To some Brands and agencies, blogging seems to be a new, novel way to reach an audience. While others consider it is very serious business using programs like Radian6 to really investigate who are the influencers in their target audience, in most cases Brands have yet to really dig in and gain a full understanding of blogging.
TV, Radio, Billboards, Magazine Ads and in-store displays all seem to have years and years of research, understanding and process optimization behind them. And because of that Brands spends millions every year on untrackable “impressions” from which they have created reports and graphs that make bosses proud. But in today’s environment everything about mass media, from Aribtron ratings to “banner ad” clicks, screams “wasted money”. But agencies and marketing staff have learned how to spin success out of these data sets for the ones paying the bills.
Conversely, while Brands are paying millions for “impressions”, Direct Response Marketers, like infomercial producers, track every dollar spent against every dollar made. Well put together campaigns track everything from the day an infomercial is first aired all the way to the 100th email the end buyer receives, opens and clicks. And with that knowledge they can build mini-empires of buyers without ever really engaging them. Most direct response marketers will tell you that the house of cards begins to crumble the day they stop paying for ads.
In walk Bloggers
In between these two lies a new landscape: bloggers. Bloggers have the ability to create impressions, track results, produce sales, create lists and most importantly influence decisions in the deepest way. . . through trust. Like billboards with impressions and direct response marketers with tracking, bloggers have the ability to produce precise results that are measurable, repeatable and sound.
Since most consumers make purchases similar to their friends’, family and trusted sources’, the years and years of community building that bloggers have performed are extremely valuable. A good blog is a result of many hours of research, photographs, engagement, writing and sacrifice. And the love bloggers get from their audiences is unmatched by billboards, infomercials and magazine ads.
But for some reason most Brands still don’t understand blogging enough to put their marketing department muscle behind it. Instead of digging their teeth into it, like most agencies have done for the other marketing mediums, they offer bloggers a free product sample “hoping” that will work. Others go even further offering $125 for a post but then demanding random, ridiculous things like special headlines and extra tags – sabotaging their own success. And they rarely see the value the blogger brings to the table by creating long term relationships.
Unlike Direct Response Marketers and Brands, a bloggers’ audience is coming back tomorrow because they want to. They want to be influenced. They want to read new suggestions. They love what the blogger is saying. It is for this reason that brands want to engage bloggers, but they quickly forget once the relationship is penned.
Ignorance is no Excuse
If only they would start by using what they already know about marketing. McDonald’s doesn’t buy billboards 50 miles from their nearest location. And nobody asks sports commentators to casually mention the newest mop. Brands need to bring this same business acumen to bloggers. Asking a blogger whose readers look for daily inspiration posts to write about the newest frozen pizza treat begins to tear down what the blogger built AND comes off as a total intrusion to the reader.
And Brands like to base some of their decision making on Page Rank. Page Rank is an index indicating how many incoming links a site has on the net. It doesn’t measure influence. Dictionary.com has a Page Rank of 7 but when was the last time you heard someone mention what “Dictionary.com’ is recommending? While blogging is a science, there is a human side too. Brands can’t use “highway traffic counts” for blogs the same as they do for billboards, because Bloggers aren’t in the business of drive-by influence. They’re in the business of human engagement.
Most marketers have learned the 4 P’s of Marketing (Product, Place, Promotion and Price) and the rule that it takes 7 impressions to make a sale. But most Brands aren’t set-up to create 7 week campaigns with bloggers or even banner retargeting campaigns based on sponsored posts. Many times they’re not even interested in putting a corresponding ad in the sidebar. In many ways it seems traditional marketing rules get thrown out when working within the blogging sphere.
Don’t forget Michael Jordan
Finally, Michael Jordan. While he was on top of his game the Chicago Bulls paid him unbelievable money to bounce the ball and throw it into an orange metal hoop. But they didn’t pay him because he was good. They paid him because he started bouncing a ball when he was 9 years old and continued to do so thousands and thousands of times perfecting every move. The Bulls paid Michael Jordan because of what his years and years of effort resulted in. He didn’t make game winning shots because he showed up that day, he made them because he’d practiced them thousands of times before.
It is no different for bloggers. They toil day in and day out for their audiences. Today there are bloggers working hard for their audiences on behalf of brands they don’t even know exist yet. And for that Brands need to step up, get serious and form real relationships with quality bloggers. Pay them for what they do. Not for the impressions that you’re getting on that blog post today, but for the years of trust they have built with their audience. It is the silly posts, the human posts and the engagement that make the blogger’s audience LOVE that Sponsored Post the moment it gets published. Bloggers writing from their heart with their audience in mind are working are building something special Brands will someday use.
That should not be ignored.
The question is. . . when will the Brands figure that out?