Consumer-generated media may have flipped media buying on its head, but marketers are now in an ideal position to align their brands with this original content and benefit from exposure to online influencers.
Corporations covet them. They're the backbone of your personal brand. Blogs are many things to many people, but to media buyers they're an advertising opportunity built on authenticity and trust. Consumers associate blogging with truth. And truth is exactly what marketers want to convey.
The 2013 Technorati Media Digital Influence Report found that blogs are more likely to influence consumer purchase decisions than any major social network, online magazine, or forum. Only retail and brand sites are more likely to shape consumer opinion. In fact, consumers placed blogs in their top five "most trustworthy" sources on the web. This may be a case of trusting what you know; according to Technorati, 86 percent of online "influencers" blog and 31 percent have been blogging for five years or more.
It used to be that marketers could engage with blog culture either by advertising on existing blogs or by launching a blog of their own. Most major brands did both, connecting with consumers through a corporate or branded blog (some were even run by brand mascots), while simultaneously buying media on blogs that attracted an audience of potential customers.
Recently, they've gone so far as to entrust bloggers with their marketing efforts. Last year Expedia partnered with Disney to send the blogger behind HipTravelMama.com to Disneyland in order to cover the launch of Cars Land. She was granted access to Expedia's Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts, and spent several days at the helm of the travel brand's social media marketing efforts.
As this breed of web publishing has flourished, so too have advertisers' options. Branded blogs are still a useful marketing tool, but marketers now have at their disposal a wealth of hybrid blog advertising alternatives that combine advertising with custom content. Display advertising is only a small portion of what blogs now have to offer. Through advertising partnerships brands can create native ads, sponsorships, and branded content while leveraging a blog's existing user base of loyal readers.
What follows is a list of blog advertising options, along with guidelines for choosing the network that's right for you.
The Motherhood. This marketing company describes itself as "Brands + Moms," and indeed it's designed to harness the power of social media influencers to boost partner brands. Nowhere is this mission more apparent than in its blog content. Posts link mom-friendly information, concepts, and events to relevant brands in the spirit of the classic advertorial. Posts are assigned blog tags like "Featured Partners" and "Influencers & Impact," and The Motherhood counts among its advertisers such national brands as PBS, Listerine, Chef Boyardee, Lawry's, and Hershey's.
Glam Media. Over the past few years Glam Media has expanded beyond beauty and fashion sites (like its flagship site Glam.com) to include new content verticals like family-oriented Tend.com, male-oriented Brash.com, wellness site Bliss.com, and Foodie.com, a social network for food fans. The sites accommodate some standard ad units but also offer much more "configurable" formats, including the IAB's Rising Stars units and social banners. In terms of traffic Glam Media is consistently a top 10 media property in the U.S.
Federated Media Publishing. A mainstay in the blogging community, this network affords access to business, tech, and lifestyle heavy hitters like Boing Boing, Dooce, VentureBeat, Gizmag, PSFK, and dozens of others. Though it too offers standard display advertising, its sweet spot has to be content marketing and sponsorships. The network's recently reappointed CEO seems poised to carry on the tradition of native advertising. Late last year the company shut down its direct ad sales division to focus on "programmatic" buying.
Details Style Network. If you're targeting women, networks like BlogHer remain a solid choice. If your target audience is comprised of men, however, try Style Network, part of Details magazine and one of the newest collections of blogs on the web. The network focuses on men's fashion and includes more than 40 blogs, content from which is reposted to Details.com. Although the site is "still young," parent company Condé Nast says that it's currently working on integration ideas. For now brands can buy display advertising through Details magazine.
Consumer-generated media may have flipped media buying on its head, but marketers are now in an ideal position to align their brands with this original content and benefit from exposure to online influencers (both bloggers and their readers alike). There's so much great content out there for the taking, and much of it can be found on blogs.
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Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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