Photo: Minna Van (@thenetworkhub)
Last week, I attended #TourismRichmondTalks, an event organized by the Social Media Network. The hour-long meetup focused on the use of social media in the tourism industry using 365 Days of Dining, a Tourism Richmond initiative, as a case study. Brittany Riddell, Marketing Manager at Tourism Richmond, gave the talk.
In case you’re not aware, 365 Days of Dining was a social media-driven, global audition for a yearlong paid gig for a food blogger whose main job will be to eat at a different restaurant every day for a full year and blog about it. At stake was a salary of $50,000, apartment and living compensation, a daily stipend for all restaurant meals, and a one-year membership to the Richmond Olympic Oval. After a rigorous process, Vancouver-based blogger Lindsay Anderson was announced the winner.
As more and more companies are now are hiring bloggers, Brittany’s talk was useful and relevant. The purpose of hiring bloggers goes beyond getting someone who will write for your website — as Tourism Richmond has done, some organizations have taken advantage of the process to generate earned media.
Here are are Brittany’s 10 tips on how to use social media to hire a blogger:
1. Understand your community.
The first step for Tourism Richmond was to figure out not only what the city of Richmond was all about, but also what sets it apart from Vancouver. They found that the “Triple A” approach (which stands for affordability, accessibility, and Asian culture) succinctly captured Richmond’s essence. This explains why the campaign focused its call out on food bloggers.
Before you even begin to spread word that you’re hiring a blogger, be clear as to what your community is all about. This will help guide your overall strategy, tactics, and key messages.
2. Put together a crisis communications plan.
Brittany stressed the importance of a crisis communications plan, an important ingredient given how things can quickly go wrong.
Brittany’s prudent advice: Anticipate the worst and have a plan for it. Think of everything that can go wrong and plan appropriately.
3. Be transparent.
Transparency is always a good thing, but in this case, it is crucial.
Be honest about the selection process, the rules, who is qualified and who isn’t, and everything else in between.
4. Be adaptive and flexible.
Although a plan is necessary (see tip #2), some unanticipated hiccups will come up. Flexibility is key.
5. Involve the masses — get input from the people.
Brittany revealed that Tourism Richmond almost didn’t ask people to vote for their favourite food blogger. Ultimately, the organization chose to crowdsource one of the crucial parts of the process: narrowing down the finalists from 12 to the final 3. People voted through a Facebook app.
The benefits have been great. In addition to getting people involved, Tourism Richmond saw some long-term benefit to their Facebook presence.
6. Meet the top applicants.
For a myriad of reasons, a blogger who looks perfect on paper may not in fact be the best person. Try to meet them face-to-face — or at least through Skype. This will give you a better sense of who they are and whether they are “it”.
Tourism Richmond went as far as taking out the final 3 bloggers out on a fine dining experience to see how they interacted with people, how they ordered unfamiliar food, and to find out about their dining habits. Doing so revealed a whole lot more about the contestants’ personalities than simply going over their application again.
7. Set blog expectations — and do it early.
After choosing a winner and your blog is ready to go, your next step is to set the expectations right away.
What will the blog cover? How much creative freedom are you giving the blogger? Is the blogger allowed to write negative reviews? These are just some of the questions that you need to answer.
8. Give your blogger training and independence.
People who apply for a blogger position are mostly a tech-savvy bunch, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give training. Using social media for personal reasons is very different from using these tools in a corporate setting. Train your blogger in social media protocols that you use at your organization.
Also, familiarize your blogger with your crisis communications plan (see tip #1) to make sure he/she is ready for things that may come up.
This doesn’t mean you should take away the blogger’s independence. Authenticity is important; give your blogger the support and the freedom to say what he/she really feels.
9. Keep your momentum going.
Don’t let the initial push fizzle. Continuously work with your blogger to enhance his or her social media presence, to make sure that all required tools are available, and to collaborate on ideas on how to continuously keep your blog content fresh and interesting.
10. Measure your success.
Keep improving by measuring your success. Use Google Analytics to learn more about your readers, what type of content sticks, and areas of improvement. If you have the budget for it, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system might also be a good idea.
Even if you don’t have Tourism Richmond’s marketing budget, hiring a blogger doesn’t have to be a boring process. Use some of the tips from Brittany’s talk to inspire you to make the process more fun and engaging!
Visit the Social Media Network’s website for more info and to be in the loop for their future events.