I’ve been working online with communities for the past 6 and a half years, a time when message boards and Yahoo Groups (remember those?) were as social as it got. This was an era where blogs were the Wild Wild West and most folks weren’t too keen on the idea of companies talking to them. You had to be extremely selective as to which blogs might want to engage with your clients and which you’d want to align your client’s brand(s) with. Clearly the blogosphere has evolved since 2004 but while some things have changed, some have stayed exactly the same. Here are five tips for PR and ad n00bs and vets alike when selecting which blogs to work with.
Tip #1: Validate Their Traffic
One of the biggest questions I hear from clients is if traffic matters or not. It does, to an extent. Read on.
Web traffic for the sake of traffic is meaningless. This is why I don’t advocate always targeting a “top blogger” in any vertical. It makes zero sense to chase big numbers, just as shotgun marketing did — just ask our friend, the banner ad. It’s also pointless to peg the success of your campaign or outreach on numbers, as numbers per Alexa, Quantcast or even from the bloggers themselves can prove to be bullshit.
The best way to find out what a blogger offers your brand is to track their clicks. That’s right, make sure your pitch has a strong call to action and measure the actual traffic driven by the blogger. Shamable contributor Loren Feldman drives clicks. I know it because when he posts links to this site, re-tweets a post, etc. the traffic jumps and goes directly back to his Twitter account or blog. If you’re looking to track it a step further, consider using services like Meteor Solutions – they can also track the sharability of your site’s content.
Tip #2: Check Their Expertise
Another criteria I hold bloggers to are whether or not they’re actually knowledgeable in something or if they’re just giving anecdotal “expertise”. For example – I would never take medical advise from someone who’s not a nurse or doctor. Your audience deserves a professional, not someone with a lot of time on their hands. I know this isn’t shocking to those working in corporations, but promoting false product claims and off-label use of products by folks writing on your behalf is a liability. (Can you tell I’ve spent a few weeks of my life with Legal?)
Tip #3: Look At Their Reputation
This is a tough one to quantify but asking around should give you a few tips as to who’s great to work with and who’s a nightmare. And no, I don’t mean diva – it’s easy to get wrapped up in the fact that you have a few thousand readers and pull the “Don’t you know who I am?” card (see: George from Crocs). I mean someone who’s been known for stirring the pot or had a repeated history for doing, well, dumb stuff. One easy way to nix any blogger from a campaign is if they identify themselves and their friends as a “mafia”. Yes, stupidity happens often enough and no – some people never learn.
Tip #4: Content Quality
I hate to say it, but just because it’s easy to publish doesn’t mean everyone should. A quick perusal of blogs will show you what I’m talking about: the ability to string a coherent sentence or thought together is a rarity in the blogosphere. While some folks have a unique writing style and provide ridiculously entertaining content (like Brittany of Barefoot Foodie and Shauna Glenn), most don’t. In fact, you’ll find that those with a definitive style and depth to their writing actually – gasp – graduated college.
Tip #5: Brand Equity Alignment
You’ve worked hard to define what your brand stands for, whether it’s the brand’s identity, meaning, response or relationship. You should expect the same from your partners and blogger. Hooking up your brand with a lethal blogger can sabotage all of the great work you’ve done to build it – make sure you look into what it is the blogger’s offering, what they stand for and, going back to point #3, what their reputation is.
There you have it: 5 simple tips for selecting bloggers to work with. I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many amazing bloggers over the years that I’m happy to provide recommendations and leads. Simply contact me a dave at shamable dot com and I’ll hook you up!
PS: If you work at an advertising or PR firm please know that your turn is coming too. I’ll be publishing some helpful advice for brands to help them select firms to work with soon.