Earlier this year we shared 8 Ways to Determine a Blog’s Value. Here are six tips to drive more influential blogger reviews:
1. Set expectations. You are sending a product sample to a blogger for review. Develop a personal letter that thanks the blogger for his or her interest and explains what you are asking them to do as part of the review process. Be clear and reasonable, and make sure the blogger understands you are a resource if they have questions or concerns about the product or review process.
2. Content is king. In addition to the letter, include as much information as possible about your product. Good bloggers will share key product features and benefits with readers as part of a product review. Make those details easily accessible and you will likely score a longer, more thorough product review.
3. Secure links to your website. Provide bloggers – in your letter and e-mails– with a specific link where readers can find more information about your product, and ask them to include that link as part of the review. Also, think about other ways to drive blog readers to your website. Provide a separate link for bloggers to share that leads to creative ways to use your product, or ask bloggers to direct readers to your website to search for specific information and then post a comment to the blog post about something interesting they learned.
4. Strategize to secure multiple posts. Think beyond the simple blog review post and consider ways to secure ongoing coverage with a particular blogger. Offer a product giveaway to one blog reader; this will often result in a second blog post about your product when the winner is announced. Ask the blogger to write a preview post setting up a problem and letting readers know they plan to try your product as a solution, then write a post about the product itself.
5. Use contests to secure prospect data. Instead of – or in addition to – promoting product giveaways on individual blogs, establish a larger contest that uses blogger product reviews as a vehicle for engaging a larger Internet audience. Ask multiple bloggers to announce a prize that requires consumers to provide contact information on your website. This is a great way to reach potential new customers and secure information for future communication.
6. Ask bloggers to get social. Simply ask bloggers to post a link to their product review on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and ask permission to post links to their reviews through your own social media accounts. Both your product and the blog are exposed to larger audiences this way.
Let’s be honest, when most people think of successful consumer publicity, monthly glossies like Real Simple and Good Housekeeping are at the top of the wish list. However, securing coverage with the right online media sites can make just as big of impact for your brand and/or product and help support organic search engine optimization.
At a time when the number and size of traditional print consumer magazines is shrinking and competition for prime editorial coverage is fierce, the online magazine industry is growing and online publishers are learning to deliver content in a format familiar to magazine readers. In fact, a recent article in the New York Times highlights The Thriving (Online) Shelter Magazine Industry.
1. Focused target audience. As the New York Times article identifies, many online publications are focused on one particular niche or topic. For example, an online shelter magazine is entirely dedicated to design while a national glossy like Good Housekeeping may only have five pages worth of home décor and care tips. There is more opportunity for your company or product to be featured in an online publication dedicated entirely to one subject. Also, the publication’s audience is already interested in the topic, otherwise they wouldn’t be on the site.
2. Coverage appears sooner. Typical lead-time for a national consumer print publication is about 6 months. That means even if you start pitching today, the earliest you will see coverage is November. Online magazines and news sites operate on a much shorter editorial cycle, providing an opportunity to secure quick media coverage.
3. Coverage lives on. Once an article is published online, it exists on the Internet indefinitely, while print pubs are often tossed or recycled after reading. Online media coverage has the longer shelf life, and, if it is positive, serves as a testimonial for your brand for consumers conducting online research for years to come.
4. Drive consumers directly to a website. Often online media include a link directly to a product or service website. This can make measuring online media simple. With Google Analytics properly set up, it is easy to track how much direct traffic a particular article resulted in, and whether any of that traffic converted to sales.
5. Enhances organic search engine optimization: If a well-known media site, especially one with a good Google page rank, includes a direct link to your site, it will help to increase your organic search engine optimization. Media sites are seen as more credible sources by search engines than your average site.
6. Reach mobile consumers. As we shared in our recent post on QR Codes, 1 in 2 Americans will have a smartphone by this Christmas. Online media is easily accessible to smartphone users through apps and mobile sites.
7. Gain feedback. Some online publications – those not developed in e-reader formats – provide readers with the capability to post in response to articles. Marketers can gain feedback about their company/products and even respond to consumer comments/concerns/questions.
8. Powerful reach. A common misconception is that online publications do not reach nearly as many readers as traditional media. Whether it is the online counterpart of print media or an online-only publication, these sites reach large numbers of unique monthly visitors. Find the site’s online media kit or use free tools like compete.com or quantcast.com to identify an outlet’s monthly visitors.
