What’ I’ve Learned: Marketing on Blogs and Social Media in 2014
October 29th, 2014
Barbara Soderlin, a reporter for the Omaha-World Herald, recently contacted me for some comment about local companies advertising with bloggers in Omaha and we ended up having a really rich discussion about the changing landscape of online advertising in an age of social media. She had seen me post on Facebook about the decline of blogs as the epicenter of reader engagement in favor of other platforms that ask a little less of its users.
To illustrate the shift: In order to read my blog, visitors have to either choose to come here by typing in the URL or they have to come here through a link posted on a social media site. What many content creators are doing now (I can’t even just say “bloggers”) is putting the goods directly on those social media sites rather than asking readers to take the extra step to click to the blog. And the less people have to work to engage, the more likely we are to reach them.
A thing that I think brands have a hard time reconciling is that the impact they can get from other social media networks like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest compared to blogs is a lot more difficult to quantify. When you advertise on a blog, you can easily monitor where the referrals are coming from, the demographics of those views and clicks, plus tons of other metrics. But If I see a casual mention of, say, Omaha Steaks on Instagram, the impression it makes on me as a potential customer might be much more valuable even though it is not as measurable. To me, there’s more value there because posts on streaming sites, when well-done, are so much more organic and so much more trustworthy to other potential consumers in the original poster’s network.
Content is cheap.
With the internet being so ubiquitous (I mean we have computers in our hands, we can buy anything with a few clicks, if we have a question we can just quickly google it and find the answer to anything in seconds), you can’t differentiate yourself from competitors by just HAVING information. By HAVING the product. Having information is cheap, the value is going down, it’s not worth anything. So two things are happening—information is becoming easier and easier to get, more available, and we’re also becoming busier than ever. So the time and effort we put into people and relationships is becoming more and more rare, which is why it’s becoming more valued.
That same principle is what I’m talking about when I say from a marketing standpoint that a post on a blog is not as valuable as several casual, contextual mentions of a brand or product on social media channels scheduled over a long period of time. When you step back from a marketing strategy that is about soapboxing, about broadcasting a message, it has to be more about the soft sell, right? And sometimes that has to be a longer game.
The concept of “push push push” marketing doesn’t work anymore. Information is too cheap. Content is fucking EVERYWHERE, and we as consumers are too fatigued. Instead, brands have to use social media like the friendship networks they actually are—we have to listen to our followers as much as we speak to them. It’s not about being the loudest, it’s about knowing your audience. That’s a shift in thinking about marketing.
Think beyond buying ads.
Barbara and I also talked about Hello Holiday’s advertising strategy in partnership with bloggers. Hello Holiday doesn’t buy static ads on blogs—we run a few on very very high-traffic websites, but on blogs that is not a good strategy for us. Many of the “bloggers” we work with aren’t even bloggers—they’re just well-known fashion personalities with very high follower counts on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, etc. We also work with them because we LIKE them—just the value of celebrating these friendships and relationships between women is very integral to our company’s mission. By knowing the bloggers we partner with, we have built a lot of that value that I was talking about earlier because we love building those relationships. They do things for us that they wouldn’t do normally for other brands, and we do things for them that we wouldn’t normally do for other advertising partners. For example, we let them look through our designers’ look books when we place our orders each season so they have exclusive pieces to use in outfit posts, profile pictures, instagrams, in their travels, etc. In return, we often get dibs on advertising spots or more mentions on social media that we didn’t ask for. We see a much better return from that strategy than buying both static advertisements and advertorial posts. Although our strategy is unique to our needs as a clothing retailer, these principles and ideas are totally generalizable to any other industry.
Don’t interrupt the experience of the user.
When brands invest in marketing on a blog—through an advertorial, for example—users have to click away from the platform they initially see it on to access it. The blogger writes the post, then shares it on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, whatever. If I even see if in my stream, I then have to click on the link to be exposed to the content that the brand paid for. That is way too many steps to reach a consumer. That’s asking too much! Avoid making demands of consumers—don’t ask for clicks or redirect people to another platform to “like” or “tweet.” That’s a 2009 strategy, and there is so much brand noise out there in social media that customers will tune you out like an ad. It’s about conversations and relationships and a lot of the success with that has to do with engaging on the right platform.
Facebook is for discussions. Twitter is for jokes and getting to know people as they really are–what they find funny, what concerns them, and for receiving quick feedback. Instagram and Pinterest are for sharing beauty, for depicting a more aspirational experience. Blogs (and Tumblr, to an extent) are for hosting content that you want to use to establish your brand credibility, because they’re so relevant to Google searches and easiest to collect data about and analyze. It’s where you expect people to stay and read a while when they land there. But most people won’t, so the more temporary streams of information like Facebook and Twitter are just as important for sharing content that you expect readers to enjoy and engage with.
Businesses need both blogs and content marketing.
The more content businesses can host on their own blogs and social media channels, the more credibility they can garner with users, and honestly, the more practice they get interacting with them. Brands should test these concepts I’m talking about—post things going on behind the scenes, be a little bit more vulnerable and authentic, let employees take turns managing the Instagram account, show how people inside the company use their products at home personally. There are tons of ways for businesses to create their own content without coming off as too advertisey.
AND, in addition to the blog, invest time building relationships so you can collaborate with bloggers, thought leaders, and influential personalities.
Consumers are fatigued, and content is cheap. The reason to blog used to be for fun. Then we blogged to get rich. We need to go back to doing it for fun and think bigger about sustaining our work as writers and bloggers by finding marketing opportunities across the whole new media spectrum.