Cross-posted on BlogHer

Disclosure: I am Vice President, Sales Marketing at BlogHer. Advertising and social media marketing programs are a significant source of revenue for my company and for the bloggers in our advertising network.

BlogHer 2014. We just celebrated the 10th anniversary of a little conference held to tell the world: Here are the women who blog.

Many things have changed in the social media landscape since July 2005. But a constant, at least in my little corner, is that social media offers consumers an opportunity to have a voice about the products and services they buy. To share their customer experiences (good or ill). To actively participate  in the marketing cycle as endorsers of the brands they love. Preferably compensated.

Compensation. That’s our topic today. What should a blogger be paid for a sponsored post? How much is that tweet worth?

In my job at BlogHer, I lead the teams that create and execute our custom sponsored programs. Blogger payment is a topic that we address on a daily basis, and I shared some of our practices in a Business Fundamentals session about monetization in a session during the conference.

Here’s the gist.

Task + Reach + Performance = Fee

The baseline for payment for a sponsored blog post is the task.

  • What are we asking the blogger to do?
    • Simple post? Cover an event? Develop a recipe? Create a Craft or DIY How-To? Produce a UGC video? Participate in a custom video program? Is travel involved?
  • Does the blogger have special or unique expertise?
  • How many hours will this take? At a reasonable hourly rate?

Then we factor in reach, both monthly blog pageviews and overall social reach on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. If you’ve ever wondered why some bloggers get paid more than others for similar work (whether from BlogHer or another network or social media/pr agency), your answer starts with reach. Absent other data (and more about that in a moment), potential reach is the most common proxy for influence.

Influencers with more scale can get higher fees. Usually. But sometimes the program just doesn’t have the budget. We don’t mind if bloggers ask for more if a program appeals to them but the fee seems low. Just as long as they aren’t offended if the answer is no.

But task and potential reach are not end game. They are a good start, but end game is results. The more a blogger is able to link back to actual results achieved for brands, the better fees she can command for future work.

Bottom line: Size matters. Influence matters more. Results matter most. 

We’ve been doing sponsor programs since 2008, and have accumulated quite a bit of data on typical results. We use this data to predict program performance when calculating our guaranteed results for sponsored programs. Key measurements include number of post page views, both absolute and as a percentage of monthly traffic, total comments, earned social shares/pins, and clicks to sponsor site.

Starting later this summer, we will be sharing this proprietary data with the bloggers in our sponsored programs. Via their private BlogHer profiles,  they will be able to see how their own posts are performing and better understand how their posts and social sharing contribute to a program’s success. We will also share historical benchmark data so they can measure their performance. Eventually, and we will give our bloggers plenty of notice, we will be using this results data in our fee calculations. Task and reach will always matter, but historical results will be a factor. This should be particularly welcome news to mid-size bloggers with loyal audiences that read and engage with multiple posts every month; these “magic middle” blogs should compare quite favorably to much larger blogs that get a big chunk of their traffic from one-time search engine visitors.

Exciting times. And more to come.

 

Disclosure: I am Vice President of Sales & Influencer Marketing at BlogHer. Advertising and social media marketing programs are a significant source of revenue for my company and for the bloggers in our advertising network.

Content marketing. It is the hot topic of 2014. And like “native advertising,” there are as many definitions of and opinions about it as there are marketing pundits on the interwebs.

Far be it from me to back away from a challenge.

Linguistically, content marketing simply is using “content” to market products and services. But what exactly is this thing called “content.” Channeling Inigo Montoya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inigo_Montoya), it is entirely possible that this word does not mean exactly what we think.

Let’s stay simple to start. Brands are using “content” as distinct from “advertising” to promote their products. This can take many forms:

  • sponsored posts — on blogs and mass media sites (advertorial)
  • sponsored editorial
  • in native ad units
  • editorial on brand sites

Sponsored posts often integrate the brand into a story, not dissimilar from old style advertorial, but quite a lot of this content is just, well, content brought to you by a sponsor, either intermediated by a publisher, like Forbes BrandVoice or Mashable or direct, like Coca-Cola’s new content site, Coca-Cola Journey.

Mashable Screen Shot for content post

Example of integration of sponsored editorial: Is Your Cash Working for You?, sponsored by American Express

On some level, this is the fulfillment of the promise of the World Wide Web — build a terrific website and your customers will come to you, with the twist that we finally get that reading about the products isn’t the attraction. It’s useful and when you are ready to buy, critical, but product websites are selling tools, not marketing tools. They matter once you are in the consideration phase.