9. Real-time sharing. If a reader thinks your product or story is useful or compelling, they can share a link to your story immediately. With print coverage, pass-along readership has value, but often takes longer to occur. With online coverage, your message has the potential to spread faster and bypass geographic barriers.
Need help launching a traditional and online publicity and media relations campaign? Contact me at kayleigh (at) sweeneypr (dot) com.
Ann Taylor Loft recently issued an invitation to bloggers to preview the retailer’s summer collection, rewarding bloggers who posted about the new line by including them in a gift card drawing. Was Ann Taylor Loft in compliance with the new FTC blogger regulations?
The short answer is “no”, and there are several reasons why.
First, according to Jezebel, a blog that was invited to participate in the campaign but declined, almost none of the bloggers participating in the campaign disclosed to readers that they would receive the chance to win a high value gift card after submitting their review to Ann Taylor’s publicist.
Whether or not a blogger discloses a material relationship with a company when posting a review, it is ultimately the company’s responsibility to ensure that proper disclosure takes place under new FTC regulations. Ann Taylor should have included a reminder in their invitation to disclose to readers they had received a gift card after submitting their review. Furthermore, it was Ann Taylor’s responsibility to continue to follow up with bloggers until all disclosures had been made.
Additionally, the fact that blogger reviews were submitted to a publicist before gift card values were revealed to participating bloggers could indicate that Ann Taylor rewarded bloggers according to how positive individual reviews were.
When a company commits to a campaign that invites bloggers to review its products, it automatically surrenders any right to control messaging about its product. Marketers should not attempt to stifle or hide negative blogger feedback. Instead, they should welcome such feedback as an opportunity to make product improvements. If a blogger points out an issue with a product, it is likely other consumers will face the same issue. If handled properly, a negative review can become an opportunity for a marketer to continue a public conversation with consumers, showcasing a commitment to customer satisfaction.
Ultimately, it is not illegal to provide payment or some other form of compensation to bloggers who review your products. However, the new FTC guidelines emphasize the importance of transparency in blogger relations and particularly during product review campaigns. And while the responsibility to disclose rests on the blogger, it is the marketer’s responsibility to ensure bloggers are doing so, regardless of how much nudging that takes.
To ensure your blogger relations efforts are in compliance with he new FTC guidelines, check out our recent post, The Impact FTC Guidelines Have on Blogger Relations, to get caught up on the changes.
Want to implement a blogger relations campaign or have questions about the FTC guidelines as they relate to social media marketing, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.
How can I ensure that my blogger relations efforts are in compliance with the new FTC guidelines? _______________________________________________________________ Kayleigh Fitch, blogger relations expert
While the FTC’s updated Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising can be complex and difficult to understand in entirety, there are specific and clear guidelines a marketer should be aware of when promoting products and services through blogger relations.
The complete text of the Revised Endorsement and Testimonials Guides can be found at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm. In the meantime, below is a list of the basic guidelines to help ensure you are in compliance with the new regulations when it comes to blogger relations.
1. Understand that not all blogger reviews are considered endorsements. A blog review written by a consumer who regularly uses your product or brand, who decides to purchase the product of their own accord, or purchases the product through a special promotion or discount available to most consumers or received through a rewards program is not considered an endorsement under the FTC’s new guidelines.
2. If a blogger reviews your company’s product or service and writes about the experience in a blog post as if he or she has in fact used the product personally, ensure that the blogger has actually tested your product before writing about it or clearly discloses that is not the case. It is not acceptable for a blogger to portray that he or she has used a product personally when that is not the case. “When the advertisement represents that the endorser uses the endorsed product, the endorser must have been a bona fide user of it at the time the endorsement was given.” (Section 255.1)
3. Monitor blog reviews for unsubstantiated claims. For example, if a blogger claims in a post that the skin lotion you asked the blogger to review has the ability to cure eczema and there is no substantiated evidence of this claim, then both you and the blogger are liable under the new guidelines.
