Bloggers and Influencers: Who They Are & Why Your Business Needs Them
Influencers are early-adopters who have used blogging, vlogging (video blogging), and social media to make a name for themselves, establish a personal brand and become an influencer in their niche. A whopping 81% of the population trusts the advice they get from bloggers, making them very powerful advocates for any brand online.
In this blog:
- 5 Ways Businesses Can Work with Bloggers
- Identifying Bloggers Relevant to Your Business
- What Working with A-Listers Really Means
- Ultimate Tips & Tools for Finding Bloggers in Your Niche
- How to Measure Blogger Influence
Influencer marketing is poised to be “the next big thing” according to Adweek. According to Google Trends, the phrase is a “breakout” — something that is achieving greater than 5000% growth. But what is influencer marketing and how can we use it to build our brand and sell more of our products?
Influencer marketing is the practice of encouraging influential people to recommend your product or service to the people that they have influence over. It essentially borrows and builds on time-worn marketing concepts such as marketing induced word of mouth recommendations and celebrity endorsements. Where influencer marketing differentiates itself from its predecessors is that it generally refers to online influencers who make their influence felt through their blog posts and social media updates.
The arrival of social media means that influencers have more influence than ever before. Literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people see every single Tweet made by celebrity superstars such as Kim Kardashian. If she recommends a product via a Tweet, the commercial landscape for that product shifts dramatically and immediately. Influencers aren’t new — Edward Bernays, the grandfather of PR, wrote about the importance of what he called “special pleaders” as early as 1927. But what is new is the sheer quantity of people that influencers have access to and communicate with on a daily basis. If Bernays’ special pleaders were important, then today’s superstar Twitter and YouTube influencers are an order of magnitude more important.
In one exceptional example of how to do influencer marketing properly, Lord & Taylor identified fifty Instagram fashion influencers and asked them to wear the same dress on the same day. The results were as impressive as you might imagine. When impressionable Instagramers saw that all the cool kids were wearing the same dress, they rushed out to the shop to buy one for themselves. The dress sold out the next weekend.
This case study confirms what both theory and research have long been suggesting. A study from McKinsey found that marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising as well as an improved retention rate.
The excellent thing about influencer marketing, from a small business point of view, is that it is so new that only a small number of people are doing it properly. This means that influencers (aside from the obvious megastars) aren’t yet aware of the true value that they can bring to your brand. In other words, you can currently make use of influencers for a smaller price that they should be charging — but that won’t last for much longer. Getting Kim Kardashian to take part in your marketing campaign might be a tall order, but making use of up-and-coming or niche influencers on underexploited platforms like SnapChat and Periscope is a way to make big profits. Much like how it was once possible with Facebook advertising in the early days before everyone else cottoned on.
Unlike traditional editors, bloggers and influencers won’t just accept content from business owners simply because they are an industry expert. Working with bloggers is a whole different ball game to working with editors. While editors are after article contributions and expert insight to fill their pages, bloggers are used to running the show by themselves and aren’t usually in desperate need for extra content. The vast majority of bloggers write their own content and they put a lot of effort and passion into their craft — which is why they end up with so many adoring readers. Bloggers aren’t going to let just anyone publish on their website, which they are often fiercely protective of, especially not anyone who has an alternate agenda
5 Ways Businesses Can Work with Bloggers
Enticing an influencer to work with your business means giving them a little something extra, especially if you want to slap a link back to your website (which you do) in there. There are a number of different options when it comes to working with bloggers and which one you choose will depend on your business and your digital PR strategy. Here are five of the most successful ways that you could collaborate with bloggers to promote your business:
1. Sponsored Posts
Sponsored posts are when a blogger is paid to write and publish a blog post in their own style which mentions and includes a link to the brand. Sponsored content comes in a variety of forms, some more overt than others — which is often at the blogger’s discretion. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regulations state that a blogger should include a disclaimer that the post was sponsored by the brand and there will usually be a short line at the end of the blog post stating this.
