Rachel Ferrucci says she swept Deborah Mitchell off her feet when they met at a social media conference in New York.
Mitchell, based in New York City, was a former television producer for CBS News who had left a high-powered, 25-year career in TV in 2010. As she considered her next move, she was immersing herself in the world of social media.
Ferrucci had left a corporate career eight years previously. In addition to raising two now grown children in Connecticut, she had launched a bath and body products line and had, along the way, become an expert in social media who consulted for big brands.
For the next chapter of their professional lives, both were looking to do something entrepreneurial. “I didn’t want to go back to corporate America,” says Ferrucci. “I didn’t want to swim with the sharks anymore.”
They wound up talking for a long time at the event about their careers and aspirations. “It grew from there,” says Ferrucci.
In April, they launched The Blogger Connection, a social media agency that has a network of more than 6,000 bloggers. The service helps connect brands with blogs to place their ads on, charging the big companies for managing the relationships with the bloggers. The service, which bloggers can join for free, offers them support in making their blogs better through an online forum and other means.
Here’s an excerpt from our conversation about how they connected and launched the business together:
How did you come up with the idea for The Blogger Connection?
Ferrucci: I was already consulting for many companies on blogger outreach. And I wanted to find a way to really help the bloggers. I also wanted to help the brands learn how to use social media in their marketing and help them with strategies. I thought that would be a great way to bring them together. When I met Deb, she brought so much more to it. It happened very quickly.
Mitchell: In working with CBS’s morning news, I would produce segments on a regular basis. I would develop relationships with PR people. I started going to blogger conferences. The bloggers were asking panelists “How do we get in touch with brands?” It’s very hard to connect with a brand. To get someone to pick up the phone to talk to you is difficult as an individual, especially as someone new, coming into the blogging world. I talked to a lot of the bloggers there and heard what they were asking for. I thought we could work together. I have access to brands and PR people.
How do your services differ from, say, one like Google Adsense, that puts ads on qualifying blogs? Can you describe your business model?
Ferrucci: The first thing we do that’s different is we really help you grow as a blogger. We give you feedback on your site. Because the blogger connection has a forum and private [social media] groups, we help you learn about different ways to grow your blog, what kind of content you put on, homing in on what your niche is, different technologies. The support that comes from within the group itself, the other bloggers–it’s almost like a family. We also teach you how to work with brands. What is blogging etiquette? How do you write a good review? How do you talk to brands?
Mitchell: I’m always online looking for different articles the bloggers might enjoy reading. As I search through the online world, and I see an article I’ll tweet it out and post it. It could be anything from how much you should get paid for a post to different ways for you to make money blogging…to if you’re a blogger and are appearing on TV, what information do you need to reveal to the producers before you get on the show. I try to curate some articles a few days a week and post them, for the bloggers to read.
We work with the brands in coming up with the vision for what they want to accomplish through blogger outreach. We figure out what their budget is, how much money they have for social media outreach. Rachel and I come together and hand pick the bloggers that would be ideal for the campaign. We make them a part of the campaign.
Ferrucci: We don’t charge to join our forum or groups.
How do you make money?
Ferrucci: There’s the marketing piece. We strategize [for the brands].
Mitchell: Once we come up with the campaign, we manage the bloggers. We guarantee that bloggers are going to blog about something. We have to make sure it’s done on a deadline. We have to manage all of that.
If any of our readers are interested in working with The Blogger Connection, what do they need to do?
Ferrucci: If they are a blogger they can certainly come to our site and sign up in our forum.
If there are brands that want to reach out, they can email us. We’ll have a conversation with them to know how we can help them. It can really be anything that the brand wants. We figure that out once we talk to the brand. We need to know what the brand’s needs are. What is the brand’s goal? What key message do they want to get out?
If a brand came to us and wanted to put an ad on the bloggers’ sites, then we would help each blogger do that. If it’s one of 50 bloggers, maybe Deb and I or someone on our team would help the bloggers do it. If we’re doing a campaign with 1,000 bloggers and 1,000 ads, then maybe we’d bring someone in to help us.
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