Why is it that hobbyist bloggers seem to be able to constantly outpace professional business marketers in terms of both growth and volume? Companies can spend thousands — even millions — of dollars on content marketing campaigns and end up with an audience that pales in comparison to a teenager posting cute digital gifs of their cat. Bloggers are forged from and tested within the Internet; they have acclimated and evolved to the web in ways that most digital marketers simply can’t fathom.
Bloggers don’t just send content out into the nebulous depths of the web and wait to get returns. Bloggers actively engage their readership and create a dialogue. Whether it’s simply joking around with a new follower or forging real friendships with other bloggers, they know that their number one priority is engaging their user base. In fact, this is one reason Twitter has become such a powerful force in the digital marketing arena; many consumers are enamored with the ability to tweet at a large corporation and actually get a response, even if the response is the same type of response they would get if they called in to customer service. Bloggers get personal with their followers because to them maintaining their user base and having exciting conversations with them isn’t a means to an end — it’s a pleasurable goal in itself.
It’s not as simple as “not marketing to your audience.” Almost every blog, hobbyist or not, is monetized in some fashion. Whether it be merchandise or digital media, bloggers know how to bring in the bucks. But they don’t market to their audience too early. Many bloggers don’t even begin monetizing until their readership asks them to. When done properly, the audience originates at the idea themselves. The audience becomes so interested in the blogger’s “brand” that they want to be a part of it. And that’s really the whole of brand building: making the audience want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Your goal as a digital marketer is to inspire your audience to look to give you their money rather than outright ask them to and that involves creating engaging, stimulating and exciting content.
Many bloggers are absolutely obsessed with their content, even if it seems remarkably niche. There’s a blog out there that has rated thousands of different samples of beef jerky, for instance — and you’d better bet that they are the number one resource for reviews of beef jerky. Companies often fail at this because they hire marketers who aren’t truly interested and involved in their product but instead are just churning out content. This shows. It’s not easy to fake interest, especially when dealing with an audience that knows their own interests inside and out. If you are selling a niche product like ball-jointed dolls, you need to know that the ball-jointed doll community is going to be able to identify a writer who is simply working from an assortment of Wikia pages and product specifications.
Why are “Internet personalities” so popular? People naturally gravitate towards others in a social context. They want to feel as though they connect to the sources of their information rather than simply being mired in generic, colorless words. Too often companies put out large swathes of information simply under the banner of “XYZZY Corp.” or “Staff Writer.” This is not the way to go. A reader wants to connect what they are reading to an image, personality and even a voice. This is why so many larger companies have a spokesperson to get their message out. Everyone loves the Geico gecko.
Companies cannot be so afraid of making mistakes that they become paralyzed. In fact, companies today are learning that controversy isn’t a bad thing — as long as you finish on the side that your audience supports. Bloggers often make mistakes, devolve into in-fighting or simply alienate a portion of their audience. But they almost always recover and many of them find their audience even more receptive to them thereafter. There is something about creating controversy and then resolving it that binds a reader even more firmly to a writer. It’s a shared emotional experience and the feeling that they somehow contributed. By not understanding this, many businesses have shot themselves in the foot. Ignoring controversy or trying to hide mistakes does the opposite; it frustrates the reader or consumer because it makes them feel like they didn’t matter at all.
This isn’t just about posting on a consistent basis. A blogger is consistent on every level. They control every part of their blog and create a cohesive whole. Too often marketing campaigns are shuffled from writer to writer, leaving each writer unable to create a consistent voice. Separate areas of the marketing campaign are handled by different teams entirely, creating a disparate voice. This leaves the reader unable to properly connect with the brand because the brand tends to change from moment to moment. Once a marketing campaign hits a groove, it’s important that the content continues to hit similar notes.
Naturally not all bloggers end up being successful. For every blogger that succeeds, there are tens of thousands who failed. But those who really have a genuine passion for their work, engage with their users and consistently post new articles almost always achieve some modicum of success. Perhaps the most interesting thing to consider is what bloggers don’t have. Bloggers don’t have huge budgets. They don’t always pay attention to the polish of their writing. Most of them don’t even have a game plan or end game. These are all the things that marketers often concentrate on in lieu of passion. While they are important things, they simply cannot supplant genuine knowledge and interest in a topic.