How to Get Discovered by Brands (GUEST POST)

This is a guest post written by Tamar Weinberg, VP of Customer Success of influencer marketing platform The Shelf, a tool that ensures that brands connect with the most relevant influencers. The Shelf’s technology includes patent pending brand and ecommerce indicators.

Get Discovered By Brands

Are you a blogger looking to be discovered by a brand for collaboration opportunities? We totally understand the challenges you’re facing.

I’ve worked with a sizable number of bloggers in the past, having written a book on social media marketing with an entire chapter dedicated to blogging. Many people start their blog and come to me immediately after two or three posts, thinking that money and recognition will come immediately.

It won’t.

There are over 200 million blogs—and that’s just one platform. However, even though the space is extremely competitive, there’s a lot of noise and not enough signal. For you as a blogger, that’s a great thing. Discovery will take time but it is doable.

My key piece of advice for all people trying to start a blog: keep at it. Work really hard and post consistently.

But more so, network! Let other people discover you by engaging on their content. And above all, keep your attitude positive and your head held up high. These days, engagement on blog posts is low. Blogs in 2015 don’t get as many comments as blogs in 2010. However, as you keep up on blogging, your social proof as a personal brand will go up. Your Twitter follower numbers will rise. Your Facebook Likes will increase. You will be recognized by people who will be interested in who you are and what you do.

Now you have an established following and brands are taking notice. A few have reached out to you and want to work with you–but you may want to work with others. One of the biggest challenges you will have is how to effectively pitch and collaborate with brands. I totally recommend making the first move.

As long as you have the social proof, you’re in a position to effectively pitch and build upon these brand relationships that benefit both you and your brand. Here’s how we suggest that you build the relationships:

Do Your Research

Look at what other bloggers in your niche are covering. Are they working with other brands that may be interested in your audience as well? If so, take a look at how they’re collaborating with these other brands and feel them out. Was it a giveaway? Affiliate offer? Sponsored post? Once you have a solid understanding of what type of collaboration they are working with, you’ll have a solid foundation for formulating your pitch.

Take a look into the brand’s marketing initiatives. Are they working on any existing campaigns it may be helpful to align with? It may help to check out the brand’s social media channels where you may find promotional materials that help you learn about current campaigns that are worth participating in.

Develop Your Pitch

On top of your research, you may already have a few brands in mind that you want to work with. They could be products/services that totally jive with your audience and your interest level. By now, with both of these, you should have a pretty solid understanding of the types of collaborations that have been done before with the brand and other bloggers, if at all. (And if not, just make the first move and ask!)

Why does your blog align so well with their brand personality? It’s helpful to communicate this particular point in your pitch. To stand above the crowd, you may wish to get creative and offer some other ideas on other types of collaborations.

After you’ve jotted down your thoughts, create the pitch: include a short overview of who you are, how the campaign benefits the brand, and any deliverables you’ll give them. Make your email short and sweet, and if you’d like, include a media kit so that the brand knows about your audience, your social followings, and your positioning in the marketplace.

Be in constant contact

Assuming your pitch is good, those brands should be able to get in touch with you quickly. If they schedule a meeting or phone call to discuss the scope of the project further, take it. Be open to hearing as much as possible from them so that you fully understand their objectives so you know exactly what they’d expect from you and how you could realistically help them. By having this meeting, you should be able to get all the information you need to craft a formal proposal with requested compensation.

If they didn’t get back to you, try again. I hate to say how many times I’ve dealt with people who are good people but are just bad at responding to emails. Maybe they were reading your initial contact while under the covers at 11pm. Maybe they were in a meeting. (Maybe they suck.) But don’t be afraid to try again and be politely persistent until they respond. In fact, if you’re passionate about them, show them you’re already engaged with the content. Feature their brand in an article. Tag them on social media. Engage with their posts and show them your love of the product.

And if you’re already in communications with them, that’s a tipping point! Your blog has now become a professional medium, and it is important to be professional with your communications with these brands to keep these collaborations coming. This is the best step toward a long term relationship that benefits everyone and puts you in a great light.

