Blogger focus groups: Viable idea for brands?

Last week, I was having a conversation with a client of mine. Talking about bloggers and an opportunity we might have in the near future to reach out to them.

As the conversation continued, we inevitably started brainstorming potential approaches to these bloggers. How would we approach them? What would the angle be? What’s in it for them? Would what we’re offering resonate with these bloggers?

All valid questions, right? But all questions that had no answers. Just “educated” guesses from our team.

But it occurred to me–what if we weren’t making educated guesses? What if we were making decisions about this kind of blogger outreach based on answers and input from bloggers themselves?

My thought: What if brands created “blogger focus groups”, for lack of a better term?

The idea: Get a handful of bloggers together a couple times of year and sound them out on potential approaches, offers and programs to see what resonates, and what doesn’t, from their perspective.

The brand would have to compensate these bloggers, obviously. Cash, product, that kind of thing. That would be the brand’s call. But, that would be fair, right? It’s what we do with other focus groups. And in return, the brand would get valuable intelligence–not just about what might work and what wouldn’t from a blogger outreach approach. But, they’d get a firsthand look at how bloggers think (which would REALLY help a lot of brands). In fact, maybe these blogger focus groups could mesh with the “regular” focus groups for economies of scale on the brand side.

So, what do you think? Crazy idea–or a great way for brands to better understand what makes bloggers tick? I’d love to hear thoughts on this…

Note: Photo courtesy of Adam Tinworth via FlickR Creative Commons.

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16 comments on “Blogger focus groups: Viable idea for brands?

  1. HannahDeMilta says:

    @arikhanson Love it. I have many thoughts on this. I want to run a roundtable series here. There are a few formats I’m looking at.

  2. TomMartin says:

    Not a crazy idea… and it works. I’ve been doing this with a vertical blogger group on behalf of one of my clients since January. It works and best of all, we don’t actually pay them anything. We invite them to come talk with us about their vertical, what they’d like to see from client side companies, what we (client) can do to be a better resource for them, etc. It’s just an exchange of information and both sides love it. And to your point — the insights gleaned are absolutely insanely great… in fact, we had planned to do 4 this year and next year the client is already planning to double that number. Would highly recommend the approach to anyone.

  3. hbobier says:

    Definitely not crazy–it’s a really helpful exercise! I’ve done a few at my current job, where, to Tom’s point, we didn’t actually pay the bloggers. Just a simple exchange of information, where we share some of our marketing goals, and bloggers are able to share how they think they can get that message to their audience. It resulted in us giving gift cards and product as part of the program, but really the benefit was in a strengthened relationship where we weren’t just blindly pitching bloggers, but knew from the horse’s mouth what their readers would want to know.  

  4. kmskala says:

    Let me ask one simple question: why? Why is this necessary? Blogger outreach isn’t difficult. Why are we continuing to have discussions around this topic? While each blogger is different, in terms of how they prefer to work, the overarching principle is still them same — be relevant and provide value. If you get a group of 10 together, you’ll likely get 10 different responses.
    I see what you’re trying to get at here, but I don’t think it would solve anything. It seems like taking the easy way out. Let me save you the time & effort it would take. If you do your research and use common sense, it’s not that difficult. We’re trying too hard here.

  5. Thayes39 says:

    My issue is with focus groups in general. In an age of available data, comprehensive testing, and ability to automate systems to capture needs – are focus groups with individual bias the way to go? Especially if compensated.

  6. arikhanson says:

     @TomMartin That’s great to hear, Tom. That was my hunch. Probably depends on the vertical, but on the surface, I like the idea.

  7. arikhanson says:

     @hbobier Great point, Heidi. That’s a huge benefit, and one I should have called out. Definitely not simply a “by product”.

  8. arikhanson says:

     @kmskala I hear where you’re coming from, Kasey, but I think I respectfully disagree. If you saw my inbox each week you would know blogger outreach apparently is pretty hard. Companies just aren’t there yet. And programs like this would help them hear what bloggers want/need from the horse’s mouth–and, to Heidi’s point, would help them develop relationships with these folks, so it doesn’t feel so forced when they reach out. No substitute for that face-to-face contact.

