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Thursday, September 01, 2016

#BloggerXSME 1: Why Should My Business Work With Bloggers?


I want to kick off September with a new blog series, and here it is!!! I've long been asked by business owner friends and relatives about the whole world of blogging, and I've long wanted to do something like this to address that, so here we go. With my #BloggerXSME series, I plan to tackle the usual questions and issues that small to medium enterprise (SME) business owners encounter when working with bloggers. Those who know me in real life know that I took up management so they ask me a lot about PR consultancy and marketing and the like, and I thought I'd make the knowledge I have for public consumption. If you'd like to hire me though for more specific stuff, hit me up with an e-mail. 

So yes, here we go. 
Business owners are always baffled as to why businesses like theirs should work with bloggers. Some are oblivious to the whole concept of blogging, while there are some who are finding it difficult to see the relevance of bloggers to their business. Some people think that social media and blogging are the same (one of the biggest business mistakes ever) given the digital nature of both, so yes, I will try to explain it all in this episode of #BloggerXSME. 

Here are the reasons why your business should work with bloggers:

1.) We live in a world where people need reviews for every semi-major to major purchase/consumption decisions they make. 
First and foremost, we are now used too much to a world with reviews we will not live without them. Any makeup item, gadget, restaurant, or whatever travel experience we are interested in availing, we are bound to google it and check out reviews before going for it. The more expensive or the higher the investment, the more reviews we look at, or the more time we spend looking at the reviews we're looking at.  

And so what this means for the business owner is that you want your products and services to have legit high quality reviews so that consumers are less scared or wary of getting your product, more so if you are a new entrant or have a new product/service that is peculiar for most audiences. 

You want to work with bloggers so that when people actually are thinking of buying your stuff (maybe they saw it on TV, or on social media, or in some other ad), they have something legit to see when they Google it. Some business owners make the deadly mistake of thinking that bloggers are only there for disseminating price and SKU information, but it's actually a lot more than that. Because...

2.) People are hardwired to shut out ads or anything purposely selling something to them, and thus are looking for more 'authentic' opinions over a product or service. 
And so this is where the mistake of mistaking social media and blogging as one comes in. Some businesses think that by boosting their own social media, it already counts as their digital strategy. Unfortunately, it's not. People of course know that everything in your social media accounts will only speak of the good and never of the ills of your business. They are following your social media to get updated on promotions and new products. But when they actually see new products, they will also look to bloggers for honest feedback over the product. That's the reason why the most successful brands are the ones that can seamlessly integrate their social media and blogger strategy. 

It's very different when the voice talking to the consumer sounds like another person's voice versus a business entity's voice. That spells the difference between what people will not and will shut out from their heads. If you will notice, most blogs are written in a personal tone. For instance, I speak with my usual goofy, dorky tone here. People feel that I am just talking to them when I do my thing, and honestly, I really just am talking to people as people. I'm not trying to adapt a voice or treat my readers on a different level, my readers are people, just like me. Of course, if you're a business, you can't really talk like a person does and you have to inject some formality into your digital tone of voice to add credibility, or perhaps, adhere to a certain image. Every business needs to care for its image and equity, and as such, I would not advise changing your digital tone of voice if it's not relevant to the brand story. 

3.) Bloggers are a great source of business intel, and their reviews can be a springboard for business hits to come. 
Honestly, the biggest mistake any makeup company can make is to think that beauty bloggers are makeup junkie airheads. Because honestly, we are at the point that we can already predict trends and predict what brands and products are a good idea to bring in. Successful brands have brand managers that read bloggers' sentiments and sniff out what is next for their business. 

Let's be real, market research is too expensive for most SME's, so I really advise business owners to look to blogs for market research. Legit bloggers have a lot of exposure in their niche, and as such their sentiments usually can echo the next sentiments of consumers. Like they can reflect what die hard fans are thinking and can more or less give an idea whether the not so die hard people would be interested in something. If you're thinking of bringing a brand or product in, one good thing to do is to actually look for bloggers in your country who have spoken about it and see what they think and see how their readers or viewers respond. 

And as for the springboard part, bloggers possess a very special quasi consumer-brand state. Bloggers still are consumers, as I can safely say that few have the time to actually work in the brand or advertising side. Even at this point, I still do buy things that I like or find cute or interesting. But at the same time, I am also at a semi brand state because after evaluating hundreds of makeup items, I can already be so technical about a certain product that I can tell about what needs to be improved and what people are looking for in a certain product. In the Philippines, I haven't seen it happen so much, but in other countries, I've seen brands lowering prices, improving packaging and changing things up in response to unfavorable reviews by bloggers. And that's because...

4.) Bloggers are more powerful than businesses think.
A lot of businesses used to think that TV and radio is the way to go. But now, it's a whole different arena, and digital advertising is informally the first or second priority of most big brands nowadays. 

If you've noticed, even the big FMCG brands are working with bloggers even when their TV placements amount to billions every year. And that is because these brands recognize the authenticity and influence that the bloggers of today have. Having one influential blogger give a glowing review of your product is already enough to cause a noticeable spike in sales nowadays. Having many influential bloggers rave about your product can more or less ensure that when coupled with the right amount of above and below the line marketing, sales can really improve. I have witnessed many things in the makeup world get sold out even when the brand itself is not doing aggressive print and digital marketing, and the brand is just investing a lot on bloggers. 

