How to Woo a Blogger: Lessons for Internet Marketers

 In Secrets, Tips and Tricks

I’ve been back at blogging for a few weeks now (at the time of this writing) and already I’ve received an offer from a company to do a giveaway contest. I don’t know if my SEO (search engine optimization) voodoo is just that good, or if it’s from my tie-in with Google Adsense, but it’s easy to let my ego get carried away.

This company, let’s call them FunPrint (a fake name, sorry if a FunPrint company exists out there). FunPrint made a few mistakes in approaching me, and I believe I handled it civilly. The following is an over-dramatic re-enactment of what happened, and some lessons to learn about courting bloggers for both bloggers and advertisers.

Lesson 1: The Introduction

 To: Raging Tech
From: FunPrint Messaging System
Subject: You have received a message from FunPrint – Blog Giveaway Opportunity

Hello, my name is Sarah Jessica Parker, social marketing director at FunPrint! Yeah! And FunPrint would like to
offer to sponsor a giveaway contest on your blog. Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll send you the details.

Thanks!

Sarah Jessica Parker
Social Marketing Director, FunPrint

So, on first glance, there’s a few glaring issues:

  1. Spammy-sounding Subject Line and e-mail display name.  Give me a real person name in the sender field and I’ll at least feel more at ease. They make up for this by using their real name(?) in the signature line.
  2. No up front details. This really bothers me – you’ve given me a small hint of what you’re up to and now require me to respond that “Yes, I’m vaguely interested, please do tell me more.” I’m not that busy of a guy, but I imagine if you work for a company as a social marketing rep you are and your time is important to you. Why not get to the point? (See: “What’s in it for me?”)
  3. Who the hell is FunPrint? I have no idea what this contest is for or what your business does, or if it’s vaguely related to what my blog is about.

I replied to this e-mail with a simple “Sure, tell me what your company’s about and give me the details of this contest.” Two more e-mails were exchanged where I essentially re-assured them that yes, I’d like to know the details. It was starting to feel like Starship Troopers: “Would you like to know more?”

Lesson Two: “What’s in it for me?”

To: Raging Tech
From: FunPrint Messaging System
Subject: Re: You have received a message from FunPrint – Blog Giveaway Opportunity

Before proceeding with the giveaway instructions let me give you a brief background of our company.

FunPrint.fake was established with little more than a small press and a dream. Ten years later our company became one of the foremost quality printers in Fakeplacea. Our commitment to provide the best value and high quality full color printing at affordable price made our company grow. FunPrint is a full service high quality printing company located in Bobstown, Fakeplacea.

Again thank you for giving us the opportunity to work with you

1. On your blog post, you must include the following:

a. Details of the giveaway prize: 250 Stickers or Postcards.

[miscellany here about the paper weight, quanity, etc. but it’s stickers]

*Giveaway is open to US Residents only, ages 18 years old and above.

b. Disclaimer – You must disclose that you got something from the sponsor.
ex. Thank you to FunPrint for providing us this giveaway, I will receive a set of stickers for hosting this.
c. Keywords and URLs – The set of URLS and Keywords below must be used on the giveaway blog post. The URL must only be linked to the keywords provided.

[miscellany here about linking to specific words and phrases, for SEO for their site]

d. Product Image – The image of the product attached to this email must be used on the giveaway post.

e. Follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook – It is optional to ask your readers to Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter.

2. Send the URL of your giveaway post to sponsorship@FunPrint.fake as soon as you post it.
3. Once the giveaway has ended, send your winner’s name and email address to sponsorship@FunPrint.fake.
4. Deadline of submission of winners is on March 13, 2012 to be included on our prize awarding this coming 15th of March.

Prizes for both winners and hosts will be awarded on the same date.

Thank you so much and we are very glad to be working with you!

So, very simply:  in exchange for a blog post to promote your company and its products and services,  up your search engine ranking by linking specific keywords to specific pages on your site (See: “Why Gaming the System is Evil”), getting you new Twitter and Facebook followers, and my time and effort – your offering is an order of stickers or postcards?

Oddly enough, that offer was still tempting. I was tempted to put on this contest, even though it was only vaguely related to this site. I figure that everyone loves free stuff, so I’d mull it over.

Lesson 3: Why Gaming the System is Evil

Google, among other search engines, is good for more than just going out to find the thing you’re looking for based on the words you type in. If you type in “aardvark” for example, you might get a few million results. That can be… less than useful. However, in a fair and arbitrary search, that’s how it would happen. You would need special training to learn how to search more specifically for that which you’re looking.

Search engines employ some tactics to make the first results on the page the ones that are most relevant to you. They’re getting better and better at it. One way they do this is by calculating the number of times a web site is linked to via specific sets of keyword search terms. For example, if a thousand blogs link to Aardvarks.org using the word “aardvark” then it’s more likely to show up as the top search result than say AardvarkRoommates.com.

Essentially, Google is “trusting” the internet to tell it where the most relevant / popular / timely information is about a search term by the number of times that term is linked to a web page. Of course, Google knows there are tons of  link-spam sites out there, taking advantage of this very system. They invented “Page Rank” to help increase the credibility of non-spam sites and a formula for calculating how much influence your web page has over the recommendation each link on your page makes to its search results.

The end result: “Social Media Marketers” and “Internet Relations Executives” set up situations or buy posts on credible websites and blogs to have specific keywords linked to their web pages. Do this over a large number of sites and your Google search results go way up.

Essentially, the site owners have just whored out their credibility and reputation for some mild compensation, and diluted your search results. So you can see why the stickers and the keyword linking requirements put me in a tiff.

Lesson 4: Be Honest, Be Interested, Be Engaging

So, you’re an internet marketing director for an internet start-up or some brick-and-mortar business that’s adapting to today’s internet economy – they hired you because you had an impressive resume and you talked like you knew something about the technology and skills.

Think about the last time you watched a movie or a television show or played a video game and spotted pretty blatant product placement. It was obvious, painful, and it may even have jolted you out of the experience. Blogging takes on all sorts of forms both fictional and non, but product placement does something similar for us. People expect their ads to be separated and identifiable, not forced on them disguised as legit content.

So why is it that companies like Think Geek, Valve, Blizzard Entertainment, Coca-Cola, Taco Bell, and others are able to do product placement and get away with it? Ever wonder why companies like Think Geek’s products get cheers instead of jeers when you notice one on shows like The Big Bang Theory?

The simple answer is community. Coca-cola probably being the oldest example of tying in their products with Americana,

How are you building community? Will propositioning me as a blog owner to hold a contest or other marketing solution both reward me and engage your company with the community that makes sense for both of us? Am I familiar with your products or services enough that I’d champion them even if you didn’t approach me? tradition, and social events. These companies have not just become known for their products but for their engagement. A slight disclaimer: I haven’t done research to see if any of the companies I just mentioned can be tied to evil practices. But these companies have engaged their customers to the point that even if they didn’t advertise in traditional senses or use product placement, their community would champion them to the world.

I hope these lessons are helpful to the marketing community at large; and I hope that by following some of these lessons you will become better members of your community and ours. Coming together comes first; the profit comes as a byproduct of engaging people.

Dave
I'm a 29 year-old blogger and tech support guy at a small university in the south. Technology makes me angry. I have certifications from Microsoft and Apple and I love Linux too. RAWR.
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