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Eliza Steely

Best Practices: How Your Brand Can Work With Bloggers #NMX

By Eliza Steely     BlogWorld NMX, Marketing PR Conferences, Online Marketing

salinas and downs #nmxTraditional advertising is expensive, and sometimes not effective for your brand. Some have found podcasts to be incredibly lucrative, while others have found that promoting their message through blog posts works best.

The latter is becoming increasingly popular. Engaging bloggers has relatively low cost (compared to other forms of promotion), a high return on investment, and gives readers a sense of honesty and transparency that they wouldn’t necessary feel from brand-generated content.

But finding a blogger who can speak to your audience and appeal to the customers you want can be extremely difficult. Tara Salinas and Bill Downs have figured out how to make it much easier through their blogging program for Global Resort Homes. Their NMX session reviewed how they were able to find the right bloggers for their brand.

Find a Loyal Audience
For Salinas and Downs, finding bloggers to write about their experiences in their vacation homes was important. They wanted someone who would make decisions, drive conversations, have a loyal following, and be interested in the topic of travel. For them, that audience was women — and more often than not, moms.

Takeaway: Find those who are talking about your topic and engage enough with their audiences that they have an emotional connection and a loyal following. Sometimes you might have to hunt for them, but the work will pay off.

Develop a Blogger Criteria
Let’s face it, everyone wants free accommodations on their vacation. As a result, Salinas and Downs are flooded with pitches. So how do they decide who to include in their blogger program? They use a criteria. They evaluate things like:

  • Are they a good fit? Do they talk about what you talk about?
  • How is their interaction rate? Do they engage a lot, or only every once in a while?
  • What are their numbers? Do they have 10 followers or 10,000? Do they post once a day, or 17 times a day?

Takeaway: Evaluate how potential bloggers are performing before you invite them to write for you. Have standards and minimums set to ensure you’re getting the highest quality and the most exposure.

Communicate Expectations
Salinas and Downs found it extremely important to communicate expectations in their blogger program. They identified not only what is expected of the bloggers, but what they can expect from Global Resort Homes. They found that this makes things go a lot smoother, and can help both parties feel invested and compelled to promote the content.

Takeaway: Be clear about what you want the bloggers to do. Do you want them to post pictures on Instagram? Will they be participating in a video? Would you like them to comment on Google+? Don’t forget to think of all the little things that can help promote your message. But don’t be selfish—explain what you’re doing for them. Whether it’s promotions or exceptional service, make sure they know what they’re getting!

Have a Back-Up Plan
Sometimes, even after all of the screening and expectation-setting and commitment, a blogger will fail you. They will back out, or fall short of your expectations. So what do you do? Salinas and Downs just roll with it. They (obviously) don’t invite that person back.

Takeaway: Know that there is a possibility of falling short on expectations. Have a backup plan for content just in case, and make sure you’re committed to your screening process to minimize the amount of failures you encounter.

Hold Blogger Events
A big part of Salinas and Downs’ blogger program is what they call blogger events. They invite bloggers to stay in their vacation homes and write about their experiences. It’s a great way to get your name out there on social networks. Bloggers then tend to live tweet and live promote your company for days.

However, these events are big time and commitment expenses. Salinas and Downs couldn’t stress enough that the pre-planning stage is critical. Knowing what you want, having a schedule (that’s flexible of course), and knowing if you can complete it in house is essential. If your end result is a video, do you have the equipment you need, the talent, and the ability to edit? If not, you might have to outsource.

Even though they’re lots of work, blogger events generate a lot of content — more than you’ll need right off the bat. But it’s great to re-purpose and consistently promote your message.

Takeaway: Think of how you can invite bloggers to experience your product or service. How can you create an event around those experiences? Would a video, an infographic or an eBook the best way to wrap-up and/or promote the event? Make sure you’re creative, and go above and beyond to create the best experience possible (which, by the way, you should be doing for all of your guests/customers).

Deal with Negativity
Not everything will be perfect, and you’ll run into negative feedback. If a blogger has a less-than-perfect experience, Salinas and Downs encourage them to be honest and transparent. It’s much more valid than if they lie and say everything’s great. Plus, it gives the blogger an opportunity to say how you fixed their problem. It’s another place for you to demonstrate your awesome customer service.

Takeaway: Be a problem solver. Don’t shy away from being honest. Admit that things aren’t perfect, but they are fixable. It will make you appear open, honest, and realistic—not something that’s too good to be true.

Don’t Stop After the Event End
Salinas and Downs put on a video shoot with each of their bloggers. As a result, they generate a lot of content that they don’t necessarily use right away. So, they then catalog it to use later. They also monitor links to their bloggers’ posts (which are hosted on a different site) to ensure they remain functional.

They also encourage bloggers to support and promote new content via their Facebook Group. Whenever they have specials, many of their bloggers would promote those specials within the posts they wrote about the venue. It’s a great way to leverage the bloggers even after they leave.

Takeaway: Think about the “what’s next”. Have a plan for re-purposing content, continue to engage bloggers after they leave, and maintain current content.

Once you have started to engage bloggers in your brand, you can then take it up a notch. Continually raise the bar on the caliber of bloggers you invite to try or experience your brand/product, and try experimenting with new things—like videos, or infographics, contests or more blogs.

Engaging bloggers is a great way to promote your message and build trust with your audience. It gives customers a new way to interact with your products and services, helps you reach a broader audience, and can generate more content than you know what to do with.

How could you engage bloggers with your brand?


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