Full disclosure: I started out my life in the pet industry as a dog blogger. Four years ago, to keep track of the progress of my fearful dog Mayzie, I created a blog written from her point of view. At the time, I thought I was one of only a handful of humans who were this crazy. But as it turns out, there are thousands of us writing either about or as our pets.
Like the rest of the pet industry, the pet blogger community is growing. And as their numbers grow, so does their influence. There are now entire conferences dedicated to this segment of the industry. BlogPaws, the largest of these, boasted an attendance of over 600 bloggers last year and they expect even more this year.
Smart companies are recognizing the power of these influencers and are reaching out to partner with them in various ways. From product reviews to brand ambassadorship, pet bloggers can drive traffic, increase sales, build brand awareness and create goodwill amongst other pet parents.
However, there are definite dos and don’ts for companies interested in working with this (or any) group of influencers. I conducted an informal poll of fellow pet bloggers and came up with a shortlist of things to avoid when approaching a potential blogging partner:
DON’T send out a mass email. It’s obvious (and a little insulting) when a company uses a generic email meant to cast a wide net. Starting the email with “Dear Blogger” is a sure sign that a company hasn’t done its research. It’s well worth taking a little time to look at their site and find the contact name, if available (rather than the dog’s or cat’s name). In your email, mention something specific you like about their blog and why you’d like to work with them. Remember, the bloggers behind the pets are human and want to do business with companies and people who value what they do.
DON’T focus on numbers only. Although it seems logical to target large blogs with huge followings, companies would be wise not to overlook the smaller blogs. These blogs often have loyal readers and engaged communities. In addition, they tend to be easy to work with and are willing to give companies more time and space on their sites. Numbers are important but it’s not the only thing that matters when vetting bloggers. Do they encourage lively discussions? Are there people who comment day in and day out? Do they have an active Facebook page or Twitter account? Do they attract a specific niche that would find your company interesting? Looking at the whole picture will help you determine the blogs that will offer you the most beneficial partnerships.
DON’T neglect to offer something in return. Most bloggers I know spend several hours on each review, setting up shots, taking pictures and writing. If there’s a giveaway involved, it’s even more time intensive. While it’s great for a blogger to receive a free product for their own use, it’s unlikely that the product (unless it’s worth a good deal of money) comes close to compensating the blogger for their time. While most bloggers provide product reviews at no cost to companies, it’s appropriate and always appreciated for a company to offer a link (or several) back to the review via their website, Twitter, Facebook and/or other social media.
DON’T forget to say thank you. When a blogger agrees to feature your product or service, they are essentially donating valuable advertising space for free. Yet rarely do companies follow up once the review has gone live and the giveaway has been completed. Not only is a follow-up email just a nice thing to do, it helps build a foundation for other campaigns. If a blogger has been exceptionally easy to work with, or has gone above and beyond, let them know they’re appreciated and make every effort to include them in future marketing plans. These people will often turn into your best advocates and talk you up to others (both online and off) even when they’re not doing a review.
Cultivating relationships with pet influencers can be hugely beneficial and profitable for your company. Approaching them in a professional, thoughtful way creates a win-win-win situation for you, the blogger and potential customers.
Have a question about working with pet influencers? Let me know in the comments.