“The advertiser is subject to liability for misleading or unsubstantiated representations made through the blogger’s endorsement. The blogger also is subject to liability for misleading or unsubstantiated representations made in the course of her endorsement.” (Section 255.1)
4. It is not illegal to pay a blogger to write a positive review of your products, although Sweeney strongly discourages against pay-for-placement blogger relations. However, if you decide to go that route, you are responsible for ensuring that the blogger clearly discloses that he or she has been paid for their review.
“The blogger [and the marketer] is also liable if she fails to disclose clearly and conspicuously that she is being paid for her services.” (Section 255.1)
5. Ensure that the blogger fully discloses any and all material connections to you, your company, product or service “that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement.” (Section 255.4) The FTC does acknowledge that connections that are reasonably expected by the audience need not be disclosed. But if you are unsure what is considered “reasonably expected”, err on the side of caution and disclose the connection.
6. Specifically, you should ensure that a blogger clearly discloses when a product or service being reviewed has been provided for free, regardless of the value of the product. The FTC considers both bloggers and marketers responsible for ensuring this guideline is met and specifically states, “The manufacturer should advise him [the blogger] at the time it provides the gaming system [product for review] that this connection should be disclosed, and it should have procedures in place to try to monitor his postings for compliance.”
7. When communicating an endorsement message obtained through blogger relations (e.g. on sales literature or on a company web site) it is not necessary to use the exact words of the endorser. But, endorsements reworded or supplied out of context can come under scrutiny if they falsely represent an opinion or experience.
“The endorsement message need not be phrased in the exact words of the endorser, unless the advertisement affirmatively so represents. However, the endorsement may not be presented out of context or reworded so as to distort in any way the endorser’s opinion or experience with the product.” (Section 255.1 of Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising)
Want to implement a blogger relations campaign or have questions about the FTC guidelines as they relate to social media marketing, contact me at kalyeigh at sweeneypr.com or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.
Should I send a product sample to this blogger?
I would love to feature your product with a product review and giveaway! My blog is receiving 18,000+ unique visitors per month – additional stats and information are available on my media page. I am happy to answer any questions and set up a review and giveaway for you.
Beth, marketing/sales director, consumer product company
By Jennifer Manocchio
With millions of blogs on the web it can be a challenge to determine what blogs to invest your time and money. This is precisely why we created a three-step approach at the agency to evaluate blogs prior to committing client’s products for reviews and giveaways.
1. Review the blog content and consider the following: content, voice and interaction. Is the blog well written? Do you like the approach the blogger is taking with product reviews? Do you see other major product brands being reviewed on the blog? Are readers posting comments and interacting with the blogger?
2. Check http://www.compete.com or http://www.quantcast.com to see if the web site statistics are available. Traffic to blogs varies greatly so you want to be sure there is significant traffic coming to the blog. However, Quantcast and Compete will not show statistics from some blog publishing platforms like WordPress and Blog Spot. So don’t rule out blogs on WordPress or Blog Spot even though you cannot get an accurate number of visitors.
3. Get the blog’s authority and ranking on http://www.technorati.com. Technorati is a database of more than a million blogs. While not all blogs are included in Technorati’s database, it is still beneficial to check because most credible and widely read blogs are in the system.
When you enter the blog into Technorati, you will typically get two numbers in the search results – the authority and the ranking. The authority is the number of other blogs and web sites that are linking to that particular blog. The higher the authority is, the more credible the blog. The ranking indicates how well a blog compares to other blogs in the Technorati database. The lower the number is, the higher the ranking, the more credible the blog.
Once you have the data, the next step is to determine whether the blog is a good fit. Blog traffic and Technorati authority and ranking vary by industry. For example, if you are evaluating mommy blogs they tend to get more traffic, have a higher Technorti authority and lower Technorait ranking than a blog focused on a specific topic like diabetes. It will probably be beneficial to evaluate a few different blogs in a specific category to determine if the numbers are favorable.
If you have any questions about evaluating blogs or our approach to conducting blogger relations, please contact me at email@example.com or 910.772.1688.
One of my co-workers is looking for some top bloggers on health products, health supplements, fitness, etc. The plan is to send free product to bloggers to talk about the product… have any tips?
Director of Operations, Canadian health supplements business
By Kayleigh Fitch, Guest Blogger
Assuming the health products are being targeted at consumers and that blogger relations is just one element of a bigger, broader strategy, start by developing a blogger list or database of bloggers you want to target – bloggers who write about health products, supplements, fitness, etc.
