Here’s the most poorly-kept secret in the marketing, PR, sales, and religion: conversion is a numbers game.
Whether it’s getting into the NY Times or, going viral on YouTube, getting retweeted by @katyperry, or appearing on the 4th hour with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. Numbers matter and we depend not only on the generosity of strangers to keep the lights on, we also depend on the law of large number to make sure we reach enough people in general through our ads, our mentions, and reviews to make our end-of-month, quarter, and yearly number so that we secure that sweet bonus and the pool we promised the family.
Eyeballs, viewers, readership, ratings — it’s all about getting in front of as many of the right people as humanly possible. N’est-ce pas?
Why would it be any different when it comes to blogger and influencer outreach marketing? The conventional approach in outreach marketing and PR relies on converting just a handful of highly-influential journalists, online writers, and bloggers who have a well-established popularity and readership. The strategy here is to cajole, seduce, and woo between one and twenty-five blogger-journalists to report and write on your behalf and in their favor.
The idea is that if you’re able to influence a top-influencer and garner her influence and earn the support of your product, mission, ministry, or message then you will win direct, endorsed, access to the impossibly large number of readers, followers, fans, and friends who hang on their every word. The expectation is two-fold: the reputation of the A-lister will rub off on the messaging, bringing with it a (tacit) endorsement and then unfettered access to a fan base that often does base a lot of their decisions on what the most popular reviewers are saying.
If I can get someone like the esteemed and popular Mr. John Brownlee to blog about my cool new designerly products, who knows how many people will queue up to place an order. And they just might. I know I would, if John Brownlee thought it was cool.
But there are a number of catches to this perfect world, though: 1) How much time do you have? 2) How many A-listers do you already know? 3) How awesome is your product? 4) How compelling is your news? 5) How generous is your “gift?” and 6) What is your goal? 7) Is it OK to fail, to fall flat on your face with a couple snake eyes?
OK, if you’re going to do a top-down outreach where the goal is to influence top-influencers, you’ll need some time, especially if you aren’t already in bed with the top influencers in your industry already.
Dropping a tip, cold, into the tips@ drawer at Mashable is not the way this business works. There are exceptions, but all the top a-list successes I have had have always been warm and hot calls. So, how many A-listers do you know and when do you need to launch the grand announcement? I mean, everything relies on not only the quality of your produce or message but also whether it’s newsworthy. And, if it is newsworthy, what’s in it for me, for the blogger, for the reader? Will the post or article lend prestige or bragging rights to the author of the piece? Are you Aston Martin and did you lend your blogger a 2014 V12 Zagato sports coupe? Or, are you just trying to get someone to notice your new Android app; and, if that’s the case, are you prepared to ship out a bunch of prepaid Nexus 5s with that app already installed for their testing pleasure? That V12 Zagato’s a pretty generous gift, even if it’s just a day at a local Aston Martin dealership and test drive (or maybe even a ride).
Also, remember that there’s a lot of money, a lot of power, and a lot of big brands and global agencies vying for that limited time. Can you compete? Are you able to get through all the noise? Do you have the chutzpah? Besides, what’s your goal? Are you trying to drive brand awareness? Are you trying to drive sales? Or — be honest — are you doing it for SEO and link-building (there are a lot of you guys hiding there in the shadows). OK, finally, it is OK to fail?
The numbers game goes both ways. The fewer the bloggers you pitch the lower the chance that anyone at all with pick up your story. There’s a chance that if you don’t have an in, you’ll come up with goose eggs at the end of your campaign. I know you’ll still cash the check — it’s not your fault, right?, it’s the fault of the product, the campaign, the messaging, the client, the timing, the jerks at Gizmodo who just don’t get it or the folks at Mashable who have doubled-down on Native Advertising and are so done with earned media and greedily have their advertising hands out (totally uncool). You’re on your way to losing your shirt, campaign, your client, and your reputation! Oh, what to do?
While I call the alternative to top-down, A-list blogger outreach “Long-Tail Blogger Outreach,” “B-Z-List Blogger Outreach,” the “Bottom-Up Approach,” and “Doing the Full Cluetrain,” — I really need a better title for this sort of blogger outreach (how about just “Blogger Outreach?”).
