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Create a mutually beneficial relationship

Bloggers are the new wave of journalists. They are the source of information about industries, products, companies and issues that matter right now.

If you want to get noticed on the Web, it’s a good idea to find the bloggers who matter most to your potential customers. Increasingly, people do research on the Web to learn more about products or services they want to buy, and the companies that sell them. Many bloggers are viewed as trusted sources for that information, as they’re considered to be experts in their particular fields.
If you learn how to build relationships with the key bloggers in your industry, you can become part of the online conversations your potential customers are reading and participating in.

It can be easier to reach bloggers

While small companies can find it difficult to interest newspaper or magazine reporters in their story, many bloggers are much more accessible and open to hearing from small players in their industry.

Your first step, of course, is to discover which bloggers matter to your business. Do some research – use Google Blog Search, Bing and other search engines to find the blogs in your industry.

Many bloggers use Twitter to call attention to their posts, and to point to news in their industries. Search Twitter using the important keywords for your field. If you find a blogger whose tweets seem interesting and relevant to you, go to his or her blog and start reading.

Once you’ve found a blogger or two – or more – to approach, follow these guidelines to establish a relationship:

1. Be relevant. Invest time in learning which topics the blogger likes to cover. That means reading not just one or two, but a large number of the blogger’s posts. There’s nothing more offensive than an approach that shows you know little or nothing of the person’s work.

2. Communicate on the blogger’s terms. If the blogger provides an email address, use that. If he or she wants you to fill out a form to communicate, include all the details the blogger asks for. If he or she writes back to you with questions, respond as quickly and completely as you can.

3. Provide value. What information, perspective or other value can you offer to the blogger and his or her readers? Remember, it’s not about you and your need for publicity – it’s about the blogger’s need to provide good information to his or her audience.

Can you, or someone in your company, serve as an expert and offer insights into your industry? Can you give the blogger a sneak peek at new products before they’re publicized to the world? Can you invite the blogger to events or panel discussions that will help them gain respect from their peers and followers?

Don’t forget about commenting on the blog itself. Comments help boost a blog’s visibility to search engines, and they also validate the importance of the blogger and what he or she is writing about. Offer your insights on industry issues in comments, and the blogger will probably take notice. Be candid and honest about the challenges in your industry, and offer solutions, if you have them.

Resist the temptation to push your specific product or service, unless these are being discussed directly on the blog. Self-serving comments won’t win you the kind of attention you want.

4. Follow up. Find meaningful ways to continue and develop the dialogue. Email the blogger to offer a personal introduction to your company, product previews, or anything else that would help the blogger write good material for readers.

Are you willing to be an ongoing industry resource, whether or not the blogger writes about you now or in the near future? If you are willing, you’ll be making a friend, and eventually your investment of time and energy will pay off.

5. Ask to republish. If your company hosts its own blog, ask the bloggers you follow for permission to repost their pieces, if they’re relevant to your blog. You can then comment on these posts and link back to the blogger’s own site. This gives both of you a boost – the blogger gets a wider audience and links from another site, and you get the prestige of having the blogger appear on your own blog.

You can also ask bloggers you respect to author a guest post on your company’s blog. Most people will be pleased by such a request.

In all your interactions with bloggers, remember that sharing good information – not pitching! – is key to developing good relationships. If they feel good about you and your company, bloggers can and will reward you with attention and links back to your site. And that’s great for your company’s visibility.

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