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March 11, 2015

12 Ways Brands Can Collaborate With Influential Bloggers in 2017

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bloggers-influencers

People are dealing with a lot of content online. And they don't always know whom they can trust. 

According to Technorati, blogs rank among the top five “most trustworthy” sources of information on the internet.

Because bloggers build a following during a long period of time and by producing interesting, quality images or articles, people begin to trust these sources. They relate to them and respect their opinions. 

Many brands are now turning to influential bloggers to reach new audiences or to engage them in a different way. They are finding ways to collaborate so their message is told by an authority source people actually pay attention to. We run influencer marketing campaigns at The Shelf and have found that there are a ton of opportunities for brands and bloggers to connect. Consider these 12 tactics if you are looking to pair up with a blogger:

gift-goodsGifting Goods

Gifting goods to your favorite bloggers is undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to expose your brand to potential customers. The key to success is to identify bloggers who share the same aesthetic as your brand. If they love your gifted goods, they’re more than likely to give you exposure. Whether you’re gifting an all-inclusive resort stay or clothes from your latest collection, you’ll want to work with bloggers that produce high-quality visuals. The goal is to create content featuring your brand's products or services that are highly shareable.  

However, if you’re looking for guaranteed exposure, gifting goods is not the way to go. While most bloggers do accept gifts, they don’t guarantee editorial coverage. Normally, they expect compensation if they’re promoting you on their blog and social channels. To that end, always get in touch with the blogger before sending out gifts. It’s better to agree on specifics first. If the blogger charges for this type of coverage and you really want to work with them, at least you can work out the arrangement beforehand.

Luxury brand Chanel gifted a stunning backpack to high-end fashion blogger Rumi Neely, and since then, the bag has made an appearance in numerous photos on her Instagram feed and in blog posts. Because the brand isn’t paying her to promote the product, Rumi doesn’t go out of her way to mention it. However, the backpack appears in her social feeds, so Rumi’s readers are constantly exposed to the brand without being directly marketed to.

A photo posted by Rumi Neely (@rumineely) on

A photo posted by Rumi Neely (@rumineely) on

 

Although visual products are great for gifting, they can be effective in other scenarios, too. Case in point: when indie blogging app Desk sponsored a post on John Gruber’s blog, Daring Fireball, the creator of Desk was bombarded by requests for "review copies" from other prominent bloggers in the tech space. These free copies turned into reviews, which propelled Desk to become the 11th most-grossing app in the Mac App Store marketplace.

sponsoredSponsored Posts

Sponsored posts are easily one of the most popular ways for brands to work with bloggers. Essentially, a sponsored blog post is when a blogger is paid to publish content about the brand on her blog in her own voice. The beauty of sponsored posts is that each blogger can put a unique spin on the content so it appeals to her readers.

Remember: if the blogger is following FTC regulations, she will include a small note somewhere on the post to indicate that the story was sponsored by the brand, but opinions are her own.

Partnering with bloggers on these types of posts can be great for gaining awareness and securing a few valuable links from high authority domains. 

Prada used this strategy when it enlisted a group of influential bloggers to promote its new fragrance, Prada Candy Florale. Bloggers were challenged to share their #StopAndSmellTheFlorale moments through their blog and social channels.

product-reviewProduct Reviews

Product reviews from bloggers in your niche are a powerful way to convince potential customers to buy. Since bloggers are known for being trustworthy sources, their readers take note when they have something good to say about a brand. In fact, 84% of consumers research online before making a purchase decision and 7 out of 10 people read online reviews prior to making a purchase. These reviews are also extremely beneficial if there’s an educational component to your product that requires a detailed overview.

If you want to ensure your product gets covered though, don’t just send your product out to the blogger. Get in contact first, and then agree on the specifics. You'll want to make sure they will cover your product in a positive way. Read through other reviews on the blogger’s site to see if they’re generally receptive to your type of product.

Reviews are wildly popular for products that are hit-or-miss because customers rely on them for making purchasing decisions. Makeup is often reviewed by beauty bloggers for this very reason. On Stuff Parents Need, the author does a great job of outlining all the products that come in the Beauty Box 5 subscription box so readers can see if the subscription is worth your while. If a consumer sees a real person gain success with a product, it's a very powerful thing. If your brand has a product where people can track their progress -- such as weight loss, hair growth, or even teeth whitening -- in a series of posts, it could be a perfect fit for a product review collaboration. 

giveawaysGiveaways

Running a giveaway through a blogger is a fantastic way to get your customers excited about your brand. Giveaways can increase engagement and grow your social media following or email newsletter subscriber list.

