A friend of mine recently emailed me to say that she has a new client but they’re wary of doing a blogger outreach program, and do I have any metrics about outreach ROI, especially for driving sales?
I wrote back: You’re asking for the holy grail.
However, while linking ROI to blogger outreach is not simple, it’s also not impossible. Think about the decades (centuries?) of PR people who have gone before us. How did they determine ROI on media outreach when all they had was “impressions” (a very fuzzy number that was, and is: self-reported from print and broadcast media)?
Blogger outreach is in many ways the same, and perhaps even easier, to track, than traditional public relations. Here are some ways you can add tracking and metrics to your blogger relations programs which will help you quantify the results of your efforts. These ideas are more or less in order of easy to complex; doing all five will really juice up your blogger outreach measurement.
1) Set Goals
While some of my SME colleagues advocate that you can have success without defining upfront ROI goals (and I agree with that in some situations), I find that giving clients some expectation of an outreach program’s capabilities sits better with them and helps me and my team stay focused. Note that I said “some expectation” – I never sit down with a client and say something like, “we’re going to deliver 10,000 clicks to this product page which will result in $1,500 in sales.” Instead, we talk about what success will look like to this client. Are they looking for awareness of the brand in general? Engagement in a coupon or promotion? To drive sales of a particular category or product? This is a give-and-take: we may have suggested blogger outreach to them, in which case we have to help them understand where we can measure our efforts. We then set some broad goals based on some of the measurement ideas which follow.
2) Measure Online Activity
We’re marketers, not necessarily web developers or analysts. But if our client’s (or company’s) goals include tracking online activity, we have to have a direct line to understand the online activity our efforts, including blogger outreach, are generating.
One of the first things I ask a client for (as an agency – if you’re internal, you as a social media person need this too) is access to their Google Analytics (or other analytics package). I want to be sure that their analytics tracking is set up properly to really capture all of the traffic and conversions our efforts are sending to them, and I don’t want to wait for their internal team to get back to me to understand how our efforts are performing. Yes, I know, Google Analytics is scary for some, but there are some great tutorials out there to help social media marketers learn to segment their efforts; I promise if you spend a little bit of time with it, it won’t be nearly as scary.
I recommend setting up Advanced Segments in Google Analytics to track the bloggers you’re reaching out to, keeping in mind that their traffic could also come via their Twitter accounts or Facebook pages (or Pinterest, or Google+….). You can put all of the blogs you’re courting into a single segment, or divide them up in some way that helps you understand the activity in each. For example, if you’re an iPad app for kids, you may have separate segments for tech blogs, app blogs and parenting blogs. If you track your outreach time and costs for each segment, then assign a value to the segment’s activity (keep reading), you’ll begin to understand where your time is best spent.
3) Compare Blogger Outreach Activity With Advertising
My colleague Nichole Kelly advocates for treating social media activity like other forms of media; again, if you’re the social media person this may not be second nature to you (vs. if you’re also well-versed in media buying, etc.), but this is an important place to stretch your knowledge. Follow Nichole’s advice and consider ad-like metrics for your outreach efforts and compare that against other marketing spend the company is doing. For blogger outreach, consider your time, payments to bloggers, cost of coupons or promotions, etc. in the total cost, and then divide that by the impressions, clicks, leads or sales you get from those efforts.
Get with your media buying counterparts to compare your numbers to theirs and see where you can improve, and where you’re ahead. If they’re still spending on television, I’m pretty sure you’re kicking their butt with blogger outreach.
4) Track Coupons
Everyone loves a coupon, right? So do many bloggers. If you’re mounting a blogger outreach campaign to a segment of blogs for whom coupons are appropriate (typically frugal, parenting, app/tech/gadget blogs, plus others), consider setting up exclusive coupons for the top bloggers you’re trying to attract. Not only can you get more attention from the blogger if they feel they’re getting something special to share with their readers, those coupon codes are gold in terms of helping you to track ROI. When they’re redeemed online you ought to be able to get a report (from your e-commerce folks) on redemption rates and total sales against the coupon, so figure out which bloggers sent the most traffic and at what dollar value.
Some marketers can take this through to offline, particularly if they control the whole channel; if you’re a retailer you can track a coupon distributed online all the way through to point of sale. However, for product or service companies this may be more tricky – getting third party retailers to report coupon metrics back to you is a pretty complicated process. So consider this for driving online activity through blogger outreach first, and then get creative translating your efforts to offline programs.
5) Affiliate Programs for Bloggers
Your company may already have an affiliate program: an online referral program whereby affiliates (often websites or blogs, sometimes emailers or other online marketers) get paid a flat dollar amount or percentage of sales for every sale they send through to your client’s/company’s site. You can use an existing affiliate program for blogger outreach too; or, if you plan on doing a lot of blogger outreach and you don’t have one, ask your company to set up an affiliate program to help you with your efforts.
The beauty of affiliate programs is that you typically only pay for success….success in whatever way you define it. Looking to drive sales? Connect to bloggers and give them a VIP (top-dollar) affiliate commission in order to drive sales. Combine that with a coupon and you could really drive ROI. Know that some affiliates will take time to put your company, product or offer into their queue; also as with any blogger outreach effort, some will hit, and some will miss. Bloggers who are most likely to want to join your affiliate program are frugal/coupon bloggers and those that write about “products” often: craft, tech, shelter/home, travel etc. Though don’t hesitate to suggest it to any bloggers you work with, if you have an affiliate program available. You can also track sweepstakes entries, video views, anything really – as long as the value to the affiliate is worth their traffic (which they could send to you or to someone else who will pay them more for their efforts).
Savvy bloggers will take an affiliate commission over a sponsored post payment if they think your product/offer will resonate with their readers, and then they’ll push it harder than they would for a sponsored post.
In the end, don’t forget: with any blogger outreach effort, do what you can to go beyond the standard pitch (you all know I don’t believe in pitching, I consider bloggers as marketing partners), and you’ll see better engagement which should lead to greater ROI.
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Image source: flickr (Charlyn W)