How to Engage with Bloggers to Grow Your Business

The blogosphere is HUGE. There are 227 million blogs on Tumblr and 75.8 million on WordPress (these are free blogging websites) and even more on Blogger and those using unique URLS. You can find a blog on every subject, from specific hobbies to general topics such as food or parenting. This huge blog world also means opportunities to help you grow your business! Let’s talk about why and how.

Why should you engage with bloggers?

  • From the aforementioned numbers, it’s a big network. You’re bound to find a subject that fits with your business.
  • Your potential audience is more likely to believe the recommendation coming from someone other than you. This is word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of sharing tips at the water cooler, it’s online.
  • Bloggers have influence through a loyal readership. Depending on the blog’s focus, a blog can have hundreds to millions of followers that engage with it.
  • Bloggers have social media influence. To increase readership and connect with their readers in on other platforms, bloggers also grow their social media presence.
  • Great bloggers are serious about their work. They work with honesty and integrity and they’re willing to work with brands that fit their blog.

What are the ideal results in engaging with bloggers?

  • Your ideal audience is educated about your brand and product.
  • Bloggers write blog and social media posts raving about your product and brand.
  • Increase awareness about your brand because your ideal customers saw a blogger’s post.
  • Increase ROI because your ideal customers who saw the bloggers’ posts bought in.
  • Increase customer loyalty because now actual customers return.
  • Increase awareness because actual customers write social media posts and give verbal recommendations to network.

[For more on what to expect from bloggers, see my truth about bloggers and blog content post on my lifestyle blog Fearless Captivations.]

What will it cost you?
It depends. For brands with physical products, it involves you gifting a product. (Think pieces of clothing for fashion bloggers, a meal for food bloggers, etc.) In some situations, bloggers are compensated.

Ok, so now that you’ve decided that the blogger network is the best way to increase your customer base, here’s how to utilize it.

1. Perfect your product.
Is your product in its best form possible? When a blogger sees/uses/enjoys your product, will his/her first action be to rave about it?

2. Figure out your engagement goals.
Who is your ideal customer?
What is your ideal outcome? This can include a specific number of blog and social media posts.
How will you continue the brand-blogger relationship?

3. Map out the logistics.
Will your event be online or in-person?
Why would bloggers want to participate?
What hashtag will you use to connect people on social media?
How will you measure success?

4. Create your list and send out invites.
What blogs do your ideal customer read?
Who are the bloggers?
What materials, info, graphics will you provide?

5. Engage in person or online.
Be friendly. Answer questions. Provide takeaways.

6. Follow up.
Send a thank you and feedback survey. Comment on blog and social media posts.

7. Collect data and debrief with your team.
Go back to what you decided you would use to measure success. Did you reach it?
What would you have done differently or will do differently in the future?

We’ve only skimmed the surface about bloggers and ways to go about engagement. There can be plenty more discussed. Have questions? Post a comment below or send me a message.

Introducing: Tough Love

In a discussion with my boss and co-worker, I educated them on the quarterlife crisis. They, being in generations older than me, were baffled that millennials – so lazy and entitled as we are – created a “crisis” to deal with not being able to find a job, being directionless, and taking our sweet time “figuring it out.” I talked about my struggles along the way of arriving where I am and that is how the idea of this blog feature came along.

I have had no professional training for giving you life and career advice. I’m starting this series because I’ve been there and am living life the best I can. My education on the subject comes from personal experience (days, weeks and months of living a crisis) and observation and reading many articles and books on how to make my life better. Figuring this stuff out isn’t a one-time fix. “Figuring it out” requires constant reminders to yourself about what you want to accomplish and what you want in life. There are days when what you want to be and do is as clear as crystal and other days, a few disappointments can lead you into an unsettling spiral of self-doubt. I know how it is!