Approach bloggers with an idea of a sponsored post topic that is relevant to your brand and their blogging niche. For a travel company, this could be something as simple as “10 essentials to pack for your summer holiday.” Offer bloggers a token amount of between £25 – £150 to write a blog post related to this topic that includes a link to a blog post on your own website. In this case, that blog post could be “5 secrets to more efficient holiday packing.”
2. Product Reviews
A popular strategy for many businesses is to send products to an influencer in exchange for a review on their blog, a video about their experience, or to share x number of photos on social media. A business could send a blogger an item of clothing, invite them for a complimentary hotel stay, offer them a free beauty treatment, or any number of things. If an influencer loves the product, they will definitely say so in their review — which means that finding influencers who are a good match for your brand and products is vital.
3. Product Features
Product features work the same way as reviews. However, instead of a formal review, a blogger will include the product/service in a blog post about a broader topic relevant to the blogger’s niche or as part of a collection of products. For example, a travel blogger might write about the epic mountain that they just climbed and casually mention that they were wearing your trainers while they did it. Feature types vary between genres and between individual bloggers — features include formats such as gift guides, makeup tutorials, recipe posts, fashion lookbooks, and so on.
Want to massively boost social media followers or gain subscribers to your newsletter as a way to bring in new customers? Running a giveaway is the answer. For giveaways, the business provides the prize and the influencer will host the competition on their blog post, YouTube channel, or other social media platform. In some cases, the brand may also provide the blogger with a product, or pay the blogger for hosting the giveaway, depending on the authority of the blogger and style of content required.
5. Blogger Events
If you want to gain lots of coverage from bloggers all in one go, then hosting a blogger event is the way to go! Blogger events are put on with the sole purpose of gaining coverage on blogs and getting bloggers excited about your brand. They work particularly well for big brands and for local businesses based in areas where there is a high density of relevant bloggers (e.g. London, Bristol, Brighton). Bloggers are invited to attend an event showcasing your brand in exchange for blogging about it.
Identifying Bloggers Relevant to Your Business
Influencers who are producing content within a specific niche will often have very targeted audience — if your brand aligns well with theirs, then you have a good chance of getting your products or services promoted and therefore getting access to very relevant readers and potential new customers. Remember that having a mismatched blogger/brand relationship is awkward for both the blogger (who risks losing the respect and trust of their readers) and the brand (who won’t see much of a return on their investment with a disengaged blog audience).
Just because an influencer has an authoritative website or a big social media following, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily work with them. You want to identify which influencer niche is most relevant to your business and partner with influencers within that niche in order to establish a working relationship that’s awesome. This will also ensure that your business is getting in front of the right readers. There are a number of factors that you need to consider before you start looking around for influencers to collaborate with:
|Target audience||Consider demographics, such as age, gender.|
|Product Type||Would this influencer and their readers/followers/subscribers be interested in your product? Does their blog feature other products of this type?|
|Product Specifics / Style||Does the influencer’s branding, content, and personal style reflect a similar style to your own brand? Does your product fit in well on this blog? Do you like the content of this blog?|
|Cost of Products||Are your products within the reader’s price range? Look at the cost price of other products featured by the influencer and work from there.|
|Location||Are you a location based business or do you also sell products online? What countries do you ship products to? Where do you get the most orders from? Consider bloggers based in these areas.|
Let’s say we’re a shop selling retro and vintage women’s clothing, all with mid-range price tags. They have a small independent shop which is based in Brighton, but they’ve also started selling their clothes online through their own website. They want to work with bloggers so that they can build their own website’s authority through reviews and gain a little social media coverage too. There are a couple of things to unpack about the kind of bloggers who this retro and vintage clothes brand would want to work with:
|Target audience||The target audience for the clothing are women, which means the brand will be looking to work with female bloggers (or male bloggers writing for women).|
|Product Type||The business only sells clothes and accessories, so they need bloggers who are interested in clothing, fashion and style.|
|Product Specifics / Style||The brand has a specific retro and vintage style, so they are looking for bloggers who have an affinity with this style.|
|Cost of Products||Readers won’t want to see cheap handbags on a high-end fashion blog and equally readers with a tight budget won’t want to see products too far above their price range.|
|Location||Let’s say our vintage clothes shop is based in Brighton, though they also have an online store. The main focus will be on the UK and preferably Brighton-based bloggers, but if they ship overseas it could be worth considering bloggers based abroad.|
Once you have all of the key information, you can decide what kind of bloggers are most relevant to your business. Carrying on with our vintage clothes shop, it’s clear that fashion and personal style bloggers will be their main target. They would be looking for personal style bloggers who would model their clothes in lookbooks or vintage clothing blog posts. The business may also decide to branch out and target lifestyle bloggers and beauty bloggers who have a retro/vintage style.
