Monday, February 23, 2009

Marketing to Mommybloggers: Moms, show us your stats!

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PR Pros don't want to waste their time and efforts marketing to mommybloggers who don't have a lot of readers. Right? Yes, but also wrong.

There's more to a mommyblogger than her daily hit count. You didn't ask her for her hit count, did you?

For many bloggers, their hit count is considered personal information. This info is guarded like their weight or intimate details of their lives. In fact, one blog friend compared an unknown PR flack inquiring about hit counts to being asked to sleep with someone the first time you meet. Take a bit of time to form a relationship with us before you get too personal.

Of course, if a blogger is pursuing advertising or seeking out product samples on her own initiative, she should be prepared to share her personal site stats.

But when a blogger gushes online about a product that she bought with her own money and really likes, it's tacky for a PR rep to write and say, "Thanks for writing about Product X. We're glad you like it. By the way, how many people read your blog?"

When this happened to me, I wrote back explaining that it was a bad netiquette to ask that on first contact with a blogger. I also offered to talk with her- for free- about effective mommyblogger outreach, but she never took me up on that.

She did however, apologize, but as I read her follow-up note, it seemed she was also letting me know I might be missing out on a big opportunity to work with her company in the future.

I recently received a note asking about my stats after a company had already contacted me and provided a product sample for me as well as a giveaway for my readers. After everything was wrapped up, the low girl on the totem pole wrote to ask me about my numbers. In this case, I happened to be Twitter buddy of the agency owner, so I contacted him directly and shared my concerns:

* The note did not come from the agency contact I'd previously worked with. If it had, I might have been more receptive to it.

* I reminded him that his company had reached out to me and that if my stats were a concern, they should have done research before providing product samples and giveaways. This late inquiry makes it look they didn't do their homework ahead of time. There are websites and indices that can give them some sense of my traffic or how I compare to other mommybloggers.

* Beyond daily hits, I've got subscribers. I *think* I've got about 150, but I don't track those. Maybe I have 500.

* Technorati or ranking sites won't tell hint at my influence in back channels, like the fact that I'm only a click away from hundreds of mombloggers or I'm a highly ranked Tweeter. However, if you take a good long look at my blog, you might figure out a few things.

* Remember Google. While my oft-neglected food blog has a very small fan club, it seems to have a big cheerleader in Google. My product reviews on the site often make it into Google's top five suggested links for a search on that item and may stay there for many months. Last year I wrote a post on this blog comparing shopping experiences at Office Depot and Staples; the post was linked onto Office Depot's Google Finance page. And now I feel like it's my fault they've gone bankrupt.

It would be naive to say that numbers don't matter, but numbers are only part of the picture. Read blogs, get to know bloggers, hire a social media mom, (but by all means, don't ask her if she knows Dooce and could get her to mention your product).

Web 2.0 is one big conversation, don't start off yours on the wrong note by asking too much, too soon.

Bloggers what are your thoughts? Do you unlock your sitemeter or lift the virtual shirt that hides your stats for anyone who offers a few shiny beads?

PR Pros, what are your thoughts?

More on marketing to mommybloggers.

27 comments:

Kristina said...

Interested in hearing everyone's comments. I am a mommy blogger for a large corporate site, BabyCenter, and I've been asked for stats. I understand the PR pros want to show their clients that they got a good publishing hit, but alienating the mommy bloggers is not the way to go.

Besides, it would be unfortunate if the same group of mom bloggers--those with the highest stats--were always pushing products. Short-sighted on the PR pro's part.

Kim Moldofsky said...

Thanks for commenting, Kristina. I've never been asked for stats at BabyCenter, but apparently some folks who offer me products for review simply *assume* I will place them there.

As for your second point, only inviting the most popular products, I've been mulling around that topic and welcome your thoughts on it.

Carrie said...

Your Home Despot (heh) mention made me laugh because one of the searches that lead people to my blog EVERY SINGLE DAY is "Is Sears Going Out of Business?"
More than 2 years ago, I wrote a post about a terrible experience there, and titled it, "Why Sears Is Going Out of Business." Apparently many, many other people are interested in this topic. Maybe I should write a whole blog about THAT.

Sprite's Keeper said...

I'm not as close to the chest with the site stats as others, but I do think the companies trying to get some press need to LOOK at the blogs they're sending out inquiries to. I've been solicited a few times by companies who could have clicked through a few of my posts to confirm my site would obviously not be the best place to promote their products. One company, I did respond to, never got back to me when I asked for something a little better for a give away for my readers. I wasn't even asking to review anything. I already used the product and could have had a post ready for them in a day's time. But the give away they were suggesting was paltry and amounted up to a few free samples a reader could have picked up at the counter. It didn't make sense that they were just pulling from their free mailers to send out to a "winner".

