How Influential Are Bloggers?

As previously discussed, I recently ran a contest for bloggers for one of my clients.

The contest was very successful. We had several entries and by all accounts it did what it was supposed to do. It spread the word about GigMasters to bloggers and their readers. It generated excitement about our brand and introduced us to new potential clients. The contest is still hard at work for us. We offered a gift certificate to bloggers who didn’t win  to give away on their blog, and one of the semi-finalists is using it and promoting the heck out of GigMasters.

But what was most interesting to me, was the ways in which the contest did not work as expected. Among the ten semi-finalists, three were fairly known  bloggers with large social media followings. They did not win.

The winner was not actually a blogger. She was a grad student/T.A. who created a blog for the sole purpose of entering the contest. As far as I know, she has little to no social media profile. She won the old fashioned way. She went to her co-workers, her fellow students and the students she teaches, and asked them to vote for her. They did. They came to our blog and left comment after comment talking about how great she was, how touching her story was, and why she deserved to win.

The person who came in second place, did have social media to thank for his entries, but not in the way expected. Playwright Greg Owens wanted to throw a party for clients of a local food bank. About half of Greg’s votes came not from his “followers” or even his friends (real and Internet based) but from the fans of Donna’s Good Things a non-related not-for-profit run by Sheila, a mutual friend of Greg’s and mine.

The most objectively successful blogger in the contest came in second. She did have several votes from influential people in her field, colleagues of hers with whom she has a personal connection. But, most of her votes also came from friends and family (you can tell when all the voters have the same last name).

The third most successful blogger barely placed at all. She received five votes, all from personal friends, not readers.

Obviously, this is one contest and isn’t conclusive, but companies are spending a lot of money to get products and brands out to bloggers (not as much money as bloggers would like, but that’s a different story). The assumption is that if a blogger has a large, or even a small but loyal readership, they’ll be able to activate that readership to become customers.

But how much connection do people really have to the blogs they read? Our winner won because she made personal connections with people. Our runner up got as many votes as he did because someone made a personal connection for him.

Donna’s Good Things got the word out via Facebook, and although Sheila does not know everyone who “likes” DGT, they do all feel a strong personal connection to Sheila and her family’s story. Sheila has a popular personal blog, but she did not use the blog to connect people to the contest.

The idea behind using bloggers to promote products is that bloggers are able to connect with lots of people. If you’re running a brand recognition program (like our contest), that makes perfect sense. But, with Facebook and Twitter even people who don’t blog have the capacity to reach THOUSANDS of people with your message.

Selling something requires you to make a personal connection. How many bloggers have that deep, personal connection with their readers? What would you do for your favorite blogger? Buy a different brand of diapers? Vote in a contest? Buy a car? Who would you rather get a recommendation from, your best friend or your favorite blogger?

Seriously, I want to know, what are your thoughts?

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2 Responses to How Influential Are Bloggers?

  1. shobavish says:

    Very interesting post! I have come to believe that it is ultimately the personal connections that count for more than mere readership numbers and that takes consistent two-way engagement. I think bloggers who are part of a community, more than those who have a significant readership, are the truly influential bloggers. I am referring to a blogging (virtual) community, but am not surprised that your example shows the effectiveness of a real-world social network!

    The new wordpress read feature brought me to you – seems like I wont miss Tag Surfer ….

  2. Carrie says:

    I think it also matters how much the particular promotion matters to the blogger involved. I figure that readers are only willing to take action at my urging occasionally if it doesn’t benefit them personally, and I am really hesitant to spend that capital. I also don’t like to put up too many posts about promotions or topics that aren’t directly related to my blog topic. Since I didn’t have a large stake in whether I won this contest or not, I didn’t promote the voting much on my blog or FB page, just once or twice.

    If I entered a contest that resonated with my readers and I was really excited about — say, if I wanted to star in a money-saving game show or something — I would probably post about it frequently and I think more of my readers would vote.

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