Collective Bias Uses Social Media to Turn Consumers into Marketers

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, May. 13, 2013 12:00 am  

It’s a mostly organic process, although Collective Bias does help manage the posts with embedded links and offers tips on how to supplement a post.

Callahan and Andrews said the impact of their company is only as strong as its blogger community and the content provided. That’s why Collective Bias lists “think community first” as No. 1 on its list of founding principles.

Finding ways to empower bloggers and strengthen that Social Fabric was the idea behind a recent conference in Rogers. Sears, Nestle, Conair and Kraft were among the sponsors for the SoFabCon event, held with the intent of bringing bloggers and brand representatives together for brainstorming sessions on how to better push products in a medium that is viewed as more “real” than traditional ad campaigns.

Personal stories posted on blog sites with names like “kidsaregrown,” “lumpytolean” and “goobermonkey” are becoming go-to marketing tools. And they are having an impact at a fraction of the cost of circular inserts or other forms of print advertising.

Calvin Peters, online and public relations manager for New York City pharmacy chain Duane Reade, was the keynote speaker for one SoFabCon session. Peters praised the power of social shopper media for helping reach customers in a significant way despite a limited marketing budget.

Although it is a city-specific chain, Duane Reade now boasts four times the number of Twitter followers of parent company Walgreens. As part of a case study on what a network of consumer bloggers did for Duane Reade, Peters noted that the chain would have had to purchase $4.9 million in ads for the same impact.

Peters now oversees his own network of VIP bloggers, who work with retailers who sell products through Duane Reade. These “brand ambassadors,” as Peters calls them, are offered perks like travel, meet-and-greets with celebrity endorsers and opportunities to use products before the general public. In some cases bloggers, like a small percentage of those working for Collective Bias, are paid for their contributions.

Do the benefits encourage only positive reviews? It’s a common question but Andrews doesn’t think it is an issue.

“Readers aren’t dumb,” Andrews said. “If I read three or four articles and everything is unicorns and kittens, that sets my radar off as a consumer. We don’t want canned brand messaging. We want it to be in people’s voices. But at the same time there are branding objectives.”

Marrying corporate marketing goals of a client with the content from those (mostly) independent bloggers is where Collective Bias has excelled. Peters said managing the relationship between the two is where Callahan and Andrews “are visionaries.”

Collective Bias has money to invest in its vision thanks to the outside funding secured in April from Updata Partners, an investment firm in Washington, D.C. Startup capital in 2009 — money from Andrews and Mars Advertising CEO Ken Barnett — was only enough for an investment in people who could build relationships with bloggers and brands.

Now Collective Bias is in a position to develop technological tools as well. “We could have continued self-funding, but felt like at this point capital would let us scale at a greatly accelerated rate,” Andrews said. “I think the marketplace is really coming into being right now.”



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