Blogging has gone from being a hobby among journal-enthusiasts to being a business among… well, seemingly everyone with a PC. Most bloggers look to monetize their time in some way, whether it be sponsorships, ads, or people like me who – for the most part – appreciate the interest their blog connections bring to their home business, such as web/graphic design and professional consulting services (which happen to be a couple of my specialties). There are many categorical divisions throughout the blogosphere, each of which house several niches.
Over the last couple of years, bloggers have developed a solid voice acting as representatives for large and small companies alike. Bloggers have successfully pitched themselves as effective marketing tools. Subsequently, they have promoted brands and companies throughout their respective networks in exchange for either monetary compensation or the opportunity to test products or services in order to provide their honest testimonials to their readers in reference to the quality and value of a company’s offerings. The way the blogger’s voice has evolved now begs the question of whether or not it is as viable of an influence as it once was.
Over the last few months, I have seen the phrase “influential blogger” used more times than I care to have counted and it left me wondering what exactly determines the influence a blogger has and how his or her niche network confirms or rejects that influence. My observations brought me to several conclusions about why marketing via blog campaigns is effective – and what practices are counterproductive.
Bloggers Have Enormous Reach
Blogs are extremely accessible. With such sophisticated Search Engine Optimization tools available on just about any platform, search engines have actually gotten on the bloggy bandwagon and most of them have a separate filter that allows you to process search strings to return results found specifically on blogs. The downside: There are so MANY blogs out there that it can be overwhelming and unless a blog’s ranking sets it in the top twenty results, chances are not many people will ever see the information aside from its own readership and its contributor’s followings throughout social media chains.
Niche blogs offer extensive networks which consist of highly targeted demographics
One wonderful thing about bloggers is that they generally have a base of very loyal readers. They will have random traffic from search engines and links into their site, but a majority of their pageviews comes from regular visitors who value the blogger’s opinion and trust in the information they provide. Not only does this boost their influence, but it helps companies because these readers have common interests with the blogger so it provides a rich marketing environment.Â The downside: A blogger that a company sponsors an extremely successful campaign with for one product may not host successful campaigns with other products due to a differentiation in the particular market a product falls in, so results vary from one extreme to the other and companies are constantly in search of effective networks.
Bloggers provide inexpensive exposure
Let’s face it – celebrities may catch people’s eye for the moment, but they tend to get more attention than the product itself and rack up a huge bill on behalf of the advertiser. Bloggers provide direct exposure by driving traffic to a sponsor’s website and focusing on a particular area of interest. They provide a more in-depth personal review of their dealings with a company and experience with a product for virtually nothing compared to the price of a commercial, celebrity endorsement, or other traditional means of promotion. The downside: The FTC now requires that Bloggers disclose all business affiliations relating to a product, company, brand, or service they feature. While this adds to the honesty of the article, full disclosure may negatively affect the way their opinions are received and increase the skepticism of certain readers.
Overall, bloggers provide an outstanding amount of exposure to businesses of all sizes with a generally effective and strategic marketing style. Blog-based promotion can introduce a company to consumers with whom they otherwise may not have connected. That being said, this method can also have its drawbacks. The following list includes examples of “malpractice” and should be considered BAD under every circumstance.
Accepting – or offering – compensation for good reviews of not-so-good “goods”
When it comes to taking advantage of the influential voice you have, honesty is most definitely the best policy. A blogger who engages in dishonest practices for self-gain or a company that encourages this type of activity are poisoning the process.
Creating false testimonies for products you receive for free in order to stock your home with items you intend to sell.
Yes, that actually happened. Integrity is something that should be taken very seriously. ONE lie told by a blogger damages their credibility with the online community for life. The blogosphere can be a very unforgiving place in certain respects… likewise, it makes the world a much smaller place. A warning: Negative press will cause you to be permanently branded even by people who never knew you existed before.
Accepting – or offering – opportunities to review products or services you otherwise would not utilize.
Publishing articles about things that you can’t honestly give a thorough opinion of is dishonest. No matter how well you remember pushing your now-22-year-old son around in his stroller all those moons ago, accepting a review for a $600 stroller probably isn’t something you should do. Just sayin…
The key to maintaining an effective relationship between companies and bloggers as well as bloggers and their audiences is to avoid things that don’t make sense, are misleading, or are done in bad taste. Bloggers have a strong ability to greatly benefit the companies they choose to represent and heavily influence the readers that visit their blogs on a regular basis. Whether you are posting a review or monitoring a contest, keep it fair and honest. Those two elements ensure the credibility of review blogging and help to maintain the integrity of the blogosphere.