Opinion

Traditional marketing models are in danger of killing blogger influence

louise claireThe way that blogger and influencer outreach is currently being executed is fast becoming unsustainable, and the industry should be worried argues Louisa Claire

When bloggers began sharing the brands they loved and used in their everyday lives, readers found their endorsement authentic and relatable; it came from someone “just like them”. Research found such backing from “real people” was more successful in swaying purchasing decisions than celebrity endorsements, and marketers opened their eyes to a massive opportunity to leverage bloggers’ voices.

The concept of blogger outreach was born.

The problem is that traditional models of marketing have since been applied to blogger outreach (and social media marketing more generally), and it’s not sustainable.

What makes social media so addictive is the instant and unfiltered access it gives us into the lives of others. The access provided through blogging and micro-blogging on platforms like Instagram, Tumbler and Facebook, has changed the way we consume.

Rather than participating in this ebb and flow of social, however, brands have largely tried to use these platforms for promotion rather than engagement. They stick to a campaign by campaign approach often requiring multiple levels of sign off and legal approval, the antithesis of “flow” (and thus, social).

They drop in and out when they have an approved promotion and, to make sure their followers are listening, they grab some influencers to be an extra mouthpiece. (In writing this article I visited the Facebook page of five major Australian brands and on each of their pages found nothing but self-promotion and, unsurprisingly, low levels of engagement).

Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity, bloggers and savvy marketers have become hot property. Thus the rise of exclusive talent agencies for bloggers and influencers, with new additions to this realm continually sprouting. Attractive to bloggers who want someone to do the negotiating for them, these agencies are in a race to build the biggest celebs and secure the largest budgets with the biggest brands.

This model is turning bloggers into celebrities, the very kind of endorsement that blogger outreach effectively broke away from.

The extremely talented pool of bloggers in Australia built their audience by participating openly in the flow of social, and their readers love them for it. Sometimes aspirational, sometimes honest, these bloggers are well and truly loved and so their readers accept the sponsored content (and yes, often respond to it) – after all, everyone has the right to earn a living.

But how long will this last? There is nothing organic or natural about a one off sponsored post (or sponsored series). As a result, the incredible talent of these bloggers is being channelled in a marketing funnel that has an expiration date on it.

While I don’t deny that sponsored posts can work, and we have delivered many through our own agency and blogging network – I believe that there is a far more effective partnership model to explore.

A model that doesn’t do what’s always been done, but that looks at the possibilities that social media affords for truly engaging with consumers. More and more talent agencies won’t deliver this change, and yet change is what is required to build a sustainable industry.

The alternative is in brands forming long-term relationships with bloggers who are already their advocates, and creating a partnership that does not look like a series of sponsored posts. At very least it means not changing the bloggers with whom you work on various campaigns.

Rather, allow bloggers to build their endorsement of you by talking about you more than once and giving their readers the chance to get to know you. Even better, combine the creativity of your team with the bloggers’ own creativity; share your knowledge of your brand and consumer behaviour, and listen as the blogger shares their knowledge of their community and its behaviour.

Bloggers and their representatives will have to step up to this task and make suggestions that break the mould of sponsored posts. I believe it can be done, and by putting creativity and engagement first, we might just create a model for influencer engagement that lasts the distance.

  • Louisa Claire runs blogger outreach agency Brand Meets Blog
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