While a recent Knowledge Networks study found that less than 5% of users regularly turn to social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for guidance on purchase decisions, many marketers find blogs are an effective way to reach motivated buyers.
According to a study published earlier this year, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook were the top four social media tools used by marketers, in that order. The report, Social Media Marketing Industry Report, found 79% of the 880 marketers polled use blogs for marketing purposes. It came in second to Twitter, used by 86% of respondents.
“By a long shot, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook were the top four social media tools used by marketers, with Twitter leading the pack,” said Michael A. Stelzner, the author of the report, and author of the book “Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged.”
But blogs are more akin to public relations than traditional paid marketing channels in terms of getting a product or service in front of a targeted audience. As every PR person worth her salt knows, you can’t tell a journalist what to write. Similarly, you cannot regulate what a blogger says about your product.
That doesn’t mean marketers shouldn’t send products to influential bloggers for review. Smart marketers that get their products in the hands of bloggers need to have faith their product will withstand scrutiny. That inspection is not limited to the blogger either. Most blogs enable consumers to comment on posts, so expect other people to participate in the discussion and voice their own opinions about your product as well.
“[For a marketer] a blog post is only the first step – it means you’re relevant and people are talking about you and communicating, but the end goal is to sell products,” explains Cindy Rakowitz, co-founder of BR Public Relations. “A blog is just a means of getting a dialogue started and creating a following,” she says.
The majority of bloggers strive to be discerning reviewers. They have reputations to build and maintain, and they understand the way to do so is to provide honest, expert product evaluations to establish themselves as trusted sources. That means bloggers usually start with a disclaimer, announcing up front that the marketer sent them the product for review.
It pays to understand the psychology of bloggers: they live to voice their opinions. You would be hard-pressed to find a blogger who will alter his opinion just because he got a free product. But if you end up with kudos from an influential blogger, the potential payoff can be very profitable.