Within a PR and digital marketing environment, the importance of blogging is an established truism.
Blogger engagement and relationship management regularly features on daily task lists of communication professionals. It is hardly surprising then that Singapore too has a rich blogging community – one that spans across fashion, food, satire and personal (often controversial) rants. Visually compelling, these blogs are marvels in themselves. The authors are the new breed of “online celebrity”. But this is where similarities with the global blogging world perhaps end. Singapore’s bloggers can be broadly categorized into two groups:
1. The blogger
2. The paid blogger
Take a look at Google’s 2011 zeitgeist, the top 10 blogs in Singapore by search query. Almost all the blogs listed by Google are updated regularly and receive thousands of hits a day. Of these, Xiaxue is the proverbial Queen Bee of blogging, amassing upwards of 40,000 unique visitors a day! As a general rule, we notice that blogs with high viewership have one thing in common – paid advertorials.
How do paid advertorials work? In the same way they do with newspapers or magazines – you can get your content pushed out to a reader base depending on the target audience you wish to secure. An advertorial will ensure that your product will always be portrayed in a positive light. Bloggers in Singapore and from around the region sign up with companies who put advertisers in touch with relevant bloggers.
So for example, if you are a blogger writing about skincare products, these companies would be able to (for a fee) put the advertiser in touch with you based on pre-agreed terms like number of blog posts, tweets, Instagram uploads, etc. for the product. It’s not uncommon for bloggers to invite advertisers or “sponsors” if they are looking for a particular product or service. For example, Xiaxue invited sponsors to help renovate her new house and everything from new doors to bathroom fittings and paint jobs were “sponsored”. In the same way, Qiu Qiu who recently got engaged, invited sponsors for her upcoming nuptials.
The ROI for the sponsors is the eyeballs that these blogs get. In return, sponsorships are often not restricted to bartering blog posts for products or services; they can, at times, also involve monetary compensation. All this is done in the hope that the venture will pay off with increased visits or sales from readers based on the bloggers’ influence.
There is always a risk with paid engagements – but more so in a nascent environment where relationships mean everything. If a collaboration goes wrong, the blogger in question could be very vocal about her negative experience. This could lead to a potential backlash not just from customers, but from the online community.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are bloggers like Ang Mo Girl who do not do paid advertorials as a matter of principle. When I contacted her to engage her in an influencer program, she was very firm about not receiving freebies – not that any were on offer – and didn’t bat an eyelid when explaining why.
How do we work in this environment? We operate on a no strings attached principle. If we, for instance, seed bloggers and influencers with a product, there are no expectations of good reviews.
At the end of the day, it is about the relationships built with the bloggers. There’s a lot of time invested in getting to know them personally, reading their blogs, understanding their interests and passions, pet peeves and favorite colors. Getting the bloggers to know and trust you is half the battle won. You then need to figure out how to sustain your relationship and not make it work only because work demands it.
What do you think of advertorials on blogs? Ever engaged with a paid blogger in your part of the world? Tell us about in the comments below or on Twitter.