Lately, the title “blogger” has come to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some reason, I distinctly remember the first time I started thinking about the term. It was during the 2000 Presidential election when I heard talk radio hosts referring to early predictions in the “blogosphere”. I didn’t think about it again until years later when a mother in my daughter’s playgroup mentioned she blogged for Oprah. That was in 2005. Lots has changed, but there is one thing I’m sure of: neither of these kinds of bloggers accepted free baby gear in exchange for product reviews.
Now, I work with mom bloggers every day. I get to know many of them through a private Facebook group I host. When I first started recruiting moms to be in my panel for www.QuestionMoms.com almost a year ago, I discovered that many indicated they were “mom bloggers”. Working with mom entrepreneurs, I knew there may be a need to connect the two groups, so I developed profiles for bloggers to complete. I made a list of topics and asked them which they “cover”. I also asked questions about traffic, platforms, and types of distribution. That’s when the real lessons began because I quickly realized those metrics aren’t really what make mom bloggers valuable to mom entrepreneurs. I ran some large experiments that helped me measure the real value of individual bloggers and here’s what I found:
1. The title “Mom Blogger” is way too vague and extremely misleading.
There are mom bloggers who are journalists. They are well-informed on specific topics like children with special needs or how to live green. Other mom bloggers are women who enjoy writing and sharing about their day to day life with friends and family. But, the fastest growing group is the one who focuses on reviews and giveaways. They are also great at finding and sharing coupons and deals. They certainly don’t get rich doing this, but it can turn into a lucrative hobby. When a client comes to me now asking for a campaign with 5-50 bloggers, she is usually thinking of the mom journalists. That would be fine, except the same clients will also ask that each blogger have over 10,000 followers. Now there we have a problem. Bloggers with that kind of niche content and over 10k followers are not likely to be looking for $10-$50 products to review. You can pitch them, but it’s much like pitching a press release to a bunch of editors: it requires time and contacts. Understand the different kinds of bloggers and how they can help.
2. Your objectives need to be clear.
The most common complaint clients have about previous blog reviews is that “there were no results.” They sent products to dozens of bloggers, but didn’t get a boost in sales. Bloggers don’t sell your product. Most provide a combination of improved SEO, positive public reviews, and targeted impressions (your market seeing your product). That rarely leads to instant sales. Instead, you need to think of it from a buyer’s perspective: If I’m a mom looking for a great way to solve a problem I’m having, I’m going to do one of the following: a) ask a friend if they know a solution, b) do a search online for a solution, or c) remember that I’ve seen a solution before somewhere. The blogger ‘s review is there to be those resources. They have lots of “friends”, their review creates a page that points to your product as a solution to a problem, and they get in front of a lot of potential customers who may need your solution in the future. Rarely are those instantaneous results through sales. Write out your objectives in realistic terms like obtaining hundreds of new Facebook fans, increasing SEO, providing awareness of a promotion, or establishing positive reviews for future customers to find.
3. You need a solid plan.
If you are working with a couple bloggers and have connections, you can find the right ones, email them a pitch, and work directly with them. If you are doing a major campaign, you need to create a plan that involves targeting the right bloggers, sending product, communicating expectations to the bloggers, following up on the product being received, verifying links, directing traffic to the right social media sites, pages, etc., and measuring results. You also need to think about what’s in it for the bloggers. Some are simply hoping for a free product, but others are truly doing you a favor. Pay it back by allowing them to host giveaways and by promoting them. Combining special offers with a blog campaign is also very effective. Take the time to create the plan including who the bloggers are, what they will get and give away, when they will post, how they will drive traffic to your sites, and where you will link back to their efforts.
4. Followers do not equal traffic.
I’ve tracked the effectiveness of dozens of bloggers in several campaigns. The biggest surprise to me was how little the bloggers “follower” numbers mattered. It makes sense though: if a blogger posts multiple times a day about special offers and coupons, when they blog about your premium-priced baby accessory, it will not result in click-thrus. The followers of that blog may come fan you on Facebook in order to enter a giveaway hosted by the blogger, but they won’t be making any purchases now or later. On the other hand, a mom with a modest blog following who writes about green products can send qualified leads to your green baby product website. Bloggers use different ways of promoting their posts. If they simply write it and let followers see it when they visit, the traffic will likely be low. Other bloggers cross promote with other bloggers, tweet and email links to their posts. Pick a blogger based on effectiveness for your product, not just how many followers they have.
5. You don’t NEED an agency, but agencies can improve your campaign.
Big brands are experimenting with bloggers. You’ve likely seen the huge campaigns and the numerous social media promotion companies that are popping up. They’ve been learning some tough lessons. I heard privately about one major brand that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a mom blog campaign. It was such a disaster that the company policy is to not work with bloggers at all now. Personally, I think it failed because they took an overly opportunistic approach. The concept of hundreds of moms promoting your product sounds great. However, that doesn’t happen simply by sending them a free product. Mom bloggers are actually being asked to be promoters, marketing specialists and even sales reps. Some agree to do it. Unfortunately, mom bloggers don’t have the training to do it right and they need to understand their obligations to properly disclose that they are being paid or incentivized. Utilize agencies if you need assistance contacting bloggers, designing a strategy, or organizing a large campaign, but don’t pay a fortune.
As someone who has managed million dollar marketing budgets for corporations, I still think mom bloggers are a wonderful marketing investment. When I consider a print ad for $8k that may get 10,000 impressions or delivering $100 in free product to a handful of bloggers for the same impressions plus increased social media following, improved SEO, and great quotes about a product, the choice is simple. With a database of over 1000 mom bloggers who’ve completed profiles on QuestionMoms.com, I’ve become very picky about which ones I contact for promotions. I’ve developed a small group of them to be my army of “promotion specialists” for my clients. In the end, it’s about relationships and communication. Mom bloggers are real women, not impersonal advertising websites. Let me know if you’d like help connecting to them.
Shelley Straitiff spent 15 years managing corporate marketing in Silicon Valley before starting her own company. Always looking for smarter, more creative and less expensive ways to market, Shelley built QuestionMoms.com to provide a place where entrepreneurs can get market feedback from moms and connect with bloggers at an affordable price. Shelley writes about marketing smarter and getting measurable results from what you do.