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Engagement is the single most important thing that gives a blogger value – not the number of followers they have.

Dear Lilian,

What do you think of bloggers? Do you think they’re here to stay or will they go away?

Marina Paes de Barros
Brumani


Dear Marina and my lovely readers,

Fair warning, I’m going to be incredibly honest as I wouldn’t be a good adviser otherwise. Tissues and kisses for anyone’s hurt feelings.

That caveat aside, let me first say there are some very good bloggers out there. They started blogging when I was still struggling with a former assistant’s insistence of texting me after I specifically told her email only. She’s no longer my assistant, but I’ve since embraced texting just as many PR professionals have embraced bloggers.

This column is not about the hardworking bloggers who’ve exchanged blood, sweat and tears for their success.

It’s about the bloggers who email me, declaring their 300,000 Twitter followers entitles them to receive free products. Unfortunately for them, I use a free service called Twitter Audit which tells me what percentage of those followers are actually real.

So, to the blogger that emailed me demanding free jewelry in exchange for “exposure” to her 260K Twitter followers, the reason I didn’t get back to you after I spent two hours laughing at your audacity is because 82% of your Twitter followers are fake.

And herein lies my problem with most bloggers today.

This new crop of bloggers have disregarded the price of admission paid by reputable bloggers. Rather than blood-sweat-and-tear it to the top, they’ve paid companies to generate fake followers on their social media platforms. They then email PR people with their bulls and hits numbers and demand we give them the world in exchange for promoting our clients to what amounts to thin air!

Time for a story from the PR Adviser archives.

In 2012, I was hired by the makers of Elf in the Shelf to assist with their holiday PR campaign. For those who hate that elf, I’m sorry to have been part of the problem.

A blogger called me at the height of the campaign, and spent 30 minutes telling me how her vast network of Mommy bloggers would initiate the most incredible endorsement campaign this side of Oprah’s Favorite Things! All I had to do was give her 100 elves, at $45 apiece, for free.

I applauded her desire to contribute to the elf’s already immense popularity, but unfortunately, we’d just delivered the last of our available elves to The Anderson Cooper Show; I had none left to give. I offered some elf accessories instead as an alternative.

Anyone want to venture a guess at her response? No, no, it was nothing like you’re thinking.

It was far worse.

She spent the next 10 minutes berating me, telling me how ungrateful I was, how her network was so huge that it would help an already sold out product sell more. I’d never had a conversation like this before, but I learned that should I ever enter a conversation like this again, I should simply hang up the phone.

Does this illustrate how I feel about bad bloggers?

To your next question – are bloggers here to stay?

Well…yes. But it will be impossible for bad bloggers to continue their schadenfreude.

First, because I’m going to teach you how not to fall prey to their nonsense. And second, because the Federal Trade Commission has significantly upped their surveillance of blogger activity.

The FTC is a much longer discussion, so I’ll save that for a future column. Let’s talk now about how to approach blogger requests.

When a blogger contacts you with whatever fantasy they have, use Twitter Audit to audit their Twitter account. If the results yield more than 30% fake, pass.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to have 0% fake followers as everyone with a Twitter account eventually gets followed by fake accounts. I have fake followers, even though Twitter has long abandoned updating my account and the number of followers I actually have has not increased since 2014. But that’s another story – and one of the many reasons I dislike Twitter.

If their Twitter audit numbers look good, go next to their YouTube, Facebook and Instagram pages.

You’re looking for engagement. This is the single most important thing that gives a blogger value – not the number of followers they have.

Engagement means people are responding to their posts. Are there conversations being had on their social profiles? If you see an Instagram account with 1.2 million followers, hundreds of likes, but no comments, you’re likely dealing with a faker. Save yourself time and move on.

Which brings us to another point – don’t dismiss the blogger with only 1,000 social media followers, and a 30% or less Twitter audit. This is a blogger most likely following the tried and true path of her successful predecessors. Check out her engagement levels, see if you like what she has to say, and if you do, find ways to work with her now before she becomes a star. She’ll be less expensive.

We’ve come to another end, my dear readers. Let me know what you think of bloggers. Do you think they’re here to stay? Do you have favorites that should be on everyone’s radar? Let me know!

Until next time, lovelies!