Working with Bloggers in Multiple Niches
Depending on the products and/or services that your business provides, there may be more than one relevant type of blogger to work with. For example, if your online store sells sportswear then your products may be relevant to fitness bloggers, yoga bloggers, fashion bloggers and even active/adventure travel bloggers. Some blogger niches are more receptive to working with brands than others. As you start to get in touch with bloggers about possible working relationships, you will be able to see which bloggers are the most digital PR-friendly and interested in your specific products or services.
What Working with A-Listers Really Means
When you initially start searching for influencers to work with, it’s likely that you’ll come across a lot of the influencer A-listers. A-list influencers are what we would call the elite in influencer circles, and are comparable to trying to work with Forbes, Huffington Post and other high-end publications that we’ve all heard of for editorial. Everybody wants to have their company on the front of TIME Magazine. Likewise, everyone wants to be featured on the homepage of the biggest blogger in their industry.
As you can probably guess, the demand for getting content in those places is high — and so is the price tag. While it would be totally rocking to have these influencers promoting your brand and you should definitely aim high, top bloggers and vloggers like Zoella, Lily Pebbles and JJ Olajide (aka KSI) charge up to £4,000 per mention of a product and the same again per Instagram/Twitter post featuring a product. That’s a whole lotta dolla for a Tweet!
But there are plenty of awesome bloggers out there who have super engaged audiences and don’t charge sky-high prices for a product mention and some Tweets. Most bloggers fall into the mid-level influencer category, where they are still producing great content and have an engaged audience but haven’t crossed over into the world of insane stardom where their demands go through the roof. What you want to do is find that blogger sweet spot (unless you have Coca-Cola’s advertising budget, in which case you can afford to be indiscriminate!)
How to Find Influencers in Your Niche: Ultimate Tips & Tools
You’ve got an idea of the kind of influencers you want to work with and some thoughts on what you might offer them, but how do you find them? There are a number of different methods that you can use to find influencers in your niche and usually a combination of these different approaches is best to dig up a strong cross-section of relevant influencers.
As you start searching, you want to make a list of all of the influencers whose content is good and who fit well with your brand. Creating a simple Excel spreadsheet with a column for blog URL, the name of blogger, and (if relevant) the blog niche will be all you need. You can then look up their stats later on to make sure they reach far enough and could actually benefit your brand.
Important note: as you research influencers you will notice that some bloggers own their own domain names (normally .com or .co.uk) and some of them are free subdomains (.blogspot.com or .wordpress.com). So the guys at electrictobacconist.com have their own domain while Dick from dickpuddlecotes.blogspot.com has a subdomain which is being hosted by Blogger (previously known as Blogspot). If your primary goal of working with bloggers is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) then you want to exclusively work with bloggers that own their own domain. This is because links from free subdomains are worth much less than links from actual domains. However, if your primary goal is brand awareness, then you shouldn’t necessarily write off free subdomains as some of these blogs still have great engagement with their readers.
Using Google Searches to Find Bloggers
Google Search: Google is a good place to start your blogger search. Search for a simple blog type term, such as “fashion bloggers UK” or “vintage fashion blogs UK” to pull some relevant results. You’re likely to find that most of the first page of the search will give you lists of top bloggers published by other websites, as well as the most high profile bloggers for that niche.
