Marketing Madness

Bloggers Influence Performance Marketing

Bloggers Invite Stakeholders to Table

This has been a year of surveys, that is, blogger surveys, for the sole purpose of hearing what bloggers have to say about many things, amongst them, performance marketing, monetizing blog content, and the impact of social media. From many accounts, pro bloggers earn enviable incomes from their blogs; yet small business bloggers continue to struggle to make money from their blogs.

But all is not lost! Highlights from the just released Technorati report on the state of the blogosphere point to the gathering strength and importance of bloggers around the world. That’s all the more reason for advertisers, and networks that operate on behalf of advertisers, to increase opportunities for communication and get to the table.

Survey Says!

During the middle of 2011, I conducted a short survey with a group of small business blog owners to ascertain their experiences with large performance marketing networks and smaller affiliate programs. A key takeaway from the answers was the need to have better communication between the industry stakeholders and a segment of the publishers that seemed to be largely ignored. Citing diminishing customer service and generally feeling like no one was listening, many were disheartened, discouraged, and understandably annoyed.

Even though business bloggers were passionate about this situation, maybe their voices have gone unheard simply because movers and shakers are not aware of their plight. Affiliate Consultant Tricia Meyer stated:

I’ve been in affiliate marketing for over 7 years now and I have to say that I was completely surprised by all of this!

Bloggers Have More Influence

According to Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2011, not only have bloggers gained influence, big brand advertisers have acknowledged it and are making plans to capitalize upon it:

  • “We see blogger outreach as the opportunity to leverage influencers and connect with a new audience. We recognize that there are conversations happening in the blogosphere that are applicable to the brands we represent and we believe it’s valuable for our brands to join the discussion.” [source]
  • “… blogging and how it is being used has been the biggest development in social media. Individuals trust bloggers, especially those who are seen as influential. Blogging can either have a positive or negative effect on a campaign, brand or product. Individuals will make decisions based on comments made by their peers or by someone they feel confident in.” [source]

The sphere of influence is shifting, has shifted. Bloggers are getting their props even though the report suggests it lags behind that given traditional and new-media outlets. Nevertheless, more respect means …

Increased Opportunities To Monetize Blog Content

While influence aggregators like Klout have attempted to trade clout for swag and pocket the difference, brands are recognizing there are rewards to be had when they deal directly with influential small business blogers, offering tangible benefits in exchange for honest product reviews.

One such project, proof in the pudding, is the recent collaboration agreement negotiated by social media influencer GrowMap.com with Conversion Doubler, a leader in the field of split testing, sales and leads goal tracking, website conversions. In exchange for a year’s worth of conversion testing services for their own projects, a select team of small business bloggers have agreed to share results with Conversion Doubler. While the monetization benefits are unclear, the fact of rising influence is clear.

From State of the Blogosphere:

Bloggers are being actively courted. Nearly four out of 10 overall, 59% of Professional Part Timers, and 66% of Professional Full Timers have been approached to write about or review products. Pros are approached eight times per week on average. The most frequently approached Hobbyist, Professional Part Time, Professional Full Time, and Entrepreneur bloggers report being approached more than 200 times per week.

Get To The Table

Bloggers who monetize content invite stakeholders to come to table (Cafe Central 340)But wait, where is the middle ground?

If small business bloggers are enjoying greater influence and have more opportunities to monetize blog content, why are they still experiencing issues with affiliate marketing within the performance marketing industry?

After bloggers have done due diligence in the area of niche blogging and understand how to monetize website traffic, the ball is squarely in the other court. (Of course it is easier to monetize niche content like this fun example of a model trains site than it is to monetize more general content, but that isn’t the issue.)

I wish that we could all sit around and have a cup of tea and talk through it all.” — Tricia Meyer, Affiliate Consultant

With increased influence and visibility comes the opportunity to have some of the conversations important for success … and a greater chance of being heard. In my experience as a small business consultant and a community developer, I’ve often found the middle ground in the negotiations, in the accountability, at a roundtable, or at a panelists table. Crafting a set of expectations, putting forth a list of demands, or agreeing to jointly draft a memorandum of understanding under the watchful eye of a facilitator has often stemmed the tide, shored up the less-than-seaworthy vessels of common endeavor.

In an exchange with Pace Lattin, I remarked . . .

It is good to know the industry players have some of the same concerns on their radars as business bloggers and very small businesses. We know that sometimes the smaller voices aren’t heard over the din of “business as usual.” Recognizing your unique positioning within the industry, and the importance of both your online properties and offline activities, my guess is this dimension might gain a seat at the table.

Where Is The Table?

The tables are found in venues such as Affiliate Summit (East or West). Wouldn’t it be nice if conferences such as Affiliate Summit would invite grassroots bloggers to truly represent the conerns and recommendations of bloggers such as those found in this series of articles?

There are other tables, too. Derek notes in What an Affiliate Marketing Association Does for You: “While there is little in the way of a true national affiliate marketing association, this shouldn’t stop you from forming your own associations with your peers in the online marketing world.” [source]

Organizations like Affiliate Fair Play (affiliatefairplay.com) exist to provide resources and give voice to what is both good and not-so-good. The Performance Marketing Association (performancemarketingassociation.com) has working groups and special interest groups that focus on issues and propose solutions affecting the stakeholders in the industry.

Have A Seat

At present, I can’t speak to the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of such groups. The point is that they provide another set of venues where the voices of small business bloggers can be heard as bloggers diligently look to remove impediments and seek ways to better succeed in earning decent income from their efforts.

Gaining in influence with both readers seeking information and brands looking for inroads to those readers, small business blog owners extend an open invitation to the stakeholders — advertisers, and performance marketing networks that operate on behalf of advertisers — to come to the table.

Thanks for reading. Add your voice to the discussion in the comments below.

*Image courtesy of Borya via Wikimedia Commons, used with permission.

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Vernessa Taylor | CoachNotes Blog

As a Technology Consultant, Vernessa Taylor works with both online and offline business owners. She writes about small business systems such as project management and customer referral systems at CoachNotes Blog.

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