Initially, it will feel like quite an intimidating process to be involved in this next step with brands. But at the end of the day, the brand gets visibility and you get some benefit through product, payment, and affiliation as well. After all, you’re an influencer. It would be silly not to interact with people who had the If you don’t have the courage to reach out, the opportunity may never present itself.

Blogging and eCommerce: Guest Post by Lloyds of Indiana

My partner, Paul Lorinczi, left Professional Blog Service in 2013 and went to work for Lloyds of Indiana, a former client of ours. I’m pleased to be able to share this guest post written by Garry Jones, owner of Lloyds.

Years ago, Professional Blog Service came to us and suggested we start blogging to support our eCommerce site. We are an online retailer of Print Finish Equipment. We supply print shops and small offices with things like binding machines, binding supplies, laminators, laminating supplies and some larger equipment like uv coating machines and the uv coating fluids that go with them. It’s pretty boring stuff, yet highly technical. We were skeptical like most people. You would not think that blogging would be worth doing, but it ends up being a primary driver of traffic.

Lloyds of IndianaProfessional Blog Service set us up with the Print Finish Blog. It was one of the best things we ever did. The Print Finish Blog is one of the biggest referrers of traffic to our eCommerce site. We offer tips on servicing laminating machines, how to best manage your uv coating machine, what uv coating fluid works best. We try to help people assess the cost of operating certain machines and their economic benefits for automating. See, many buyers are looking for in-depth knowledge of how their purchase could benefit or not benefit their business. Bombarding people with marketing material only will not help them in the end.

So, what is the benefit? The majority of traffic to the Print Finish Blog is through organic traffic. Since, people searching are using long tail keywords, the blog content gets good positioning in the search engines. While most of the content is non-marketing, the blog does provide links to the lloydsofindiana.com website. So, on average, we can get 25% of our traffic referred from our blog properties in addition to organic traffic. Often times, those blog visitors end up becoming customers. They tend to be buyers. The one constant that is true today as it was 10 years ago, buyers use keyword phrases, shoppers use keywords.

The Print Finish Blog has been good for business. Blogging for eCommerce can help find those buyers out there. It pays to become an authority in your space. Professional Blog Service helped us see the light years ago and it has paid off.

Who Should Sponsor Your Blog?

Should you have a sponsor for your blog? Is it worth the effort? Or are you selling out your soul by accepting filthy lucre for a company to have a say in your blog’s content and tone? And which company’s filthy lucre should you pursue?

(Yes, yes, not really, and it depends.)

I’ve been DMing with Mark Eveleigh, a first-class travel writer, book author, and photographer who takes some gorgeous photos of those places you’re never going to see before you die, about whether he should blog (he should) and if he could get a sponsor (he could). He also owns a freelance photography assignment agency where several other outstanding outdoor photographers are available for hire.

Mark Eveleigh

Mark Eveleigh. Petty jealousy and raging insecurity make me want to not help him. A guilty conscience makes me do it anyway.

Mark has an interesting situation, because a sponsorship for his personal branding blog makes a lot of sense. As I see it, he would appeal two basic categories of readers: travel enthusiasts and photography enthusiasts.

The experience levels in these two categories may range from “I wish I could do that” to the serious amateur to the consummate professional. And because Mark is a specialized travel writer and photographer — trips to remote locations to take beautiful pictures — he is most likely attracting readers who want to do similar activities, or at least learn more about it.

Why Sponsor a Blog?

Travel writers have a special niche that can appeal to a wide range of readers — from people who like to travel to people who like to read about travel — who have self-identified as loyalists and users of a particular special interest. That’s a valuable niche for marketers to tap into. Anyone who sells products to travel fans should take advantage of sponsorship opportunities.

So who should sponsor Mark’s blog?

If he wants to appeal to the travel readers, he should talk to large travel agents that specialize in adventure travel, airlines that travel to out of the way locations (think Brazil, Thailand, South Africa), adventure travel gear manufacturers, and publishers of travel guides for the adrenaline-addicted.

On the photography side of thing, he should reach out to makers and online dealers of high-end camera equipment, camera bags, and other photography-related businesses.

(Frankly, Mark’s camera manufacturer, Nikon, should be begging him to throw their logo all over his blog, and include him in their ads.)

In exchange, Mark can write include basic mentions in an occasional article, review a sponsor’s service or product, and allow some ads on his site.