That’s exactly what happens if we Google “vintage fashion blogs UK”. The second and third results are for top 10 lists featuring multiple bloggers — these are definitely worth checking out, though after you’ve read a few they will likely become very samey. Vuelio is a common top result for lists of influential bloggers. The first, fourth and fifth results on this page are vintage fashion bloggers — retrochick.co.uk, victorias-vintage.co.uk, and notdressedaslamb.com. You can check out these bloggers and see if they look relevant to your brand.
Google Alerts: Set up Google Alerts for the keywords that describe your target angle or blogger. For example, you might want to monitor the word “lipsticks” so that you know whenever a blogger posts an article about lipsticks and potentially reach out to them with your own product to review. You might monitor a generic term such as “gifts for children” if you have products that would be relevant for blog posts that would turn up on parenting, family and mummy blogs.
Blogrolls: Blogrolls are lists of blogs compiled by a blogger in the same niche. You can search on Google for “blogroll” and “specific keyword” to find some relevant blogrolls. For example, if we search “blogroll” + “vegan food” we get a whole list of bloggers with lists of vegan food related blogs.
Using Twitter to Find Influencers
99.9% influencers use Twitter. If they’re Tweeting regularly and using hashtags relevant to their niche, then you’ll soon be able to find some of the most active influencers out there by searching directly on Twitter.
Search Hashtags: By searching relevant hashtags, you’ll be able to find bloggers and other influencers who have recently Tweeted their content. Here are some of the most common hashtags used in common blogger circles:
|Beauty bloggers||#bbloggers (beauty bloggers)
#motd (makeup of the day)
#hotd (hair of the day)
|Fashion bloggers||#fbloggers (fashion bloggers)
#OOTD (outfit of the day)
#WIWT (what I wore today)
|Lifestyle bloggers||#lbloggers (lifestyle bloggers)|
#pbloggers (parent bloggers)
|Travel bloggers||#ttot (travel talk on Twitter)
If you are looking to work specifically with bloggers based in a certain area, check to see if there is a hashtag for bloggers located there. For example, bloggers in Brighton use #BrightonBloggers, bloggers from Leeds use #LeedsBloggers, and in Bristol some local bloggers run @BlogClubBristol where members use the #BlogClub hashtag.
Check Out #PRrequest: The #PRrequest hashtag is used by bloggers looking for opportunities to work with brands and by businesses looking for opportunities to work with relevant bloggers. The #journourequest and #bloggerswanted hashtags are useful for getting in touch with journalists and bloggers respectively.
Search Twitter Bios: When you type a keyword into the search bar on Twitter, you can click on the “Accounts” tab so that the search results only show users with those keywords in their Twitter bio. If we search for “lifestyle blogger” and go on the accounts tab, this will pull up all accounts with those words in the profile — that’s a whole lot of lifestyle bloggers!
Have a Look at Some Twitter Chats: Twitter chats are live Twitter events about a particular topic. These chats use a specific hashtag to filter all of the Tweets into a single stream of conversation. Twitter chats are usually industry specific and run at a set time every week.
There are Twitter chats for nearly everything, from common blogging chats like #BlogHour and #blogtacular, to ones for blogger groups such as #lbloggers and #beautytalk. There are even very specific chats such as #rttc (responsible tourism Twitter chat).
You can search on Google and check out the Twitter profiles of influencers and high-level bloggers in your industry to see if there are relevant Twitter chats being hosted. As well as looking for great bloggers here, you can also join in with the chat if you have some valuable insight — a good move for getting your brand a little more exposure.
Search & Compare Users on Followerwonk and About.me: Followerwonk is a Twitter analytics tool provided by Moz. Followerwonk can be used to search Twitter bios, compare Twitter users, and analyse which users are the most influential. About.me (formerly known as WeFollow) is a similar tool which lets you find blogs and bloggers by topic and sort them by influence.
Using Facebook Groups to Find Influencers
Groups for Bloggers/Brands: There are a couple of Facebook groups where bloggers and brands can look for opportunities to work together. The most well known is the Blogger Opportunities group (facebook.com/groups/bloggeropportunities1), though it’s mainly frequented by mummy bloggers and lifestyle bloggers.
