“BlogHer?” “Blog what?” Unfortunately, that’s the response I’ve received from eight out of 10 marketers as I’ve mentioned my attendance at BlogHer10 in early August in New York. The fact that many of them hadn’t heard of this huge confab of 2,400 women bloggers should have been my tip-off that the tsunami of client buy-in to social media might still be just a dribble.
Maybe you hear BlogHer and think digital moms, but this conference was not just for “mommy bloggers” (a pretty hateful label by the way). Bloggers who attend write about health reform, politics (both sides of the aisle), international aid, business, fashion and food with one thing in common: they have influence over what you sell. If you’d attended, you’d have met them face to face. But most marketers didn’t show.
I attended BlogHer as a double agent. While I blog and tweet on behalf of Just Ask a Woman, I am also a marketer who advises clients on how to build their brands with women. I purposely didn’t sign up for the BlogHer “How to Work With Bloggers” business portion because I wanted to view the main event from the perspective of a blogger and be a true fly on the wall.
Despite the marketing industry’s professed love for social media and the fact that many proudly tout “blogger engagement strategies” in their media and PR plans, marketers not in attendance missed “5 Key Things at BlogHer10.” If you didn’t go, here’s what not to do next year.
1. Desperately seeking the c-suite: Brands foolishly delegated this important event to their junior staff and to their agencies. Every booth seemed to be turned over to eager but entry-level publicists and media planners. (If social media and blogging is so important to CMOs from Detroit to Dallas, and women are so critical to most brands, then why the gratis presence?) How can top levels of a company absorb the power of blogging if they don’t read them or meet their authors? Some of the invite-only events, like Pepsi’s “Sofa Summit” hosted by Campbell Brown for handpicked VIP bloggers, were graced with senior talent, but the general attendance blogger didn’t have that opportunity. Next time, send your brand directors and marketing managers so that you are bringing actionable ideas to your planning tables.
2. Marketers sold rather than listened: When I visited a brand’s booth in the expo hall, the reps were too uncomfortable to even ask me what I blogged about, which reduced our conversation to pleasant small talk. With a name like Just Ask a Woman, did they really know what I blogged about? While I’m thrilled that Playskool brought back Weeble Wobbles, what am I supposed to do with that information? Rather than find out how we could help each other, brands wasted valuable minutes “selling” like they were at a flea market. Bloggers are quick takes; there was no reason to be subtle. Talking face to face about your product story is hard. But listen, ask, listen some more and be ready to brainstorm on the spot.
3. Doling out disposable swag: After last year’s backlash against swag (women were rumored to be in tears when brands ran out of samples in past conferences), I expected a shift in swag strategy. Instead, you could drown in the giveaways. The New York Hilton ran out of mailing labels from women shipping their bounty home. (I did love that Procter & Gamble sponsored a Swag Recycling room where you could ditch the stuff you weren’t going to use.) Your swag should be strategic. If you really want to win, give coupons that can be redeemed post-conference because they travel well and are trackable.
4. Playing favorites: Despite a comprehensive and diverse agenda, many of the attendees skipped the sessions and were lured away by non-sponsor brands that shamelessly piggybacked on BlogHer’s efforts. Those brands had suites in nearby hotels and invited VIP bloggers to defect for meals, makeup touch-ups and meet and greets with celebrities. How long can the “official” conference endure when the signal that you’ve “made it” is being lured away by the unofficial brands? By feeding into the social hierarchy that already exists among female bloggers, brands that play favorites risk rejection from those they didn’t wine and dine.
5. And then . . . radio silence: Post-conference I’ve scoured Twitter to see if any of the bigger sponsors (P&G, Jimmy Dean, McDonald’s, Got Milk) had commented on what they learned. For the most part, it’s pretty quiet. Either that means that they don’t think they learned anything, or they don’t use Twitter. Both pretty tragic. Pepsi and shopping site Gettington.com were exceptions and their efforts were eventually recapped after the conference. The blogger universe wants to play with like-minded brands that get it. Silence means you don’t.
So BlogHer10 was filled with thousands of influential women, but also a lot of marketing misfires. You’ve got a whole year to bone up on getting it right with the women who are your media plan.
Jen Drexler is a principal at Just Ask a Woman, a New York-based consultancy, and co-author of What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It. She can be reached at email@example.com.