Call this a case study of sorts. A rough one, but a real life example no less…
Hardly a groundbreaking initiative in terms of innovation, but one we’re proud of.
This post touches on the process, the thinking, the results of this project. Maybe this type of exercise would work well for YOUR business blog. Maybe not. You decide.
FAIT ICI’s guest post series featured Elise Desaulniers of Penser avant d’ouvrir la bouche, Food Guy MTL, Ariane Carpentier of Epicurbaine, Marieve Savaria of BRUT Alimentation and Amanda Strong of Mindful Table. It ran from Monday to Friday. As we live in Montreal, three of the bloggers posted in French and two in English.
The group was selected based on three criteria:
1) We (Lindsay and I) read and enjoy their stuff on our own time.
2) The bloggers typically write about food-related issues (some do resto reviews, some examine the ethical side of eating, some write recipes, etc).
3) We have preexisting relationships with these people (this means either they have covered our store, they actively participate in our online community, or both).
Before they began, the guest bloggers were told that they would NOT be edited (other than for copy and grammar). The canvas was theirs to use. We provided ZERO guidance as to post topics, multimedia and post length.
1) Why we did what we did. As a food centric business that has been very active in social media, we thought that hosting a guest post series would do a number of things.
In no particular order these were:
- Generate long lasting, good content for our online community
- Solidify relationships with the participating bloggers
- Expose new people to our blog and brand
- Increase traffic to our blog
- Help us learn a few new things about food and food issues
2) What happened?
- Weekly traffic to the blog more than tripled during the guest post week. There are several reasons for this. First, the bloggers brought their communities to us (interestingly posts from people with the biggest communities of their own did not necessarily generate the most traffic). Though none of the bloggers we hosted are “power” Twitter users with tens of thousands of followers, they did bring their communities and continued to do what they always do: produce good content. Second, the mainstream press wrote about this initiative. One article came from Monique Beaudin of the Montreal Gazette. A french language piece came from Audrey Lavoie of Metro. Initially, there were no plans for mainstream press outreach around this program. Needless to say, I am glad a lightning bolt hit my thick skull one night over vodka tonics. As always in the new media universe, exposure in old media helps!
- Retweets and other “shares” of posts increased slightly over 30%. Some of this is due to the bloggers themselves helping us retweet and share their content. HOWEVER, people you might call “digital influencers” also took note of the series and retweeted posts. I find this fascinating because, while mainstream media coverage helped the series gain traffic, attention from “digirati” mattered too.
- It seems that between the bloggers’ communities washing up on our shores, some well timed PR and outreach to digital influencers, new people have come across FAIT ICI. Traffic stats don’t lie. Morevoer, several tweets and emails indicate that people have heard about us for the first time via the guest posting series.
- We learned a bunch and feasted on great content. Because we knew the bloggers before we conceived of this initiative, we knew they’d deliver in terms of what they wrote. But there’s more to it. While I knew Marieve Savaria – a professional nutritionist who has forgotten more about food than I will ever know – would educate me with her writings, I am OVERJOYED that her stuff is on our blog forever and will be a resource. It also means that the content can always be linked to. Obvious stuff, right? Yes, but a point that may get obscured if you focus on stats alone.
- A good time! As stated, one of the goals here was to strengthen and relationships with the bloggers. On this level the guest series worked. They all seemed to enjoy the initiative and participated actively/enthusiastically. In tweets and emails they said as much.
3) Lessons and Prescriptions
- The past matters. We only asked guests we knew and had previous dealings with. I am not sure that, had I asked Jamie Oliver to participate, he would have said yes. Ask those you know – and who’s content you like and have previously shared because you like it.
- The right mix of writers helps. I alluded to the fact that we’d asked bloggers based partly on language and whether we knew/ liked them. In the end, it was ALSO helpful that we got people with DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES who write about DIFFERENT ASPECTS of a broad topic. Had the week been purely recipes or posts on vegetarianism things would have been boring. A mix of viewpoints helped.
- Release control. You want guests on your blog? Don’t script or over edit them . Our guest bloggers all asked for topic guidance – none was given except “do what you do.” This breeds goodwill and it lets the bloggers be themselves (which is THE point of course).
- Let others know about your initiative tactfully and in a timely manner. Obviously we wanted others to read the guest posts. The best move, promotion wise, was tipping off the two reporters for major dailies. They were both receptive (the series fit well with their beats and we had relationships with them). However, it was cool to see the digirati pick up on this initiative as the word spread through the Montreal foodie tribe (which is not huge).
That was our experience. Has your business done anything similar? If so, was the experience similar of different from ours.