Bloggers are the Emperor’s new clothes. The dotcom of the 2010s.
OK, I’m being deliberately provocative to grab your attention but it’s partly true.
Of course, there are some genuinely brilliant bloggers – smart, original thinkers who’ve nailed the art of talking to their audience. They engage people in fresh, digital ways that have left traditional publishers weeping into their plummeting balance sheets. And they’ve quickly whipped up a following that long-established brands can only dream of.
Bloggers and vloggers are authors and broadcasters. They licence products and star in sell-out tours. Zoe Sugg clocks up more than 10 million subscribers for her Zoella YouTube channel. I’ve just looked up gamer Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie): today he’s showing 60.4 million beautifully-niched, hard to reach YouTube fans, despite an anti-Semitism row.
These are the big names but the stardust effect is sprinkled on the mortals too.
Meanwhile mainstream media is struggling. Newspapers are ditching print versions. Magazines are scrabbling to reverse slipping ABC figures by giving copies away – or simply switching to a free-to-reader, ad-funded model altogether. They may succeed in propping up their circulation numbers but everyone knows they’re fighting in a different arena these days.
The dazzling spotlight being shone on bloggers is the problem. Middle-aged brand managers are often blinded. They don’t understand the phenomenon but they know they want in.
Value for money?
One thing the blogset don’t lack is savvy. When approached by a brand to write a single sponsored piece, with just a supporting social media post or two, fees of £7,000 aren’t unusual for bloggers with a reasonable but not stratospheric reach.
The question is, what are you getting for that money?
Brands are scratching around for smarter tools than traditional advertising but bloggers don’t provide promises any more cast iron than an old-fashioned half page.
Your well-rewarded writer may be able to furnish you with page impressions but what’s the uplift for your business? Will your sponsored post actually flog any widgets for you?
Getting into bed with a hot blogger is all very sexy and ‘now’ but if it’s not actually going to help your bottom line, it needs to deliver a big whack of awareness or brand association.
That’s not to say such brand associations can’t work – we’ve had some great experiences. Just a warning that a blogger with her own agenda isn’t going to do your marketing for you. And if you’re not careful, it could be an expensive experiment.
The smart way
The real power for brands comes when you create your own long-term, smart content strategy.
Good branded content, created by experienced, qualified journalists, will drive traffic to your site, build your values and personality, cement customer loyalty and convert visitors to buyers.
Journalist Iain Aitch agrees brands should focus on the long game: “Big-hitting bloggers can be great for giving you a temporary bump in page views. But hiring an experienced journalist means that you are paying for someone with at least a working knowledge of libel law, as well as someone who can interpret a brief, rather than delivering you 5,000 words about something completely off-topic.
“Experienced writers are constantly firing off ideas on any number of topics, whereas many bloggers can be quite inward-looking or self-obsessed. Of course, there are some great bloggers out there who can easily earn a living as pro-writers. But beware hiring cheap, especially if you don’t have a sub-editor with legal training on the desk.”