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Blogger Outreach – Recap from Affiliate Summit West Coast ’11

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Dominating Your Niche With Blogger Outreach

This Blogger Outreach session was by far my favorite panel / session of the ones I was able to attend. Certainly, I found some of the speakers more relevant to my business than others.  I am a marketer and I dabble in the affiliate space, therefore, I was more interested in blogger outreach for my clients’ needs. For that reason, Greg and Eric’s insight resonated with me more than Jonathan or John Chow. But I did find Chris Brogan to be quite a charming moderator.

The panel was moderated by Chris Brogan and consisted of:

John Chow – Blogger and affiliate marketer who boasts that he took his blog from zero to $40K in two years. He started blogging in 2005.

Greg Rollet – CMO at Cognitive, blogger for Mashable, Techcrunch and a music marketer/blogger.

Eric Schechter – was the social media manager at Clickbooth and is now the social media manager for Carnival Cruise Lines

Jonathan Volk – like Mr. Chow, he writes an affiliate blog about affiliate marketing

Blogger Outreach Panel at ASW11

Question – Who Do You Go After?

  • The panel conclusively agreed that they go after the blogger’s audience versus who the blogger is in particular – “We look at who the readers are and not necessarily who the writer is.”
  • Regarding the number of followers or subscribers – the panel unanimously agreed that it was more about relevancy and influence and less about numbers
  • Passion over numbers
  • All of the panelists said that gaining followers was an easy trick to achieve, yet readership and influence, is much harder to maintain
  • They look for people who have a unique take on experiences they discuss within the context of their blog
  • They look for engagement and how hard the blogger works to promote their own work
  • Do they have a newsletter?  They like bloggers with newsletters.
  • Bloggers with Facebook fan pages
  • Look for the number of Retweets that person has on Twitter or how many comments they have on their blog and (even more importantly) the consistency of comments.
  • “We want people who’s readers take action on the blog”
  • Greg Rollet said he looks for people with “Good Google PR”
  • “People who hustle in the space” – meaning, people who know what they are doing when it comes to social media

Where Do You Find Your Bloggers?

  • The number one answer was – MEETING THEM face-to-face at conferences, or local blogger events, because social media is about building relationships
  • Reading their blog and getting to know their blog and readers
  • Being helpful to others, by putting yourself out there
  • Places like Alltop, Google Blog Search, Technorati
  • Mass emails was something that the panelists all agreed was almost always a waste of time

How To Get Bloggers To Write About you?

  • Do something that stands out
  • John Chow gets approached all the time by marketers, he said the best thing he ever received was a care package for his daughter. Apparently, he speaks about his daughter a lot on his blog and a certain marketer sent a care package for his daughter and not for him. This left a positive impression.
  • The general consensus was to reach the bloggers off-line – either in person, a phone call or via snail mail, something that shows an effort
  • Know the bloggers, retweeting them, developing a relationship, helping them with their efforts before asking for their assistance
  • Be creative, be willing to offer a webinar strictly for your blogger’s audience – a value they can offer their readership

The Follow Up Phase

Erich Schechter from Carnival Cruise Lines emphasized the importance of following up with your bloggers and fostering an ongoing relationship.  He believes that this way, you don’t need to ask them to write something about your product each time, they will want to do it on their own simply because they feel close to you and your brand. This was a thought process that all of the panelists agreed upon.

Creating a schedule. Be sure to have some sort of a relationship management tool (or spreadsheet) to keep track of whom you’ve reached out to and when you reached out to them.  You don’t want to be known as the person who is constantly pitching. Also, when staying connected with bloggers, don’t always have an “ask”, simply sending a friendly message or an anecdote will do wonders to keep you in touch with your audience.

I Brought Up the Numbers Question Again

I really wanted to know what the panel thought a GOOD number of followers or the size of an audience they considered worthy of a connection.  And I received some good answers, Chris Brogan quoted Liz Strauss in his answer “Little bloggers grow up to be big bloggers.” Great answer, I thought. Blog posts live on forever, unlike Twitter, if a blogger has 100 followers today, they may have 100K followers two years from now and your post will still be there.

The point was also made that when a brand reaches out to a blogger with a smaller following, the blogger will remember this and work harder to promote the brand.  They will also be more than likely to help the brand without being asked in the future.

Setting Yourself Apart

Making something for your bloggers, if a brand makes a video or something specific for a blogger, that goes a long way. Eric Schechter mentioned that they once created blogger-specific creative; a banner with a cartoon of the blogger on the ad. He said that it was one of their most successful ads in terms of click-throughs.  Chris Brogan said “Think outside of Twitter,” and “Don’t be afraid to get weird.”  Once a hotel once sent Brogan a bathrobe with his name embroidered on the chest (I thought that was a great idea from a hotel – kudos).

What About Pay Per Post?

  • Greg Rollet said that they have paid for posts – AFTER they spent the time researching the bloggers, anywhere from $20 to $100 a post
  • In a different session, I heard someone say they pay $5 per post to college students
  • Many will offer a higher commission rate on their affiliate programs in return for blog posts because the writer will likely end up making more money that way

Some Final Points from The Panel

  • Regarding his preferred source, either Twitter or Facebook, John Chow said he preferred Facebook (which surprised me).  John Chow went on to say, “I feel like 90% of my followers on Twitter are bots”.
  • Jonathan Volk said that his email list is a greater source of revenue for him, even greater than his blog. He emails when he has something to say.  He said there was no rule, but if he had to keep a rule, it would be – for every advertisement, there are two non-advertisement emails.
  • This is really about relationships – said Erich Schechter
  • Not everything should be a sales pitch
  • To maintain trust (enter Brogan’s shameless pitch for his book Trust Agents – followed with my shameless affiliate link), Brogan, of course, used the word “Transparency”
  • John Chow and Jonathan Volk followed up on the transparency comment and said they both occasionally tell their readers when there are affiliate links in their blog and receive higher click-through rates
  • Be nice to people, if someone has a question, answer it
  • The music business is about helping people out (Greg Rollet)
  • You never know who someone is going to know – which is what I ALWAYS say!

I wanted to leave you with this final image of John Chow.
He was wearing this T-shirt the entire weekend (it seemed).

John Chow and the shirt he was immensely proud of