Organizations' executives know that most of their biggest influencers have moved online in some capacity, raising the question: How can they be reached via effective integrated social media marketing? When faced with this challenge (especially as it relates to bloggers), Greg Verdino, chief strategy officer of Crayon, suggests the following roadmap:
1. Look, listen and learn: If they've heard it once, they've heard it a thousand times, and Verdino makes it 1,001. However, the constant repetition underscores the monumental importance of the tip, as those who ignore it have no foundation from which to grow. So, when trying to engage bloggers or other social media users, PR executives must look at the sites and hubs, listen to what the influencers are saying and learn how best to approach them.
Verdino points to PR-Squared Blogger Todd Defren's rule of thumb: Don't target a blogger until you've read at least 20 of their posts, including the comment threads. These threads will give you the best insight into the blogger's tone, interests and means of responding to readers' comments.
2. Right matters more than might: Verdino emphasizes the importance of differentiating between "which blogs are right, and which are just big." PR executives often look to A- list bloggers when building media lists and conducting outreach, but this in no way guarantees relevant, meaningful hits - or any hits at all.
"Don't focus on the size of the blogger," Verdino says. "Focus on whether they attract the right audience, have the right sentiment and are right for your brand messaging."
3. Join their community: This point circles back to the first tip on the list, but Verdino expands on it by encouraging PR execs to chime in with comments, especially when it's not about their brand.
"Don't just do fly-bys about your topic," he says. "Spend time on the blogs." Other good resources to consider when "meeting" bloggers is mybloglog.com (a tool for discovering who visits whose blog), twitter and social networks like Facebook.
"Find bloggers on these supplementary platforms," Verdino says. "Friend them and follow them. Don't be afraid to contact the blogger directly long before you have something to pitch.
4. Bloggers' inboxes are not your newswires: Just as with traditional media, do not send a form e-mail out to hundreds of bloggers. "Immediately, it sends up the red flag that it's form outreach," Verdino says. "Bloggers talk to other bloggers, so that does you more damage than good." Also, never personalize e-mails through a simple mail merge. Just having a blogger's name at the top of a form e-mail doesn't make it personalized.
5. Remember that bloggers are not journalists: They may like to think so, but bloggers are not journalists: They rarely work against deadlines, they are not obligated to report fairly on both sides of an issue, and most bloggers write to advance their personal agendas. These things must be considered when approaching bloggers to cover your product or service.
6. Always ask "What's in it for me?" This question must always be asked from the blogger's perspective. Verdino recommends "incentivizing" bloggers to cover you via above-board methods - link love, for example.
"The entire blogosphere lives and dies on link love," he says. "Bloggers gauge the success of their blog by the number of bloggers that link to them. That's the currency of the blogosphere."
Other ways to encourage bloggers are creating a blog-roll on your site that links to all bloggers who cover your industry; inviting bloggers to the same invitation-only press events that traditional media go to; or giving bloggers access to something, whether it's access to data or free copies of books.
7. Think commitment, not campaigns: "In marketing, we tend to think in terms of campaigns. We run the risk of going that way in social media as well," Verdino says. This means that PR execs have to stick around after the initial hit to participate in the conversation that will inevitably follow. Take the following steps to do so: Chime in with comments as appropriate; don't only contact the blogger when you have something to sell; and make initial outreach a basis for ongoing involvement.
Greg Verdino, [email protected]