Working with bloggers 101

Working with bloggers
Whether you’re looking to improve your social following, rankings, brand awareness or gain trustworthy and reliable testimonials, working with bloggers can be a cost-effective way of meeting your objective.
Bloggers and vloggers have become an integral part of marketing strategies for many brands, both big and small, because they give brands direct access to their target market at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing methods. Their personal recommendation of your product or service means more to your target market than your branded promotions ever will.

Choosing bloggers
It’s important to make sure your product or offering is very relevant to the bloggers you’re approaching. Unfortunately, this point is not as obvious to brands as it should be. This works on both a general level – if you’re a clothing brand, don’t approach a foodie – and on a niche level – if you sell snacks aimed at school packed lunches, don’t get in touch with a restaurant review blog.

If your product is very niche, you’re unlikely to find a blogger solely dedicated to your target audience, so may have to look at bloggers who are interested in your niche instead – i.e. if you sell handmade cat treats, a blog about cats might have few followers but a lifestyle blogger with a cat might have hundreds of thousands.

Incentives and freebies
There are no hard and fast rules for how much you should pay bloggers/vloggers. Whilst it is cheaper than other marketing methods, the calibre of blogger you can get on board will depend on your budget – so set your expectations early to avoid wasting your time and the blogger’s time.

Generally, if you have a small budget or low-cost freebies to give away for review, you aren’t going to find a popular blogger with lots of followers who will work with you. If you want to work with bloggers with tens of thousands of followers, you need to have a bigger budget.

How you work with bloggers is completely up to you – some brands prefer to work with many smaller bloggers to form a campaign and reach lots of niche audiences, whereas some will prefer to spend their whole budget on one popular blogger.

Find a hook
If you don’t have the best budget, some bloggers will still choose to work with you because they love the campaign idea you’ve got. Creating an interesting ‘hook’ will make your pitch email stand out from others – bloggers get brands asking them to write posts all the time, so make yours interesting!

Remember, a blog is a personal space – bloggers don’t want to write about brands all of the time and their readers certainly don’t want to read about them constantly. They handpick the brands they work with and the campaigns they do with their readership in mind so tailor your ideas to them.

If you’re pitching a campaign idea to a blogger, don’t be afraid to open up the floor to them. A blogger might not like your idea but have one of their own, so offer them the chance to share their thoughts.

Disclosing commercial relationships
The next thing to think about when planning your blogger campaign is Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regulations. Although you’re working with bloggers/vloggers who are publishers in their own right, it’s the legal responsibility of the brand to make sure campaigns are disclosed properly. If a paid-for post or freebie isn’t disclosed, the ASA may ask for it to be removed, which means all of the time and money spent on the campaign is wasted.

This was the case for Oreo in 2014 who paid a number of influential British vloggers to take part in an ‘Oreo Lick Race’ by posting a video on Youtube. Although the vloggers did say they worked with Oreo in the video and the description box underneath said the video had been created with the brand, the ASA said it wasn’t immediately clear the Oreo clips were marketing communications as they were filmed in the vloggers usual editorial style. The videos were banned from Youtube in their original form.

ASA – vloggers, social posts and freebies
The ASA has ruled vloggers who have worked with a brand in a commercial relationship must make it obviously identifiable without having to watch the video – i.e. having ‘ad’, ‘advert’ or ‘sponsored content’ in the title of the video. Bloggers and social influencers who are paid to blog or post sponsored social updates must also make it obvious to the reader they’re being advertised to by signposting it or hash tagging it ‘ad’, ‘advert’ or ‘sponsored content’.

Freebies are a bit different – PR companies and brands can send out free gifts in the hope of appearing on the blog and a disclosure wouldn’t be necessary. However, if a brand/PR company asks for the review to be positive or tries to steer the content, it must be disclosed.

Bloggers often disclose all freebies and sponsored content, regardless of the commercial relationship or lack of – this is the best practice to keep your brand and website safe from any potential issues.

Google guidelines
Google has been very clear about what is and isn’t okay when it comes to blogger links from freebies or cash incentives. Because a follow link back to your site essentially counts as a ‘vote’ in Google, brands aren’t allowed to influence the search results by simply ‘buying’ links. This means all links from your incentivised outreach activities – whether cash is received or a free product/service is offered – must be no-follow. Breaching these guidelines could lead to Google penalties.

Again, it is the brand’s responsibility to check all links in blog posts are no-follow after the post has gone live and if needed, offer support to the blogger to add the no-follow tag to the link.

Should my company work with bloggers?
Many companies can benefit from working with influencers and bloggers in their vertical – whether they are a small family-run business, or a massive global brand. Working with influencers online can provide great value for money but it’s important to ensure the agreement is mutually beneficial for both the blogger and your brand. If both the blogger and the brand is happy with the agreement, the links back to the brand site are in the correct format and any necessary disclosure for ASA is handled appropriately, working with bloggers could drive leads, boost social engagement and put your brand in front of a new audience.

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