By Julie Livingston, Senior Director, Client Development, CarrotNewYork
The number of bloggers attending Toy Fair has dramatically increased over the past five years. However, from the numerous conversations I’ve had with industry colleagues and bloggers alike, there is significant confusion about the most effective means of working together.
To clarify these misconceptions, I interviewed Debbie Bookstaber, a leading parent blogger and the publisher of Mamanista, who was recently named one of the “25 Parent Bloggers Who Are Changing The World” by Babble.com. A thought leader in the social space, Bookstaber has spoken at many blogger conferences, including SXSW, BlogHer, Type-A Parent, Springboard, and Affiliate Summit. She has worked extensively in the toy industry with associations, toy companies and brands. Connect with Debbie on Twitter at @buzzmommy.
What kinds of bloggers cover Toy Fair?
The bloggers who cover the Toy Fair have a variety of interests and write about a broad range of niche topics. These include, but are not limited to, parenting, popular culture, youth entertainment, toys, gaming, toy/doll, and collecting/nostalgia. You also find educators and special education bloggers interested in finding toys that assist with early reading and developing fine motor skills.
What’s the best way to work with bloggers?
As part of your overall marketing and communications plan, I recommend establishing a blogger strategy. What are your goals and objectives in working with bloggers? What kinds of bloggers are key stakeholders for your company/brand? Who are these bloggers? What is your budget for product samples? Most bloggers will require an actual product sample in order to test the product and write a review. Having a strategy in place will set parameters and ground rules up front.
Note that the large toy companies and brands already have established relationships with the top bloggers (Lil’Sugar and She Knows are some) and are inundating them with requests and product pitches. This makes it more challenging for mid- and small-size brands that may not have those existing relationships in place to compete. If you represent more of a specialty product, I suggest focusing your efforts on a few relevant bloggers in your niche and developing those personal relationships.
In researching the blogosphere to identify the top influencers, note that there are several kinds of bloggers: the casual blogger, who is more of a hobbyist and has a personal passion for a specific subject or product range (and will often write product reviews in exchange for a product sample); the professional blogger, who may want to be compensated as a brand ambassador; and bloggers who must maintain traditional editorial standards regarding compensation, as they are paid to write for media companies such as Babble.com.
Bloggers often have a broad reach extending into other traditional media platforms. For example, parenting blogger Joey Fortman, of Real Mom Media, has a successful blog but also appears regularly on traditional media platforms (including top morning talk shows). Meredith Sinclair blogs on Ho-De-Ho but also contributes to the “Ditch the Kids” and “Fab Mama” columns on Chicago Parent.
Most bloggers will expect to get actual product samples to write reviews and will not be satisfied with an emailed press release and hi-res photos; writers being paid by traditional media may write on a toy after seeing it at an event or be willing to return product samples.
Treat bloggers in similar fashion to the media, with respect and professionalism. Customize your pitch and avoid pitching en masse, as this is an instant turn off. Most will respond if they see a fit to what they cover on their blogs.
How should exhibitors identify the best bloggers with whom to work?
To find the bloggers who are a fit for your company and products, do some preliminary research. A Google Blog Search using the key words that describe the product or market niche will bring up suggested blogs. Read them carefully for content and theme.
Consider the following:
- How often do they cover toys?
- When toys are covered, and how detailed are the reviews?
- Are quality photos and or video included?
- What is the audience engagement level, including the number and quality of reader comments and questions?
There really are no short cuts to getting “in” with bloggers, so be wary of blogger lists for sale by media companies. These are often not up-to-date or complete. Start by referring to last year’s Toy Fair media list (available by request to exhibitors) and by doing your own research. If internal resources are scarce, you can hire a social media expert or blogger who has existing relationships with bloggers.
In addition to looking at blog content, take into account web measurement, although the tools available, including Compete.com and Alexa.com, are not always accurate, especially for smaller size blogs. Consider the blogger’s overall visibility. Does he or she speak at social media conferences, make broadcast appearances, or have a substantial number of Twitter and or Facebook followers? Get a sense of their total influence?