The Law of Large Numbers is the Digital Marketer’s Friend
By Chris Abraham
Here’s the most poorly-kept secret in the marketing, PR, sales, and religious world: conversion is a numbers game. Whether it’s getting into the NY Times
or going viral on YouTube
, getting retweeted by @KatyPerry
, or appearing on the 4th hour with Hoda Kotb
and Kathie Lee Gifford
. Numbers matter and we depend not only on the generosity of strangers to keep the lights on, we also depend on the law of large numbers to make sure we reach enough people in general through our ads, our mentions, and reviews to make our end-of-month, quarter, and yearly numbers, so that we secure that sweet bonus and the pool we promised the family. Eyeballs, viewers, readership, ratings: it’s all about getting in front of as many of the right people as humanly possible. N’est ce pas?
Why would it be any different when it comes to blogger and influencer outreach marketing? The conventional approach in outreach marketing and PR relies on converting just a handful of highly influential journalists, online writers, and bloggers who have a well established popularity and readership. The strategy here is to cajole, seduce, and woo between one and twenty five bloggers/journalists to report and write on your behalf.
The idea is that if you’re able to influence a top influencer, and thus garner their influence to earn the support of your product, mission, ministry, or message, then you will win direct, endorsed access to the impossibly large number of readers, followers, fans, and friends who hang on their every word. The expectation is two fold: the reputation of the A-lister will rub off on the messaging, bringing with it a (tacit) endorsement, and then unfettered access to a fan base that often does base many of their decisions on what the most popular reviewers are saying. If I can get someone like the esteemed and popular Mr. John Brownlee to blog about my cool new designer products, who knows how many people will queue up to place an order. And they just might.
But there are a number of catches to this perfect world:
1) How much time do you have?
2) How many A-listers do you already know?
3) How awesome is your product?
4) How compelling is your news?
5) How generous is your “gift”?
6) What is your goal?
7) Is it OK to fail, to fall flat on your face with a couple snake eyes?
If you’re going to do a top-down outreach where the goal is to influence top influencers, you’ll need some time, especially if you aren’t already in bed with the top influencers in your industry. Dropping a tip, cold, into the tips@ drawer at Mashable is not the way this business works. There are exceptions, but all the top A-list successes I have had have always been warm and hot calls.
So, how many A-listers do you know and when do you need to launch the grand announcement? Everything relies on not only the quality of your product or message, but also whether it’s newsworthy. And, if it is newsworthy, what’s in it for me, for the blogger, and for the reader? Will the post or article lend prestige or bragging rights to the author of the piece? Are you Aston Martin and did you lend your blogger a 2014 V12 Zagato sports coupe? Or, are you just trying to get someone to notice your new Android app; and, if that’s the case, are you prepared to ship out a bunch of prepaid Nexus 5s with that app already installed for their testing pleasure? That V12 Zagato’s a pretty generous gift, even if it’s just a day at a local Aston Martin dealership and test drive (or maybe even a ride).
Also, remember that there’s a lot of money, a lot of power, and a lot of big brands and global agencies vying for that limited time. Can you compete? Are you able to get through all the noise? Do you have the chutzpah? What’s your goal? Are you trying to drive brand awareness? Are you trying to drive sales? Or, be honest, are you doing it for SEO and link-building (there are many of you hiding there in the shadows). And finally, it is OK to fail?
The numbers game goes both ways. The fewer the bloggers you pitch, the lower the chance that anyone at all will pick up your story. There’s a chance that if you don’t have an in, you’ll come up with goose eggs at the end of your campaign. I know you’ll still cash the check — it’s not your fault, right? It’s the fault of the product, the campaign, the messaging, the client, the timing, the folks who just don’t get it, or the folks at Mashable who have doubled-down on native advertising and are so done with earned media. You’re on your way to losing your shirt, campaign, your client, and your reputation. What to do?
What I call the alternative to top-down, A-list blogger outreach “Long-Tail Blogger Outreach,” “B-Z-List Blogger Outreach,” the “Bottom-Up Approach,” and “Doing the Full Cluetrain.”
How does this address the problems? Well, it turns everything around. Instead of one to twenty-five powerful gatekeepers barring you from accessing their hundreds of thousands of potential eyeballs, you instead discover, collect, and message thousands of weak gatekeepers who are only barring you from accessing hundreds of their friends, families, and sometimes thousands of followers and readers. There’s this thing called Internet Rule 34 I like to quote, “If it exists, there is porn of it.” Same was with blogs: if it exists, there are blogs, bloggers, and passionate readers — no matter what the topic may well be. Be assured of it.
And, when you do find them, there are probably hundreds or thousands of them: and their associated hundreds or thousands of followers, readers, friends. And, since they are, generally-speaking, a lot further down the totem pole, a lot less used to corporate or brand-attention, and probably have been playing the lottery known as blogging in the slim but motivating hope that some day someone would notice their blog and validate them through appreciation, engagement, and attention. Every fashion blogger would love to be tapped by Gucci or Hermès to review their bags, every tech blogger wants to be tapped to test out Google Glass.
The way I do it is simple. I collect as many as possible of the blogs and bloggers who are germane to the outreach for the campaign, and only those bloggers who want to be engaged. I assume that if a blogger wants to be contacted, he or she’ll have his or her name and email somewhere on the blog. So, I personally reach out via email pitch, and I often pitch upwards of four-, five-, six-, seven-, even eight-thousand bloggers in one go. While I generally earn between seventy and three hundred blog posts when I reach out with this method, I also earn hundreds of tweets, retweets, Facebook and Google+ posts.
What’s more is the secondary effect which is in organic search. Earned media mentions makes Google very happy. Having several hundred earned media mentions discussing your product, service, or brand will have magical effects, not only on where you rank on Google, but also when it comes to defending your reputation online. All of these blog posts and mentions can really seize control of your first couple pages of Google, pushing out all the negative and irrelevant content.
Even further, you can use a long-tail blogger outreach campaign to insure against the A-list goose egg, the celebrity snake eyes, the all-your-eggs-in-one-basket fiasco of striking out with the top blogs. Even if you fail with the big boys, you surely can’t lose with the B-Z-listers, even if all of your multiple media mentions are deep in the D-Z instead of the A-C. Coming up empty is way worse than coming up a little light, believe me.
And, in my experience, if you can get a buzz started deep down in the feeders, the farm teams, the minor leagues, you can actually reach the attention of the heavy hitters from down below. Newsmakers are always doing the 2014 equivalent of keeping up with what’s coming over the news wire, and that’s often what’s flowing down their Facebook wall, their Twitter stream, their Feedly feed, or their Flipboard magazine. Journalists and A-list bloggers are generally curators of deeper news. If you can get to the deeper news sources by starting the buzz amongst the people, then there’s a good chance that you could well be the earthquake that resulted in a tidal wave. The equivalent of starting a wildfire of gossip through your own whispers.
Pretty cool, right?
The law of large numbers (LLN) is our friend when it comes to bringing people around to your way of thinking.
Principal Consultant at Gerri Corp.
Chris Abraham is a leading expert in digital, including online reputation management (ORM), Internet privacy, social media marketing and digital PR with a focus on blogger outreach, blogger engagement and Internet crisis response.
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