Following on from Kate’s recent blog “Storm in an E-cup: the impact of social media’s ability to speak truth to power”, which talked about the power of social media in orating the public’s outrage towards a brand, I wanted to explore how blogs have become so powerful and why people listen to what bloggers have to say. Most importantly, how can brands adapt to the online empowerment of the public and harness blogs as a credible voice in the authentic and valuable review of their brand?
The convergence of blogging, journalism, PR and marketing: one big community
Often underestimated, blogs are a way to monitor what millions of people are saying about your brand, the market you sell into, your organisation and its products. They’re also a great medium for engaging with that community by commenting on other blogs and providing enriching content with your own.
Working with other bloggers who write about your industry, company or its products, is a strategic and forward-thinking way to align your brand with authentic and credible voices in that market space. By working openly with the blogosphere, brands appear transparent and open to hearing honest advice. Further to serving as a vital part of market research (more than two thirds (70 per cent) of digital marketing and advertising professionals say they now consider social media to be crucial for advertising success, according to research from Crimson Hexagon), you can begin to subtly shape that market by actively engaging in the blogosphere and shaping the conversations by creating and writing your own blog.
Blogging is, essentially, content creation and content offers so much more than advertising – both to you, the brand, and the consumer. It’s a great way to communicate online, and welcome consumers into your world. By giving them advice and taking them behind the scenes without selling a product, you are taking an approach that is more likely to inspire interaction with your brand.
From running to cyber security, there’s a wealth of information and a community waiting for you online. As a brand, by becoming involved in the blogosphere yourself, you’re no longer simply speaking to your market from a self-erected platform but engaging directly with the people you want to connect with your brand.
Why is blogging so powerful?
Blogging and social media empower the individual to have a voice, but rather than reflecting the narcissistic tones of many Facebook updates, this voice becomes truly meaningful when it addresses, listens to and engages with others. In contrast to published traditional media titles, the inclusive nature of blogging promotes a sense of collegiality; whilst many might dismiss the voice of a blog as not being credited or validated by the power of a brand, it’s the trust that a brand gives to the blogging network that ultimately gets returned.
Blogs are unbiased authentic mouthpieces for the online community… But where to begin? What’s the best way for a brand to engage effectively and be heard in the vast hubbub of the blogosphere?
If anything potentially impactful to a brand occurs in the industry – whether negative or not – a company blog is an ideal platform to respond in real-time, offering customers and clients an instant response. For example, Clearswift – a global cyber security company who we work with – has weekly blogs offering both insights into its products as well as expert response to industry issues.
A successful blogging outreach programme encourages a network of bloggers to get more involved with your product/ service/ brand. Not only does this create a growing buzz of brand awareness, amplified by exponential online word-of-mouth sharing, also through offering up your company’s services or products to be critically evaluated by an opinionated blogger shows transparency, confidence, and a willingness to accept direct feedback from the target market.
Blogger outreach is an important element of PR, and we often incorporate this kind of activity into our work for clients. What’s central to the success of any blogger activity is ensuring that it’s tailored to both the individual blog’s readers, and also the objectives of the client.
One example of this is a recent CoPilot Live Premium review by Essential Travel’s Sarah Mathews. Targeted to travel bloggers, this site is well-positioned for CoPilot’s market; the sat-nav app can be used in offline mode so travellers don’t need to rely on a 3G connection. This review looks in great detail at the app’s functions and features and puts it through a real hands-on test, along with great visuals. Thanks to Sarah Matthews @Essentialtravel, it was great working with you on this!
As well as hands-on product reviews, allowing your services to be put to the test in situ offers customers a trustworthy preview of what they can buy. Our client, content discovery platform Outbrain, allowed the blogosphere to evaluate its services first-hand in Kathryn and Nick’s review of Outbrain’s services, which aims to boost traffic and content syndication: “Outbrain marketing review – a fictional cape-wearing lunatic and the unusual truth about content and copy in 2013”. This blog offers crucial insight into both Outbrain and the industry itself to potential new customers and influencers in the marketing and publishing industry.
By immersing yourself in the conversation, a brand is not only then able to steer the conversation, but it’s creating content that its market will actually want to read. As well as creating potential new customers, it’s this kind of continued engagement with the online community which helps retain as well as attract customers.