The coolest thing has been happening lately, and it’s making me feel really special. Suddenly I know people who are in ads. And not just any ad – major, national brands. I feel like I’m brushing with celebrity – and yet, these people aren’t traditional celebrities, they’re bloggers. And they happen to be friends of mine.
There is an escalating trend for brands to feature bloggers, mainly parenting/lifestyle bloggers (formerly known as mom bloggers – a term you all know I hate), in print and even some television ads. I think this is insanely cool, and not just because I know these people. It’s cool because it values the blogger as an influencer in a way that they haven’t been, up to now. Bloggers are being asked to make appearances on behalf of brands and to appear in advertisements, and that’s just. plain. cool.
You may ask, okay, but are these bloggers getting paid for their appearances and ads? To be honest, I haven’t asked them. I am going to assume that, given that the bloggers I’ve seen featured recently are all smart, savvy businesswomen who are running small media empires, that they have found a way to get compensated for their time and likeness in a manner that suits them: financially or otherwise.
For marketers, this trend is borne out of some actual research. BlogHer’s 2011 Social Media study suggested that consumers preferred marketing messages from bloggers they knew over a celebrity ad, and that 53% of women blog readers have purchased a product based on a blog recommendation. Particularly in the worlds of fashion and beauty, bloggers are wielding power to encourage purchases in a far more direct and measurable way than a celebrity ad or endorsement ever can.
BlogHer’s most recent research, the 2012 Social Media study, goes even further and compares consumer trust in other forms of social media – including Pinterest and Facebook – and found that a sponsored, disclosed review on a bloggers’ site earns more trust than a Facebook friends campaign or a celebrity endorsement. And trust in those blogs drive purchase intent for many product categories.
If bloggers can truly move the needle for brands in the trust and purchase intent departments, why don’t more brands work with bloggers?
The answer, of course, is complicated. I’ve written a lot about the problems that PR departments and agencies have with social media, and that’s certainly part of the problem: that PR departments are not set up to develop advertising or integrated marketing campaigns, which is where this new blogger-brand relationship is headed for some brands. A brand wishing to use bloggers instead of celebrities must either have a creative and clever ad agency, or a very savvy PR department or agency, whose budgets cross borders and who can work together in a really coordinated way.
I think it’s time that bloggers step up to the plate, too. I do know many bloggers who understand their value to brands, but I also know many who dramatically underestimate what they can bring to the table when they work with brands. That’s not to say that every blogger should command $500 for a sponsored post; rather, I think that bloggers should get creative in thinking about the kinds of work they can do with brands, and brands should do the same. Hopefully they’ll come up with interesting projects they can do together, beyond the sponsored post, like hosting events together, creating editorial and resourceful brand content, and yes, having bloggers endorse products in ads.
By the way, those ads above? They feature my friends Ana Flores from Spanglish Baby, Audrey McClelland from MomGenerations, and Esther Crawford. I’m so proud of each of you and can’t wait to see what you inspire in other bloggers and brands.