The brand and blogger ecosystem as witnessed at BlogHer 2013

By Emily A. Hay

As I reflect on the lessons from BlogHer 2013, a story is forming in my head. The story of how businesses use social media and harness the power of crowd-sourcing, millennial moms and high-profile bloggers is getting stronger.

Whether you are a business owner, a brand representative, a marketing pro or someone who wants to be brought up to speed about the BlogHer Conference in Chicago, pull up a comfy chair, pour your favorite beverage and listen as I spin a tale about how social media is gaining momentum – and why you should be a part of the new story.

We remember “back in the day” when brands could only market to consumers the traditional way: Through television, newspaper and radio ads. There were coupons, promotions and “Hey Martha” recommendations from neighbor to neighbor. Marketing folks would tell customers what to buy, hope sales would increase and that was pretty much it. It was intensely local, for the most part.

With social media, a new power was unleashed with the potential to reach not only current customers but potential customers. Businesses could also interact DIRECTLY with customers online. In this new frontier, women emerged as powerful, savvy players: They started blogs and formed relationships using Facebook and Twitter – some garnering thousands of followers who trusted their authentic recommendations and opinions. These women were both trained and untrained journalists, professional and not-so-professional writers. What they all have in common is large network of other women with common interests who talk, Tweet and share what they like and don’t like on social media – hourly and daily.

These bloggers were writing about life, parenting, fashion, food, health/fitness, social media, education, religion, movies, entertainment, crafting/hobbies and any other genre you can imagine.

These smart, engaging, tech-savvy, eager-to-work women are informed consumers. They have black belts in the art of balancing work, family, friends and life. With creative branding in their blog names and themes, these women were authentic to their audiences, working hard to deliver value daily.

Eventually virtual friendships among bloggers were moved “IRL” (into real life) as the BlogHer conference was launched, which serves as an annual place for bloggers to gather, share ideas and have discussions on how to move forward and not stagnate.

These bloggers weren’t just moms or wives with a laptop and a dream. Now they were businesswomen with plans, voices and drive. This wasn’t just about sharing a recipe or a cute pic of their kids. These bloggers were setting out to change social media marketing and use it to their best advantage.

And brands listened: Companies came from far and near to present their products in creative ways and to be at the conference in front of their consumer audience. Marketing professionals met and talked to their customers. They sponsored blogs and gave out free samples. Bloggers and brands were exchanging value.

The moral of the story is, companies large and small – from a Fortune 500 company to a two-woman shop on Main Street USA – need bloggers to help spread the word, draw in new business and create that personal touch that is so highly sought after by consumers.

Brands have to learn about – and utilize – the ecosystem of bloggers.

As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” You don’t know how social media can impact your business, large or small and as you make plans for future marketing, make sure any plans include bloggers. Speak to our experts at Hay There Social Media, speak to an agency, a PR person, a blogging network: Get an authentic and relatable fit. When there’s an authentic fit, bloggers can be the most powerful spokespeople for your brand.

And for the bloggers: Keep learning, keep writing, keep investing in yourself and growing your brand. Tell unique and authentic stories on your blog. WRITE FROM THE HEART as you do so well.

This story is still being written. Brands and bloggers have a unique opportunity to shape the professional and business environment — this ecosystem – by working together on this new frontier of social media marketing. It’s unchartered territory but if the past few years have been an indicator, it’s a great time to be a blogger – and a great time to be a business owner.

Bloggers: What points would you add to this story? What points should be made in the next chapter of this story?

Brands: What questions do you have about working with bloggers?

Thanks for reading!

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