Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Beyond Blogs: Niche Brands And Mommy Bloggers

by Maryanne Conlin, Wednesday, July 1, 2009

To date, all of the big news about marketing to mommy bloggers has been about how large CPG brands are diving in, wooing and winning them. But what about smaller and niche brands? Is it worthwhile to add blogger outreach to a niche marketing plan?

I think it is. In fact I believe that the real power in the mommy blogsphere is in the marketing of niche products. And a new generation of analytical tools makes this a real possibility.

Lists of bloggers and blog networks for advertisers and PR professionals usually include high-profile bloggers and blog networks with north of 200,000 or even half a million uniques per month. While each blog has its own profile, the audience of larger blogs is of course, varied.

On the other hand, a number of smaller blogs boast niche readership, which may be exactly the target market for smaller brands. The "Nielson-Online Power Moms 50" gives a nod to this theory by listing a number of much smaller blogs in diverse categories such as travel and green.

Yes, their readership is smaller but their reach in selected consumer segments is much greater. And, as any marketer knows, the innovators and early adoptors of just about any product category are research junkies, the ones most likely to be reading niche blogs.

Most important for niche brands, using the power of social media, bloggers have managed to expand their reach beyond their loyal readers to the wider world. In particular, bloggers on Facebook and MySpace straddle the word-of mouth worlds of real and virtual, as we've learned these sites are often a way to connect online with past and present friends and family rather then online buddies.

Twitter, too, enables bloggers to reach a wider audience than with a blog alone. Sophisticated search functions and hash tags alert those not usually inclined to read a blog to the interests and recommendations of high profile Twitter users -- who aren't necessarily top bloggers.

On one level what this means is that the reach of many bloggers is much broader than just their sites and heavily dependent on the blogger's use of social media. This impacts bloggers both large and small but is of particular interest when considering a niche blogger outreach program.

These same sophisticated search and analysis tools (of which there are a mind-boggling number) give marketers the opportunity to conduct research to narrowly target a specific set of bloggers that can best reach their intended audience. Keyword search and use of SEO research using various analytic tools can identify bloggers who write on a wide range of subjects and have a loyal following of both blog readers and social media users.

Finding bloggers who also participate in forums and online review sites is an added bonus! Since that moves their reach beyond the generally agreed upon 30% of Moms who read and write blogs.

Blogger outreach programs are moving into a new phase, where page rank and uniques may not tell the whole story or not the part of the story you need to know. Upfront research using keywords and analysis of social media use may be a better forecaster of blogger influence than sheer volume for niche brands.

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