Saturday, February 21, 2015

Blogger Engagement as part of social media strategy

Social Media marketing and strategy is quite often focused on the content and story telling by brands on the channels owned by them. In reality a brand's channel and content may not even be checked or consumed by 99% of those who follow. Most of marketing efforts at times end up in shaping brand generated content, which quite often does not reach the audience or gets lost in clutter. A heavy focus on brand generated content in a social media strategy can make it in-effective.

An important aspect of social media is user generated content. In the entire space of user generated content, influencers dominate content consumed by users. These are quite often active social media users who create more content and disseminate it through channels such as their blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Influencers also tend to demonstrate expertise in a particular area, which leads to community built around them and the content they create and share.
Social media is now moving away from story telling to a mode that facilitates and taps in to stories created by users. Users that matter are influencers, where a large set includes bloggers. An effective social media strategy should incorporate these elements as part of the larger marketing plan.

Are the top bloggers discussing your product? What's their feedback? Is it positive?

These aspects determine how your product or service will be perceived by audiences. Your product's perception will not be determined by your brand's Facebook or Twitter posts along but to a larger extent by the positive/scathing reviews by influencers/bloggers. Negative reviews by influencers or bloggers can make your social media strategy fall flat. Have you effectively communicated about your product or service to this community? Social media strategy should also incorporate the views of this community and share this feedback. Listening is an extremely important part of any social media marketing strategy.

The verdict of an influencer/blogger quite often is sticky and stays on the web. It quite often would show up on top of search results. It also tends to shape how others seeking information about your product would perceive it. Imagine the fashion expert in your group giving a thumbs up to the latest Nike sports shoe. His/her approval would increase your probability to buy it. Social media is just about it. A big thumbs by top tech blogger for a new mobile would not just impact sales but also equity for the brand.

A blogger's content also has a far higher probability to cut through the clutter. Being a neutral source an influencer/blogger has a far higher probability in being heard. There is higher credibility to the content being created. 

Source: Path to Purpose (Think With Google)
There are lot of ways to engage with influencers/bloggers. One way is an extension of PR where you engage with bloggers through meets and product launch events. This helps in getting coverage and is a typical way of engaging with top bloggers/influencers. Influencers/bloggers typically play the role of journalists in covering and disseminating information. Further engagement can be done through product sampling or giving bloggers exclusive access to information or content creation opportunities. 

Unboxing videos in particular have increased in popularity. It's been reported that in 2014-15, unboxing videos have grown by 57%. It's not just the content that has grown but its role in facilitating purchase. Recent (Oct, 2014) surveys have found that, 62% of people who view unboxing videos, do so while researching a particular product. They've found that unboxing fuels anticipation and provides useful product information. A successful social media strategy can tap in to these consumer trends by engaging with relevant influencer/bloggers creating content in this domain.

Influencer and blogger engagement is also beyond generating user generated content which has high informational value. There are a lot of viral content creation sites, which have higher fan/follower base. One primary motivation for consumers to go online is to seek entertainment, and view feel good content. These websites, blogs are influencers in this space and engaging with them can be effective in cutting through clutter. An effective way is to not follow the traditional advertising route but to engage with them through in-content integration. This is essentially important when your social media strategy is integrating with a branding campaign. Is your latest TV commercial providing cultural capital?

Blogger contests are another way of engaging with the blogger community. These contests can be done through blog aggregation services and are effective in generating permanent user generated content unlike contests on Facebook/Twitter, which create more temporal content. A shortcoming of this approach is that the top bloggers or the influencers with greater reach tend to not participate. However it can be a good way to creatively generate content about your brand and generate narratives.

Engaging with bloggers and influencers overall gives the following advantages to any marketer
1) Cut through clutter on digital media
2) Generate rich content
3) Get search engine advantage 
4) Increase user generated content and impact share of voice on social media
5) Generate credibility

These aspects are vital for the success of any social media strategy.

At present a lot of marketers are embracing influencer and blogger engagement. It's role as part of the social media strategy and the larger marketing plan will only increase. Maintaining active relationships and engaging with influencers/bloggers will play a greater role in shaping user generated conversations, brand narrative and perception on social media.