So you’ve got a new campaign, offer or exciting story to tell, but a limited budget to do so. How are you going to get it out there? ‘Bloggers!’ you say, enthusiastically.
Good idea. But before you jump into an @tweeting frenzy, consider this. The practice of reaching out to bloggers and online influencers to share company news is more widely used than ever before. The average blogger can get anywhere from 20 – 200 emails a day!
Standing out from the clutter is what every good marketer should be aiming to do. But more than that, you should look to the long-term and realize that behind every Twitter account and blog is a person with their own goals and interests. You need to get to know them long before the actual pitch. Sound like a lot of work? It is, and it isn’t. By making blogger outreach part of your overall strategy and starting out with the right approach, you’ll actually save yourself a lot of time in the long run.
Here are five tried and tested methods that we practice regularly at Our Social Times.
1. Build your lists – Make them last.
At Our Social Times, we work with a wide range of professional bloggers, including the super-human ‘mommy’ or ‘mum’ bloggers, the technology – not to be confused with IT – crowd, celebrity and entertainment bloggers, sports and crowdfunding networks, even food safety bloggers! And we have separate lists for each. What’s more, we include all kinds of extra details (beyond name, blog, and contact details) such as their interests, subjects covered, size/reach and any past communications and successes we’ve had. We do this for two reasons:
The first, that if a team member should ever move on from OST (gasp!) we retain that invaluable list, as well as a documented history of our relationship with the blogger. No starting from scratch. Second, and more important, is that for immediate tasks at hand, blogger outreach becomes a much faster, more enjoyable part of your process. With built-out lists, you can access the applicable list as needed, and after a quick scan, you can identify the individual bloggers that will be perfect for the news in question. With a detailed list, you can expertly target your message, increasing the likelihood of a response.
In addition to building a list, you should also start following them on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, and any other social networks you deem appropriate. With handy features like Twitter lists and Google+ circles, you can actually replicate your documented list for easy access. Get into the habit of checking those lists regularly, retweet, share or even reply to something from their feed once in a while. This way, they get used to seeing your name/brand and will be more likely to recognize it and see you as a friend (as opposed to a stranger) and someone who is interested in them for more than their klout.
2. Craft your message – Imagine you’re face-to-face.
With bloggers one size does not fit all. The more you personalise your message, the more likely you are to get a response (noticing a trend here?) You may want to start with a compliment about their blog or an interesting piece you read of theirs, or maybe respond to a tweet sharing your own funny anecdote. With email, I like to imagine I’m meeting them on the street; what would I say? Would I stand in front of them and just launch into a pitch? (Scary!) Or would I take a more relaxed approach, chat over the weather, compliment their new haircut, etc, before getting to the matter at hand.
Whatever you choose to start with, keep it short and try to tie it in with the reason you are writing, so that it flows effortlessly. On Twitter, start with a comment/question not directly to do with your pitch, and go from there.
3. Come up with a cracking subject line – Or the rest doesn’t matter.
This one is relevant for email marketing, LinkedIn messages, or any communication where they have to click to read further. Over decades of answering emails we’ve learned that they are long, time consuming and usually involve doing work. And yet, the majority of us still use email, because for those emails we want (or have) to open, it’s still an efficient method of communication. However, what this means for marketers trying to get the attention of bloggers is that I am far less likely to open one if a) I don’t recognize the name and/or b) The subject line is irrelevant, boring or confusing. And as I mentioned above, your carefully crafted message will go to waste if you don’t convince them in the first 1-2 seconds you have.
Like crafted messages, there is no perfect method for subject lines, but there are some sure-fire things to avoid, such as spam-catching terms ‘free,’ ‘buy now,’ ‘50% off,’ and exclamation marks!! You can find more by searching for ‘words blocked by email spam blockers.’
Consider your blogger and ask yourself, what aspect of this piece would make them want to open this email? Use a punchy phrase that sounds exciting. For example, ‘Cutting edge mobile technology to control your home heating’ or ‘Eight powerful ways to double your income’ or my favourite, ‘5 ways to get bloggers talking about your next campaign.’
If time is not a factor, try running a few A/B tests with different subject lines and see what gets the best response. Whatever you chose to lead with, make sure it’s clear what they’ll be opening (don’t mislead them) and make sure your crafted message stands up to the allure of the enticement.
4. Be sure to follow-up – Don’t take initial silence as a sign of rejection.
In our experience, nine out of ten times, you won’t hear back from your first email. Twitter is a little bit better on that front, but it’s a different tool with a different process as we’ve discussed. Don’t take an empty inbox as a sign of rejection, initially. Many bloggers actually state on their blogs that if they don’t respond, to send a reminder, as they are very busy people, especially those mums!
In your follow-up email or message, be short and to-the-point, even more so than in your original. Remind them of why you’re writing and provide one more ultra-enticing reminder of why they should ____ (insert action). Also consider offering a remuneration if that’s an option available to you. For many bloggers, this is their main source of income and even a small offer goes a long way.
5. Stay in touch long after – Continue to build the relationship
I don’t know many campaigns where the list you build and connections you make today will not be useful again somewhere down the line. Even if you’ve been unsuccessful with a number of bloggers this time around, the next one might be more relevant to them. Think of it as a long-term relationship you are building, an investment which will pay off in time.
Continue to tweet, share or reply to their content, even from your own personal accounts (if it doesn’t make sense for your company or brand to do so). Keep your name and face in front of them (although not too often!) and you’ll see the rewards in time.