It’s also called Tough Love because I will give it to you straight, no BS. Stop beating around the bush feeling sorry for yourself! Stop looking around being jealous of the things you don’t have because you haven’t put in the work to get those things. There are tough statements to hear, but through ‘Tough Love,’ I want to show and remind you how we – not only millenials – can improve our lives and adjust our thinking. I want to challenge you to do more and I want to plant seeds to inspire you to:
    • take charge of whatever crisis you’re in
    • ask yourself tough questions
    • explore what you feel, want and need
    • add something to this world, and
    • most importantly, be a better human
Welcome and put your seat belts on!

SXSW Recap: Millennials

One of my favorite sessions (speakers were dynamic and subject is always interesting) was Solving the Millennial Content Challenge with Jason Dorsey, Chief Strategy Officer of The Center For Generational Kinetics LLC, and Joseph Gagnon, SVP/GM/Cloud Solutions of Aspect Software. Both are experts in millennials research and strategies. Their presentation was specifically focused on U.S. millennials.

 
First, there were so many facts given about millennials. Here are some:

  • Millennials are those born in years 1977 through 1995. They are categorized in these years because they can process the 9/11 event.
  • By 2017, millennials will outspend baby boomers.
  • Millennials are the generation with the least established loyalty because for most big purchases, they haven’t had the opportunity to make a decision again. You can’t lose loyalty if you’ve never had it.
  • Millennials have the most diverse generation. They don’t see diversity until it’s absent.
  • Millennials are accomplishing societal “norms” (such as marriage) 3-5 years later than expected. By certain ages, they have different accumulated life experiences than previous generations.

What do Millennials want when it comes to content?

  • Millennials want valuable/useful, personalized, and authentic content.
  • Know me. Don’t put me in a box.
  • Make me smarter. What can you teach me?
  • Make it fit into my life. Deliver quickly digestible content. Think about how I consume it.
  • Help me discover. Give me the content but let me consume it as I want.

What do Millennials value?

  • Independence
  • Autonomy
  • Sense of belonging

How do you get to Millennials?

  • Millennials are not tech-savvy (that’s GenX), they are tech-dependent. They don’t know how it works but they don’t they can’t live without it. So, how simple can you make something so it just works?
  • Millennials are entirely visual learners. They’re conditioned to skip text and look for a play button, image, or bullet points.
  • Millennials prefer to communicate by text, email or social media because they think it’s faster.
  • Have an instant feedback loop, preferably by text.

Millennials is a popular subject. Do a search and you’ll find articles about how to reach them, why they are the way they are, myths and facts, and more. It’s because this generation will soon be making the big decisions and organizations want to be ready. You could go on and on about this subject!

 
What’s your favorite article about millennials? Any questions, comments, concerns about the subject?

SXSW Recap: Top Event Branding

SXSW Mophie Rescue
Today I’m over on my lifestyle blog, Fearless Captivations, recapping the top event branding features I saw at SXSW. I went into SXSWi with my marketing mindset and was enthused by the ways companies presented their brand to stand-out and create buzz.
Want to read my other SXSW Recap posts?

SXSW SouthBites Recap: Food Criticism Today

The second SXSW SouthBites session I went to was Food Criticism in the Digital Age with Alison Cook, restaurant critic at The Houston Chronicle; Helen Rosner, features editor at Eater; Jonathan Gold, food writer at the Los Angeles Times; and Moderator Evan Kleiman of Kcrw Good Food.The panel started out with the question: “In this age of Yelp, is everyone a critic or are we all just sharing our opinions?”
Gold mentions the phrase “glorious noise of specialists” to describe the online reviewers and bloggers that write about restaurants and food. The “noise” is just an amplified version of what was already there. It’s a new avenue to express opinions. Instead of snail mail, platforms were created to give consumers a different kind of voice and snail mail has become email.

Another big subject was food bloggers vs. food critics. The panel stated that their wealth of knowledge and context is different. Backed by the legacy of their publication, critics have a way of doing things that includes visiting the restaurant at least 2-3 times and going under a fake name. Critics put chefs, restaurants, and food movements into context. They know the know the cultural, socioeconomic, geopolitical, agricultural backgrounds behind the dishes they’re eating. As Gold described, he knows how the current weather conditions would have on a croissant and how it would look differently. The big difference is that critics pay for all their meals. Cook argued that when you’re given free food, you’ll post something nice with no critical content and there isn’t a value framework there.

