What main­stream me­dia and blog­gers can learn from each other

The Insider - - CONTENTS -

Twelve years ago the CEO of Reuters, Tom Glo­cer, pub­lished an ar­ti­cle in the Fi­nan­cial Times ti­tled Old me­dia must em­brace the am­a­teur. It was a provoca­tive piece at the time and bold in its as­ser­tions that main­stream me­dia needed to em­brace its com­mu­nity and col­lab­o­rate with cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists in or­der to tell the “com­plete story.”

It took quite a few years be­fore me­dia ex­ec­u­tives were com­fort­able in­clud­ing am­a­teurs in the ed­i­to­rial process, cit­ing con­cerns about rep­u­ta­tion, trust, and le­gal is­sues — con­cerns that fu­eled a re­luc­tance to re­lin­quish the tra­di­tional gate­keep­ing role of pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ists.

The tide slowly turned and to­day many pub­lish­ers are invit­ing non-pro­fes­sion­als into the con­tent cre­ation process. But the re­la­tion­ship isn’t al­ways a har­mo­nious one.

It’s a love-hate re­la­tion­ship

User Gen­er­ated Con­tent (UGC) can make or break a brand. This is par­tic­u­larly true with mil­len­nial con­sumers who rely heav­ily on co­hort re­views in their buy/no buy de­ci­sions. 84% say that UGC in­flu­ences what they pur­chase and fash­ion brands, in par­tic­u­lar, haven’t been shy about cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the phe­nom­e­non.

From Michael Kors’ #whatsiny­ourkors cam­paign to on­line fash­ion re­tailer ASOS’s #AsSeenOnMe gallery, and ev­ery­where in be­tween, fash­ion de­sign­ers are ex­ploit­ing the power of UCG to grow brand aware­ness, eq­uity, and rev­enue.

But de­spite the fi­nan­cial re­wards these in­flu­encers can have on the in­dus­try, some fash­ion me­dia ex­ec­u­tives still hold them in dis­dain, call­ing them “pa­thetic” and re­spon­si­ble for “herald­ing the death of style.” They look for­ward to the day when “peo­ple will wise up to how par­tic­u­larly gross the whole prac­tice of paid ap­pear­ances and bor­rowed out­fits looks.” The back­lash from in­flu­encers to these dis­parag­ing re­marks was not pretty.

Two years later, noth­ing’s changed. Love them or hate them, these blog­gers’ and in­flu­encers’ im­pact on busi­nesses can’t be ig­nored.

“You can learn from any­one even your en­emy.”

Ovid, Ro­man poet, 43 BC

A re­cent sur­vey by the As­so­ci­a­tion of Na­tional Ad­ver­tis­ers found that 75% of brands use in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing, with al­most half plan­ning to in­crease bud­gets in 2019. How­ever, they are re­duc­ing the num­ber of in­flu­encers they work with — fo­cus­ing on qual­ity over quan­tity. It is a pru­dent move given the amount of abuse and fraud that ex­ists in the space.

Du­plic­i­tous prac­tices such as buy­ing fake fol­low­ers and likes to demon­strate higher reach, and us­ing bot com­ments to show en­gage­ment is a wide­spread prob­lem in the US$1B in­dus­try.

But le­git­i­mate in­flu­encers bring high en­gage­ment and mon­e­tary value to brands across all seg­ments. Ac­cord­ing to a poll from in­flu­encer mar­ket­place, To­mo­son, for ev­ery dol­lar in­vested in qual­ity in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing, busi­nesses gen­er­ate US$6.50.

If me­dia’s big­gest rev­enue gen­er­a­tor is ad­ver­tis­ing, how can UGC help?

Ac­cord­ing to Digi­day’s Oc­to­ber 2018 sur­vey of me­dia ex­ec­u­tives, ad­ver­tis­ing will drive 69% of rev­enues next year — 18% from branded con­tent.

This fo­cus on ad­ver­tis­ing aligns with the growth we’re see­ing in pub­lish­ers bring­ing brand and con­tent stu­dios in-house in their ef­forts to de­velop deeper re­la­tion­ships with ad­ver­tis­ers. The ques­tion I have is, “Given that me­dia is the least trusted in­sti­tu­tion glob­ally this year ac­cord­ing to Edel­man’s 2018 Trust Barom­e­ter, will its home­grown ad­ver­tis­ing be trusted enough to in­flu­ence read­ers?”

Not ac­cord­ing to Nielsen’s re­search which re­ported that 92% of global con­sumers trust UGC and word-of-mouth rec­om­men­da­tions more than they trust ad­ver­tis­ing.

So how does main­stream me­dia cap­i­tal­ize on that? What lessons can they learn from blog­gers who are trusted in­flu­encers in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing?

What suc­cess­ful blog­gers get right

Al­though there are lots of mu­si­cians, ac­tors, and sports fig­ures who pro­mote brands, I was more in­ter­ested in look­ing at suc­cess­ful in­flu­encers who ac­tively blog (or vlog), post reg­u­larly on so­cial me­dia, and en­gage in re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties to try to in­spire and per­suade au­di­ences to act.