Blogger Specific Groups: Many bloggers actively participate in Facebook groups related to their niche too. There are groups dedicated to very specific topics and although some of these groups have lenient admins, some of these groups will not approve membership to non-bloggers so check each group’s rules. However, even if you are not a member you will be able to see who the admins are — more often that not, they’ll be influencers in their blogging niche.
Resources & Tools for Finding Influencers
There are numerous tools out there, some free and others paid for, that will help you identify influencers. Unless you’re running a massive influencers outreach campaign, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to invest in paid tools at this stage in the game as unpaid tools are pretty gangster as it is.
Blog Indexes: Similar to blogrolls, blog indexes are a list of the top bloggers — usually the top 100 — within a certain blogging niche. Not every niche has a blog index, but many of them do. A quick Google search should show you if there is one in the niche you’re searching within. Two well known UK blog indexes are the Tots100 (tots100.co.uk), which features the top 100 mummy bloggers in the UK, and the HIBS100 (hibs100.co.uk), a list of the top 100 home and interiors bloggers in the UK.
Blog Discovery on Delicious: Delicious works like a personal search engine where you can search, collect and organise links. You can search blogs by tags in order to find blogs in particular niches and order them by the most popular or most recent links. It’s also a good way to glean information on what topics are trending.
Blogs with “Viral Factor” on Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon: Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon are all content aggregator sites. These user-powered sites will pull up content which does well based on user votes so that you can see what kind of content gets shared from niche blogs.
Influencers on Bloglovin’: Another content aggregator, Bloglovin’ is more useful for finding high-end blogs and influencers. It’s particularly popular within the fashion, beauty, and lifestyle bloggers, but all main blogging genres are searchable from the website’s category buckets.
GroupHigh and Inkybee for Big Campaigns: Blogger outreach is time intensive, especially if you are manually researching and building lists of the bloggers you are going to contact. If you are going all out with a big campaign, then it may be worth investing in a tool such as GroupHigh and InkyBee. These are massive blogger search engines, blogger data spreadsheets, personalised pitch software, and campaign monitoring tools all rolled into one. BuzzStream is another useful software tool for managing larger campaigns.
There’s been a rise in the number of blogger/brand networks. These networks are extensive blogger databases where brands can post campaign opportunities and be introduced by a digital PR middleman to relevant, targeted bloggers. They can save on the work, but a fee is usually required by the business.
We’ve just set up ShoutOut.ly, our very own blogger/brand network, so we totally recommend that one (because we know it’s good). Other notable blogger/brand networks include Zeal Buzz, Bloggers Required, Joe Blogs Network, and the unimaginatively named The Blogger Network.
Ask Influencers You’ve Already Worked With
If you’ve already successfully collaborated with an influencer previously, then it’s a great idea to ask if they know of any other influencers who would be interested in similar opportunities. Influencers are a tight-knit bunch, and so it’s likely that they will be happy to send you a shortlist of their influencer friends who talk about similar topics and have a similar style. Plus, if you’ve got an influencer to vouch for you being a great business to work with to their friends, then you’re more likely to secure some great partnerships with influencers in the future.
How to Measure Influence
By now you’ve probably got a bigger list of influencers than you know what to do with. To narrow down the best influencers to target, in order to get good returns on promoting your business, it’s time to add some new columns to your influencer spreadsheet and look at some stats.
Blog Stats & Media Kit: Most bloggers who are open to working with brands will have a media kit or media pack available. A media kit will include all of the important stats about the blog, including monthly readers and social media followers, as well as previous brand work and their most popular blog posts. Bloggers may also provide their “Klout score.” Klout is an online tool that ranks its users according to online social influence and gives them a score out of 100.
Here’s a media kit for luxury travel and lifestyle blogger, Jasminne, who runs poshbrokebored.com:
Some bloggers may choose to simply write the stats on their “work with me” or “sponsor” pages. If you can’t find a blogger’s media kit or stats on their website, fire over a quick email and they should be happy to send it or their stats over to you.
