Today, we share and consume a lot of information in a digital format of some kind. Bloggers make up one of the most rapidly growing forums for breaking news, valuable market insights, pop culture and op-eds, and they're often the first to introduce us to trendsetting styles and unique brands.
Why is blogging so popular? Well, it’s an easy-to-read, genuine perspective, communicated in a style that is unique to the author -- generally, it’s colorful, opinionated and unfiltered. Most people now consider blog posts to be the closest thing to a personal recommendation, and since we assume that there is generally no ulterior motive for a blogger to write the piece, readers consider a blog post at face value.
Whether you are blogging on your own website, on behalf of your company, or cultivating a community of bloggers to share your story, you can't ignore the influential power of blogging. Blogs are a prominent way to increase brand awareness, generate brand engagement, and entice genuine interest from your target market. But before engaging bloggers in the growth of your brand, understand how the blogosphere operates:
- Know the difference between a journalist and a blogger. Research bloggers who share your interest or whose readers will resonate with your brand. Clearly identify the synergies between their online presence and your brand. Recognize that journalists can be bloggers, but that not all bloggers are journalists. Bloggers have the freedom to express themselves in a more authentic voice (though there's no fact-checking department), while journalists are usually required to follow the journalistic guidelines of their managing publication -- some of which include restrictions to their online and social media freedoms.
- Appreciate the value of the "blogger" title. Blogger endorsements are increasingly becoming known and respected for being more authentic and credible than celebrity endorsements because they lack the same degree of incentive. Both celebrities and bloggers can be tremendously valuable in helping brands gain traction and awareness, but bloggers are followed by their audience for their unique ability to tell stories and share information -- the closest thing to a personal recommendation from your dearest friend, albeit online. People buy, try and adopt what they know and trust, and bloggers have become that go-to resource for countless readers. Basically, blogging is a modern version of "word of mouth" marketing.
- Understand the required disclosures. Blogger reviews are valuable to brands because their audience tends to trust the information provided by the source -- otherwise, they wouldn't be reading the blog. Understanding the necessary disclosures that bloggers must make to their readers is important, and should be taken into consideration when determining the underlying purpose of the potential marketing opportunity and soliciting press from bloggers. FTC guidelines require bloggers to disclose if they've received compensation or complimentary goods or services in exchange for writing a blog post. I personally consider this a positive, as it adds to the integrity of the source that is sharing information about your brand, and helps to maintain transparency with your target market (which is a large reason behind why consumers connect with and stay loyal to brands).
- Participate in the conversations that bloggers ignite. Sometimes the most authentic information about a brand comes from comments and conversations on a blog. If you're testing a potential concept or product adaptation, the discussions that blogs initiate can turn into a valuable source: your new, virtual focus group. If you choose to use a blog for feedback and discussion, remember to actively engage in the thread of the comments and quickly turn those praises and critiques into better products or experiences for your target market.
- Be prepared to track results. Turn every blog post about your brand (whether you write it, or someone else does) into an opportunity to track the actions of the blogging community's audience. Whether your goal is to boost sales, increase brand awareness or share a story, make sure to create systems that allow you to have trackability around the purchase pattern, experience, online impressions, social media shares, user acquisitions or sales conversions for each blog post. Set your benchmarks, analyze your trends and work towards actively improving your brand's offering and experience for the sake of your bottom line.
Lauren Maillian Bias is a serial entrepreneur; she is the Founder and CEO of Luxury Market Branding, a strategic marketing and branding company, and is Founding Partner and Director of Operations for Gen Y Capital, an early stage venture firm. Prior to these ventures, Lauren created Sugarleaf Vineyards and served as Chief Operating Officer for the award-winning, nationally recognized brand.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.