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effective-blogger-outreachThe current catch-all these days for what I do is social media; unfortunately, when what you do is described as social media, people tend to think Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and maybe Google+. My expertise, however, is online community outreach and engagement. Back in 2006 I developed a strategy of blogger outreach that allowed my to reach out to more than just 25 top-tier bloggers by hand over time but to 2,500-5,000 bloggers.

I have always called this long-tail blogger outreach (though I would love your help with choosing a new name for it) because it focuses on the B-Z-list bloggers, the online influencers who are often overlooked by most social media teams at digital agencies.

While I agree that the top-25-50 bloggers do deserve deep, long-term, and personal engagement, spending that sort of time, over time, on “everyone else” would take all the time in the universe. So, what my team and I developed is the equivalent of blogger-brand speed dating. According to Wikipedia:

Speed dating is a formalized matchmaking process or dating system whose purpose is to encourage people to meet a large number of new people” . . . “Men and women are rotated to meet each other over a series of short “dates” usually lasting from 3 to 8 minutes depending on the organization running the event. At the end of each interval, the organizer rings a bell, clinks a glass, or blows a whistle to signal the participants to move on to the next date. At the end of the event participants submit to the organizers a list of who they would like to provide their contact information to. If there is a match, contact information is forwarded to both parties. Contact information cannot be traded during the initial meeting, in order to reduce pressure to accept or reject a suitor to his or her face.”

blogger-outreach2After collecting between 2,000-4,000 blogs that are topically-, geographically-, or demographically-appropriate, preparing a content-laden microsite and penning a very short-and-sweet email message pitch, then I send out those 2K-4K emails, each and every one a speed-date, and wait, real-time, at the Inbox.

Before long, hundreds of email replies stream in. Some aren’t interested, some are game, and others are curious but need more information. Like speed-dating, we’re not interested in the no’s but we’re interested in the yes’s.

Of course we’re courteous and we’re present and we’re always kind — “hugs not horns” I always remind my team — and we’re never anything but earnest and polite — “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle” — but if they’re not interested, we don’t contact them again. And if they’re very unhappy, we’ll beg their pardon and put them into a Do Not Contact list; otherwise, everyone who replies is taken off the campaign list.

The secret sauce, however, is that this form of speed dating requires email — and email is unreliable. And people are suspicious and busy. And email sometimes doesn’t quite make its way to the Inbox.

BLOG written on  old typewriterSo, a week after the initial email outreach, I send a reminder email, but only to those bloggers who didn’t reply at all. No reply results in a follow-up email.

And it works. Too many practitioners of blogger outreach, email marketing, email outreaches, or even triple-, double-, and single-opt-in mailing lists are just too shy, too feeble in their messaging, for fear that they’ll get hundreds or thousands drinks-in-the-face. Nope, not if you do it right.

If you do it right, you’ll get twice the response you did from your first email. So, for instance, let’s say we emailed 4,000 bloggers and a 1,000 bloggers responded. 250 would have responded to the first email outreach, 500 would have responded to the second outreach, and then 250 would have responded to the final outreach.

Yes, a week after we mail the first follow-up email, we send out a final follow-up and thank you, thanking the blogger (who has yet to email us or reply at all — pretty much radio-silent) for his or her time, for the inconvenience, and also to let the blogger know that he or she is welcome to take advantage of the opportunity when and if he or she gets around to reading and responding to the campaign pitch.

blogger-outreach-largeOur rule is to always be friendly, loving, generous, happy, kind, and even respectfully playful with each and every blogger, even the Grumpy Cats. Never rise to the bait, never fight fire with fire, never engage in snark/irony/sarcasm because the only person who is allowed to be anything but completely charming and gracious is the blogger.

Again, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle” — our corporate mantra.

And you know what? If we do everything right, we’ll generally earn a couple-hundred earned media mentions directly shared on the bloggers’ blogs, we’ll also earn secondary mentions through Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, digg, and even, if we’re lucky, reddit.