Sponsorship doesn’t always have to include money though. It can also include goods or services. For someone like Mark who travels constantly, it could be free flights for a year, or an expensive new lens to review and keep.

Prove Your Value First

Of course, pursuing sponsors also means being able to prove the value of the blog itself. It means knowing the number of readers, what their interests are, what kinds of influence they have, and even who they are.

Using tools like Google Analytics for web traffic (where they came from, what they read the most), Klout for influence (your readers’ and your own), and even what your network is interested in (using Twellow.com or Gist.com) can help bloggers show where their readers are coming from and what they’re interested in.

I think that as blogs grow in popularity and blog owners are able to show something newspapers have never been able to demonstrate — accurate and up-to-date reader stats — we’re going to start seeing more marketers get involved with real bloggers who can deliver on both great content and valuable readership.

Ignore the ROI of Social Media

That’s right. Ignore it completely.

It’s stupid. It’s a stall tactic. “What’s the ROI?” is often a cop-out question asked by people who don’t really want to do or understand social media. If you’re asked this question when you first start talking to someone about social media, distract them. Jingle your keys in front of them or something.

I heard Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) speak at the Social Media Club Chicago this past week, and he said something that made me want to pump my fist and shout “F— YEAH!!!”

Photo of Patrick Roy

No, no, I meant R-O-I, not Patrick Roy (wah).

“The next someone asks you about the ROI of Twitter,” Scott said, “substitute Twitter with the word ‘talking.’

“What’s the ROI of ‘talking?’ How much money do you make with this new ‘talking’ business? I don’t understand why you’re ‘talking’ to customers all the time.”

F— YEAH!!! </fistpump>

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging — they’re all tools for communication, just like talking. But we don’t measure the ROI of talking. We measure total results, usually as a sales figure.

I love networking. I go to networking meetings, and I talk to people. I meet those people later for coffee, and talk some more. My cost is the driving, the time, and the coffee (medium decaf mocha, extra hot, please). The ROI — which I have never been asked about — comes when I close a deal, get a speaking gig, get a referral for a new client, or even get a book deal. That’s something I can measure after the fact. But I can never figure it out beforehand.

An example: the first time I ever met my good friend and writing partner, Kyle Lacy (@kyleplacy), for coffee was nearly three years ago. I think I bought my own coffee, but I could be wrong. (I probably am.)

Total cost? $4.20 (mochas ain’t cheap, Chester).

But what did I get out of it? Over the last three years, several speaking opportunities, collaborating on a couple projects, a little business passed back and forth, and two book deals. And he’s bought lunch a couple times. So the ROI is pretty damn high, especially if he did buy the coffee. [Update: I checked with Kyle. He bought the coffee. He always buys coffee for first meetings. Looks like I owe him a cup.]

I’ve never had to justify the ROI of talking. No one does. So why should we justify the ROI of Twitter and Facebook? They’re tools that let us talk. If we have to explain their ROI, then show me the ROI of your cell phone. Or your desk phone. Or your laptop and email. Show me the ROI on a handshake.

Otherwise, stop asking me about it until you start using it. Then we’ll figure it out.

(Note: This is NOT to say that social media should not be measured. It absolutely should. But if you ask about ROI at the beginning of your efforts, you’re setting up for failure, because you don’t know what you’re trying to measure. Instead, try it, use it, jump into it. Get good at it. Then measure how much money you’ve made on it. I’ll talk more about how — and why — to measure the ROI of social media next week.)

3 Reasons and 6 Steps To Keep Your Microsites

Sean X Cummings, the director of marketing for Ask.com, made a rather bold, but completely wrong*, argument in his recent post “3 Reasons To Ditch Your Microsites.”A magnifying glass Cummings said that companies should ditch their microsites because they are “advanced brochureware” and a sure sign that a marketing agency “does not get it.”

(*It’s entirely possible Sean and I are using the same word for two very different things. I’ve been calling one-page sites on unique URLs “microsites.” The following is based on my usage of this term.)

Actually, microsites serve a very important purpose to web marketers. Here are the three reasons you need to keep them:

1) Microsites boost search engine optimization.
2) Microsites improve your SEO.
3) Microsites make your SEO better than your competitor’s.

