It’s no secret that the modern consumer enters the digital and purchasing realm blind to ads and self-promotional companies. As we notice a lack of billboards and a continuous decrease in the effectiveness of outbound tactics, the professions that bleed even slightly into the marketing realm have done a great job of keeping up. This is achieved through SEO tactics, content marketing, digitalized PR, and most of all—utilizing the power of a word of mouth recommendation.
No one wants to hear about a brand from the brand itself. Though consumers are dying for information about your brand, they are seeing it through word of mouth recommendations from a third-party that they trust. Whether it’s their family members, an online review, a tweet or a blog post—consumers are scouring both the digital and non-digital world to learn about your brand.
Thus, in the past few years, we’ve seen a huge influx of brands working with “real people” for “real information” and reviews of their brand. Remember just a decade ago when companies could hire a celebrity to endorse a brand? Things have certainly changed. And for the best.
One of the strongest strategies in any segment of marketing is to reach out to a handful of people who will write or speak about a brand or campaign to their large networks. In the past few years, bloggers, social media users, and other types of digital creatives have inserted themselves between your brand and all of your consumers as a middle man, so to speak.
The past few years have shown a flurry of reaching out to individual people to spread the word about your brand. And it’s been called many names: Blogger outreach, onfluencer marketing, word of mouth marketing. The gist is all the same. A third-party says cool things about you to their network who trusts them.
But, since marketing and SEO and PR are all very progressive in nature, this solid trend of reaching out to a third-party is slowly morphing into something different. We’re starting to see campaigns target a tribe or a group of influencers at one time instead of individual bloggers or social media users. And this trend, I believe, is about to dominate influencer marketing for larger brands and campaigns with a budget.
Targeting Blogger Networks
As blogger databases have been a popular and effective tool to reach influential bloggers, this tactic remains strong and a lot of the kinks have been ironed out. Just google around for articles about blogger outreach, there are tons that can walk you through this process. You know what that means? It’s time for a change. It’s time to take this tactic a little further and maximize the way we work with bloggers. Thus, the growing popularity of the amount of blogger networks out there and the number of marketers using them.
You can google around for a blogger network in any niche. This tactic is generally customizable depending on how large the campaign is or how many bloggers you work with. This allows you to test the waters in terms of whether or not it’s a tactic you want to use on an ongoing basis. In fact, there are so many networks that if you choose to take this approach you won’t have any trouble finding one that fits well with your brand.
When you work with a blogger network, it’s usually up to you as far as which type of tactic you choose. You can choose to use banner ads, produce review posts, sponsored posts or product giveaways.
The fact that networks tend to be focused on granular topics and very specific genres has made them successful. When using a good network, you’re not blindly working with bloggers who have a far reach and want to take your post payment, you’re working with bloggers who’ve proven themselves reliable and fit in well with the target audience that you’re looking for your campaign. After all, the gist of what you’re trying to do is find that handful of influential writers who will talk to their huge networks.
Here are examples of blogger networks that you may come across for your campaigns (But remember, there are several):
BlogHer dominates the world of women bloggers and has a big focus on fashion, parenting, food and lifestyle bloggers and claims a reach of 92 million people—primarily women. Not to mention BlogHer has done a great job with their research and content marketing strategies positioning themselves as an authority on working with bloggers. Check out this research they did which has been quoted in a plethora of posts about blogger outreach. Most notably:
- 81% of the online U.S. population trusts the information and advice they get from bloggers.
- 61% of the U.S. online population has made a purchase based on a recommendation from bloggers.
- 41% of the U.S. online population says that blogs are better than Facebook to find out about new products.
Through content and ads, Federated Media has many plans for marketers to work with many publishers in one campaign. They’ve worked with big brands such as Ford, Smart Water, Kraft, and Levis.
City Mom Blogs Network
If you want to work with parenting bloggers or “mommy bloggers”, there are tons of mom blogger networks out there so I won’t list these. However, to find mom bloggers for a localized campaign, City Mom Blogs Network seems to be the “go-to” network.
I’m putting Triberr outside of the blogger network category because they are doing marketing and outreach in a new and innovative way, and I think they are a tactic and company to watch closely. Not to mention they include all other social channels and they really stick to the “tribe” type concept. Triberr is rather new and if you look for reviews and opinions on its effectiveness, you will see a variety of opinions.
However, they’ve run some successful campaigns with some big brands. TOM’s Shoes and Cottonelle are the most widely written about and both brands saw successful results with Triberr’s approach.
There are two ways to utilize this platform. If you are actively blogging for your brand on topics that surround it, you can join a tribe where you and your tribe members share each other’s blog posts on social channels. This is an easy way to get your marketing posts to reach further and appeal to more people.
