Brands working with social media influencers

In the last month I got to attend two fairly big conferences in Toronto geared at women online.  She’s Connected and Blissdom Canada.

I have a long list of post ideas that have come from both of those conferences. This first one is about the brands trying to work with women in the social space at these conferences and what I think works, what I’m left wondering, and where I would love to see brands ultimately end up when trying to build relationships. (there is a short recap at the end, because this blog post is way longer than I like my posts to be!)


Cheesy fun

People like to have fun.  If you can have them have fun and then share that fun with their network you just spread your brand.

What’s important to note here:

- Your brand needs to be well represented in the gimmick.  If you had me dress up in a funny costume, took my picture on a red carpet and I can’t remember what your brand is or what you sell - you missed the mark.

- People will do silly things, and spread those silly things, for the right incentive.

I doubt I would have taken this photo or tweeted it if I hadn’t had a chance to win grocery money. Also, I won :)

- If your fun is “fun enough” you won’t need the incentive - but that’s hard to predict.

This Fisher Price bouncy seat big enough for adults (multiple!) to climb into for photo opps was a huge success.  SO many people wanted to do it and we had a blast while posing in it!

I loved what Kellogg’s did with this cereal box posing.  You can certainly see the value in having something professionally done instead of us using our cell phones for photos and they emailed the photo to you IMMEDIATELY which meant we were sharing them right away.

This  booth was my favourite of both conferences. They were displaying people’s photos as you walked by and it made me want to do it.  I don’t even eat corn flakes and I went to this booth by myself so I could have a cereal box photo.

And then I went back to make it even more fun with friends!


I also walked away with an awesome vintage cereal box tshirt which is a lot of fun, and some samples.  You’re all thinking about corn flakes now, whether or not I said I liked them.  That’s a good push in my opinion.

Yummy and delicious

Kraft had a great suite decorated for Halloween with all kinds of holiday specific treats, a cupcake decorating station, and qr links to the recipes for the treats you were eating.  At the end they gave you a sampling of a few of the treats.

It was fun, unobtrusive and gave ideas for things you could do later on. I could see some people who like to blog about cooking with kids and activities for doing with kids making some of those treats and blogging about it.


Ford was a sponsor of She’s Connected and they had all kinds of information booths set up about their different features. I’m not sure I’ll ever own a Ford, but let me tell you - I know A LOT about some of the really cool technologies they have in their vehicles! My favourite is the Mykey technology which allows you to lock down things like speed and stereo volume for the teen you’re lending your car to! Me (and people like me) knowing this stuff about Ford and talking about it online in the right context could prove valuable to them in the long run.

Jane’s told me about their toaster chicken.  I admit that when I first found out toaster chicken existed (essentially a frozen chicken patty you heat in your toaster to eat) I was a bit…. alarmed.  They handed out an information sheet that compared toaster chicken to other convenience snacks.  I’m not going to pretend toaster chicken is healthy for you - but it’s not so bad compared to french fries and frozen pizza and I’m willing to admit my kids get those sometimes and they could potentially eat toaster chicken one day too.


- What do the brands who give out big bags of product but no guidance expect from those receiving it? Are you thinking we will blog about a loaf of bread or are you hoping that when we use the products we’ll tweet about them or are you hoping that we’ll eventually become brand loyal and blog about you? I don’t know what you’re trying to do.

- What a big company expects when they are at a conference as a big company representing multiple smaller companies.  If I talk about big huge company nobody knows being great - is that helpful?


- more companies working with bloggers in long term ways.  Make them your brand ambassadors.  Have them write content (and pay them) that you can use on your own web site, in your publications, etc.  I can almost guarantee that if people are writing this kind of content for you they will link to it from all of their channels, and then you’re getting the audience you want to your own site.  Makes more sense!

- create experiences that make sense.

I was invited to a Mark’s Over a year ago when Mark’s Work Wearhouse re-branded.  I was their audience (woman, 30+ years old) and they did my hair, my makeup, gave me an outfit (chosen by a stylist) and then took awesome photos of me.  They wanted more women like me to realize they could shop at Mark’s. Since then I not only have continued to shop at Mark’s, I used that photo for a long time on Twitter and Facebook, I bring my friends on shopping trips to Mark’s and I have been able to continue that relationship with Mark’s to help keep promoting their clothing to my demographic (have I mentioned how much I love my Inspiri jeans.  LOVE). They created a relationship with me that made sense and that I WANTED to continue.

