“How do we market to bloggers and become part of what they are discussing?”
Because I am a blogger, I get asked this question on a regular basis. Traditional Marketers, and even hiring managers, are beginning to sense the power of the conversations going on in the blogosphere (the recruitosphere specifically in my everyday) – and they understandably want a piece of that action.
There are a variety of reasons to connect with a blogger. Here is the short list of how I have been personally contacted by companies outside the blogosphere:
- Companies that make their business selling to my reader segment
- Companies looking to heighten awareness of their services or research
- Companies looking to initiate some BR (vs. PR)
- Hiring Managers and Recruiters, looking to bloggers that have the skills you need for a certain job and you want to connect with them
- People that are looking to network with other professionals
- People trying to combat some negative publicity and want a blogger to address it
The problem of course is that, from the outset, the approach is all wrong. All of these approaches achieve their end – not mine. So essentially every exchange take the form of asking for a favor. While I don’t respond negatively to such marketing attempts – there are other bloggers out there that clearly do and relegate such practices to the level of erectile dysfunction spam. Every blogger is going to respond differently to incoming promotional requests of one variety or another. The bottom line is that you actually have to get to know what specifically a certain blogger writes about – what their interests are. If you have content, a product, or a job opportunity that adds to whatever topic they are dicsussing – then that may represent a synergistic opportunity to reach out and make a real comment on their blog referencing whatever information you are trying to share.
It is a really slippery slope – and trying to market through bloggers can very easily backfire with the blogger posting a rant about you and your spamming company. To try and help marketers navigate these waters, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has developed a public draft open for comment called “The WOMMA Ethical Blogger Contact Guidelines”. The draft attempts to give marketers a 10-item checklist to ensure that they acting in an appropriate and ethical manner when communicating with bloggers.
According to the WOMMA site, “…its intent is to give clarity and guidance to marketers who are working and corresponding with bloggers, and to ensure that their efforts adhere to the standards set by the WOMMA Ethics Code.”
WOMMA recommends that all companies that have (or may have and they just don’t know it) employees representing your company and company brand by participating in online discussions with bloggers:
- Provide a copy of the Ethical Blogger Contact Guidelines, along with a copy of the WOMMA Ethics Code, to all personnel reading, writing, and commenting on blogs.
- Prior to corresponding with a blogger, review each of the 10 ethics principles.
- Create a monitoring program to ensure that your staff is complying.
The checklist itself (while still in an open draft version) is supposedly representative of specific outreach behavior and marketing practices that are deemed ethical by bloggers. If you are a blogger, or plan to be soon, do these resonate with you?
10 Principles for Ethical Contact by Marketers
- Review these guidelines before initiating any contact with bloggers.
- Share these guidelines with vendors, agencies, and staff.
- Keep disclosure and transparency top of mind.
Remember: Consumers come first, honesty isn’t optional, and deception is always exposed.
For more information, visit www.womma.org/ethics.
- I will always be truthful and will never knowingly relay false information. I will never ask someone else to deceive bloggers for me.
- I will fully disclose who I am and who I work for (my identity and affiliations) from the very first encounter when communicating with bloggers or commenting on blogs.
- I will never take action contrary to the boundaries set by bloggers. I will respect all community guidelines regarding posting messages and comments.
- I will never ask bloggers to lie for me.
- I will use extreme care when communicating with minors or blogs intended to be read by minors.
- I will not manipulate advertising or affiliate programs to impact blogger income.
- I will not use automated systems for posting comments or distributing information.
- I understand that compensating bloggers may give the appearance of a conflict of interest, and I will therefore fully disclose any and all compensation or incentives.
- I understand that if I send bloggers products for review, they are not obligated to comment on them. Bloggers can return products at their own discretion.
- If bloggers write about products I send them, I will proactively ask them to disclose the products’ source.
In my opinion, the is a really good start. The grayest area is number 3 – “I will never take action contrary to the boundaries set by bloggers.” The problem comes back to that you don’t know what those boundaries are unless you actually read and monitor a particular blog. There has to be real and honest reasons to reach out and connect – no ‘blast’ alerts or releases. Rohit Bhargava, the VP of Interactive Marketing for Ogilvy PR, recently said it best:
Listen, participate and respond. This may be fifth in the list, but is perhaps the most important. If you look at every instance of personal media marketing horror stories, from the Kryptonite Bike Lock, to Dell Hell, to Walmart … each could have been managed far better if the companies involved had listened, participated and responded to issues or problems raised on blogs. This is important at all times, and particularly after launching new campaigns and marketing efforts as well.
If marketing or other outreach efforts only focus on the needs of the marketer – pushing out content – then all they are doing is treating bloggers like any other traditional media outlet. Social Media has streamlined the ability to build real and meaningful connections with consumers, partners, and potential employees. Treat this like any other media outlet, and you may quickly feel the sharp tongue of the blogosphere.
[tags]word-of-mouth-marketing, word-of-mouth-marketing-association, womma, blog marketing for dummies, buzz marketing with blogs for dummies, blog marketing ethics, social media optimization, SMO[/tags]