  9. arikhanson says:

     @Thayes39 That’s a fair point. But, I think Heidi’s point about relationship building should also not be forgotten here…

  10. ladysportsman says:

    Trying to get bloggers in my industry to get together is like pulling teeth. You have to pay for EVERYTHING to get them to attend something. Or do something. Now if you want 10 bloggers to get together, that can get expensive if they are from all over. What’s the ROI for spending thousands on a couple of bloggers? We even tried catching them at a conference we were all attending anyway – unless there was free booze and food, they weren’t interested. (I realize I sound a little jaded here, but I deal with this daily)

  11. TomMartin says:

     @ladysportsman I don’t think you sound jaded, but certainly frustrated. While KMSKALA would have us believe that blogger outreach is as simple as Relevant + Value = Success, that’s more often than not, wrong. While this may not be THE solution or the ONLY solution, I can say, I’ve used it very effectively in a niche vertical where we previously spent over a year becoming very frustrated with more traditional forms and processes for blogger outreach.

  12. ToysInTheDryer says:

     @ladysportsman I am assuming you tried to connect with bloggers at one of the largest (or THE largest) blogging conferences…In that case, they are not going to be interested in anything but the booze and food.  Try a smaller venue and you’ll get more results.  
    As far as “paying for EVERYTHING”.  It’s our TIME you are using.  You wouldn’t do something for free would you?  Why should we?  You aren’t expected to pay for all of your travel expenses when you attend business meetings far from home.  Why should we?
    The “ROI for spending thousands on a couple of bloggers” can be far greater than you imagine if you do things the right way.  Bloggers will give you greater ROIs than ANY ad if you treat them with respect.
    I too am not meaning to sound jaded back but I deal with people who share your same thoughts on a daily basis as a blogger and it’s frustrating.  Can’t we find a way to work together for both of our benefits?

  13. ToysInTheDryer says:

     @arikhanson  @kmskala I could not agree with Arik more!  Companies are NOT there yet.  They assume they know how bloggers want to work with them but Arik is correct, they are ASSUMPTIONS coming from a marketer’s point of view.  Marketers and bloggers can have very different points of view but can often come together to develop something much better than either could have thought of alone.

  14. ToysInTheDryer says:

     @hbobier Yes!  Sometimes money is not want we want.  We want to build relationships with the brand.  We value brands and we want to feel just as valued by them.  Build a relationship with a blogger and you’ll get longer and better ROI than any ad will ever give you.

  15. ToysInTheDryer says:

    Now after responding to a few previous comments.  Here’s my own comment:
    I am a blogger.  I am a blogger who likes to work with companies.  I’ve worked with companies who have NO CLUE what they are doing, and companies who have an AMAZING blogger outreach programs.  Let’s face it, those who have real blogger outreach programs are better to work with and get a greater ROI from me.  
    I attended a blogger focus group in Kentucky for a large company.  It was their first blogger focus group, but they did an AMAZING job!  I can’t begin to describe the impact that it had on both the bloggers AND the company.  The information we gleaned from each other and the relationship we built continues over a year later.  I continue to tweet about and talk to my friends about this company and I have NEVER been asked to do it.  Blogger focus groups DO work.
    You don’t need to go crazy with the compensation.  You just need to be mindful that most of us consider working with companies as part of  our job as a blogger.  You get paid for your job, so should we.  We don’t always need money.  Products are nice too.   It depends on the company/product.
    One more thought to end with…As I tweeted at the Minnesota Blogger Conference: Give a blogger a once in a lifetime experience and you’ll get impressions better than ads.  In other words, think outside the box as far as compensation goes too.  Take your blogger focus group on a tour of part of your company not open to the public; if you’ve got the money give them an all expense paid trip to see your company (if they are not near by); the sky’s the limit for opportunities and experiences…

  16. EgaPega says:

    I’ve found my answer here