Erika Jurney said...

I show my stats here:

http://tryhandmade.com/advertise/

But I've also had the same "by the way, what are your numbers" rudeness on plainjanemom.com and yeah, there it bothers me. Not sure why -- maybe because it's my personal blog?

Kim Moldofsky said...

@Erika Yep, personal blogs are, well, very personal. I don't think the marketing folks always get that. And as I wrote in my post, it's understandable that if you're seeking ads, you're going to show the sponsor what they are getting for their money.

@Carrie- Amazing how long something can last online. You should write a blog about it.

@Sprite's Keeper. Good for you for putting your readers first. Again, not always something companies understand, and knowing what a community you've built on your blog, it's the company's loss.

jane - mom generations said...

What disappoints me the most is that PR companies expect so much for absolutely nothing in return.

MomGenerations.com is a product review site. We established 2 years ago, when we started the site, that we would not get paid for reviews. We started the site dealing with mostly small companies - many "mompreneurs" for whom product reviews on mommy blogs were a great way to spread the word about their products.

But then PR companies jumped in. We got on PR lists and started getting sent more loot than we could fit in our house, from PR people who represented companies that can afford to - and DO - advertise big time. We picked and chose the products we actually wanted to feature, and stayed true to our non-paid reviews.

We also started doing a lot of giveaways, which, yes, bring in a lot of traffic, but really boil down to free advertising for companies.

SO... when it comes time to discuss with some PR companies all that we have done to spread the word about their products (not only on our site, but like you said, Kim - on Twitter, etc.), in an attempt to forge a business relationship that will benefit BOTH parties, you'd think they would be all for it, right? Ha.

Yes, we get that dreaded, "what are your stats?" question... and while we are actually quite proud of our stats, it really does make you feel like you've been taken advantage of when you're asked that after you've already done so much for a company, asking for nothing in return.

As you said, we are mostly dealing with the low people on the totem pole. The young, right-out-of-college PR people who have absolutely no say when it comes to spending the money of the companies they represent.

We are expected to be happy with some free loot. But to many of us, this is a business.

The more and more mom review and giveaway sites that pop up seemingly daily make me think that this is a problem that won't be going away anytime soon. The PR companies keep having a fresh crop of bloggers to go to. They'll eventually figure out the game, but by then there will be a whole other crop to go after.

I must say, it's a little disheartening.

Selfish Mom said...

It actually doesn't bother me when PR reps ask for my stats right away. I've got so many balls in the air right now, I'd rather they be up front. My husband needs to woo me, everybody else can just ask for what they want.

My stats are not huge, but when I put them in context (how many of them are regular readers, how many of my readers and acquaintances are bloggers, how long each visitor stays on my site, etc.) I tend to do pretty well in terms of getting stuff for reviews and giveaways.

But what I would like from every PR person is a clear expectation of what they want from me. If the campaign has a certain time frame, if there are certain links you'd like me to include, please mention that up front. Much better that, than sending me an email after I post saying "Thanks, but we wrapped that campaign a week ago" or "Would you mind linking to this page instead?"

RookieMom Whitney said...

Kim, I was just contacted by an intern at Ralph Lauren childrenswear asking me this question as our first contact with each other. I told her I would not share my numbers since I don't know who she is or what she hopes to get out of knowing this information. About a week later, I got the same email from the same woman with the same question. I pointed her to ParentPowerIndex.com which is a great tool for marketers to understand the relative popularity of mom blogs, but still, there are no exact visitor metrics available. She told me that I was the only site who had not provided her with numbers. Oh well. I don't know why I'm keeping them private, but it just rubs me the wrong way to be asked out of the blue.

foodmomiac (Danielle Wiley) said...

From a PR perspective, I can see both sides of this issue (and, of course, I'm a mommy blogger as well). Anyone asking your stats ahead of time is out of line. The one POSSIBLE exception is if you are being solicited for a paid project, as a spokesblogger, etc. In that case, you should be prepared to sell yourself (which includes stats).

In the instance you discuss above, it sounds like a lower level person who was scrambling to get stats for a follow-up report to her client. The fact is, unless a blogger is on Federated Media, it is virtually impossible to get accurate statistics about his/her traffic level. This makes accounting to clients very difficult. And, this ends up hurting bloggers in the long run. If you want to see more blogger programs, it is essential that clients understand when they've had a successful program. (The PR person you mention should have set her client's expectations in advance, by the way.)

That said, because page views are so difficult to nail down, we use a "Social Media Footprint" to measure bloggers instead. And that can be done without any rude emails to the bloggers. We look at estimated subscribers, Twitter followers, etc.

uppervalleymom said...

