Recently a departing employee gave my partners and me framed prints of this iconic image of Rosie the Riveter, with a new subtitle: 'BlogHer Inc., Founded 2005.' The image is incredibly meaningful to me. I see it as an illustration of what my partners and I did when we got tired of hearing the question "where are the women bloggers?" In response, we established a business around this community. Rosie reminds me of a shared trait among women who blog about everything from parenting to politics: We have a compulsion to make things happen, especially when times are tough.
Nell Merlino, founder of the women's entrepreneurial organization Count Me In for Women's Economic Independence, recently wrote:
During World War II, FDR asked us to join Rosie the Riveter and 20 million women responded by going to work in factories across the country. In the 1960's, President Kennedy asked us all to join the Peace Corps. During the last recession in 2001, President Bush told women to keep shopping! Now, President Obama, please ask women business owners to grow their businesses and create jobs, because they can and they will.
Perhaps the President should ask us to just keep blogging. The Rosie the Riveter image is fitting today, when so many women bloggers are, in essence, rolling up our sleeves and getting things done - for ourselves, our communities, and each other. In this economy social media - specifically social networks and conversational tools like blogs - are a powerful way to distinguish one's brand. I don't mean only via display advertising. Some brands have achieved a third dimension of engagement beyond the click, because they used these tools to tap into pre-existing currents of passion.
Witnessing the ingenuity of women bloggers at this time, I see opportunities for brands to make unprecedented connections with these influencers. But here's the catch: It's no longer about convincing these women to try or buy your product; it's about partnering with them, convincing them to take up our causes (which range from the whimsical to the weighty), and earning their advocacy.
Just today I chanced upon MommyBlogger Gayla McCord passing the word on Twitter about Job Angels, a grassroots effort created just over three weeks ago by a consultant who wanted to provide support for people trying to find work. After two weeks the project generated 1,500 "angels" or volunteers, and over 10,000 messages from groups formed on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Members donated resources such as introductions to their networks, free coaching, and job leads.
In a previous column I mentioned Tyson's multi-city campaign for feeding the hungry by partnering with a prominent food blogger who was championing a cause on her blog and Twitter. In San Francisco alone the campaign yielded 200,000 pounds of donated protein to food banks and a word-of-mouth glow around the brand. But even if Twitterese isn't your second language, or your third, and you don't have 200,000 of anything to spend on your outreach, you don't have to look too hard to find what the bloggers are talking about and taking on, and where you can make a difference.
How do you leverage these examples for your brand? I would ask this question: How can you mobilize customers as quickly -- and with as much passion around your product -- without giving it away? Most likely you can't, just as you probably can't find jobs for thousands of people. But you can help influencers like the Job Angels who are making a difference, if you just pay attention to what your target market is passionate about. And by helping Job Angels, you could net new customers who want to support brands they believe in.
This information isn't hard to find. Since we announced the dates of the BlogHer Conference, I've seen blog posts every day from women who are struggling with finances and fundraising for themselves and for each other to cover travel and lodging costs. There are dozens of sites such as this one that have added a section where sponsors may contribute. Or read posts like this one by a conference veteran who is fundraising to send a fellow blogger in need.
This opportunity has been scooped up by large sponsors, who have noticed and are sending women to the conference as prizes in larger campaigns. But it's a targeted opportunity even for smaller brands who have gotten in on the excitement. Before January, many online moms hadn't heard of Mabel's Labels, a Canadian business founded by four women who sell custom labels for kids' stuff. But then the niche business put itself into the word-of-mouth stratosphere by announcing a contest requiring bloggers to write about "the rewards and benefits of participating in the blogging community." (And of course, mentioning the name of the company is a plus – entries would not show up in a Google search otherwise.) The prize is an all-expenses paid trip to BlogHer.
The winner of the Mabel's contest was the blogger who earned the most reader votes for her post, which further encouraged entrants to beseech their readers to vote for them. That gave the campaign a second life, and then a third life when the winner was announced and Tweeted everywhere. For an estimated $1,200, the company attracted well over 150 Tweets among its target – MomBloggers, who shared the announcement with their audiences and blogging buddies. Mabel's also earned 2,355 mentions on blogs, and, according to site tracker Alexa, more than tripled its page views from the best month the corporate site had the previous year.
Yes, monetary incentives can be nice to offer your customers in tough times, but when your offer aligns with something important to them, the incentive doesn't have to be extravagant. In 2008, the most trafficked offer on BlogHer.com was a simple one from Kraft for a $100 gift card to a randomly selected blogger that shared a "feel good" meal idea. The offer hit at a time when, just as much as the community craved food savings, they craved nesting, better meals at home, and family time.
Nell Merlino offers up a modernized Rosie the Riveter called Elaine the Entrepreneur. I offer up Beth the Blogger, Felicia the Facebooker, Tara the Twitterer, and about 36 million women in the U.S., who, when armed with a decent Web connection, can make things happen and get your word out. You just need to help us get out ours.
As co-founder and President of Strategic Alliances for BlogHer, Jory Des Jardins is an innovator in online advertising, women's media and Internet entrepreneurship. Jory can be contacted at email@example.com.
Read all Jory’s MediaBizBlogger commentaries at Jory Des Jardin - MediaBizBlogger.