1. Start by running a general Google search for fitness and health bloggers.
2. Take time to visit and read the blogs that come up as top results. Get a feel for topics each blogger is interested in writing about.
3. Identify the blogs that appear to be the best fit – based on content – for the products you want to promote.
4. Most influential bloggers host lists of related blogs on their own web sites called blog rolls. Use the blog rolls of the first bloggers you identify as starting points to learn about other influential blogs in the health and fitness industry. You can simply click on the name of a blog, and it will link directly to the home page. Now you can scan these newly identified blogs to see if their content is relevant to your product.
5. When you identify a relevant blog you want to include on your list, use free measurement tools to measure the influence of that blog. At www.compete.com, you can track how many unique visitors the blog reaches each month. Using the search function at www.technorati.com, you will learn how many other sites link back to the blog (Authority) as well as the blog’s rank among all other blogs (the lower the number the better).
Keep track of these numbers, and only include blogs on your list that have the highest unique visitors per month, or authority rankings greater than 10.
If the blog isn’t very influential based on these statistics, but the blogger is an active participant in other social media endeavors such as Twitter, consider including the blog on your list.
As you research blogs you will notice certain bloggers are routinely linked to or referenced by other blogs and web sites in the industry, indicating the more popular and/or credible sources. Popular bloggers are often referenced and sourced by the traditional media as well.
6. In addition to measuring the influence of each blog, it is important to ensure blogs are not spam blogs or “splogs”, artificial blogs using unoriginal content created to promote or increase search engine rankings of affiliated web sites. Splogs often lack contact information for the author or a simple blogger profile and are missing a human voice.
Ultimately, you should visit and become familiar with every blog in your database. It is a lot of work, but worth the effort in order to establish a quality database.
That, of course, is the easy part. Now, to run a campaign…
1. Determine the primary goal of your campaign: Do you want to promote product trial and positive reviews? Do you want the campaign to drive traffic to your web site? Do you simply want to build brand awareness and create impressions?
2. Based on your goals, decide whether you would like the blogger to simply review your product, conduct a giveaway for blog readers, or participate in a more involved challenge.
3. Craft an email to send to the bloggers introducing and describing your company, why it would be beneficial to test/review your product and share results with their readers, and what specifically you would like to offer. Be honest and upfront in your email about what you will provide to the blogger and what you expect in return. Bloggers prefer a more conversational tone when communicating as opposed to business speak. Your information should be more like an invitation than a news release.
4. Send the email and wait to see who responds. Be prepared to modify your offering for an influential blogger with a specific request (i.e. more products to giveaway or a greater sample size). Most bloggers do not post their telephone numbers, so follow-up is generally limited to a second email. If you do not get the response you desire, you may need to improve your offer or send an email indicating the deadline for participation is approaching.
5. Once you have a final list of bloggers who have confirmed they will participate in your campaign, ship/mail products and immediately confirm by email when bloggers should expect the product samples. Be sure to include a personal letter to each blogger, information about the product, and tips for product usage in the package to ensure the blogger understands the key messages to communicate with readers about your product.
6. Monitor blogs for reviews.
7. If a blogger has accepted a free sample, but has not posted a review, follow up to ensure they received the product and discover if they liked/disliked the product.
8. If the blogger has an issue with the product, do your best to address it quickly. To provide the best information, refer back to proper use instructions and chemists or product engineers when possible.
Ultimately, if the blogger just does not like the product, he or she may choose not to post a review at all.
9. Finally, track campaign results (coverage and web site traffic) using Google alerts and analytics.
By Jennifer Manocchio
The short answer is yes.
Blog reviews can increase brand awareness, product trial, SEO rankings, web site traffic and retail and Internet sales. Blog reviews can have this influence because many people read blogs regularly and consider the blogs they follow to be credible resources. Consider that of the 42 million female Internet users in the United States who participate in social media, 43% visit blogs for advice or to get recommendations according to the 2009 Social Media Study.
The key is to identify the goals you want to achieve, identify the target audiences you want to reach and design a campaign that will specifically help you meet those goals. It is also imperative the campaign include a method for measuring the results.
For example, if your goal is to increase product trial among stay-at-home moms, a positive blog review in top “Mommy” blogs will accomplish that goal by alerting followers that it is a good product. You can enhance product trial by also offering giveaways to the blog followers. Most bloggers appreciate giveaways because they engage followers and keep them coming back to their blog.
