Monday, November 11, 2013

How Your Small Business Can Partner With Bloggers, No Matter What Your Budget!

Bloggers and Brands in a "Speed Dating" event arranged by TBEX at ITB Berlin
Allison Boyer (Content Director for New Media Expo (NMX), where you can connect with thousands of bloggers, podcasters, and other online content creators to help promote your business) writes exclusively for Marketing Unleashed:

How Your Small Business Can Partner With Bloggers, No Matter What Your Budge:

“I just don’t have the money for that.”

When I speak to small business owners about working with bloggers, this is the biggest obstacle I have to hurdle. No, it’s not the actual small budget. It’s the perception of the small budget. Small business owners think that they can’t work with bloggers unless they have a big budget. 

The truth is that no matter how much money you have, there are bloggers who will work with you. You don’t have to sponsor an entire press trip or pay thousands of dollars for blog posts in order to connect with major influencers. 

Here’s how:

Start by tracking where influencers are traveling.
Want to work with a top blogger but don’t have the means to bring him or her to your small town? You don’t have to pay for an entire press trip. Instead, wait until they will already be in town for another reason. That way, Joe Blogger can taste your cupcakes or go on a tour of your winery without costing you thousands of dollars in travel expenses you would have otherwise had to pay to get the blogger there.

How can you track where influencers will be? The easiest option is social media. Most travel bloggers (and influencers in other niches) talk about where they will be. Twitter is especially helpful; try searching for both your city name and the nearest airport’s code. This will give you a great indication of who is talking about your location (and who is likely in town). 

You can also search using your geocode. When a user has this Twitter option turned on, it tracks the latitude and longitude of tweets. You can use to find this information about your business so you can search for people tweeting nearby. For example, I used a business location near me in Norfolk, to find the geocode 36.8481620, -76.2917300. Then, I can simply search for relevant keywords using this geocode. 

For example, if I wanted to find food bloggers tweeting nearby to potentially invite to my bakery, I could search this string on Twitter: recipe OR baking geocode: 36.8481620,-76.2917300,100km – This will give you everyone tweeting the word “recipe” or the word “baking” within 100 km of this location in Norfolk. You can also opt to not include retweets by adding –RT to the string. 
Next, take it a step farther by tracking conference attendance.

Whenever a conference comes to town, this is an amazing opportunity to connect with tons of influencers at the same time. You might easily spend thousands of dollars to work with a single blogger. Instead, sponsorship at a conference allows you to spend the same amount of money, but connect with several bloggers over the course of a few days. 

If you want to work with bloggers, the best options are conferences that cater to bloggers. You can also look for events that bring people to town and are likely to attract the type of blogger that interests you. For example, if you provide white water rafting tours, a sportsman tradeshow might bring some relevant bloggers to town or if you have a small jewelry boutique, a fashion show might be what you need to connect with bloggers who want to right about your products.

Remember, always work with the conference in an official manner. Holding unofficial events (called “outboarding”) or distributing promo material without paying for a sponsorship (called “suitcasing”) are strictly forbidden at most events and could get you into a lot of trouble. You can read more on this topic here:

Don’t forget the bloggers who live near you.
If you don’t have the budget to fly people to you, why not instead work with the bloggers who already live in your home town? It’s a common mistake to think that these bloggers aren’t as valuable, but in actuality, you’re missing out on a number of awesome press opportunities if you aren’t working with local bloggers. 

You can use the Twitter search method above to find local bloggers who are interested in your topic. These local bloggers can be some of your biggest fans, so give them special treatment! Even if you can’t afford to sponsor, invite them be your special guest when you have anything special going on with your business, give them free stuff with no strings attached, and do whatever you can to build relationships. 

After all, when others come to your city and want recommendations, the bloggers who live there are usually the first people who get asked. You want your business name to be the first thing on their lips. 

As you start working with bloggers, think about ways you can increase your budget, so you can start allocating money to sponsorships if it makes sense. Measure your results; you might find that spending $500 with an influencer in your field brings you more customers than spending $500 on a radio spot. For some people, traditional methods still work best, but make sure you test your results before you simply keep doing what you’ve always done. 

Bio: Allison Boyer is the Content Director for New Media Expo (NMX), where you can connect with thousands of bloggers, podcasters, and other online content creators to help promote your business.

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