The best marketing for E-Commerce startups is word of mouth, hands down. And with the blogosphere taking over the digital marketing space, you can get your product in the hands of influencers pretty easily. But how can entrepreneurs determine which bloggers and social media influencers are worth their marketing spend?
As a small company or startup, going straight for the gatekeepers - influencers and bloggers, is a great way to reach your target market. Your consumers turn to them for recommendations about the very products you sell. This is especially true if your products include fashion, lifestyle products or food. And if you’re marketing to millennials, they often look to influencers because they want an authentic, personalized customer experience, and they’re estimated to spend $200 billion annually by 2017.
Perhaps you’ve already written up a pitch to send to bloggers - but hold on! Before you start firing off those emails, I’d recommend you take a step back and make a pragmatic list of bloggers that are worth investing in - be it money, for a sponsored post, or even just your time. With bloggers and social media influencers charging more and more for their sponsored posts, and the disparity amongst their fees, it’s important to determine which ones will have the desired engagement and result in traffic, or better yet, sales.
Engagement Drumpfs Followers
Every blogger worth their URL will be able to tell you how many views and followers they have, and will parade those metrics when it comes time to negotiate their rate. Don’t get me wrong, those are still important metrics (as long as they’re genuine), as you wouldn’t want to court a blog that’s never read, but there’s a much more important metric: engagement.
Engagement is more of a category than a single number, and includes:
- Number of comments per post (how many people respond directly?)
- Number of new inbound links (how many other people link to their work?)
- Number of social shares (how many people share the post?)
Not only will these numbers demonstrate which blog is most likely to actually result in an increase in sales if you appear in it, but by simply having those numbers on hand, you’ll know the blogger is business savvy and understands the importance of fulfilling your needs too, not just theirs. If they have a very large following but engagement is bleak, it’s a clear sign that the followers are at best, not engaged, and at worst, fake.
If you’re in doubt about a blogger’s numbers, don’t be shy about asking for screenshots of their Google Analytics metrics.
Do Your SEO Due Diligence
Once you’ve narrowed down your targets, but before you reach out, it’s a good idea to check what their Domain Authority is - you can do so here. Domain Authority is a score that will tell you how likely it is the site will rank well in Google, and you can compare that blog against others to select the ones with the highest ranking.
Once you know their Domain Authority, you’ll be much better equipped to negotiate prices on sponsored posts of any kind.
Work With Moderately Popular Bloggers, Not The Biggest Names In The Industry
One of the most common tactics for using bloggers for marketing is straightforward: you buy a sponsored post, which generally includes your URL, images, a (hopefully favorable) review of your products, and mentions any key points you request.
These sponsored posts are definitely effective, but what if your startup simply doesn’t have the budget to work with top bloggers? Is there another option? Of course there is.
The next best thing after investing money is to invest time. Find a blogger who isn’t the most followed, but is an up and coming star in their niche, and has developed a reasonably impressive following. You may not get the wow factor that comes with the well-known bloggers in the industry, but you will get results without the price tag.
Offer to send them a free sample of your product, no strings attached. If they accept, they will almost definitely write a review - make sure you stay in contact with them, and request they send any critiques directly to you. In exchange, offer to feature them on your website, push them in your email newsletter, or offer them some other non-monetary compensation.
Forgo Working With Bloggers Who Only Use Instagram
Instagram can be a powerful marketing tool, however, a major factor to keep in mind is, unlike blogs, which can last for months or even years, you’ll only see the effect of Instagram posts for a few hours, or days if you’re lucky. It’s the nature of the platform that if users don’t see the post within a day or so of it being published, they’re unlikely to see it later.
Since link-building gives your site search engine optimization benefits for the long-run, your marketing dollars are much smarter spent on a blog post versus Instagram. Think of Instagram as a cup of coffee, and blogging and other content marketing as a good night’s sleep. A few cups of coffee can get you through a few bad nights, but the effect doesn’t last very long.