I've been a "blogger" for more than 20 years. My first blogs began as video game sites back in the mid 1990's. Back then, anyone who published content online and wasn't part of a corporate media organization was simply referred to as a blogger. Today though, the landscape is MUCH MORE COMPLEX. Despite this, terms like "blogger" and "influencer" are used interchangeably. I'm guilty of not using these terms distinctly as well and in part that's because some bloggers are influencers too. This is either through sheer scale of their reach or that they focus on their expertise and personality more than sharing news and other content provided to them. Over the past year I've started to see not just the clear lines of differentiation, but also the impact that these two types of content creators can produce ... as well as the marketing impact. Let's take a look at the difference between engaging with influencers and bloggers.
For many online content producers, it can be incredibly frustrating to work with brands. Bloggers don't always understand what brands are looking for. Other times, the agencies and PR staff at brands are being given so many objectives that campaigns distills down to pure numbers. This can discount the value of authenticity and connecting with an audience. It also misses the key benefit of "influence" that brands crave. Other times, we look at our peers and think, "how come he's on that trip???? I've got more reach than he does!". In some instances this is just a factor of existing conditions such as being friends with the PR person. Other times it's about the difference between being a blogger and being an influencer.
A good friend of mine who I've worked with for more than a decade crystalized this distinction in my brain a few months ago. He said that while he liked my Instagram and enjoyed my content, that there was "no you in there". Since that time, I've worked to fix that while focusing on providing my audience at ManTripping.com an opportunity to engage more closely with ME. My objective is to be more of an influencer, not just someone with a stream of content. So far, it seems to be working and it's a lot more fun too.
What Is A Blogger?
Especially in the men's blogger space, many of us started by simply sharing content that we liked and thought our friends would too. Unlike many women and mom bloggers who became influential, we didn't put ourselves out there. Nor did we care what other guys thought of our stuff. We simply knew that if we published awesome content that guys would come and consume it on regular basis. Our audiences grew through search and then later on a social basis as well. It wasn't so much that people wanted to know what JAMES loved ... it was simply entertaining, exciting, awesome content that we know other men would also enjoy.
Over time, though, many of us gained "influence" because of how many people were attracted to our sites. However, the connection wasn't deep or emotional.
Instead, our content is typically online and designed for long term value and can assist with consumers looking for lots of detail. In this world, long form content with lots of images and/or text detail tends to work best. It can also tell a story and that's where we start to get into the world of being an influencer. That blog post you wrote in 2010 is still going to pop up in 2018 and on top of that, it can continuously be updated and enhanced to maximize its value to the reader and to the brands featured in the content.
What Is An Influencer?
Oprah, Rush, Kim Kardashian ... these are influencers. No matter how stupid of a product or idea ... if these guys say, "I love this and you will too!" then their fans will buy it. On Instagram, this manifests itself as thousands of likes and comments complimenting the personality. From a brand perspective, this is massively powerful since the influencer is able to transfer some of his or her energy to your brand and even small niche influencers can have a massive impact. Remember - not everyone is Oprah.
Most of us though have expertise and a personality. While being a male model might be seen as an asset ... as long as you show confidence and a basic level of professionalism you'll be fine. Confidence and authenticity is the key here!
Guys like Dad Sews might have a smaller following than many - but when it comes to their niche (sewing ... but also craft / DIY), their recommendation will be massively powerful. This is because what they are producing is more than just exposing people to a stream of content.
Christian's audience WANTS to know what HE has to say.
That's what being an influencer is all about!
How Can Bloggers Become Influencers?
Depending on your personality, this could be a tough row to hoe. However, it can be much more simple than you might think. As a blogger you just need to follow a few key steps to be more influential.
Six Steps To Becoming an Influencer vs Just a Blogger:
Focus On Your Niche - It's ok to have multiple interests, but make sure your niche is defined. Few people starting out can be an expert in five different areas at the same time.
Include Yourself In Your Visual Content - Generally, audiences connect with people ... not brands. Put yourself out there and make sure that there's a man behind the story. This doesn't need to be selfies and "Instagram poses" all the time, but make sure that people can see that YOU are in the content and that it's not just stock photos.
Keep It Real - Authenticity is key with being an influencer. While an argument can be made that Instagram influencers aren't "real" since much of it is manufactured and aspirational, there's generally a lot of real life content as well. People can't connect if you aren't relatable. Similarly, in my own content I avoid claims or actual endorsements unless it is something I genuinely love. There's a difference between saying, "hey they sent me this hat, check it out!" and "wow I love this hat!"
Engage With Your Audience - People who follow you want to know that you care about them. Make sure to reach out and give them a chance to connect with you. This means that you should answer comments or at least hit like, ask them questions, and give shoutouts to people you like in your community.
Get Personal With Your Content - There's SO MUCH FREE STUFF out there right now that sometimes we forget about promoting what we genuinely love. It's ok to promote a brand that helps you pay your mortgage but don't forget about that brand you actually love using. This gets back to keeping things authentic.
Network With Others In Your Niche - At all levels of your journey to become an influencer, you will find that you need a circle of friends to support you. This group will include fans who have a passion and expertise, large media outlets that can cite you for your expertise, and peer bloggers and influencers who you can collaborate with. The objective here is to ultimately grow your audience, while strengthening your influence by having others lend you theirs. Remember though, this is a two way street ... you need to also help other male influencers at all levels to grow their influence as well.
What Does This Mean For Brands Working with Bloggers vs Influencers?
Simply put, brands should look past absolute numbers and decide what makes the most impact for their objectives. I'm not making any value statement that bloggers are better than influencers - just that they are two different things. Though, in an ideal world you'll be able to find an influencer that also produces great long form content and has a big enough reach. That isn't always possible though.
Consider How an Influencer Uses the Publishing Platforms - Instagram is HOT right now. Despite this not being a favored platform for many of the male bloggers we work with, it's not going away. However, brands should take a look at who an audience is and why people are following and engaging with the channel. Are they simply looking at a hot guy / hot girl as he travels around doing awesome stuff or are they peers that share a passion for something and aspire to do more things like the channel host or learn from him? For instance, my friend Nate from SomeDayAdventure does a great job of being an offroad and family travel influencer. People trust him and even though Instagram as a platform tends to have a short half life, he manages to maintain consistency across multiple posts vs it being a collection of random images that fly by.
Understand Your Business Goals - Instagram works for sales and motivating small purchases but it is generally terrible for bottom of the funnel metrics since the engagement window is very short and it's not easy to link to a specific URL. (there are exceptions for brands selling on their own stores) Blogs on the other hand are great for sales from a technical perspective since you can link, have lots of rich content etc. However, generally bloggers don't have the personal connection or sense of immediacy that motivates someone to "buy it now!" I've been on a few different campaigns where the brand was concerned about short term sales not happening as expected and they probably wrote the campaign off as a failure. Over time though, the page that I wrote gained MASSIVE traffic. Two examples of this are a post I did for Jagermeister many years ago that on a monthly basis now attracts thousands of visitors and a post for Omax3, an Omega 3supplementt. That article took some time to gain traction but now ranks at the top of the search index for targeted queries like "Omega 3 Health Benefits for Men". That now drives hundreds of visitors per week to the article and many many clicks to the brand page.
Create a Diverse Blogger AND Influencer Strategy - Bloggers and Influencers are both valuable so when designing a social media strategy, brands should consider both types of value and not simply use them interchangeably. Look for bloggers who also have social influence, but it's also ok to have bloggers even if they don't have personal influence if they have massive reach. Similarly,