Domain Authority (DA): DA is a measure of how likely a website is to rank well on search engines. The measurement is calculated based on the website’s age, popularity, and size. The metric uses a 100-point scale, with 100 being at the top and 1 being the lowest. To give you an idea, The Guardian UK website is DA 97, while a new website I created yesterday is DA 1.
DA can be used to compare how “strong” websites are. You can find a blog’s DA by searching the website URL on Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Moz’s OSE will also show you other stats, including how well pages on the website rank and how many other websites link to the blog.
Let’s check out the DA for staceycorrin.co.uk, an amazing blogger who we’ve collaborated with on a number of very successful campaigns:
Stacey’s blog has a DA 31, which is a great score for a blogger. You can also see that she has an incredible number of links coming to her blog, which shows that lots of other websites like her content, and that she has a spam score of 0.
When working with small business clients on blogger outreach, we tend to look for bloggers who have a DA of about 20 up to about the DA 35-40 range. Beyond this kind of ceiling you’ll often find that the bloggers are moving into the realm of A-listers, and their demands on small businesses can be far too high.
Keyword Rankings: Ideally you want to be working with blogs who are ranking well for the kinds of searches that you want your products or services to show up on. SEM Rush is a tool which allows you to plug in a blog’s URL and check what the top organic keywords are.
Let’s check out what keywords nomadicmatt.com, one of the leading travel bloggers, is ranking for:
Based on this we know that Thailand and Central America are the countries which Matt writes about that rank the highest and get the most interest from his readers. This means that a company working in either of those areas could make a massive impact if they secured an opportunity on Matt’s blog.
Social Media Stats & Engagement: You’ll want to make a note of how many followers or subscribers the blogger or influencer has on Facebook, Twitter, and any other relevant social media platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest. However, it’s not all about the numbers. It’s also about engagement. An influencer who has 10k Twitter followers that never like or comment on their social media updates is far less influential than someone who has just 2k Twitter followers that are engaged, interacting, and Retweeting their posts.
Check out Canadian blogger Amanda who runs fashion and lifestyle blog pinkthetown.com. She has just under 1,957 followers but her most recent contest Tweet has great engagement — 258 Retweets and 55 likes — which just goes to show how well a brand can benefit from collaborating with even a smaller-sized blogger.
I won’t name any names, but compare this to a fashion and lifestyle who has over 12k followers on Twitter but next to no interaction on the majority of her Tweets:
It’s easy to see from this comparison what an engaged audience can mean for a business partnering with a blogger. The more astute among us may have noticed that the four Tweets on this second blogger’s Twitter profile look as though they may all be blog posts that involved brand partnerships — the words “review” and “wishlist” are dead giveaways.
Note: Facebook engagement and interaction are often quite low as a result of Facebook’s changes to its reach algorithm. Social media experts have commented that Facebook is becoming more pay-to-play orientated.
Blog Post Engagement: Have a flick through some of the recent blog posts to see whether the blogger is getting comments from their readers. There is no hard science to this one as some blogs do not actively encourage users to comment on the blog post. Instead, they choose to engage in discussions about blog posts on Facebook or another platform. However, it is great to see users actively commenting and creating a discussion around a blogger’s posts. It’s even better to see the bloggers engaging with their readers in return.
Beyond the Stats…
Above all, what you actually want to do is find influencers that really resonate with you and your brand. There’s no point working with an influencer whose content you’re not that keen on just because they have a strong website DA and high follower numbers. Look for the best of both worlds and don’t be afraid to experiment with who you work with. Sometimes you might find that the smaller guys put more work in because they appreciate the opportunity, and that’s great for you.
Action Point: Create a list of 10 target influencers. Use the ninja search techniques above to find 10 influencers that would be a good fit to promote your brand. Consider the influencers’ niches and how well their content style fits with your brand, as well as factors like their DA score, social media followers, and their followers’ engagement. You will also need to collect contact information.
Tip: You can often find a blogger’s email address either on the sidebar, on their “about” or “contact” page, or on a “sponsor” or “work with me” page.
You may want to use a quick table or spreadsheet, as follows:
|Blog URL||DA||Blogger Name||Monthly Readers||Twitter Followers||Facebook Likes|
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