What attracts the consumer is storytelling.

And now brands are joining their customers as the publishers of content. If 2004 was the beginning of the rise of the citizen journalist, 2014 may be the birth of the brand journalist. This has implications for the quality of the news we consume, and already has had an impact on mainstream media. Advertorial content is increasingly front and center on mainstream media sites, with varying degrees of disclosure. More on that another day.

The long term impact of this shift on the independent,  read objective, journalist remains to be seen but the shift to brands as the direct funder of our news feed is already exerting a tremendous pressure on prices.

The quality of online content is also at some risk… The costs of feeding a machine that relies on new stories every day is why newspapers began selling advertising in the first place. Unlike an advert,  which is “create once, play many,” and works because of its simple, entertaining, purchase-oriented message, content marketing requires new stuff every day. The temptation is strong to sacrifice quality for volume.

But simply shoving a lot of words into a funnel isn’t going to have the long term effect we want. We need deeply engaging content that will connect consumers with our value proposition in a meaningful way and encourage them to consider our product or service. Bottom line, much as I love the quizzes, and top 10 lists, their impact is fleeting when it comes to long term engagement.

Collectively, we –marketers, consumers and publishers — need to take a step back and commit to creating and supporting GOOD content.

What’s good content in this context? It’s well-written content that engages the audience with a story, and connects with the brand message in some fashion. It can be tightly integrated like a review, loosely integrated like many sponsored posts or simply aligned editorial brought to you by the brand, with a brand message at the end of the post or article.

While brand marketers can, and should, produce material to feed the content marketing machine, the best stories will come from the community. No matter how well we write, we shouldn’t try to copy community-created content. It is extremely difficult to excise our passion for our brand from the story, and, as has been proven time and again, with good stories and bad, there is nothing more powerful than an engaged consumer.

Use your marketing passion to create the brand material for your content funnel that consumers rely on for more information about a product – micro sites, Facebook pages, Pinterest “catalogs,” and help your customers channel their passion into storytelling. Find and nurture your evangelists. Let them create the content and stories that matter with your support, either directly sponsored by you, or syndicated for re-use. A story may not be new to you, but it will be new to someone.

Personally, I’m excited about the potential for content marketing, and true partnerships between companies and their customers, brands and bloggers, to tell the stories that connect us with each other and with the brands we love. It’s what I’ve been hoping this interweb would morph into since I started writing about the space in 2004.

Here are some oldies but goodies from my archives on the topic of the brand-blogger connection:

Other writers who touch on this topic that you might enjoy: Rebecca Lieb, Christopher S. Penn.

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FTC Endorsement Guidelines Update: Disclosing a Sweeps or Contest Entry on Social Media

April 1, 2014

 Disclosure: Not a lawyer. Don’t play one on the Internet. But I’ve studied the FTC endorsement guidelines. A lot.  Yesterday news broke that the FTC had issued a warning to shoe manufacturer Cole Haan, notifying it that the disclosures used by consumers in its Wandering Sole contest on Pinterest were not sufficiently clear as to […]

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Update: Pinterest’s Acceptable Use Policy and Brand Pins/Pinboards

February 23, 2014

Disclosure: I am Vice President, Influencer Marketing at BlogHer. Advertising and social media marketing programs are a significant source of revenue for my company and for the bloggers in our advertising network. It’s not a secret that I am something of an ethics/best practices aficionado. As a result, I pay particular attention to the terms of service […]

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Shining a Light on the Native Advertising Debate

January 20, 2014

Disclosure: I am Vice President, Influencer Marketing at BlogHer. Advertising and social media marketing programs are a significant source of revenue for my company and for the bloggers in our advertising network. In December, the FTC held a workshop on Native Advertising,  the practice of embedding/including advertising messages in editorial spaces. Prompted by concerns that publishers are not disclosing sufficient […]

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Old Spice: Bring back the man on the horse!

January 7, 2014

Boys, use Old Spice, you’ll get laid, and your mom will turn into a crazy stalker who doesn’t brush her hair. Old Spice has rung in the New Year with a new ad campaign for its teen-skewed products, and I hate it. And not just because I don’t think the joke is funny. I understand […]

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