Even the biggest budgets have limitations when it comes to marketing events, but social media has allowed event planners to find more creative, and sometimes inexpensive, solutions. One of those methods is a blogger network. Planners know that word of mouth is one of the most influential forms of advertising, and bloggers can have the same effect, since their endorsements are a form of testimonials. Having others help you spread the word will allow your reach to grow with little cost.
1. Narrow down the blogosphere.
With so many bloggers out there, it can seem overwhelming to find the right people for your organization. One easy way to discover bloggers who are already talking about you is to set up a Google Alert, which sends you an email any time your organization is mentioned on a website. Another method is to solicit bloggers through your networks. If you track your social media, you can locate fans who mention you often through outlets like Twitter and see if they have blogs.
A simple vetting process can ensure they will reflect your brand well, either through an internal checklist or a questionnaire. Ask them questions about their target audience, readership numbers, frequency of posts, social media activity and number of followers, how long they’ve been blogging and if they guest blog for any other events. For example, if a blogger is a current guest blogger for an event that competes with yours, it may or may not be beneficial to bring that person onboard. Spend some time reading their past posts and getting familiar with their writing style. Also pay attention to how they present their content: Is it a straightforward text post? Are they incorporating images, videos or any other interactive elements? Are the images or videos sourced, or are they original content produced by the blogger? It’s important to evaluate each blogger to determine whether they are a good fit to represent your organization.
The number of bloggers you use is up to you. It should be a number you can manage without too much difficulty, so I recommend starting small. You may need to refine your process after one or two events, and that’s easier to do with a small group.
2. Give an incentive.
Fans are generally happy with anything you provide, because they already are talking about your event. Some ideas include company resources, discounted event admission and social media promotion of their blog (i.e., sharing their blog posts about your event on your networks). Additionally, you may want to purchase advertisements on their blogs where your budget allows. Another incentive is to provide bloggers with a giveaway item for their blog, such as a free ticket to the event. Prizes help bloggers build their audience, and it’s an easy way to build awareness for your event online and get people talking.
3. Be specific about what you want.
Clear expectations should be provided to bloggers before they decide to join your team. You don’t need to draw up a formal contract, but providing them with guidelines or requirements (including your timeline), as well as what they’ll get in return, will help the process run more smoothly. Bloggers need to be treated like insiders. Keep them in the loop when major developments occur, or give them a heads-up on additions or changes. Depending on your event’s life cycle, you may want to send them regular updates. These can be done via email or a mail system like MailChimp. When you contact them, make the information worth their time, and provide them with everything they need, such as graphics, special codes or files.
4. Define what’s expected on-site, too.
If a blogger takes the time to join you on-site at your event, take care of their travel expenses. They should receive additional perks, such as free tickets and meals. Of course, you also want them to be connected. Consider getting a sponsor to pay for private suites with Wi-Fi, snacks and space to network or conduct interviews. Clear guidelines come into play on-site as well. You may want them to blog from the event, make social media mentions, conduct interviews or sit in on particular sessions. They should be prepared—and well-equipped by you—to make that happen.
5. Do a post-con analysis.
Use hindsight to help you move forward. After your event, review your process to see how well your guidelines were followed and whether your event benefited from the additional chatter. You may need to re-evaluate each blogger and make some changes for next time, or raise your expectations or communication levels. And, of course, asking them to provide feedback on the experience can go a long way in building trust and improving the framework of your blogger network.
A Few Sources for Finding Bloggers:
Bloggers submit offers to guest post on specific topics, making it easy for planners to search who is available to write on their subject matter.
This self-proclaimed “blogger outreach dashboard” has a network of more than 100,000 bloggers. It’s free to browse the blogger directory, but a membership fee is required to pitch bloggers through the platform.
Search an index of millions of blogs by keyword, topic, number of followers and location, and it will provide key information about each blog’s social profiles, traffic statistics, SEO and more. This service carries a fee and is on the higher end of the blog-searching spectrum.