Friday, June 1, 2012

Engaging Mum Bloggers - a nocturnal pursuit!

There are lots of brands who are just starting to think about how they can use social media to promote their brand or product. Many are paying big bucks for PR firms to do it for them. But you really can do this yourself.

I recently attended a blogging event at Big 4 Bellarine. It was deemed a highly successful event by the 40 women who attended and provided months of tweets and blog posts that would have reached tens of thousands of readers and potential customers.

The event was run by Sophie Bone. I interviewed Sophie to get the behind the scenes information on working with bloggers or using social media to promote your business. 

Q 1) What made you consider using social media and bloggers as part of your promotional strategy?

Four things. 
1.            Personal challenge (never used twitter)
2.            Intrigue (what is everybody doing on there!)
3.            Dogged determination (because someone told me I couldn’t do it!)
4.            Apathy surrounding traditional methods of advertising to Mums (randomly applying pink to anything you are pitching)

The concept evolved after hearing about a series of Blogger events being held for the big brands in Melbourne. I enquired about involvement but retracted my interest based on three factors:

The event was cost prohibitive given that the return was questionable.
Me handing out a brochure and expecting a blog post didn’t make sense.
I wanted the bloggers to come to my property and experience the product.

From that point, I was more determined than ever, to create the event myself without the aid of a PR agency – so I opened a Twitter account.

Q 2) What was the most difficult part of organising such a large event with bloggers without a PR agency?

It wasn’t really a very large event. 40 people is a very manageable number to work with. It’s important to be able to reach everybody and listen to their stories over the time you have with them. I wouldn’t say it was difficult either because really, it was fabulous fun! 

What I would say is, that it was an incredibly labour intensive campaign because Twitter never sleeps (and neither do some Mum bloggers it seems)! Because of the external influences that impact on their lives such as children, school drop offs and professional pursuits, often the most interactive time with Mum bloggers is from 8pm until verrrry late!  Also, such is the amount of information moving through that particular communication channel, you need to very carefully plan how you will keep the dialogue going over a fairly long lead time until the event.

For me, using a PR agency may have diluted the relationship between the bloggers and I. It was very important for me, that it was never considered a blatant ‘brand bullying’ exercise but rather an event that sounded like fun, that ticked enough boxes (sleepover, massage, dinner, drinks and a decent latte) for 40 women to extricate themselves from their homes and children, to come to me!

Twitter, despite being limited to 140 characters, really defines a personality very quickly if you are engaging with people regularly. Like people you meet, strangers you sit at a dinner table with at a dinner party, there are some that are definitely going to resonate more with you because of:

  Their turn of phrase
  Their sense of humour
  What they don’t say
  How they present opinions

If you offload all of the above to a PR agency, there is a very real possibility that it could create a discord between your audience, you and thirdly, your brand voice. You need to be alongside every detail, quip, whim and innuendo every minute of every day until the event is over……….and not even then does the monitoring stop. 

Q 3) Would you recommend other businesses get involved with Social Media and blogger outreach?

Yes, if you are totally:

  Focused on attention to minuscule detail
  Committed to seeing through what you promise and being open to change as you carefully monitor online conversations beyond your control
  On board the concept that bloggers are professionals at what they do and that they don’t owe you anything 

Q 4) What advice do you have for other service related business for working within social media?

Research like a fiend! 

Religiously monitor conversations outside of your event to get a feel for 4 key things:

An appropriate tweet tone and a sense of humour (which will be variable depending on which blogger you are conversing with) Bloggers all have their own persona – shy, irreverent, bold, subtle. 
Feedback on blogger events they are attending – this dovetails nicely into the event you will run and enables you to avoid making the same mistakes 
Topics that cause friction / tension and why (listen to how bloggers feel – they are not afraid to voice opinions and if they are relevant to your event and how you will massage what you offer, then soak up that information)

Don’t create an event, create an experience. Mine focused on 4 elements:

Fun – the Great Race (flying foxes, changing babies nappies blindfolded, kicking football goals in wigs, swimming amongst hundreds of rubber duckies), teams, bloggers finding their team online, lollies, music playlist predominantly 80s
Intrigue – sending a blindfold in the mail with a clue relating to the Great Race, a map of the property with a massage appointment card dangling from the unit it would be in
Surprise – heaters on, on return from dinner, delivery of a midnight snack and water with a note, newspapers waiting on doorstep before dawn
Elegance – beautiful stationery, flowers, very high quality meat cuts and food ingredients, wax seals, use of letters in the post, tea-lights
Stagger your contact / content – plan it across the 2 months in the lead up to the event. 

