Working with Brands and Bloggers Even with Low Traffic

April 17, 2015 in Workshops and Tips

When I wrote a blog post about TBEX on How to Prepare for a Travel Blogger Conference, I received a comment from a new blogger and reader who asked if attending a conference to network with DMOs, and industry brands was “worth it”.

Actually, it’s a common question I hear from fairly new bloggers and even bloggers who have been at it for a couple of years. Whether you’ve been blogging for two months or two years, us bloggers wear many hats. We’re writers, photographers, editors, marketers, negotiators, social media strategists, website fixers, search engine optimizers….the list goes on. Despite these skills, there is a continuing stigma “new bloggers are not good enough” and a misconception that new bloggers cannot be influential in consumers’ purchasing decisions without the high traffic numbers or social following brands typically use to judge a bloggers’ ROI.

As an organizer for Travel Massive in Toronto, a unique chapter within the world’s biggest network for online content creators and travel industry professionals, I meet tons of travel bloggers who want to make that all-important pitch but feel discouraged to take the chance. They have the skillset but their stats are “too low”. They don’t have a media kit because their traffic doesn’t stand up to the “big” guys, so they wonder what would they put in it anyway? They may wear many hats, but many of them don’t believe they offer enough “value” or “influence” to approach brands.

“I don’t have the blog stats for it”
“My numbers are too low”
“They will just choose a bigger blogger over me”
“I’m not influential”
“I’m waiting for my traffic to increase”

How Brands Are Measuring Bloggers’ Influence

I am going to go out on a whim and state that many brands and PR firms select bloggers for press opportunities, FAM trips, and campaigns in the wrong way, leaving out an entire market of smaller bloggers with growing influence. Some brands are misinformed when it comes to finding and choosing which bloggers to work with, looking at traffic spikes, page rank (which Google has done away with by the way), klout scores, or simply asking the wrong questions. A recent study by The Social Craft finds Twitter and Facebook are the most used criteria for deciding a blogger’s influence – unfortunately, these are the two most unmeasurable indicators for a brand’s ROI. Twitter is primarily a mean for stirring conversation more than bookings and the ever-changing Facebook algorithms means the average page will reach only 5-10% of followers.

wrong way to calculate Blogger influence

How Bloggers Want to Be Measured

Brands should be more interested in measuring blogger influence by the criteria listed at the bottom of this chart (community involvement, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs). These factors have proven to have greater impact and direct influence on the booking funnel and consumers’ purchasing decisions than social channels like Twitter or Facebook.

Back to that pressing question from bloggers, “is it still worth pitching brands when I have low numbers?” and from brands: “is it worth selecting bloggers with low numbers?”

The answer. Yes.

When I meet bloggers with smaller blogs who ask me about pitching I always tell them, Yes, it’s worth it! The reality is, in this heavily saturated new medium we call the Internet, blogs are unarguably a dime a dozen. In 2014, Technorati listed 1.3 million blogs on the net. It’s an increasingly crowded world web where everyone is fighting for clicks, eyeballs, and ways to stand out from “top” bloggers.

But blogging is not just about numbers.

New bloggers with only one or two years of experience in the blogosphere have much more value and influence than they – brands and bloggers – realize. In fact, I will go out on whim and say blog stats are not a complete and accurate way to measure a bloggers’ influence.

I am writing this post to help new and recent bloggers realize how much they can offer, to encourage them to think of their value differently, to craft a media kit and pitch their unique value to brands even with low blog stats.

I am also writing this post to encourage brands to go beyond blog stats, to select bloggers in the right way, generate real ROI, get concrete bookings and secure actual sales.

Look at Growth not Followers.

When you’re jut starting out, the number of readers or social following may not be as high as you would like them to be. This is normal and expected. What you should focus on is growth. Use your media kit to convey how much your blog has grown in the last 3, 6, or 12 months. Start a spreadsheet. Track your accomplishments, then convert your growth in percentages for traffic, social networks, and page views over a period of time.

Tip for BRANDS: Consider growth patterns. A blog’s growth over a period of time is a good way of predicting popularity in future. And what brand wouldn’t want to get on that early bandwagon before the others do?

Pay Attention to Comments and Fan Mail.

Forget the number of comments you receive on your posts (including Facebook or Instagram comments, and Twitter replies). Instead, pay attention to the quality of comments. Was a reader inspired by your experience? Did you encourage a reader to add a destination to their list, book a hotel you recommended, eat at a restaurant you reviewed, or buy a product you mentioned? Did you receive fan mail asking for advice on how to book a trip? 