I don’t own a per­sonal blog, but know a num­ber of peo­ple who do — peo­ple who use it to share their pas­sion with oth­ers of like mind. One is a col­league of mine in mar­ket­ing, Ste­fanie McAu­ley.

Af­ter work­ing at Hearst Mag­a­zines in Lon­don for a num­ber of years, Stef de­cided to travel and ex­plore the world. Dur­ing that time she started shar­ing her sto­ries on her blog, Broad World. 50 coun­tries later, she ended up in Ghana work­ing as a consultant — an ex­pe­ri­ence that in­spired her to write her first novel.

Work­ing in both new me­dia and tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing, Ste­fanie has a good un­der­stand­ing of both sides’ strengths and weak­nesses. She con­tends that blog­gers and pub­lish­ers can learn a lot from each other and that the most suc­cess­ful ones are will­ing to put aside their egos and prej­u­dices and rec­og­nize the value they can bring to each other.

“Suc­cess­ful blog­gers know that if they want to be taken se­ri­ously and be suc­cess­ful they need to grow up and start act­ing like a pub­lish­ing busi­ness. To avoid be­ing yet an­other flash in the pan, they must de­velop a busi­ness men­tal­ity like tra­di­tional me­dia and fol­low pro­fes­sional jour­nal­is­tic prac­tices. And they must de­velop a solid value propo­si­tion which lays out what they’re of­fer­ing their tar­get au­di­ence, how they in­ter­act with that au­di­ence in an au­then­tic way that aligns with the brand, and how they’re go­ing to get paid for that.”

When asked what pub­lish­ers can learn from blog­gers in or­der to at­tract, en­gage with, and in­flu­ence read­ers both ed­i­to­ri­ally and com­mer­cially, she of­fered five rec­om­men­da­tions.

1. Find a niche and own it

Mag­a­zines have an eas­ier time with this by the very na­ture of their niche-ness. Not all are ex­perts at it, but there a num­ber that ex­cel and are reap­ing the re­wards — Na­tional Geo­graphic, Vogue, Men’s Health, Peo­ple, and Bet­ter Homes and Gar­dens, to name just a few.

But it’s a real chal­lenge for gen­eral news pub­li­ca­tions that of­fer noth­ing re­mark­able — noth­ing that makes them stand out from the com­pe­ti­tion.

Busi­nesses live in a dif­fer­en­ti­ate or die world on­line, so be­fore mov­ing on to rec­om­men­da­tion No. 2, gen­eral news me­dia ex­ecs should head back to their writ­ing and draw­ing boards and find (or start cre­at­ing) some­thing that makes them unique and at­trac­tive to a dis­cern­ing au­di­ence.

2. Be au­then­tic

While most main­stream pub­lish­ers post their con­tent (ed­i­to­rial and ad­ver­to­rial) on so­cial me­dia, the work is typ­i­cally done by mar­keters with lit­tle ex­per­tise in the sub­ject mat­ter, no real pas­sion about the con­tent, and no skin in the game. They are paid to do a job and peo­ple can see right through it.

But not at Na­tional Geo­graphic. In­stead of be­ing man­aged by a bunch of so­cial me­dia mar­keters, Na­tional Geo­graphic’s In­sta­gram ac­count, @nat­geo, is un­der the con­trol of 100+ of the pub­lisher’s best pho­tog­ra­phers. By let­ting its photo jour­nal­ists’ per­son­al­i­ties take cen­ter stage through their work and their pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy, Na­tional Geo­graphic has be­come the most-fol­lowed non-celebrity brand on In­sta­gram.

3. Build em­pathic re­la­tion­ships

What au­then­tic blog­gers do re­ally well is build rap­port with their fol­low­ers. They don’t hide be­hind their mast­head; they’re out there let­ting peo­ple see them for who they re­ally are. They en­cour­age open di­a­log and aren’t afraid to let down their guard and show both their strengths and weak­nesses.

Suc­cess­ful mommy blog­gers are par­tic­u­larly adept at this. This US$11B in­dus­try was built by women who share a com­mon de­sire for com­mu­nity — moth­ers who openly re­veal hon­est and per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences about be­ing a mom while jug­gling ca­reers, part­ners, and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. Fol­low­ers are peo­ple just like them — women who em­pathize with the blog­ger’s feel­ings of in­ad­e­quacy when fac­ing the daily tribu­la­tions of rais­ing a fam­ily.

Con­tent creators who want to in­still trust and em­pa­thy in an au­di­ence — turn­ing read­ers into fans and fans into fi­nan­cial sup­port­ers — can learn a lot from blog­ging and vlog­ging in­flu­encers. They can start by open­ing up their ki­monos and let­ting their read­ers see them as who they re­ally are. Be­cause in the end, a name and a mast­head don’t have that hu­man touch or in­still a sense of com­mu­nity most peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly mil­len­ni­als, crave.