Always ensure you’re choosing a blogger that aligns with your brand identity and as a result, will appeal to their audience. When choosing a prize, offer something of real value, otherwise readers won’t take the time to enter. The blogger knows her readers far better than you do, so be open to feedback as far as prizing goes.

Since giveaways require participants to do something on their end, tie that action back to your brand’s goals. Do you want to increase your social media following on a specific channel? Ask the participant to follow you or tweet out your giveaway with a branded hashtag. Do you want to increase your email subscriber list? Ask them to sign up before entering the giveaway. Rafflecopter is an excellent platform for running giveaways that tie back to these specific brand goals.

Keep in mind that the blogger will usually charge you for the sponsored post, plus the giveaway component as it requires extra work on their end to set up, promote, and pick a winner.

Forever 21 used this tactic during the holiday season. It partnered with several bloggers to offer $150 gift cards to a blogger’s readers. Each blogger put her own spin on a holiday-inspired Forever 21 outfit, and they encouraged their followers to participate in the giveaway that ran during a one-week period.

group-giveawaysGroup Giveaways

Group giveaways are when a brand partners with 10 or 20 bloggers who may run sites focused on the same target audience or even different groups.  

The sponsored giveaway is posted by all bloggers on the same day, and entries are collected through the same platform. This group scenario allows you multiply the exposure you would normally receive with a single giveaway. And because you are running everythint through one platform, your team is able to save time and money. 

Depending on how big the bloggers are, you’ll might find that many are willing to participate without charging. As an added bonus, all bloggers involved get a ton of exposure by cross-promoting each other. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

If you choose to go with a group of smaller bloggers, this won’t do wonders for your SEO but it will be great for generating a lot of shareable user-generated content. This type of content makes for great fodder for your own social media channels and can also spread like wildfire on platforms like Pinterest. Working with smaller bloggers also allows you to be far more focused in terms of your audience. Since smaller bloggers spend far more time nurturing relationships with both brands and their audience, you can see a huge gain from working with them. In fact, 72% of bloggers share additional posts about their sponsors for free, outside of their contractual agreement after campaigns are over. You'll find this is the case far more often with smaller bloggers. 

Fashion brand DSW ran a group giveaway with 17 style bloggers. Each blogger offered a $250 gift card, which meant participants had 17 chances to win. Partnering with such a large group of bloggers was a great way to increase exposure for the brand. As an added bonus, each blogger linked to the other bloggers involved, which increased their own followings in the community.

pinteres-contestsPinterest Contests

The Pinterest platform is an ideal place to run an image-focused campaign. As Pinterest is very aspirational, the key is to ensure the graphics are high quality and shareable. You can either get the blogger’s readers to pin one of your images to their pin board in exchange for a contest entry, or you can go a step further and have them create an entire board focused on a pre-determined campaign theme. Remember to get participants to mark their entries with a branded hashtag so that you can easily track submissions and campaign impressions. As an added bonus, Pinterest contests are great for generating referral traffic to your website.

Bows-N-Ties ran a Pinterest contest to target people planning their weddings. The contest was a perfect fit for the platform as many people plan their weddings and the surrounding events using pin boards. Bows-N-Ties partnered up with influential wedding blogs, such as Style Me Pretty, to increase participation in the content. Even though these images were created more than a year ago, they’re still circulating among people searching for wedding inspiration.

pinterest 

sponsored-adSponsored Ad Space

If you want to raise awareness for your brand, sponsored ad space will easily get you in front of more eyeballs within your industry. There are two routes you can take with this option: you can buy ad space via a network or go straight to a blogger. If you choose the ad network route, you will have far less control over the blogs your ad runs on, meaning your message could end up missing the mark. Having said that, ad networks are great if you want to take the stress off finding the right blogs to advertise on.

Going direct to the blogger offers you complete control over what blog you appear on. It can also show you what results you can expect if you were to do a larger-scale collaboration. For brands that are highly visual, like those in the fashion space, getting your ad on the right blog can make a huge difference.

