Blogs continue to be an important medium to educate and influence consumers, especially the younger generation. In fact, research shows that 40% of Millennials learn about food from blogs, and 33% rely on food blogs before making a purchase (Forbes Magazine).
We recently surveyed 37 bloggers from around the country on a number of topics including the latest food trends and how brands can better work with bloggers. Across the board, we found the feedback for brands was consistent. Bloggers were very candid about their expectations of brands. Here is a summary of their advice:
Do Your Homework First
General form letters are not effective in reaching bloggers and often create a sense of mistrust. Bloggers are individuals and their blogs are a very personal extension of themselves. Their audience follows them for great recipes or content, but also because of who they are and what they have to say. Their advice is simple, check out their blog in advance to gain an understanding of who they are and determine if they are a good fit before sending an email or letter. As one blogger referenced, “I don’t eat meat and poultry anymore and have not featured a recipe for either for at least three years. But the number of offers I get to try free bacon, sausage and other cured meats lets me know they don’t read my blog.” Another stated, “I am pitched kid-friendly things all of the time and I have no kids.”
Understand the Value of Engagement Versus Followers
Bloggers also recommend that brands look at their engagement on social media, not just their audience size. As brands you should care about this too. It doesn’t matter how many followers a blogger has if no one is engaging with them. It’s like a tree falling in the forest – who heard it and did it really happen. Large followings can create mass reach but don’t discount the value of a smaller blogger with high engagement. It creates an opportunity to cultivate micro-influence and relationships on a more personal level.
Food bloggers view themselves as freelancers who provide a wide range of services including, but not limited to; recipe development, photography, social media outreach and product endorsement. In exchange, they expect to get paid with money for their services and not just free product. As one blogger stated, “We put out our own money up to purchase ingredients, and use our time and talents to conceptualize, test, photograph, edit and write posts. We need to be paid for our work.” Another said, “Free product or coupons do not pay the bills.”
Bloggers also want to be taken seriously as business owners and not hobbyists. Bloggers have developed a specialized craft that includes storytelling, SEO, social media management and more. As one stated, “Some brands don’t realize that most bloggers don’t do it for fun. Our work isn’t a 9-to-5. If our website crashes we have to fix it morning, noon or night.” That’s not to say that bloggers don’t love their work. For the best bloggers, their blog is their passion project, but it is also a job.
Recipe Development is Hard Work
Many of the bloggers expressed concerns that brands don’t have a good understanding of how much time, energy and expense goes into recipe development and photography. Comments included, “It takes a lot of time to research, create a dish, recipe test, shoot, edit, write and promote our posts on social media. We also purchase food for testing and shooting, as well as any props and specialty items needed.”
Another stated, “I wish brands put more thought into the time and effort each recipe post takes. They need to realize the cost that they would incur if they had to hire someone for each step of the process from recipe development, styling, photography plus promotion on social media.” Remember that bloggers are professionals and should be treated and paid accordingly.
Brands Have an Opportunity to Create Partnerships
Bloggers have not only become skilled at recipe development and photography but they also are adept at social media and are savvy marketers. More importantly, they are influencers both online and in real life. Bloggers want brands to consider using their talents for more than a one-time service or sponsored post. As one blogger stated, “I would love brands to know that bloggers are a great resource. We champion brands that we love to work with. It isn’t always about page views, which a lot of brands gauge the most valuable. Engagement with the audience is becoming a better factor.”
Another emphasized, “As a blogger, I am a marketing manager, a trained professional photographer, a freelance journalist, a recipe developer, editor, stylist and more. It’s an incredibly valuable set of skills that could give most marketing departments a run for their money. I hope that brands start to realize the value in targeting the bloggers that fit the brand MO instead of bulk pushes that feel forced.”
For every brand partnership we figure out how the brand can have an authentic relationship with the blogger. When it’s at its best we create a long-term opportunity where the bloggers become the brand ambassadors not just on their blogs, but in their real lives because that is the real value of influencer or “word-of-mouth” marketing.
At Full Tilt Marketing, we have been teaming up with food bloggers for years. We maintain a proprietary and dynamic database of bloggers from around the country to be able to find the right fit for every brand. I am continually amazed at the skill set and resourcefulness that each food blogger brings to the table. From multiple times per week, to even daily, they produce and publish new content in the equivalent of an online magazine not to mention managing their own social media and marketing.
Over the years, we have found that the best relationships with food bloggers are those rooted in trust. From the first email or phone call we establish a level of transparency and clarity about the program and expectations that builds on an already established connection. It’s these pre-established relationships that allow our bloggers to go the extra mile for the brands we represent.
What do you think of this list? Do you have something to add, or do you have things you wish bloggers knew about brands? We want to hear from you. If you’d like to receive more information on working with bloggers and create a custom influencer engagement program contact me at Heidi@fulltiltmarketing.net.