(Business and marketing was my first love… been talking about politics and society for so long, I hope to balance some of this with some corporate opinions)
A common practice of businesses in these electronic days is to go to a blog owner and (either through payment or cajoling) get him/her to write about a product or service. I’d like to argue that these sporadic articles, on their own, are not worth pursuing.
And just like any other marketing campaign, it needs to be part of a planned and deliberate strategy.
a.) Brand recollection is low
Such-and-such a blogger talks about your service in a post or two. How effective is that? Close your eyes and think of a favourite blogger you follow. Do you remember what product this person mentioned last?
In the language of the internet, I’d say: “Wow, I read about this fantastic product that this blogger talked about and I want to buy it! ….said no person ever”
b.) The blogger cannot write the article without sounding cheesy
You can’t help but write nice things about the hand that paid you. And you never want to bite it. No one can, even if they claim to be “unbiased”. And if you’ve never used a product before, you won’t be able to write it like you fell in love with it. This is why readers can smell the influence of advertising dollars straight away.
c.) The blogger may not have credibility in a subject area
Blogs are essentially niche subject mediums. If the blog was about food, and he was paid to write about cooking utensils, he couldn’t do it in a believable manner.
Readers know when a service has been paid for and they will be very skeptical about the post. If the post “sells” the product too eagerly, the blogger’s reputation may even be tarnished.
Magazines have strict guidelines on not accepting payment for editorials for the same reason.
d.) Blog post lifespans are incredibly short
Print media has a shelf-life of days to weeks. On the internet however, article lifespan lasts only minutes or hours, after which your story will be ejected by the next post.
e.) Chances of a story on your product/service going viral is almost zero percent
Things that make an article viral usually is shrouded by unhealthy controversy. This may not be the outcome you desire. Yes, it is possible to get a positive viral effect, through the use of humour or strong human interest, but it can be very difficult to produce this. Quite likely your story is going to generate an emotion on the internet widely known as “meh”. You’ll likely get the “yeah, whatever” attitude when someone reads about your widget and *click*, the user reads about something else.
Think through your campaign
When it comes to organising a social media campaign, I would recommend that the marketing manager treat their purchases as they would a print media purchase.
a.) Be aware that your audience KNOWS that it is a paid editorial. They would very likely treat it with scepticism. If your purpose is to generate awareness, strategy permitting, paid editorials could be used. But if you intend your post to fool the reader into thinking the blogger had genuinely endorsed your product – then don’t.
b.) If you really must, don’t plan to buy just one or two editorials, buy a series. It takes many repetitions for effective brand recall. Some theorists have put the effective frequency at 27 times. Because of our crowded media landscape, in reality, it takes much, much more than that to get into a casual reader’s head.
c.) Augment your paid editorial purchases with advertisements. In advertising, there is nothing to hide. You’re selling something and the audience knows that. With today’s technology you can get ad placements directly to the audience that wants your product.
d.) Don’t expect anything for free. I have read books on how “zero” is the new ad budget and “nothing” is the amount to pay for internet driven campaigns. Perhaps (through an engagement campaign) you can convince a few novice/casual bloggers to talk about your widgets, but the effort-to-acquistion ratio is far too high. Worse if you get unfavourable reaction from these people.
e.) Why not build your own content? You’re the subject expert and your company lives and breathes your own product. All you have to do is to find a way to deliver this message across. Don’t worry about not being an “unbiased” platform. It is ok to be biased, everyone is. Be honest that you’re selling something and use that to your advantage.
Good bloggers are good content makers and they have spent considerable effort in building a readership base who thinks they are a credible and interesting source of information. This effort did not come cheap and nothing would piss a blogger off by being expected to do something for free.
In short, don’t go trawling the internet asking bloggers to post things for you for free. Don’t spend too much paying for sporadic posts, as their recall value is low. Chose your mediums wisely and spend time developing a strategy that gives you good brand equity.