Blogs: Old Rules for the New School

As marketers further delve into social media and find new ways to capitalize on it, many companies have zeroed in on the “mommy blogger” as a primary target. They’re vying to get this influential group of women talking about their products and services to build that oh-so-valuable buzz.

Any marketer worth their salt will tell you the value of careful targeting and knowing your customer. But many female bloggers will tell you companies are missing the mark in the blogsphere, with a strong contingent calling out marketers for making the mistake of treating all female bloggers as moms.

By recognizing a few simple truths and guidelines, marketers can better take advantage of the powerful consumer connection that bloggers provide.

All bloggers are not the same: The one-size-fits-all approach has not only failed to get female bloggers successfully engaged, it has brewed some heated online debates and caused one prominent faction, headed by Trisha Haas, administrator for the Momdot blog, to suggest a “PR blackout” of mommy blogger PR pitches in August. 

Not all females are moms. Not all moms write about being moms. And moms who write about cooking or fashion won’t blog about diaper samples.

The rules of engagement are still being drawn, but smart marketers need to approach bloggers according to their experience, focus and model. Bloggers are MBA holders, business leaders and smart stay-at-home moms. There are those accepting payment and running media as well as those just happy to voice their opinions and share them with readers who care.   

It’s no secret that bloggers can be some of the best brand advocates because they genuinely want to share their experiences and express their voices online. So how do you best reach them? In some cases it’s as simple as spending time on their blogs. If that fails, just ask.

As Kelcey from mamabirddiaries told SheSpeaks in a recent interview, “Building relationships is key. I respond to thoughtful, intelligent e-mails. Not generic e-mail blasts.”

Let bloggers have their say: Blogs are popular with readers because they address niche opinions and provide authentic commentary.  In 2008, they surpassed social media as a primary influence in consumers’ purchase decisions, according to a 2008 Jupiter Research study, “Harnessing the Power of Blogs.”

Enter your product and accompanying social media strategy. The best way to leverage a blogger is to empower her to write what makes sense about that product in her established style and tone to her established readers. 

This approach may seem too simple, but the more common practice of strictly adhering to carefully crafted and approved sell-sheet messaging is simply not appropriate for blogs.

Grechen Cohen of Grechen’s Closet told SheSpeaks: “I provide information to my readers based on my own very personal experience which is 100 percent biased.  [My readers] buy through my affiliates and advertisers because they know me, they trust me, and they are loyal to me. Period.”

It’s this connection to the consumer that makes blogs so powerful.

And what if a blogger writes something negative? That might not be a bad thing. One blogger’s gripe about a product may be many readers’ green light. Being a part of that exchange of comments signals a company is interested in opinion, and staying engaged in the dialog can lead to real consumer advocacy. We’ve seen firsthand how women consumers can be ignited by the chance to converse directly with a major brand.

Reach does not always equal influence: Most blogs can now provide details on traffic and participation, but the highest traffic blogs are not the only ones to focus on for an effective response. In some cases, blogs that get lower but consistent traffic and participation scores can be a more attractive place to run a campaign. These niche bloggers earn the readership of a closer group where trust, participation and a strong relationship deliver results. Devoted niche blog readers look forward to the next nugget revealed by the author and check back more frequently as the dialog unfolds. 

A post on a blog with 10,000 readers may yield only a small percentage of click-through, whereas a blog with a lower traffic of 2,000 achieves click-through and sales. The depth of dialog, even with lower traffic, can lead to a much higher response rate. In other words, there is value in the “long tail” of blogs.

Understand that blogs use media networks, blog rolls and SEO as tools to optimize their audience, but there is now a new factor skewing the numbers: Twitter. Bloggers leverage Twitter for self-promotion, producing hits that give attractively high traffic numbers. But be careful when assessing how many of those hits really convert to readers.

Female bloggers are women first: There’s a strong and natural desire for women to share their new finds, exclusive deals and valuable information, and blogs can be an enormous influence in a consumer’s purchase decisions. Harnessing this very human propensity to share through blogs can build powerful advocacy, but there are no shortcuts to effectively incorporating blogs into an integrated marketing plan or media strategy. The age-old tenets of research, targeting and knowing your audience are as applicable now as ever before.

Aliza Freud is founder and CEO of SheSpeaks. She can be reached at aliza@shespeaks.com.