You can invest as much as you like on advertising and social media strategy but there’s nothing more effective for promoting your brand than having genuine, word of mouth buzz about your products from real people.
Most of the big fashion and beauty companies have already sussed that bloggers are a great place to start but increasingly smaller retailers and beauty salons have been asking me how they can get in on the action. The great thing about social media is that increasing your exposure doesn’t have to cost the earth – you just need to be smart about how you approach it. Here are a few tips on how to get started.
Get tweeting: If you’re not yet on Twitter, you should be. This is one of the key methods bloggers use to communicate with each other, so if you want to start conversations with them, this is the place to be.
However, don’t make the mistake of spamming people with product tweets or links to your websites – they can spot sales messages a mile off and don’t take kindly to it! Instead, try to get involved in discussions by following hashtags (e.g. if you’re a fashion brand, many bloggers use #todayimwearing to share outfit posts – why not comment on their posts, ask them where their outfits are from and what they like?)
Remember to #FF bloggers you like (that’s Follow Friday – simply tweet #FF followed by a list of Twitter names of bloggers you like every Friday). This is a great way of creating a sense of community and many will #FF you in return, thereby helping to increase your followers.
Once you’re in conversation with bloggers, more are likely to follow you and may even retweet you if you feature interesting topics/products in your tweets.
Strictly VIP: One way to get bloggers on your side is to give them exclusive insights and discounts. Compile a mailing list of bloggers you like and communicate with them regularly, offering them an inside preview of your new products before everyone else, or a special offer that’s only open to bloggers. Make them feel valued by inviting them to exclusive blogger events, or giving them a ‘backstage look’ at your latest ideas/services etc. Everyone wants to be a VIP – show the bloggers they’re important to you with content targeted at them and they’ll respond. A word of warning here though: you don’t want to be seen as a spammer, so try to keep it to once a week if you can to avoid email overload!
Share and share alike: If you’ve created a cool new video or gorgeous campaign images, why keep it to yourself? Use sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr to get your content out there and encourage people to use it on their own sites. As long as everything you release is branded correctly, there’s no reason why it can’t be used on someone else’s website. The more places your content can be seen in, the better, as this increases the likelihood that other bloggers will then be exposed to your brand.
Become one of them: One way of picking up blogger followers is to start a blog yourself. Blog about something related to your area of expertise and try to show some personality – pictures of your staff and personalised messages from individual staff members is a good way of showing the ‘real people’ behind your brand and giving your company a public face that bloggers will want to interact with. This is a good space to shout about your products, but make sure that’s not all you do – keep bloggers interested by sharing your knowledge and opinions on a broad range of topics related to your field.
Competitions: A great way to spread your brand message virally is to run regular online competitions. Facebook are very strict about what you can and can’t do with competitions (e.g. you’re not allowed to insist that people ‘like’ your page in order to win a competition), but there are creative ways you can get people involved online.
One great way to encourage audience participation is to set a question (e.g. If I won this handbag, the five things I’d put in it are…). People love to share their opinions. Give them a space to do it and the chance of winning a fabulous prize, and you’ll almost certainly generate some interactions.
Gina Dyer is a freelance web editor and fashion writer. Follow her on Twitter @gdyer