Microsites are not for marketing, not for branding, not to participating in the conversation. Once you build them, you don’t do a single thing with them.

The proper way to use a microsite

Let’s say you own a carpet cleaning service in Kalamazoo, Michigan. You also serve other areas, like Grand Rapids, Holland, and Battle Creek. You’ve already checked, and CarpetCleaning.com is already taken, but you own Cleanest-Michigan-Carpets.com (mostly because you listened to your brother-in-law, and he’s an idiot).

But you also know that:

  • Yellow Pages usage is going down, while search engine usage is going up.
  • Rather than pull out the phone book, people would rather Google something.
  • Local search engine optimization wins local search (and carpet cleaning is definitely a local business).
  • Search engines love keywords in a domain name.

Here’s how to use microsites properly:

1) Buy domains for KalamazooCarpetCleaning.com, GrandRapidsCarpetCleaning.com, etc. This tells the search engines that your sites are about carpet cleaning in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Holland, and Battle Creek, and nothing else. Those are also your keywords for each site, and you will use those 3 – 4 words, in order, without exception (i.e. not “Carpet cleaning in Kalamazoo”).

2) Optimize the bejeezus out of each microsite.

  • Put the keywords at the start of the page title: e.g. “Holland Carpet Cleaning for Residential and Commercial Jobs” and “Kalamazoo Carpet Cleaning by John Smith.”
  • Put the keywords in the first 4 words of the body copy. This may be awkward, but it needs to be done.
  • Have no more than 2% keyword density (2 keywords or phrases per 100 words). SEO experts are still debating this, but 2% is a safe number.
  • Include photos of you cleaning carpets, and use the keywords in the alt tags. “This is John, working hard for a Battle Creek carpet cleaning customer.”
  • Use only the keywords in hyperlinks that lead back to your main site. “Find more information about Grand Rapids Carpet Cleaning on our website.” Don’t use any other words in those links. Put 2 -3 links back to your site.

3) Install a WordPress.org site on each page. Not because you need WordPress’ amazing functionality, but because it’s free, and let’s you create one front page. You can add more if you want, but you need at least one page. (You could expand each site later by writing blog posts about your keywords — see #2 — but that’s pretty involved. Save this as a last resort for when your idiot brother-in-law opens his own carpet cleaning business.)

4) Make it look pretty. A man is sitting in his living room wearing nothing but his underwear and a hat. A friend stops by to visit, and asks about the man’s outfit. “I’m in my underwear, because no one ever comes to visit me,” says the man. “Then why are you wearing the hat?” asks the friend. “Oh, because someone might come,” says the man. Put a hat on the site — download a free template — because someone might visit it.

5) Write strong, persuasive copy: If people come to visit, you need to give them a reason to click through to your main website. Don’t put up crappy copy just to game the search engines. Create well-written copy that explains what you do, how well you do it, and includes a call to action. Make significant changes to the text for all four sites, so they’re not identical or even nearly identical.

6) All links must point back to your main site: They should not point to any other site anywhere on the Internet. Ever. With one exception. Create links to the other sites under a small section that says “we also offer carpet cleaning services in other Michigan cities.” Then use the exact keywords and link to each of the other sites. These backlinks between the microsites and to your main site will boost your search engine ranking.

Here’s what will happen (more or less): The search engine spiders will visit each site and say “Hmm, this site appears to be about Kalamazoo Carpet Cleaning. Let’s make sure.” It will do a quick check, and confirm — based on your domain name, title tag, first 4 words, keyword density, and alt tags — that, “by God, this IS a site about Kalamazoo Carpet Cleaning! And it has everything we like, so it must be important. Let’s see where these links go.”

The spiders will follow the links back to your main site (hence, the name “backlinks”), and conclude, “if those really well-done sites point back to this site, and this site does carpet cleaning in all these cities, then this carpet cleaning site must be really important!”

Then, when people do a quick search for carpet cleaning in one of those cities, your main site will come up first.

That is how you properly use a microsite. No brochureware, no moving the brand, none of that marketing crap, just pure SEO goodness with trackable, measurable results. If your marketing agency ever suggests it for anything other than SEO, tell them Sean X Cummings would like a word with them.

