Why Brands Need Bloggers

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Are big brands missing the most effective and low cost way of reaching consumers - blogging? Big grands boast major marketing budgets and ample staff, but the answer is a surprising ‘yes,’ that is, if their marketing plans don’t include the use of bloggers.

Bloggers are increasingly becoming a major part of marketing strategy for a variety of big brands. That’s because bloggers are getting results. In the burgeoning days of the blogosphere over a decade ago, bloggers were thought of only as “mommy bloggers” or stay at home moms who gave their opinions online as a hobby or as a way to get free products. That image has received a facelift in recent years boosted by these bloggers’ ability to drive sales with their candid and honest reviews, opinions, and digital cultures they have created around their blogs.  

Bloggers have gone from hobbyists to full business owners with employees, schedules, editorial calendars and deadlines. In short, bloggers mean business—in more ways than one.  

Social Media Examiner turned to the Technorati 2013 Digital Influence Report to show that “Consumers are turning to bogs when looking to make a purchase.” And where consumers are going, brands should be.

Bloggers have reached the big time
Some bloggers have built enviable audiences. Those audiences will read and relate to a blogger’s posts on a daily or weekly basis. Smart brands have begun using those bloggers to promote their products. Brands like Kraft, McDonalds and Disney use mom bloggers and Walmart launched its own community, Walmart Moms. Many other brands have similar programs in place in which they recruit bloggers to review their products in a blog post therefore leveraging those bloggers’ networks.

What they are learning is that audiences are buying.

According to an article in Tomorrows Trends, in 2012, BlogHer polled 37 million unique readers and found that 61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. The report further explained that 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs. That article went on to quote an EngageMoms report released in September 2012, which indicated that 92% of women that are active in social media say that they have made a purchase as a result of a social media recommendation, primarily via a blog.

Bloggers have consumer trust
The reason why consumers buy what they read about on a blog comes down to trust. Bloggers tend to cultivate small communities of followers, which are tight knit and loyal. Because the bloggers provide their honest opinions on brands and products, their followers trust their opinions. Further, because bloggers often reach out to their audiences on a social level, they build trust and strong relationships among those followers.  

Most big brands now have their own blogs and social media presence. Often they employ an in-house marketing person to blog and perform outreach to consumers. The difference is that audiences relate on another level with a blogger than they do with a brand blog. There is more of a social aspect, a person-to-person relationship and that’s where the trust is born.

According to a Yahoo Small Business article, in 2010, 18.3 million moms read blogs at least once a month. The article goes on further to say that 66% of moms believe word of mouth is credible and 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs.

Influence
Trust equals revenue, according to Exact Target blog, a Salesforce.com company. More specifically, that trust equals influence and bloggers have big time influence.

Though major brands may amass just as great, or even greater, audiences having an audience doesn’t mean a brand has influence over them. Bloggers can sway an audience to purchase a product or to avoid a certain brand based on their posts. A glowing review about a product from a trusted blogger can convince audiences to switch to that brand.

In fact, the Technorati report discussed by Social Media Examiner found that blogs are the third most influential digital resource (31%) behind retail sites (56%) and brand sites (34%).

An article on The Drum examined a campaign that Cheil launched for Samsung called ‘We Are David Bailey.’ The campaign involved enlisting he help of bloggers to crowdsource amateur photographers who shared the same name, then used the Samsung NX1000 camera to create a series of YouTube master classes. They achieved more than one million views and drove consideration of the brand by more than 600%, according to The Drum article, which quoted Cheil senior content manager Aresha Krishnan. Similarly Samsung’s ‘Over to You’ campaign was able to garner 500,000 YouTube views in seven weeks by inviting key millennial influencers to review products.

Just like it takes work for brands to connect with audiences, it also takes some strategic outreach efforts to gain the trust of bloggers. Brands wanting to enlist the help of bloggers in their marketing efforts need to build those relationships. Here are a few tips for enlisting the help of bloggers:

Target the right bloggers
It’s easy to get a list of influential bloggers and send out a blanket email asking them to review products. This can amount to a big waste of time. Instead, take some time to get to know the topics each blogger posts about and more specifically, who their audience is.

Reach out to the blogger personally
Most bloggers want to avoid being insincere to their audience and so if a brand comes across as simply wanting to exploit the blogger’s influence that blogger won’t want to promote that brand. Reach out to each blogger personally explaining exactly why that blogger is a good fit with the brand.

Be prepared to build a relationship with a blogger
Influential bloggers may get a lot of requests for product reviews and sometimes they are discriminate about which brands they choose to promote. If a blogger declines a request for a review ask them why. Sometimes they may have a strong reason why they don’t want to work with a brand, but other times they may just not see the relevance. Keep in touch and try again in the future or with a different product. After all it is about relationship building.