At least once a year, my mailbox is flooded with social media moms asking the same question- "How do I get invited on brand-sponsored trips?" Of course, the question isn't worded exactly like this by every single mom, but this is essentially the question.
Most of the emails actually present the question surrounded by a great deal of frustration, disappointment and, sometimes, anger. At this point, most of you reading this might think I'm going to speak about Disney and the fact that the invitations to their coveted Social Media Mom Celebration went out this week. I am not. This blog post is not about "How to get invited to Walt Disney World"; rather it's an open answer to the most popular email question I've received since Al Gore invented the Internet.
Since Engage:Moms is read by a mixed audience of bloggers and marketers, I will attempt to address brand=sponsored trips from two sides -- the blogger who wants the invite and the brand inviting the blogger. Let's start with the blogger who is eagerly awaiting an invitation to her favorite brand. What can this blogger do to get the brand’s attention? Well, start the conversation. You have to get the attention of the brand. There are an estimated 33 million bloggers in the blogosphere and another 89% of the population on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. This means that there are a lot of influencers out there, and you must find a way to rise above the crowd.
One thing I've seen bloggers do is to set up a brand-specific blog. I'll use myself as an example here. If you read my tweets or follow me on Facebook, you would know I love popcorn. I mean, I really, really love popcorn almost to the point of obsession. (If you are a brand with popcorn and intend to send me a sample, make sure you read my social media posts because I'm very particular about my flavor!) If I were going to use this brand-specific blog approach to get Orville Redenbacher's attention, maybe I'd begin a blog called Orvillemom.com or something similar. All the content would be related to popcorn and I'd link to it off my main blog.
Many of the moms who do this take it one step further and post every single press release that the brand issues as a way to show their dedication to the brand. Honestly, it's obvious to the reader and the brand that there's another agenda to all this effort. It's most likely going to fail in every way. Your readers are going to move to a less commercial blog, and the brand is going to question your sincerity.
The more effective way to get the attention of a brand would be to sincerely post, tweet or write on Facebook about their product and then let them know you've done it. For instance, I recently had great service from Stubhub, so I posted about it and then sent them a link with a note that I would love to work with them if the opportunity ever presented itself. It was honest, sincere and probably unexpected from the prospective of the brand manager. Bloggers must also remember that the purpose of most brand-sponsored trips is to familiarize bloggers with a brand or product.
If you are blogging every single day about the brand, the brand may see it and decide that you don't need to be educated on their product. This is another reason developing a brand-specific blog may backfire on the blogger. The outcome to this approach normally ends in frustration and anger by the blogger. I saw a mom recently post that she was tired of giving her favorite brand free advertising with no return from the brand. In all likelihood, the brand never asked her to create a brand-specific blog and never asked her to post anything she had on it.
You can't blame a brand for not returning the love, if they don't know that the love exists. Lastly, don’t take it personally if you don’t get that invitation to the dream event. Remember that brands have goals and strategies based on demographic and elements. You may not fit their target based on geography, age of child, age of mother, buying habits or even longevity in social media.
So how should brands decide who gets invited to their events? Well, let's start with the how-not-to-do-it. Don't go to Google analytics or Klout and determine your invite list on misleading numbers. These numbers do not project influence. Trusting these online scores will take you down the road of inviting high-ranking bloggers who may have little or no passion for your brand. #Fail.
The better approach is to listen to online conversations. Search for your product or brand name on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. Determine who is writing about "popcorn" and follow the conversation. Don't forget to search your inbox for those bloggers who have reached out to you in the past and expressed their interest. Learn something about all these people by reading their blogs.
Engage them in a dialogue online before you invite them to speak offline. You might also ask him/her if there are other bloggers they would recommend for your opportunity. It's a lot like dating. Most importantly, go into the relationship with a plan. If you invite the blogger on a trip to your headquarters, what do you want to obtain from the relationship? Lay out expectations before you ask the blogger to pack their bags, find a babysitter and travel across the country to hear your product pitch.
Summertime and conference season is approaching. Invitations for brand sponsored events will begin to be formulated and bloggers will eagerly sit by their email boxes waiting for them to arrive. Now is the time to get to know each other so let the conversations begin!