If you want moms to talk about your food products, maybe invite them to a day where you teach them to meal plan, freezer cook for a month, describe how to make healthy meals for your kids that they will eat, and then send them home with food for a week that they can keep talking about. Don’t just give them a box of cookies and expect much in return.

I could go on for hours with ideas of what I think would work but instead I will recap (because this post is LONG)


If you want to target socially influential people at events here are my top tips:

- make it fun (but don’t expect follow up)

- make your message clear

- make sure people have the information to share your message

- don’t expect much in exchange for a bag of free stuff

- your chances of getting mentioned on Facebook and Twitter are for more likely than being blogged about.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

- build relationships

What do you think? Are you a brand working with people in the social space (I am avoiding saying bloggers for a reason, I don’t think that should be the target)? Are you working with brands? Share your thoughts on what works on this topic!


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Engagement isn't just something you do online - 5 tips for brands at conferences

In my professional life, engagement has been a buzz word for years for various reasons depending on the industry. Right now, I do a great deal of work in social media both personally and professionally and everybody talks about the importance of engagement. Not everyone understands how to do it well, though. This lack of understanding is particularly troublesome when you take the context of engagement "offline".

Source: CL Buchanan Photography

This past weekend, I attended Blissdom Canada, a writing and business conference that focuses on social media, marketing, public relations and blogging. Blissdom is geared toward females in this realm and, as such, attracts sponsors who gear their products toward females. Primarily food, travel, family vehicles, children's toys and household products. While I would personally love to see more tech industry brands represented, I recognize that there's a great divide between female-oriented conferences that always seem to be geared to the "mommy blogger" and other conferences that have a general audience. That's a discussion I could get into here, but I'll refrain for now. I have a few things I'd like to say to brands at conferences based on my first-hand experiences and second-hand stories (from a variety of conferences, not just Blissdom Canada).

1) Know what your goals are and why you're at the conference. When I walk up to you and say hello, I'd love to hear something from you. I'm not just walking by your booth to take what I can get. Now, if you had a stack of iPads, I might be tempted to grab and run but most of you don't have said iPads so get my attention another way. I happen to be a blogger who hasn't worked with brands very much and I don't seek out that relationship. So, why should I talk to you, try your product or potentially write about it? Having an awkward 20 seconds as I pass by on my way to the next booth means I'm going to forget about you even though you handed me a bag with your logo on it.

2) If you want to give away "swag", make it meaningful, useful and audience appropriate. There were several food companies at Blissdom Canada this year. Every last one of them showed and gave away products that are or can be controversial to various segments of the population, but most particularly among health-conscious mothers. Other brands handed a pile of paper or promotional items to visitors. All of this in the name of getting their name out there. To get noticed. To get exposure. I wonder how many of my fellow conference attendees made a generous addition to their recycling bin and the landfill today with these things they can't really use or don't want. (I vow here and now that the first brand I feel comfortable giving an endorsement and who does an eco-friendly promotion at a conference is getting a blog post from me - no strings attached to it.)

3) The Golden Rule is the best practice for booth staffing. I heard from countless people about a staffperson who was repeatedly rude or short with visitors. While I understand that a crowd around your booth can be overwhelming and your booth activity might be keeping you far busier than expected, staff should always be courteous to visitors and not treat them poorly. Here's why: I may not know that staffperson's name, but I know your brand name.

4) Social media conference engagement starts and ends online - before, during and after. Yes, you have a physical presence at the conference. Of course you're busy talking to the stream of people flooding your booth at all times of the day. Don't forget to check your twitter and facebook accounts. Attendees will interact with you during sessions and overnight when they have questions and comments. Be sure you have resources to stay just as engaged online as you are face-to-face.

5) Don't let the connection you made die: Follow-up. I've been the brand at conferences before. I know how busy it is when you get back to the office and work piled up while you're gone, in addition to all the new work generated by all the conversations you had at the conference. If you don't follow-up within the first two days after the conference, the adrenaline rush is going to fizzle out and your opportunity to engage potential influencers will vanish. When visitors finally get your email a week, two weeks, six months later it won't generate nearly the enthusiastic response you'd get if you sent it within the first two days to a week.

Reaching out to bloggers is an effective and efficient way to reach a targeted market with information about your product and services. As the marketing world catches on to just how valuable a relationship with bloggers can be, the brands who do that interaction right will stay ahead of the game in terms of their reach. The ones who don't will continue to rack up missed opportunities that will make them question the value of social media. The key to doing this right is to engage, engage, engage. It isn't about selling to your connections. It's about developing a relationship online and off.