The other way is to pay for an influencer marketing campaign through Triberr. Don’t worry I’m about to dive into a rundown and best practices covering each way of approaching Triberr.
Join a Tribe
Joining a tribe in Triberr is relatively simple. You first will need to join Triberr’s platform—for free—and then you will connect your social accounts. After that, you will be able to search for tribes in your brand’s niche and join. Right away you will start sharing their content and they will share yours.
There are a few things to keep in mind, or, Triberr etiquette if you will:
- Don’t only post self-promotional material. Rather a post that links to your brand in a subtle way.
- All content should show thought leadership as opposed to “filler content.”
- Share a lot of other people’s posts.
- When you share their posts, take the time to read them. And comment on them. Be an active tribe member!
Run a Campaign with Triberr
The most successful way to use Triberr and make a “bang” on the Internet for your brand is to run a campaign using their influence marketing platform.
The best thing about Triberr is that campaigns with influencers suddenly become scalable, smooth to run, and easy to organize. In fact, one person can run a few campaigns at once. There are also helpful features within the Triberr platform that allow a campaign manager to track and analyze the effectiveness of the campaign.
When you run a campaign with Triberr, a group or tribe of bloggers will be recruited to write about your brand, your message, your new product or whatever it is that you wish to promote. Campaigns usually run from 20 to 100 bloggers who spread messages about your brand to their networks.
Triberr is unique in the fact that since these bloggers are part of tribes, their posts tend to be shared more than a post written by a blogger who is not a member of Triberr.
Pros of Working with Blogger Networks
Anyone who has ever done blogger outreach in the past knows that the most time-consuming part is finding blogs who are a niche fit with your brand or campaign. Once a list of bloggers is finally compiled, finding the bloggers’ contact information, their reach and often even their social media profiles is a whole other chore.
Next, you email them and many don’t even write back. On average, locating, researching, and reaching out to 100 bloggers on any given topic is about a weeks’ worth of work. Hence, the influx of blogger networks and the brands using them. These campaigns cut out all of the research and contacting of the bloggers. They cost more but many argue that working with a network is worth the money in time saved. Not to mention the fact that these campaigns are easy to scale. You hire the network to organize the posts and contact all of their bloggers. Generally the network reports back a schedule and links to the posts.
Most networks work with blogs with a far reach. Most networks (the bigger ones, anyway) vet the bloggers before working with them. They check out a blogger’s traffic data and content to make sure they are a good fit. With that said, if they partner up with a blogger who performs poorly or doesn’t post on time, these bloggers often are removed from their contact list. This means you’re usually put in front of some pretty reliable and influential bloggers.
In order to make sure the bloggers are authentically representing a brand, the network requires bloggers to sign up for opportunities or brands they actually like and want to review or write about. I’d suggest always going with these types of networks so that you only gather sincere posts.
When working within a network, brands have a little more freedom to require exactly what they want from the blogger as opposed to traditional outreach. For example, someone may run a campaign and require the blogger to write a product review, tweet about the brand using a specific hashtag, pin on the brand’s Pinterest board and write a Facebook post.
Determining ROI for Outreach Campaigns
Determining ROI for your outreach campaign is just as crucial as choosing the right network or tactic to take. Traditionally to come up with this number at the end of a campaign, marketers figure out total spending they gave the campaign and subtract this total from how much the campaign made.
Well… It sounds simple but it is actually a lot more complicated than that. First of all, how do you attach a value to things like brand awareness or a post impression? Typically, a brand or agency comes up with an estimated value for their metrics so that they can plug-in numbers to determine just how well a campaign did once it’s run its course. These are all brand specific of course. The following are all things to consider when determining ROI:
Set goals right away
As I just emphasized, setting goals and pre-campaign organization needs to take place. Before you start reaching out to bloggers and contacting networks, decide what you want to accomplish with this campaign. Attach values to these goals when they are accomplished.
Usually there are multiple goals and soft and hard metrics to track. For example, a soft metric may be something that is a bonus from the campaign such as a social share of a post. Social sharing is not a bad thing, of course, but other than brief brand awareness this type of metric—soft—isn’t the most efficient and “trackable” way to move your brand forward.
Hard metrics are where your focus should be, as these are goals and results that actually move your brand forward. Things like a noticeable or documented increase in online sales or how many people fill out a lead capture form. Even social following is often considered more of a hard metric than a social share because these people are showing an interest in the brand.
What defines a successful post
Based on the soft and hard metrics that you set for your campaign, you will have different criteria that defines a successful post versus a non-successful post. Having these targets in place allows you to determine two things: First, whether or not you want to work with specific bloggers again. Second, whether or not you want to work with one network over another again. Track, track, track and your future campaign-self will thank you when the time comes to repeat this whole process again.