Bloggers are influential because for one, people are now lurking in the digital space more, if not the most. In general, whatever attention consumers have, they are likely to focus it on whatever is digital. No matter how much TV ads you put, if the people you need to target are on the computer, it's no use. So for one, by merely shifting part of your marketing to the digital sphere, you can potentially reach more people through bloggers because chances are, your target market is tuned in on them. 

Secondly, bloggers have a more authentic feel to them. People have a limited budget and will want to get the best value for their money. They are more likely to buy something recommended by someone who feels like a friend rather than the brand itself making a hard sell. 

Third, bloggers really do have followers. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. Possibly millions of them. And their followers are the most likely target consumers your business has. Reaching out to them is no longer some secondary or side or backup form of marketing because the reach of bloggers is so wide that your whole population can already be targeted by them. And that leads to another point. 

5.) Bloggers often have niches, and as such have tailored audiences. 
The best thing about working with most bloggers is that most of them have a niche. So their followers, like I said, are the kinds of people your brand must also be targeting. Working with bloggers provides businesses with a much more targeted method of advertising as you are reaching people who potentially are bound to be interested in your product. Yeah, you may have the money for so many radio ads and TVC's, but why ignore the channel where you can skip targeting random passersby and already target the people who matter? 

And perhaps, in the quest for even more uniqueness, sub niches are already being born within niches. That's why, for a brownie company, for example, it can already be very diverse to work with bloggers. There are food bloggers who cook, food bloggers who only eat out, and food bloggers who only focus on a specific dish, like dessert for example. If your goal is to promote how easy it is to bake your brownie mix, you can send it over to the bloggers who cook so they can show how easy it is. If you want to promote the sophisticated equity your brownie mix has, you can invite renowned chefs to prepare gourmet dishes with your brownie mix and then serve it to the bloggers who eat out. And the best part is that since their readers are sharing the same specific interests as they are, you are more likely to target the people worth targeting. 

6.) Bloggers can actually inject a new flavor into your marketing communications. 
Often times, when a brand creates a product, it cannot really control how consumers will really feel about it until the official launch. There are already many items that have turned to be a flop either because the item just didn't sell, or because the communications the company was doing was different from what consumers would have really seen or felt or done with the product in actuality. 

And as such, with the advent of blogging, prepared to be surprised by what possibilities your service or product can actually have. I have had countless experiences wherein a product didn't work well as intended but worked so well when used in another manner or for another purpose. I have had countless whitening products sent to me that can't make me any paler than I already am, but turn out to have other desirable properties like making the skin very dewy or providing the consumer with an aromatherapy experience. And perhaps the best example of life's surprise is when Nikkietutorials used her boyfriend's aftershave and realized how much of a good primer it actually was. After her review, worldwide, Nivea Men aftershave sold out everywhere, with women storming to drugstores to get them. Plus, with the meteoric rise of life hacks content formats, products are receiving new uses never thought of before. And as such, businesses need to be flexible and adaptive. 

I am of course not telling businesses to dilute their equity and go for everything. But rather, what I am saying is that bloggers' opinions can actually bring out other functional or emotional benefits that you never thought your product or service had. And you can use this to your advantage by incorporating these benefits into your campaigns or promotions. 

7.) Bloggers might just be your next endorsers and ambassadors. 
In the boom of the digital age, celebs are not the only favored personalities to be endorsers. Bloggers are now also favored personalities due to their influence, authenticity, and likableness. There are now bloggers who have official contracts as endorsers of gadgets, makeup companies, skincare centers, and the possibilities are endless. Business wise, it is less expensive to get a blogger versus a celebrity, and there is a bigger chance that they are more likely to be loyal to your brand to actually talk about it without any intervention. 

I can safely say now that bloggers who are treated well by brands do blog about the brands very often even when not required or even when it's not in their contracts, just because they are loyal to the brand and to the people behind it. So you might want to keep that in mind as well. 

And finally. 

8.) Your next business consultant might actually just be a blogger. 
Doing reviews is one thing, but actually giving strategic advice is another. If a blogger is close enough to you, they will start expressing their wishes for the brand. Like the brand could bring in this product not yet in here, or the brand could make something for the climate, or the brand could try this promotion. And the possibilities are endless. Good PR executives take to heart what bloggers are wishing for and use this as a source of new ideas and strategies. 

And this is a different bullet from the previous one because this really involves closeness. Specifically to a brand, bloggers will review the brand and whatnot. It's the brand that needs to study brands by themselves to get the market research I am talking about. What I am talking about here is that once you have an established rapport with influential bloggers, they are less reluctant to tell you their thoughts. They are more likely to give valuable nuggets of advice your business could actually benefit from. They can give you good competitive landscape analysis if they want to. So there's a lot of possibilities here. 

And yaaaaay, that ends my first #BloggerXSME episode!!! Till next time!!!

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