4. Give back

A great ex­am­ple of this comes from Vogue Paris. Not only does the pub­li­ca­tion have strong en­gage­ment on so­cial me­dia, the brand gives back to the in­flu­encers that pro­mote it and their ad­ver­tis­ers by show­cas­ing some of the best on their web­site.

We’ve all seen dozens of ar­ti­cles writ­ten about the busi­ness ben­e­fits of giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity and few would ar­gue that when you give un­con­di­tion­ally, you often get more in re­turn. But what I found in­ter­est­ing about this post on Vogue was that the pub­lisher wasn’t giv­ing back to its read­ing com­mu­nity, it was giv­ing back to its mar­keters. On the sur­face it seemed like a gen­er­ous gift, but now imagine the mil­lions of fash­ion fa­nat­ics this one ar­ti­cle reached when those 15 in­flu­encers shared it with their fol­low­ers. Who’s ben­e­fit­ing now?

Bet­ter Homes and Gar­dens did the very same thing on their site, so I guess this tac­tic is mak­ing the rounds. Be that as it may, it’s a bril­liant mar­ket­ing move.

5. En­gage in con­ver­sa­tion

This is prob­a­bly the one piece of ad­vice most jour­nal­ists choose not to take and it’s a real shame. I un­der­stand that in the re­port­ing of news, there is a fine line be­tween re­port­ing the facts and in­ter­pret­ing them.

But jour­nal­ists have no prob­lem talk­ing about the facts when in­ter­viewed on TV talk shows. Why can’t they have a sim­i­lar con­ver­sa­tion with the read­ers who pay their salaries, ei­ther di­rectly through sub­scrip­tions or the ad­ver­tis­ing they bring to the pub­lisher?

Some ex­per­i­ments are be­ing tried like The In­for­ma­tion’s mem­bers-only con­fer­ence calls, The At­lantic’s ac­cess to ed­i­tors pro­gram, and The Globe and Mail’s lux­ury river cruises which cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for sub­scribers to get up close and per­sonal with news­room staff.

And then there’s The Times (of Lon­don) that ac­tively en­cour­ages its jour­nal­ists to re­spond to read­ers’ com­ments di­rectly, not through in­ter­me­di­aries like com­mu­nity man­agers. And ap­par­ently those colum­nists ac­tu­ally en­joy get­ting in­volved in dis­cus­sions around sub­jects they’ve writ­ten about.

“We’re em­pha­siz­ing to jour­nal­ists that this is part of their job. Read­ers like it, and you can see the ben­e­fits in terms of en­gag­ing read­ers and re­new­ing sub­scrip­tions.”

Ben Whitelaw

Head of au­di­ence de­vel­op­ment

The Times and The Sun­day Times

But these multi-way con­ver­sa­tions are the ex­cep­tion, not the rule. Most jour­nal­ists and ed­i­tors still don’t talk with their au­di­ences; they talk at them.

A con­ver­sa­tion doesn’t have to be com­pli­cated; it can be as sim­ple as thank­ing some­one for their com­ment and then ask­ing them a ques­tion. This not only makes the reader feel ap­pre­ci­ated, it gives the pub­lisher in­sights into the read­ers who an­swer the ques­tions — in­sights they can use to im­prove tar­get­ing and per­son­al­iza­tion.

The more jour­nal­ists and ed­i­tors know about their au­di­ences and what they want, the bet­ter they can serve them. The bet­ter they serve them, the more likely their read­ers will re­cip­ro­cate by shar­ing con­tent and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to sub­scribe. It’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion with a high ROI and low cost of en­try.

Never stop learn­ing

To­day quite a few pub­lish­ers in­cor­po­rate UGC from the likes of Sto­ry­ful or Datam­inr into their paid con­tent, or hire blog­gers to pro­duce free con­tent on their web prop­er­ties for SEO pur­poses. But con­tent isn’t the gold in UGC, it’s the users who mat­ter.

Since the dawn of the in­ter­net, blog­gers have been treated like sec­ond-class cit­i­zens in the world of jour­nal­ism. And given the in­fi­nite stream of dig­i­tal de­bris that in­fil­trates our world, it’s hard not to throw all blog­gers into the same melt­ing pot. But I urge you not to suc­cumb to the temp­ta­tion and take a look at the mi­nor­ity that have proven them­selves to be in­tel­li­gent, in­flu­en­tial, and suc­cess­ful — those who have taken a les­son or two them­selves from main­stream me­dia’s play­book.

Not only do they ex­cel at grow­ing au­di­ence, they know how to in­still loy­alty, gar­ner trust, and in­flu­ence be­hav­ior — crit­i­cal el­e­ments in grow­ing a sus­tain­able busi­ness. So why not learn from them, en­gage with them, and in­vite them in to con­trib­ute to the suc­cess of your brand through their con­tent and in­flu­ence? Let’s talk!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.