How long has Troy-Bilt® been forming relationships with garden bloggers and how many do you work with you?
About three years ago we saw that a big portion of our target audience, the gardening enthusiast, was engaging with one another online – sharing tips, projects and their genuine passion for gardening. It was inspiring and something we wanted to be a part of and learn from. So we started to listen to the conversation and began to identify bloggers who seemed to be a good fit for us, and who in turn inspired us. It’s not a numbers thing for us – it’s not about how big a blog is, how many readers it has, links, etc. Rather, the quality of content, love for the outdoors, and who we felt would generally embrace our products and what we’re all about as a company. That’s how we identified our bloggers and to date, keep in touch with anywhere from 15-20, but still actively listen to the whole gardening conversation online.
What benefit do you receive from working with gardeners who maintain garden blogs? Is it different than sending products to review just to professional writers or gardening personalities?
We do actively share products with traditional media, they are still important and a well-respected group. We enjoy working with them, too. We treat our bloggers in the same regard that we do journalists – they are our citizen journalists. But there is no mistaking the feedback we get from our bloggers and their readers. They are customers directly sharing with us what they like and don’t like, how they use the products, what the finished project looked like, and what improvements they’d like to see, etc. It’s real and a way for us to connect with gardeners like never before and truly build relationships with them – even if they don’t like something we sent, we still learn. The feedback that we get (good and bad), the projects we learn about, and insight into their passion is just great – it makes us a better company and helps us build a better product.
How do you find a garden blog to offer products to review? (BlogRolls? Internet searches? Referrals from other bloggers?)
See above. Listening was really key for us. We didn’t want to just jump in, but got to know the bloggers first, saw what they were all about, and made sure they just weren’t blogging in hopes of getting free stuff from companies. There are some bloggers, like yourself, whom we got to know after engaging for awhile, just by actively participating and listening. And a few referrals, too.
A gardener who recently started a blog asked me how to get in touch with companies that offer products for review. My advice was to just do what she was doing and if she did a good job that companies would find her. Should a garden blogger take the wait and see approach or should they contact a company, like yours, they know forms relationships with garden bloggers?
It can really go either way. Unfortunately, for as many wonderful bloggers – in all categories – that are out there that genuinely post because they have a true passion for something, there are those who are just in it for the goods. And companies know this and tend to shy away from those who reach out to them – generally speaking. But it depends. My advice would be to start with an introduction and offer to do a Q&A with someone, give readers a chance to get a ‘peak behind the curtain’ so to speak and try to build a relationship from there.
Does the design of a garden blog influence you in any way? (customized templates versus templates hundreds of others use).
Not really – it’s all about the content. Not everyone is blessed with design skills. But content, engagement with their readers, transparency, and a desire to genuinely share a point of view and contribute to the broader conversation is what is most important.
What about blogging at a free service like Blogger/Wordpress/TypePad versus a blog with a custom domain? Do you think a blogger is considered to be serious about writing if they have a .com
That’s something we have never even given a second thought to. Makes zero difference to us if someone owns their site or uses one of the many free platforms out there. A blogger, in general, should find something they like and is easy to manage for them – that makes all the difference in the world!
A garden blog, like a garden, often exhibits personal details about the gardener. On a garden blog you can sometimes find personal or political topics. If a garden blogger wants to pursue writing and forming relationships with companies should they avoid those personal touches and just keep the blog about gardening?
The best part of social media is all the different viewpoints and ideas shared, and how you can get to know and connect with a variety of people from all over that you normally never would. For us, we know gardening is the main topic for most of the bloggers we engage with, but of course, their personality and viewpoints on many different things comes out and is shared – that’s what makes them so great. We generally don’t let that affect who we engage with. The only time I could ever see not engaging with a blogger is if someone posted something very offensive, blatantly rude or completely inappropriate and mean about something or someone.
Finally, do you have any special plans to expand or promote the work you do with garden bloggers in the future? Anything garden bloggers should keep an eye out for?
We are so happy with our social outreach efforts and do plan to continue it next year. Between reviews, articles many bloggers have written for The Dirt, our e-newsletter, and general feedback, it’s been a lot of fun, informative and given us incredibly valuable feedback. There are a few other ideas we’re working on beyond this, nothing’s final yet, so you’ll just have to stay tuned to see!
Michelle Venorsky has worked at Marcus Thomas LLC for eight years and has worked on the Troy-Bilt® account for the past three. A blogger herself, she's the author of Cleveland Foodie and is @MichelleV on Twitter.
If your company works with garden bloggers to promote your product or service and wouldn't mind answering a few questions for a future post leave me in the contact form linked above.