Take a look at these statistics about online reviews from a recent study.

  • 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 57% of consumers will visit a local business website after reading a positive review
  • 85% of consumers say they read up to 10 reviews before they trust a business

Personally, I may analyze a number of things before I visit a restaurant. I read critic reviews, I look at their menu, and I scan Yelp reviews, though I tend to go with what’s new and “hot” and what’s recommended to me by close friends. I like to think that consumers are smart enough to figure out truth from slander and do their own research when they make decisions on where to eat. That said, I think there’s a place for food bloggers. As long as food bloggers are very honest about receiving complimentary tastings and about the content they publish. Sure, bloggers may post something nice but I don’t think they would – and I would truly hope they don’t – post or write something because they feel obligated after accepting a free meal. I think that’s an understanding among food bloggers.

Lastly, the panel discussed the effect that photos and photo-based apps like Instagram have on the future of food criticism. The consensus was that yes, photos are great but nothing can replace the written word. Even photos have captions! You can view a pretty photo but the words will describe the flavors, the movement and the creation.

What do you think? How do you see the role of food critics and food bloggers today?

SXSW Recap: Importance of Team

One common subject I heard in multiple SXSWi sessions was about how important the team was to the success of a company. Here are some of the quotes from different sessions:

We (social media) don’t stand apart from the newsroom. We’re part of it.
Michael Roston, Sr Staff Editor Social Media, The New York Times; Social Media: Breaking News or Fixing News?

Find people who want to be a part of the magic and see your vision.
Chris Wink, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Blue Man Group; Using Brands to Create Cultural Identity

I have a bigger goal than the food. It’s providing creative challenge and financial success for employees.
David Chang, Owner/Founder, Momofuku; The Future Role of Tech in Dining and Food

When you’re a medium start-up, it’s no longer all about you. You also have to think about users, employees, investors, media and competition. You deeply care about the interests of these people and try to align the interests.
Culture is more important than the product. The product is the product. Culture is the next hundred products.
Phil Libin, CEO, Evernote; Be Epic: The Art of Bold Decision Making

Family comes first. A great team translates to happier customers.
Success comes from the team and the idea.
Surround yourself with smart people.
Jessica Alba, Founder, and Brian Lee, CEO & Co-Founder, The Honest Company; Inc. Presents: The Honest Company

Diverse teams make better products. You have to create your team before a product.
Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer, US Office Of Science & Technology Policy; How Innovation Happens

It’s not a new idea that the team and company culture are what drive the success of a business. A quick search will give you numerous books, videos, and articles about the subject. Choose the right people; get their buy-in when it comes to company values, mission, etc; take care of your team. Treat your people well and they’ll treat your customers well, which brings your company success. I think this is why so many companies are going the way of Google and Facebook – flexible hours and vacation, free food, reasonable if not more compensation – when it comes to providing for employees and creating a company culture.

SXSW SouthBites Recap: Technology in Dining

momofuku
This was the second year for the SXSW SouthBites program, which connects food artisans, the food industry and technology. Basically, it’s to talk about the culinary industry! One of the sessions I went to was The Future Role of Tech in Dining and Food with David Chang, the owner and founder of Momofuku and Matt Buchanan, the editor of The Awl.

David Chang started his session out with a bang, claiming the Internet is what killed food and that chefs are losing their individuality. Ideas, restaurant reviews, and recipes are shared widely on the Internet, changing the way we think about food, experience restaurants and judge our experiences. I can definitely see what Chang means by this. Before I step into a restaurant, I know how cool the restaurant is supposed to look, what dishes I’m supposed to order, and how many stars my peers are giving it. I have increased expectations. I’ve lost some of the spark in the experience. We may have had this naturally by word of mouth, but the Internet has expanded it. Chefs are copying each other based on what’s hot. (Remember the cronut craze?!) I think the Internet is great for getting new ideas and expanding on those ideas. Whether or not it’s affecting chef creativity? I can see how that could be but I don’t have enough knowledge to be sure. What do you think?