How does this address the problems? Well, it turns everything around. Instead of 1-25 powerful gatekeepers barring you from accessing their hundreds of thousands of potential eyeballs, you instead discover, collect, and message thousands of weak gatekeepers who are only barring you from accessing hundreds of their friends, families, and sometimes thousands of followers and readers. There’s this thing called Internet Rule 34 I like to quote, “If it exists, there is porn of it.” Same was with blogs: if it exists, there’re blogs, bloggers, and passionate readers — no matter what the topic may well be. Be assured of it.
And, when you do find them, there are probably hundreds or thousands of them — and their associated hundreds or thousands of followers, readers, friends. And, since they are, generally-speaking, a lot further down the totem pole, a lot less used to corporate or brand-attention, and probably have been playing the lottery known as blogging in the slim but motivating hope that someday someone would notice their blog and validate them through appreciation, engagement, and attention.
Come on, every fashion blogger would love to be tapped by Gucci or Hermès to review their bags, every tech blogger wants to be tapped to test out Google Glass. All bloggers want to be discovered, and when you take the bottom-up approach, where you reach out to multiple-thousands of bloggers, most of whom are too low-caste to ever have been kissed by a single brand manager or social media team, many of whom haven’t yet been “ruined” by a blogger conference that brainwashed them into believing that their nascent blog is mature and profitable enough to not accept earned media pitches but only paid media and paid posting (it seems the be happening more and more). If you get deep enough into the vox populi — the voice of people, the many instead of the few, the real citizen journalists — then you can find the people who are really exploring their own passions, interests, hobbies, sports, and obsessions.
The way I do it is simple. I collect as many as possible, but only the blogs and bloggers who are germane to the outreach, to the campaign. And only those bloggers who want to be engaged. I assume that if a blogger wants to be contacted, he or she’ll have his or her name and email somewhere on the blog. So, I personally reach out via email pitch, and I often pitch upwards of four-, five-, six-, seven-, even eight-thousand bloggers in one go.
While I generally earn between seventy and three-hundred blog posts when I reach out with this method, I also earn hundreds of tweets, retweets, Facebook and Google+ posts, and also having had message upwards of eight-thousand bloggers who will have personally been messaged by you, your brand, your client, your offer, product, service, news, and whatnot.
And, what’s more, is the secondary effect, which is in organic search AKA SEO. Earned media mentions makes Google very happy. Having several hundred earned media mentions discussing your product, service, brand — you — will have magical effects not only on where you rank on Google (like a unicorn, and actually white hat version of link farming) but also when it comes to defending your reputation online. All of these blog posts and mentions can really seize control of your first couple pages of Google, pushing out all the negative and irrelevant content.
What’s more, you can use a long-tail blogger outreach campaign to insure against the A-list goose egg, the celebrity snake eyes, the all-your-eggs-in-one-basket fiasco of striking out with the top blogs. Even if you fail with the big boys, you surely can’t loose with the B-Z-listers, even if all of your multiple media mentions are deep in the D-Z instead of the A-C. Coming up empty is way worse the coming up a little light, believe me.
And, in my experience, if you can get a buzz started deep down in the feeders, the farm teams, the minor leagues, you can actually reach the attention of the heavy hitters from down below. Newsmakers are always doing the 2014 equivalent of keeping up what’s coming over the news wire, and that’s often what’s flowing down their Facebook wall, their Twitter stream, their Feedly feed, or their Flipboard magazine.
Journalists and A-list bloggers are generally curators of deeper news. If you can get to the deeper news sources by starting the buzz amongst the people then there’s a good chance that you could well be the earthquake that (incidentally) resulted in a tidal wave. The equivalent of starting a wildfire of gossip through your own whispers.
In my experience, priming the pump by reaching out to B-Z bloggers through a long-tail blogger outreach can then bubble up so that when you do reach out to John Brownlee, Om Malik, Robert Scoble, or Guy Kawasaki, they may well do a cursory Google or Twitter search and see they they’re quite a bit behind the wave (that you created by seeding that groundswell).
Pretty cool, right? You bet your ass it is!
Share your thoughts on the long tail approach in the comments below. Cheers to a brilliant discussion!