This was a really interesting post, and I think the comments are informative as well. I'm a "mommyblogger" nearing one year with my blog. It's not a moneymaker, and likely will never be...just something that I enjoy doing. I have really not done any formal reviews or giveaways, but I do consider them. I don't have a huge following on my blog, but have regular readership. I almost think this is more important -- I've got a decent Twitter following and friends on Facebook that I'd like to think would be included in my "stats". I really believe that measuring one person or one blog's reach really does need to be more than a site visit count.

I'd also like to think it would be great to have multiple methods to get the word out about a product and sometimes working with "lower profile" mommy blogs/mom review sites might have more overall reach than the big companies & PR folks realize. Maybe my opinion would be different if I wasn't in the "lower profile" category. :)

ChefDruck said...

Kim,
This was such an interesting post. I've noticed the attitude from PR agencies has been changing recently as the economy has been going down the tubes. I imagine that it's just as a response to their jobs being on the line, just like everybody else's. I don't mind sharing my stats if it is going to result in better prizes for my readers. But that said, it's all about tone. And, same as Selfish Mom, I hate not being given all the information up front so that I have to spend more time on a post I've put up to correct it.

Vanessa

Nancy M. said...

Kim, this is a really interesting, well-written post. I've had this topic on the brain recently because one of my colleagues was telling me about a problem with bloggers misrepresenting their traffic figures; this obsession with numbers isn't good bloggers and it isn’t good for PR people who need to be working cooperatively for best results. As a PR person, part of my job is reporting back to the client on the hits or "impressions" a placement receives. For example, if we score a placement in a magazine or a local market TV show, our coverage report includes the number of eyeballs that can be estimated to see that piece. Trying to get the most accurate numbers possible is as important in securing the placement, from the client’s perspective. For online placements, I use a free site like Compete.com to get a rough idea of blog traffic, but I usually check-in with the blogger to see if they have a more accurate number.

If you’re a blogger interested in working with PR people, you can expect to get this question from us because this is the first question we’re going to be asked by the client. If you are running a personal blog and you don’t want to share these figures, feel free to delete the emails or send a response that you are not looking to work with brands at this time. You may want to consider adding a disclaimer to your blog that you don’t work with PR firms. Anyone who bugs you after you’ve made it clear that you don’t participate with PR firms desrves an exile to the spam folder. I'm really looking forward to discussing this more on #gno tomorrow.

Musings of a Housewife said...

Interesting discussion. I don't mind sharing my stats, as I assume it's information the PR firm needs to know, if they are giving away products (especially higher priced products).

But here's what bugs me. After I very willingly sent my stats to a PR person who asked (and by the way, we had already wrapped up the giveaway) I asked in a very conversational style what they were looking for when they asked that question. I said I was curious what they considered worthy stats of donating a product. I'm honestly curious. I've been asking this to several PR peeps and they are VERY vague and never answer the question. This girl pretty much totally avoided it, while defending WHY she needs my numbers.

I get the WHY. I just feel that if I'm willing to show them mine, they should show me theirs, so to speak.

Okay, sorry for writing a whole POST in your comments! Party foul!

foodmomiac (Danielle Wiley) said...

The problem I have with Compete, Quantcast, Alexa is that they are so inaccurate. I've seen MANY instances in which Quantcast numbers were less than 25% of actual traffic (even on blogs that are Quantified).

Stimey said...

Great post and it gives me more to think about. I'm not overly concerned about how I'm dealt with by PR people as long as they are respectful and don't make it clear that they think they can buy me with a coupon for a frozen dinner.

It's an interesting thing, this relationship between mommybloggers and companies. Honestly, I'm a lot more concerned with how my review blog readers interact with me and perceive me than with how the PR people do. It's a symbiotic relationship. I feel that as long as I maintain my personal integrity and self esteem, I'm not too concerned with the rest of it.

Jessica Gottlieb said...

I'm able to use compete's toolbar and get a fairly accurate count of anyone's site, unless they'e on blogger (which you are).

Feeds are tough, I don't much care about them because my feed is partial, those mirror sites will kill you...

I don't imagine asking a blogger about their traffic is any more reliable than asking my neighbor what color her roots are or how much her husband earns.

Just sayin...

Florinda said...

Interesting discussion. I don't think I've ever been asked about my stats, but I would probably share them if I were. Personally, I pay more attention to my subscriber numbers than daily hits; I'm more interested in the "relationship" angle with regular readers.

Then again, the only reviews and giveaways I do are for books, and I'm not sure what kind of numbers book publicists are looking for.

Heather said...

Many good points here! I also think that only relying on stats also ignores that many also share quite effectively via WOM in offline capacities. I think that's a huge area that's being overlooked.

Los Angelista said...

