Advertisers, marketers and PRs are becoming increasingly aware of the power and effectiveness of niche marketing. And when targeting a specific audience that is passionate about a subject, brand or item, the best allies are those that these consumers often go to for trusted opinion: bloggers. With an overwhelming 97.6% of surveyed bloggers in Hong Kong being approached by PR companies, marketers would do well by knowing how to better engage these influencers.
This shift away from mass marketing has put the spotlight on bloggers and their growing leverage over consumer behaviour. In recognition of these influential media outlets, CRED Communications surveyed around 100 food and beverage bloggers in the SAR and received 42 responses. The survey, conducted this summer, gives food and beverage businesses valuable and surprising insights into how this new media segment views itself, what motivates bloggers to keep writing, and others. The findings have been quite revealing.
Fifty-five percent of bloggers surveyed claimed to have a monthly readership of over 10,000 – with 14.3% over 30,000. Needless to say the majority, 42%, believe they are as important as mainstream media, while 38% think they are important to a niche audience. With bloggers realising their contribution to market movements and impact on how consumers think and buy, marketers are urged to view bloggers in the same light as traditional media, and act accordingly. This means finding new and effective ways of engaging them. While it is true that most bloggers still treat blogging as a hobby (69% of those surveyed answered “having fun” as their main reason for blogging), 52.4% see it as an opportunity to learn more about the subject, in this case food and beverage. Some 45.2% see blogging as a way of growing an audience. Clearly, bloggers are motivated by passion and the need to be heard — not material gain — and most likely attract readers through unbridled enthusiasm, as well as creativity. It is not surprising that 31% believe that establishing a clear and unique voice is the most important aspect of blogging.
Bloggers, however, do see the potential entrepreneurial opportunities that come with being a trusted, albeit subjective, source of information. Almost all of those surveyed, 97.6%, have been approached by a PR company and 52.4% have gained professional opportunities as a result of their blog. When asked whether PR companies understand the blogging community, however, 38.1% said no. Not the majority, but still a significant figure. This means advertisers and PRs should consider elevating bloggers’ status as a medium in their marketing plans and at the same time treat them differently from traditional media outlets. Give them the same amount of respect but engage them in a refreshing, intimate manner.
As expected, 71.4% of answers said ongoing partnerships or friendship with the PR or brand, as well as interesting news about the product would make them more open to receiving communication from a marketer. Relevancy of the product or news to the blog made up 59.5% of the responses. Bloggers are all about trust, whether in relationships with partners or their readers. It is imperative that PRs establish more personal ties with bloggers that also allow them to keep their editorial integrity. Pushing for coverage, or having a sense of entitlement over blog space or bloggers’ time is a no-no if one wants them on their side. Bloggers want complete control over their content and the way they handle requests for sponsored content, which shows in their preferred manner of contact: 83.3% said email is the best way to correspond. As for attending events organised by PR agencies in Hong Kong, 69% prefer weekday evenings between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and 61.9% want to do this on the weekend. Not a surprise at all with 92.9% of respondents being part-time bloggers with day jobs and familial obligations.
So, how must a marketer deal with the blogging community if there is to be a harmonious, win-win collaboration? According to the bloggers surveyed, doing the appropriate research into the content and focus of the blog is crucial before making contact. Sending irrelevant information or products is a waste of everyone’s time and makes a bad first impression on the marketer’s part. Bloggers must be able to sample the product and give an honest opinion, which means they won’t write about it for the sake of writing about it. The product has to be something relevant to their audience and one that they could recommend.
Cold-calling bloggers and pushing for coverage is a sure way of turning off a potential collaborator as well. It is also best to treat them like individuals with different strengths and interests. Giving them too many guidelines on how to review the product would feel more of an imposition on them; remember they are their own editor and publisher and are bound by their own guidelines. Understanding that they answer only to their readers is important and knowing that trust is the commodity they respond most strongly to is imperative.
CRED Communications is very grateful to all the food bloggers who participated in the survey. We hope to make this an annual survey. Please contact CRED Communications for an informal discussion about how to build CREDibility of your restaurant or food and beverage brands.