In discussing how tech can help restaurants and the dining experience, Chang asked: how can restaurants collect data better (i.e. have their own data instead of using a third party like OpenTable) and how can tech make waiting in line disappear (referencing Franklin BBQ, its consistent line and how amazing it is). Great ideas and I have a feeling tech in the culinary industry will grow to make culinary experiences better and operations easier.

I didn’t know anything about David Chang before this panel but I’ve enjoyed treats from Momofuku Milk Bar. Throughout this panel, I felt he was very genuine, honest, team-focused and forward-thinking. He knows what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, although to him, it looks like he’s figuring it out as he goes. He said he got into the business to cook and that it wasn’t about the money. That’s why he’s opening a small fast food fried chicken restaurant soon. Because he likes fried chicken! He also said that some restaurants, like Franklin BBQ, are better because they care. They’re meticulous about the process and the product. And lastly, he’s humble in saying that he’s made a lot of mistakes along the way and it’s a bummer the Internet is changing how we do things. It’s taking away much of the trial and error. I’ll leave you with this inspiration from Chang: “Out of the ashes, something awesome could happen.”

SXSW Recap: Brands & Cultural Identity

I was excited to attend SXSWi through work and have had so many reflections and thoughts on the ideas I heard in keynotes and panels. I’ll be sharing what I learned at SXSWi, focusing on specific themes, over the next couple of weeks. To begin the recapping, I’d like to share the key things I took away from the session ‘Using Brands to Create Cultural Identity,’ which was led by Chris Wink, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer of The Blue Man Group, and Jarret Myer, GM at Woven & CEO of UPROXX.

What is branding?
It’s the combination of employee buy-in, the product, the marketing, and the performance of the company over time.
Your product must live up to the vision. Find others who understand your vision and are willing to work with you to bring it to life. Find pieces of evidence of progress and share them. Take your journey seriously because eventually others will too. Make sure everything is authentic.

Success is stretched between audacity and humility.
Audacity: “I want to be the best.” Humility: “I will work hard to be the best.” You have to have both to succeed. Success, creating a brand doesn’t happen without hard work. This quote by Martha Graham was mentioned:
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others”

Give people stories so that they can create their own persona.
People like being a part of something, like the audacity of The Ramones starting a revolution. Help people see themselves and what they could become in your vision.

Remember your why.
They reminded me of this great TED talk about how great leaders inspire action. Check it out:

Stand-Out Swag at SXSW 2014

Having been on a SXSW street team and designed swag pieces for clients in the past, I’m interested and analytical in the swag companies hand out during conferences.

I didn’t pick up much this year but I’m enjoying two pieces I received: sunglasses and a car phone charger, both picked up at the Samsung House.

samsung

Branded sunglasses are a common swag piece but as someone who wears these freebies instead of designer sunglasses, it works for me. The ones from Samsung are unique, as you can see from the photo, which draws me to them for my collection, but I would probably wear these less often.

The other piece, the car phone charger is something I’ve been wanting and needing for months. I’ve already used it multiple times and it’s always with me. Branded and most importantly, useful.

Other pieces I saw:

  • T-shirts: I recently donated a huge bag of branded shirts I never wear to Goodwill, so I stayed away from collecting shirts. There are always takers for free shirts though.
  • Re-usable bags: These are great for Austinites because of the no plastic bag law. The re-usable bags are especially great giveaways when they have a bbq sandwich inside, as Lithium found out from giving them away from a roaming bus.

As I waited in line on a rainy Saturday, I wondered if any brands were handing out branded umbrellas or ponchos. It would have been a one-time use item unless it made it back home, but it would have helped many getting drenched.

What standout swag did you pick up at SXSW this year? What would you recommend to companies in the future?