Amen! I love this post. I just finish laughing at another unsolicited PR demand that I post a million word press release on my blog. Thanks for saying what so many of us are feeling.

@AmandaKB said...

Thanks for the post, Kim! I’m glad to learn about the blogger perspective on stats. As a PR person, stats and measurement are a daily consideration. I want to understand the effectiveness of my efforts so that I know what works, what doesn’t, and how I can build upon successes. Defining success, what “works,” is an industry unto itself.

Blogs present a challenge because the metrics for success we PR folks apply to traditional media don’t tell the full story when applied to blogs. I’m still looking for the most relevant stats (and your post and everyone’s comments have given me great ideas). Because my goal when I work with bloggers is to encourage a conversation about the company I work for, I look at the number of comments a post receives. I’m also interested in the number of people who follow a blogger on twitter.

Renée aka Mekhismom said...

Great post Kim. This is a discussion that came up at Blissdom too. The PR folks on the panel were very clear that stats matter. Personally I have never had the experience of someone asking about my stats but I don't think I would have a problem with disclosing them. It is very interesting reading everyone's perspective on this issue.

jodifur said...

I would never ask someone their stats. Why does it matter? I know mine. They are what they are. I blog for me.

I actually can tell when I read someone who blogs for stats and I hate it and stop reading them instantly. Write for yourself and the traffic will find you.

Interesting post.

Catherine said...

This is fantastic - I've often been discouraged by stat obsession when, like you say, there's so much more than that. Great post!

@stephanieshih said...

Hi Kim, just stumbled across this post. Thought it was really interesting, especially as more PR companies are trying to reach out to bloggers. Think you sparked some great discussion here. I completely agree--asking web stats in the very first email is out of line. In fact, I think asking for stats in general is a very sensitive subject and should be broached carefully.

As a PR pro, I am the first to admit that companies do wonder what the stats are. And to Nancy's point, I think many companies are simply stuck in the old ways of measuring hits, which is to simply get readership/viewership numbers. They take these traditional ways of measurement and try to apply it to the web, which is anything but traditional.

What I think is particularly important is for PR professionals to educate their clients and teach them that these stats don't tell the whole story.

I think you can sum it up into what my high-school English teacher would always say: "quality, not quantity." (which really should be applied to everything else in life, but that's a whole other story.)

I think the same applies to blogs. We, as PR professionals, need to educate our clients and show them the value of each individual blog--whether it has a large readership or not.

I think some of the most "valuable" blogs are on the smaller side, but because they have such an engaged community, they bring so much more to the table.

I could go on about this for days, but to sum up everything, I think trying to compare blogs with just site numbers is like evaluating a book based on the number of copies it's sold. You really can't just judge a blog based on its numbers. And, I think it's up to us to educate our clients and our peers that there is a better way.

Heidi said...

Thanks for posting! I just want to admit, that I'm that young, just out of college PR girl who has been asked to get your numbers. I honestly had no idea that it was so personal, and you have every right to shield that information if you so choose. I might be new to the field, but I know what a stamp of approval from a mommy blogger can do for one of my brands, and at the same time, if you tell me that my product has too much sugar, that's something I can relay to the company for future product developments. Unfortunately, it's the bottom-of-the-totem-poll pr folks such as myself that know your importance and value a potential relationship with you. The top tier folks at my firm and likely others are still so numbers driven. They need to be able to quantify what I'm doing. If I say I'm "looking online for new media contacts" they translate that as "wasting time on facebook and twitter" unless I can provide a "well in the past hour I connected with X and can reach her 2,000 followers." I honestly hope that you realize that we aren't all numbers-focused (well, not all of us) and we really do want to know what you think. I wouldn't offer to send you samples of my product if I didn't think you might like it. I read every blog before I pitch. And if other pr people don't, call them on it.

Heidi
@hbobier

Jami said...

Thanks for starting this discussion Kim, I just stumbled across this post as I was doing some research on how to quantify blogger influence for one of my clients.

As a PR person myself, I am grateful to read through these comments and have learned a lesson on my part. I think it's important to note that working with bloggers is sometimes entirely new for even experienced PR folk, we are all trying to navigate these new waters and it is an ongoing learning experience.

I am always grateful when the bloggers I work with come right out and tell me how to work with them. In naivety I was thinking that most would be proud to share their statistics and I am glad that these concerns were raised here as it has made me rethink my approach. We are all trying to figure out how to work together in a mutually beneficial fashion so it really helps us PR folks when you tell us what works for you so we can learn from it.

We want to work with you and our clients unfortunately will always ask us to prove ROI. I think when we do our research we understand your influence and reach, but there is sometimes no way around having to share some proof with our clients at the end of the day. Thanks for the great dialogue here, I have learned a great deal.

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