If you want the blog coverage to drive traffic to your web site or a microsite, employ promotional offers – like coupons, product samples or giveaways – on your site to encourage bloggers to provide a link to your site.
A Case in Point
Sweeney launched a blogger relations campaign for One TIME Wood – a leading outdoor wood sealer – during the second quarter of 2009. The goal of the campaign was to create product awareness, drive consumer traffic to its web site, and increase online sales.
To achieve this objective, the agency created an interactive blogger relations campaign that allowed bloggers to test and compare One TIME’s product against competitive products. Sweeney created the One TIME Wood Protector Challenge and invited the Internet’s top home improvement and mommy bloggers to test One TIME Wood against any traditional wood sealer.
Participants received a challenge kit, including: One TIME Wood Protector, wood sample, paintbrushes, competitor’s sample and instructions. One influential home improvement blogger was given enough One TIME Wood Protector and One TIME Stain and Sealer Remover to refinish an entire deck.
Bloggers were encouraged to report the challenge results on their blogs (positive or negative). As a benefit to the blogger and their readers, One TIME offered a 10% off promotional code for the purchase of One TIME Wood. This also allowed Sweeney to track the sales.
One hundred percent of the participating bloggers raved to their followers about One TIME’s unique performance. In turn, the blogger reviews generated awareness, traffic and sales. In fact, the company experienced 16% increase in Internet sales as a direct result of the blogger relations campaign.
Following is a representative sampling of the actual reviews:
In all, the campaign:
And because these blog reviews are online, they will remain available for consumers to read for many months and years to come.
Have a marketing, public relations, social media or advertising question? Post your question below or email exeqnation at gmail dot com. We are committed to answering your marketing questions real time. And if we don’t know the answer, we’ll contact one of our valued partners who will.
Not surprisingly, the Federal Trade Commission is currently working on a blogger review and endorsement policy focused on false advertising. Basically if a blogger is paid to write a review on his or her blog, the FTC will require the blogger to disclose this information. Where there is currently some gray area is when bloggers are provided free product to conduct a review. You can read the full story here: http://is.gd/sAAQ
This is nothing new when it comes to magazines and newspapers. You see this all the time in what we call in the marketing, public relations and advertising business “advertorials”. It is actually an ad that is made to look like an article. However, you will find at the top of the ad “Paid Advertisement”. At the end of the day, consumers are still misled.
When it comes to blogger relations campaigns, the agency has conducted numerous blogger campaigns that have proved to be very successful from mommy bloggers testing cleaning products to diabetic bloggers testing blood glucose meters. One hundred percent of the time the products have achieved rave reviews and drove significant traffic to the clients’ web sites. Here are just a few examples:
I have diabetes, and am always looking for a glucometer that is more accurate, less painful and more informative. I got that with the WaveSense Jazz™, a great blood glucose monitoring system. I am especially pleased because it provides mealtime averages, which helps me track my readings throughout the day and provides averages and graphs that help me track my numbers. – Redsoxmommy.blogspot.com
I recently came across a ton of items that I can definitely use in my kitchen, and I know you can too! These are all made my Weiman Products and should be every kitchen! – Lisareviews.com
From a public relations and marketing perspective, regulating blogs will likely change the way we work with bloggers and cut down substantially on the number of review opportunities for manufacturers and service based companies. To that end, it will actually make our job harder.
However, since it is likely that the average Joe doesn’t realize the difference between a blog and a traditional media review (objective reporting), regulating blogs is the best approach to protecting the consumer. You cannot pay media to write a review; therefore, you shouldn’t be able to pay bloggers either, send them on lavish trips or entice them with loads of free product. Where the gray line is for me is that we send media free product to test all the time. In very rare cases, we will get media who cannot accept the free sample product and have to run to a store to purchase it (Consumer Reports, etc.).
Certainly if this policy passes, it will change blog product reviews. However, it is beyond me how the FTC will actually regulate this. There are millions of blogs and everyday more and more blogs are added to the mix. I assume it will be something like online music sharing sites. A few people are caught, fined and made an example for others. But that hasn’t stopped music sharing sites from operating or others from downloading illegal music.