If you want to learn more, feel free to take a look at this blogger outreach deck I created for my friends at Sage over on Slideshare.

blogger-outreachAnd here are some links to additional posts I have made about blogger outreach in the past:

Blogger outreach and engagement is much more than social media. It could be seen as content marketing, yes, but it could and should be a communications strategy toward discovering and prospecting new and future influencers.

influencers-blogger-outreachIf you can identify a passion player, someone who is already talking about you, your products and services, or products and services you, too, offer, and you can woo them into becoming citizen brand ambassadors, and if you are their “first kiss,” then you’ll be able to develop a very large pack of proponents and passion-players who will be loyal and will have safely imprinted on your attention, your acknowledgement, and your generosity. To be sure, it’s much easier to prospect for new fans when these fans haven’t been wooed by another than it is to woo them away from a secure brand-attachment.

And, to be honest, every single blogger anywhere close to the top-50 has already been spoken for in a big way; and, generally-speaking, their brand sugardaddies probably have deeper-pockets and are internationally more prestigious that you may well be — so it behooves you to play blogger moneyball: find a large number of very talented bloggers who can personally assist you in your branding goals and bottom-line rather than spending your time and money on a few outrageously-compensated stars, most of whom are too busy and too distracted by an embarrassment of riches to actually give you all the time, attention, and coverage that you, your brand, your products, and your services deserve.

BloggerAnd remember, if you do all of this right, it’ll all be an earned media campaign, meaning you won’t have to pay each and every one of these bloggers to post, to cover, to review, or to promote. That’s not to say this’ll all be free to you — all of this can be expensive, both in terms of client service agency hours as well as in terms of the give, the gift, you pitch the blogger with, be it informational, a product, or a service. And you need to make it good. Unless it’s an offer that can’t be refused — give ’til it hurts — and you just expect a blogger to blog about you “just because” then you’ll always be disappointed.

As you can tell from my mantra, the blogger is always right. I have had clients get all diva about drop shipping the number of review copies of products in the past, telling me that they’ll go bankrupt because they’d need to drop ship 200 books or 39 pairs of glasses, asking me to pick and choose which of the bloggers should receive the gift. It doesn’t work that way. The bloggers have all the leverage. If you don’t make good on your generous offer, each and every blogger has recourse — and we knew they did — and it’s their blog! And their tweets and Facebook posts and their Tumblr and Pinterest and reddit and everywhere else.

But that never happens. Give ’til it hurts, understanding that better I do my job and the better and more generous my pitch is, the more bloggers will want to engage, thereby resulting in possibly hundreds and hundreds of requests, based on an outreach of 4,000 blogs — it’s only math. I would hate to hit the jackpot on behalf of a client only to find out that I have “bankrupted” them with my success success (and the client is never bankrupt, the client is generally just cheap with a tendency to exaggerate, though this had only happened a couple times in the last 7 years).

So, long-tail blogger outreach is an amazing platform to both discover and engage with a multitude of natural allies and the people who are already talking about you, and giving them all the tools, the copy, the content, the gifts, and the impetus to share stuff about you, as earned media mentions, in very short-order, all over the Internet (an entire campaign only takes around six-weeks, total). It also allows you to harvest all of the bloggers game enough to mention you and your goodies into your inner-most, inner-most, your sanctum sanctorum, where you can personally grow your relationship with them now and groom them into the future — build up your own Guy Kawasaki, Om Malik, and Robert Scoble prospected and recruited and from the bush leagues or from “high school.”

I didn’t expect this post to be so long, but I guess I had a lot to share. Do you consider what I am doing with blogger outreach to be “social media?” What do you think about the discipline? The theory of “everyone”? The concept of flirting with bloggers en masse and engaging with them in a very quick “yes/no” speed-dating scenario? Do you think it is worthwhile to reach out to thousands of bloggers — all the way down to “nobody” — instead or in addition to the top blogger celebrities? Let me know what you think in the comments. I am very curious as to what you think and would love to tweak my methods, evolving it over time. Thanks in advance!

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Chris Abraham

About Chris Abraham

A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication; organize search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.

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