Photo credit: Auntie P (Flickr)

5 Types of Presentations You’ll Find at Blog Indiana 2010

I’ve been Blog Indiana 2010and attended several of the presentations here. Our sessions tend to be the same kind of presentation, although they cover a wide variety of topics. Whether it’s at a conference, a seminar, or a corporate presentation, presentations tend to follow the same formula.

Me at my presentation at Blog Indiana

If you’re interested in becoming a public speaker, there are five basic types of presentations you could give.

    1. How to: Basic tips, how-to, suggestions, and strategies. These are great for sharing information, and to establish your expertise. Title your talk something 7 NEW Secrets To Promoting Your Blog Through Social Media. People who are interested in sessions like this are looking for concrete, nuts-and-bolts ideas. This is the kind of talk I gave this year.
    2. Case Study: These historic talks show how you got from point A to point B, and the lessons you learned on the way. They can be inspirational or a cautionary tale, and if they’re done well, people can get both types of information from them. If you’re a great story teller, then I suggest you give this a try. Do a case study of a single client, or tell a part of your story (Note: We didn’t ask for your life story), or even 3 -4 short stories that are all centered around a single point. This is also a good place to ask for discussion from the audience. Paul Poteet gave this as a keynote presentation this year.
    3. Futurecasting: This is where the futurists and 30,000-foot-view thinkers can really shine. You can talk about what you think the future of your industry will be. If you make enough accurate predictions, you’ll be one of the hot properties on your industry’s speaking circuit. This presentation may look back historically to make its point, but a futurecasting talk is going to discuss what they believe will be happening over the next few years.
    4. Educational: Educate your listeners about a topic, idea, or tool. It may not be as in-depth as the how-to, but it’s great for teaching beginners about a particular concept. An informative session will teach people about Twitter — why use it, how it works, who uses it — while a how to session will cover the specifics of using it — signing up, following people, sending tweets. Doug Karr told listeners why their site sucks, with his Why Your Site Sucks educational session.
Jason Falls, Jay Baer, and Chris Baggott participate in a panel discussion at Blog Indiana 2010.

Jason Falls, Jay Baer, Chris Baggott (standing)

  1. Issues: Every industry has its issues and controversies, and these are a great place to address them. This can be a panel discussion, a single person facilitating an audience discussion, or even one person presenting one or both sides of the issue. Fellow ghost blogger Lindsay Manfredi talked about ghost blogging this year, which has been a big hot button issue for our industry for a few years. Chris Baggott, Jason Falls, and Jay Baer participated in a panel discussion to “dispel the myth of the blog reader.”

Corporate Blogging’s Chief Purpose from Google’s Chief Blogger

A couple weeks ago, Kipp Bodnar, HubSpot’s blog manager, talked to Google’s chief blogger, Karen Wickre about corporate blogging, and the important things companies need to do when taking the plunge into blogging.

Wickre says the most important thing a company new to blogging should do is to get a feel for what’s out there, and consider what they would want their blog to say. A blog could be personal, could be about thought leadership, or could focus on customer service. But find the blog’s voice, and stick with it, she says.

While that’s important, I don’t think it’s the most important thing. In some ways, that issue is going to resolve itself as time goes by.

I believe the most important thing about corporate blogging is that a blog will “establish ground for the company.” Wickre said a good company blog should do all these things:

  • Do most posts offer useful or unique information?
  • Do they reflect the company’s values and interests?
  • Do they demonstrate the people behind the company/products?

Wickre had other good points for corporate bloggers to consider, but for me, this was the biggest. We try to get our clients to see that their blog needs to be more than just a commercial, or a catalog. Yes, you can have those kinds of posts, but you also need to tell your customers about your company. You need to show what you stand for, how you work, why you work. You need to answer questions about your company, your products, and your values. You need to introduce your staff to your customers, and let them develop relationships. (Remember, people buy from people they like. If they like your staff, they’ll like your company, and they’ll buy from you.)

Your corporate blog is more than just a marketing mouthpiece. It’s not a cheap form of sales literature. It’s the window into your company and possibly one of the best ways to communicate with your customers. So find the voice, jump in, and you’ll answer all Wickre’s questions as time goes by.

Photo credit: DannySullivan (Flickr)