This past August was the 8th annual BlogHer conference, the grandmommy of blogger events, in New York City. As the owner of a digital marketing agency, I’m usually in attendance at these events as someone who works with (and therefore wants to meet and schmooze with) bloggers. This time I was also kind of a blogger/influencer in my own right, having started the Digital Family Summit this year. It was very interesting to see this conference, and think about other conferences, from the blogger’s perspective.
Brands can spend tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars sponsoring BlogHer (and only slightly less for other events including Mom 2.0 Summit, Type A Parent, New Media Expo, and yes, my own Digital Family Summit conference). What they should hope to accomplish is strong relationship-building with the right influencers for their brands. What most of them seem to do, particularly at the larger conferences, is hand out swag and shake a lot of hands while collecting business cards that they later seem to ignore.
Here are four things that brands and agencies should consider in order to mount a successful blogger conference sponsorship or blogger event.
Have Appropriate Booth Staffing
It’s perfectly fine to staff your booth with PR people or other agency reps, but c’mon, people – they have to be able to talk about your brand. Intelligently. So many booths at BlogHer were staffed by people who could barely talk about their product, let alone explain how the company works with bloggers and what they hope to get from blogger relationships. Some booths even had “booth babes” (hired extras) – all with the same vapid stare as the ones with the tight t-shirts at the auto show, minus the tight t-shirts (thank goodness). It’s better to be slightly understaffed than have unqualified staffers who will really turn bloggers off.
Bring Your Brightest Personalities
The booths which stood out most for me at BlogHer this year were not the flashiest, biggest ones, but the tiny little ones which featured startups. BlogHer did a great job in creating more financially-accessible opportunities for small companies to exhibit, and a number of them did, often with their CEOs or founders in attendance. I had a great conversation with Aihui Ong, the founder of Love With Food, an early-stage startup who (smartly) created a promotion around the conference with a well-known food blogger, Stephanie Quilao to help get the word out about their service. And the Creative Director at Britely was delightful, funny, and completely in tune with what his brand was doing with bloggers. Conferences are the place for your most outgoing, articulate people, ideally those with a true connection to the brand.
Plan For In-Person Engagement
Think beyond the swag: what do you want to do with bloggers at your booth or event? The most creative presences I’ve seen at blogger conferences are interactive: they give bloggers something to create or take part in, right there in their booth. One of my favorite, and one of the most readily memorable, brand activations was the Oscar Mayer Good Mood Mission video booth at Mom 2.0 Summit 2010. Beyond their fancy-fancy video booth (below), it was a simple setup: ask bloggers to record a video talking about your “good mood moment.” The brand posted those videos to their Facebook site and suggested that bloggers also post them to their blog or Facebook, and for every video recorded they donated a pound of food to Feeding America. It was a slam-dunk: bloggers are often willing to join good causes, and they got bonus content for their website in the bargain. It’s not always practical to have a huge setup but at minimum, think of interesting activities which can help capture bloggers’ contact info (better than collecting a pile of business cards) and give something back to the bloggers.
Plan for Effective Follow-Up
Given that I was at BlogHer primarily as a blogger this time, I was absolutely shocked at the lack of follow-up from brands after the conference. At most conferences, I give out 50+ cards to brands, and I typically get three emails post-conference from them. This conference was no different. Follow-up is essential to a successful conference presence, and not planning for it in advance means that it will not happen in a timely manner. Follow-up need not be complicated; just make sure all the cards and info you’ve collected gets inputted into some kind of CRM system immediately after the conference (even better if you do it daily throughout the event), and send a quick thank-you to everyone after the event. Follow-up doesn’t need to include an “ask” from the blogger – a “nice to meet you, please keep in touch” kind of email is ideal. And it can’t hurt to follow them and tweet out a “nice to meet you” too!
It seems so simple and obvious to me that doing it right, vs. doing it halfway, is the way for brands to go with blogger events and conferences. With more and more blogger conferences to consider every year, it’s tempting to schedule a bunch and hope for the best. But turning off bloggers is far worse than not getting a chance to them in person, so find ways to make your presence exceptional and you’ll reap the relationship rewards.