One of the easiest metrics to track is whether or not someone read a blogger’s post and then went to your site and purchased something. This works great for fashion and other smaller online retail type of purchases. But when consumers make a larger purchase, often they won’t make it right after reading a blog post. Also keep in mind that the average consumer visits your site at least twice before making a large purchase — making it very difficult to track.
Traffic to your site from a post is one of the easiest things to track using your handy and free Google Analytics. But many marketers consider this a soft metric because site traffic means interest but doesn’t always translate into sales.
A popular way to track the success of a post or campaign is to look at the number of impressions a post got. This is the number of people who read the post, as well as the content’s number of shares. Many networks install cookies or widgets on to the blogs they work with so they can report an exact number back to clients.
This is a metric used when the network doesn’t gather the actual number of impressions. It’s usually based on a combination of blog traffic on a monthly basis and social media shares, and is a rough estimate of the number of people who may have seen your post.
Social following increase
Many brands track how many new social followers they gathered from a blog post or during the duration of an outreach campaign. This is more effective than a social share because you can keep dripping social media posts and messaging to these people and they are showing a like for your brand as opposed to simply the content that the blogger wrote.
One of the best benefits derived from running a blogger outreach campaign is brand awareness. However, this component is virtually impossible to track. Things like site traffic and social following increases can give marketers a clue to whether or not a goal of brand awareness is being accomplished. Not to mention impressions show how many people became aware of your brand after reading a blog outreach.
Promoting something new
One of the most common use cases for a blogger outreach campaign is to promote a new product or service. This is usually done in the form of product reviews and product sales, and generally tracked using lead capture forms.
More and more brands are seeing the effectiveness of working with bloggers to re-image their brand. Check out this blogger’s review of Red Lobster’s campaign to re-image themselves. The most popular tactic to clean up an image or change it is to host a blogger event and have the bloggers actually review the brand for themselves. In the case of Red Lobster, they invited bloggers to dine in their restaurants all over the country and write about their experience. Points of emphasis were that Red Lobster is doing things to separate themselves from their traditional seafood image and have incorporated things like a gluten-free and vegetarian menu options.
Spreading epic content
Often brands will run a blogger outreach campaign to spread a piece of epic content that appeals to their target audience such as infographic, white paper, or e-book. This is pretty easy to track especially when the content is accompanied with a download form.
Since putting oneself in a position of thought leadership is a huge marketing tactic for a brand, brands often work with bloggers to help make them an authority on a given topic that appeals to their target audience. Post tactics include guest posting on a topic to show thought leadership or to sponsor a post in which the blogger shares a resource from the brand.
Unfortunately there is no industry standard to compensate bloggers. However, when working with a network or Triberr, they will give you a fixed cost for a campaign. It tends to be pricier than doing blogger outreach yourself, but tends to be worth the cost in time saved. Always keep in mind that the more reach a blogger have, the higher the chance that brand is put forward to a large network.
Talk to Bloggers about Their Connections
An interesting thing about bloggers is that they network and play nicely with other bloggers who write in their realm. Blogging isn’t as competitive as it is collaborative. They are often promoting each other’s content and posting on each other’s site.
With that said, when a blogger is happy with working with you and your brand, ask them to give you contact information for other bloggers they know that will be happy to work with you. This way, one strong relationship can lead to many more strong relationships. All you have to do is ask.
And Now, the Cons
Like I mentioned before, this tactic is extremely effective and a lot less time-consuming than researching and finding influential bloggers and tweeters on an individual level. However, this tactic is for a campaign or a brand with a decent budget. For smaller campaigns and brands without much of a marketing budget, reaching out to third parties on an individual level will still be the most effective tactic.
This trend of reaching out to tribes is in no way replacing traditional blogger outreach and influencer marketing. But this is something else that marketers can add to their bag of tricks when it comes to promoting a new product, service or increasing brand awareness.
In fact, nothing should ever be discussed without including the cons, right? Gotta keep that constant balance in our marketing….so, while working with large groups of influencers can be super scalable, less time-consuming and pretty darn convenient, there is one thing that marketers have to let go of to take part in this strategy—the value of a long-term and real relationship with influencers.
This tactic of working with a large network of bloggers at once is great and we’ll see it a lot more. There is just no way to use this and still manage long-term and ongoing blogger relationships—you know, the kind that lead to advocacy. So, my suggestion and what I think we’ll see a lot of this year, is to use both tactics hand-in-hand. Don’t take finding and working with bloggers on a personal and ongoing basis out of your strategy. Use both, because theses methods have been showing some pretty good results when it comes to achieving authentic and scalable word of mouth recommendations for brands.
What are your thoughts on the tribe, group, or network of influencers marketing strategy? Please share your opinion in the comments!
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Image #4: Vladimir Menkov on Wikimedia
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