Having direct contact with the blogger might also open your eyes to various other lucrative advertising opportunities, like advertorials and email newsletter ads. Be sure to monitor your analytics to see how well your ad is doing, what you need to change, or whether it’s worth continuing to advertise on the site. 

influencer-competitionInfluencer Competitions

If you want to get creative with your campaigns and generate some serious buzz around your brand, invite influencers to participate in a competition. You can get really creative with this format. Prizes can include exclusive brand collaborations, a chance to travel somewhere on behalf of the brand as an ambassador, or the opportunity to sit on a best-dressed list -- to name just a few options. Influencers will need their readers to vote for them in the competition, so it is a great way to reach the readership of bloggers.

Skype recently created a contest called “Your City, Your Passion.” Influencers with in different cities around the world were encouraged to share their passion with the hopes of winning guru sessions with an expert in their field, such as Yvan Rodic of Facehunter and Darren Morenstein of Epic Meal Time. 

guest-postsGuest Posts

Another great way to expose your brand to a blogger’s audience is through guest posting opportunities. This is another way to gain backlinks from high authority sites. Bloggers in various verticals accept guest posts from industry experts so you just have to do some digging. Once you find sites in your particular niche, you should be able to tell pretty quickly whether or not they accept guest posts. Oftentimes, theses sites have a submissions or guest post guidelines page. Always review these before sending a pitch as editors are busy. Keep your email concise, and offer several ideas on the same subject matter so they can choose the angle that best suits their blog.

The benefit to guest posting is that you get the opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader within your industry while also exposing yourself to a new and relevant audience.

When BufferApp first launched, it invested in an aggressive guest posting strategy. As a result, the company acquired more than 100,000 new customers within the first nine months of its launch date. Since the brand did nothing but guest post on other sites in this time frame, Buffer attributes its user acquisition success solely to their guest posting efforts.

sponsoredSponsored Social Media Posts

Social media is a science in and of itself for converting customers. Some bloggers are becoming so influential that their Instagram accounts alone can act as viable channels for marketing other businesses. With this in mind, marketers have been experimenting with social media as a stand-alone form of influencer marketing. According to Izea, 52% of companies have a paid social budget for their brand.

While it’s easy to get caught up in follower counts, it’s more important to pay attention to engagement. If you’re collaborating on sponsored social posts, make sure that the blogger has "likes" and comments on her previous posts and is successful at getting followers excited about her updates.

It may take a few views before people start following your account, so do work out a deal where the blogger is promoting you at least a few times during the course of the campaign. 

In this Instagram post, style blogger Xander Vintage featured hair rings by Regal Rose. That post alone generated approximately 1,260 "likes" and 20 comments. In the comments, her followers were even tagging their friends to alert them to this unique hair accessory.

Love these @regalrose hair rings! #regalrose

A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Alanna Durkovich (@xandervintage) on

videosVideos

Videos drive awareness, increase engagement, educate readers, inspire action, and are great for SEO. In fact, 70% of the top 100 search listings on Google are video results, and the social sharing of videos can affect organic Google search results.

Develop a creative video concept, collaborate with a highly influential blogger, and invest in promotion. You might just have yourself a viral video.

OPI partnered with Refinery29 to educate viewers on how to create a half-moon manicure with a double-dipped tip. These how-to videos were perfect for the beauty-interested audience, and they were a great way to show off the brand's product. 

affiliate-programAffiliate/Referral Program

Setting up an affiliate program for targeted bloggers can increase conversions for your product and bring you a new audience.  And the best part? Affiliate programs are a win-win situation. If the blogger successfully refers business to you, you can offer a nice payout. The typical rate for affiliates can vary widely, but for startups, it’s generally around 25%. As a rule, it should be whatever makes it worth it to both your brand and the blogger. 

Alternatively, you can join an affiliate network instead of running your own program. Every major retailer uses one of these programs because of the volume of leads that they generate. Affiliate networks include rewardStyle,ShopSense, Linksynergy, Skimlinks, LinkShare, CJ Affiliate, and VigLink.

Invest in Influencer Marketing

There is a shift in how marketers are reaching consumers. According to research from Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other people -- even someone they don’t know -- over content created by a brand. That's why brands need to invest in creating content and partnering with content creators who are trusted resources and can build awareness of the brand and its product. The options are endless, but the key is finding the right partner with the right audience. 

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Topics: Marketing & Advertising

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