“Someone arrived at a sandwich shop in the small Italian town where Franca is from with a printout of one of our posts and the sandwich we recommended on it.” — Dale Davies, Anglo Italian Follow Us Blog

In just the first 18 months of my own blogging experience, a food tour review I wrote generated five bookings at a value of $474 USD in new sales.

how to pitch brands

When you receive these lovely notes, they are testimonials of your work. Take a screenshot of them and paste them into your media kit. This is proof that you have engaged your readers. You are encouraging readers to think about having the same experience as you, which would then lead them to making that purchasing decision as a consumer. One or two of these comments can be far better social proof and ROI than receiving 100 re-tweets on a blog post which eventually gets lost in the Twitterverse.

how to pitch brands

Source: instagram.com/travelingjourno

Tip for BRANDS: Ask about community engagement (not quantity of followers) – online and offline. It’s important to note readers don’t always feel the need to comment on a post but might connect with bloggers via email or in conversation.

“Sometimes brands focus more on the number of clicks they get from online content but it’s not always a fair criteria. We constantly receive calls or emails from customers who say they heard about us from a blogger’s recommendation. Bloggers are some of the most social people in the world. They like to share their experiences with everyone they meet and travellers often make decisions based on word-of-mouth” - Stephen Oddo, Walks of Italy

Capitalize on Demographic.

Where are your readers? Some blogs or social media accounts have a strong readership in a particular region of the world. Use this to pitch brands that match your audience.

Tips for BRANDS: Capitalize on a blogger’s ability to influence not everyone, but one target market.

Highlight Community Involvement.

That last criteria in the chart we just looked at above should really be the first criteria. Showcase how involved you are in the community.

  • Are you part of an association for writers, marketers or maybe a global network like Travel Massive?
  • Think about personal connections you have to others in a niche market who regularly share your content, link to you, or re-pin you.
  • Use tools like Hootsuite, insights for Facebook or Pinterest, and Twitter Analytics to see which influencers are sharing your work with their readers too.

Tips for BRANDS: New bloggers could be well connected to other influencers who can amplify your message.

Focus on Niche.

Use your unique niche or type of audience to your advantage when pitching brands. Brands want to work with bloggers who match their target market. A blogger with 100 loyal readers all passionate about wine will have more influence than a blogger with 10,000 readers interested in general food and drink. Emphasize your niche in your media kit.

“I have a small fitness blog and someone sent me a message just the other day saying my blog inspired her to buy an exercise product I mentioned.” — Chelsea Alventosa, Bye Bye Chubby Chelsea

Tips for BRANDS: Consider niche blogs over “top” ranked ones. Bloggers with a small specific audience can have a more personal connection to their readers and thereby, influence purchase decisions more effectively.

“One reader purchased a £1,500 membership to a club after one of my reviews.” Laura Zito, Six of Ten Magazine, circa 18 months.

Unique Content.

Write about destinations and topics other travel bloggers are not writing about. On FAM trips take photos other bloggers are not taking photos of and publish unique angles you can’t find from a Google search. Use alternative content to show brands that you are different; your personality, voice, and ability to highlight a destination or product in ways that other bloggers are not doing has great value. In traditional journalism, writers and reporters aim for an exclusive story and this is like gold, even in digital journalism.

Tips for BRANDS: Take the time to read blogs to choose the best outlet for you.

Previous Work and Campaigns.

If you have worked with brands on a previous campaign, use that to highlight your past work and show future brands what you can do.

  • Email your contacts for a testimonial on how well you worked together.
  • Send them a request to leave a professional recommendation on your LinkedIn profile.
  • Include their quotes in your media kit.

Tips for BRANDS:  Even smaller bloggers have experience working with brands who have learned to deliver brand messages.

Go Beyond the Blog.

A blogger can be more appealing to a brand when they offer additional value outside the blog.

  • Find out what the campaign goals are. Then ask yourself, how can I help the brand? If they want to attract more US travellers, can you write for a US publication?
  • Think about your transferable skills. Were you a marketing or PR professional in a past life who understands how to deliver a brand message? Do you have a degree in Professional Writing? Are you a stellar photographer who can achieve a brand’s objective with visuals?
  • Who is in your network? Do you have connections in related or vertical industries who can support the project?

Tips for BRANDS: Consider using bloggers with a specific skill or expertise to help you market content beyond blogging.

Conclusion.

A blogger’s overall influential footprint is made up of more than just size and numbers. Sometimes it’s not about numbers at all. Smaller bloggers with growth, past campaign experience, engagement (online and offline), niche, and unique skills can help brands go beyond clicks and traffic, to generate real ROI in bookings and sales.

“With careful research we unearth a blog and writer who has the best fit with a specific destination and its objectives. It’s not just the size of a blogger’s audience.” – William Bakker, Destination Think for TBEX

 

Okay brands and bloggers, this is where I ask you to engage together.

Please consider leaving a comment below.

Bloggers – have you had success with a small blog?

 

Brands – how do you find and choose bloggers to work with?

 

OTHER HELPFUL READS:

Pete and Dalene of Hecktic Travels just released their new e-book, How to Work with Travel Bloggers.

A great read on Demonstrating ROI from a Blogger Campaign

Why Influencer Reach Doesn’t Matter Anymore