Don’t be a pest!

Never saturate a particular channel of communication. Use a number of them:
- Post – for the touchy feely, clues, treats
- Email – for important details – times, places, addresses etc.
- Twitter – for chit chat and keeping up!

Follow relevant hashtags where many of your invitees take part – always trying to gauge:
- Tolerances
- Opinions
- Humour

Be at the end of your @mentions pretty much at all times in the lead up to the event: if the bloggers are talking to you then respond, be conversant, be cheeky, be engaging. 

Ask somebody for the heads up on Twitter etiquette. There is a code of conduct (which I had no idea about) surrounding Retweets (RT), Modified Tweets, (MT) and thanking people for the honour. There is etiquette surrounding when you can buy into a conversation between a group that you have not been @mentioned in on. 

Be candid about:
- Lack of Twitter knowledge (when to retweet etc.)
- Mistakes you make (tweeting a DM)
- Butting in on a conversation

Be lavish, spare no detail and show unbridled generosity. I am a firm believer in the simple strategy that “What comes around, goes around”. Your generosity will come back to you. If you skimp on it, then expect others’ generosity to be skeletal too.

Speak to someone who has done it! I would be happy to talk with anyone who was thinking about doing it. 

Q 5) During your presentation about Big 4 Bellarine you shared some personal stories of your own life and answered questions openly about the financials of the business. Considering the sharing of information is usually the basis of a successful blog, will we be seeing 'Sophie Bone's Blog' anytime soon?

Only days ago, I determinedly typed in Word Press and set up an account. I called the blog “ilovebellarine’, wrote one post, pressed publish, giggled and then haven’t returned.  To be fair however, my background was as an English teacher and then as a copywriter, so I do love words! Maybe I’ll pop back there one day in secret and type a little story. 

Big 4 Bellarine is on Facebook and Twitter


  1. Kudos to Bellarine for doing such a fab job in engaging the mum bloggers!

  2. This is a really useful article, thanks! Do you know of a link (reputable) for 'Twitter etiquette'? I've been learning on the job (so to speak) and I'm sure I've committed some transgressions without meaning to!

    1. Hi Lara, There are a few around, I will have a look around - or if any readers have one, they can add one in the replies here for you with a link. Otherwise I am sure I can whip up something if there is enough interest.

  3. Great interview with someone who totally nailed the blogger/brand relationship and is well respected for it!

  4. Great interview. Thanks Claire - and Sophie. It was fun watching the event online

  5. Great read Claire! Sounds like the event was a success for all involved.

  6. twas great to watch this unfold - particularly on Instagram where I follow quite a few of those who attended - they obviously were very engaged and having a great experience.

    Really great example of this type of thing done well!

  7. I'm so glad you did this post Claire - love hearing stories of businesses really working to find out how best to engage with bloggers. Would love you to add to my Saturday linky.

  8. Sensational stuff! Please forward to all corporates xx

  9. It was hands down the best blogger PR event I have been to. Completely nailed it.

  10. The talk around this event has been wonderful to watch. Well done. x

  11. I love that you did this. I remember reading about it and wishing I could have been a part of it. I have friends who work in PR who are getting into just this kind of thing and at times have to advise some small or family run businesses against employing them (PR companies) to manage social media on their behalf because of the cost. And as you explain here, you can do it yourself, far more effectively, and have fun in the process. Good for you for having a try and jumping on the learning curve. And from what I hear, the Mummy Bloggers had a ball!

  12. What a fabulous example of a great campaign. Based on all the twitters and instagrams I saw, it looks like everyone had a brilliant time and cudos to The Big4 for the way they managed it and themselves. xx

  13. Great article and loads of helpful tips for engaging with social media. I find that there are different twitter etiquettes depending on the group you're chatting with ... I also tweet extensively with the tech start-up scene and it's a much different vibe. Most important part is to be yourself - as Sophie says, it really comes through with only 140 characters.

    Sophie, sounds like a fabulous event and so glad you've jumped in to twitter and shared your experience. Thanks!


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