming increasingly unclear about the PR value blogs actually bring and moreover how PR and communications professionals should measure a blogs capabilities in terms of ROI.
This was the topic of discussion at an industry knowledge session at the Cision office on Wednesday. Let’s analyse a few pertinent questions raised:
How can PR firms decide for their clients which bloggers are influential and more importantly right for them?
Yes there are millions of bloggers out there and if you’re going to rely on Google for a list you’re going to need a lot of time and patience as you go through each one to see what they can offer. Tools such as Cision’s Social Influencer Search does the work for you – it helps you identify how influential these bloggers are with an Influence Rating based on their reach, unique visitors, social engagement and interactions.With this tool you will be able to search for bloggers by the categories they cover or the keywords they use in their work to see who’s most relevant for your brand. You are also provided with a visual summary of their social media profiles and traditional media reach, pitching preferences, real-time updates.
Is there a checklist of factors PRs can use to benchmark blogs?
Apart from influence, PRs should determine for themselves how effective individual blogs will be for their business objectives. Author Christopher Penn for Shift Communications shares a guide to help determine the value of each blog.
- Exposure: This is where impressions and readers live. How many people are we getting in front of? Some professional bloggers have media kits that provide snapshots of analytics for potential advertisers, and those media kits can be very helpful for establishing the value of a PR hit on that blog in terms of raw audience.
- Search value: What does the blog contribute in terms of authority? How highly ranked is the page authority?
- Social: Does the blog have a social community that goes with it, and if so, how large and engaged is it?
- Advertising: Does the blog accept advertising that could dilute your message or provide paid competitors a chance to interrupt your message? Do you have the opportunity to run a paid campaign alongside an editorial placement?
- Surveying: If a blog’s community is engaged enough, is there an opportunity to survey its community members and see how strongly your message resonated?
- Marketing: Look in your analytics tools. How much traffic has the blog driven to your properties already? Watch carefully after a placement – how much traffic did the blog drive to your properties? Did the blog’s audience perform better or worse than other channels?
- Sales: The bottom line number: how many people from the blog converted? It’s worth asking bloggers how their audience performed in other similar companies’ placements, especially if you’re paying to play. What conversion rates did other advertisers and media partners experience?
Are blogs more influential than mainstream media?
While the reach and credibility of mainstream media can’t be disputed, a simple post on an influential blog can get your brand more visibility. However PR firms often make the mistake of only going by the number of impressions and posts on blogs (as they do with circulation and viewership figures for media). While this is a good indication of readership, the success of blogs should also be measured by the amount of interaction and engagement it receives. As one attendee said: ‘If a blog gets updated five times a day but gets zero engagement, it is unlikely to have an impact for marketers.’
Even though it is coverage PRs seek from both channels, blogs tend to serve a different purpose from mainstream media – here it is mostly about learning how this particular blogger interacted with your brand and understanding if it will work for them too. Blogs have their strengths and weaknesses but you have to first figure out which blogs are right for your business and tailor your pitch to maximise brand engagement.
What brands work best with bloggers?
Some sectors work better on blogs as they do on mainstream media such as retail and consumer goods. People want to see how the outfit looked on a regular person and what they had to say about it. Or learn why a particular brand of cheese didn’t work with their pasta recipe.
Should bloggers get paid to cover stories?
If bloggers are part of the marketing plan, they should fit into the marketing budget just as well. While it is arguable that PRs don’t compensate mainstream media for every story covered, the companies do sell ads and subscription which make the profession worthwhile. With bloggers this relationship is more ambiguous. Therefore, it is best for PRs to work out their own strategy first and decide how much they can allocate to bloggers and then find out what the bloggers they approach expect. Most bloggers state how much they charge for sponsored posts, banner ads etc clearly on their sites while others prefer to talk about the collaboration first.
Have we left anything out? Do you have any questions to add? Please let us know in the comment box below.
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