Monday, December 15, 2008

6 Bloggers + Kmart $500 shopping spree = "this has been huge"

Kmart Enlists Bloggers For Social Net Campaign, MediaPost, by Karlene Lukovitz, Friday, December 12, 2008, 7:00 AM

A sponsored social networking campaign enlisting the help of six well-known bloggers is yielding big buzz for Kmart and encouraging consumers to give the retailer another look during the critical holiday season.

Kmart gave each of six influential bloggers a $500 gift certificate to go on a shopping spree in the store and then blog about their shopping experiences in any way they saw fit (no censorship). The bloggers clearly disclosed this sponsored arrangement in their respective postings.

In addition, Kmart is sponsoring a contest in which one community member from each of the six blogs will win a $500 gift certificate to go on a Kmart shopping spree.

In their postings about their own shopping sprees, the original bloggers let those in their communities know that they could enter to win a $500 Kmart shopping certificate in one of two ways. They could either place a comment on the blog's post, consisting of a holiday wish list of items totaling under $500 that are carried at Kmart (including a description and SKU number for each item), or use Twitter to tweet the message provided on each blog's posting area.

An added exposure element is also involved, via social media marketing company Izea, through which the campaign is being run. In addition to managing formal campaigns like Kmart's six-blogger shopping spree/postings effort, Izea enables advertisers/sponsors to link up with selected bloggers within its network of approximately 250,000 participating blogs who want to carry transparent, paid-for sponsor ads or postings. (Participating bloggers adhere to a code of ethics that requires disclosure of those posts that are sponsored.) This provides added "long tail" exposure for sponsors, explains Izea founder/CEO Ted Murphy.

Bloggers can review paid sponsorships being offered through Izea's SocialSpark blog marketing network or its PayPerPost program and sign up to participate in specific sponsorships that appear to match up to their blogs' content/demographics. The sponsor determines the amounts offered; the terms range from pay-per-post to pay-per-day to CPA. In this case, bloggers could sign up to run a Kmart banner about the shopping contest.

Although the six bloggers who were given Kmart shopping certificates were under no obligation to express positive impressions, one post by Chris Brogan was typical. Under a header stating "This post is a sponsored post on behalf of Kmart via Izea. The opinions are mine," Brogan started by admitting that he hadn't "stepped foot" in Kmart since it was "merged with Sears" (acquired by Sears Holdings). He then described the fun he and his kids had browsing and picking out their items. Within the post, Brogan noted that he was surprised to see that Kmart had "upped their name brand game" and now carries high-end brands like Dyson and Craftsman. He also noted being pleasantly surprised at the savings on purchased items--not just through special holiday sales, but through the chain's everyday pricing on some items. Kmart's results from the campaign?

Vitrue, a strategic social media marketing firm, has been using its Social Media Index (SMI) online conversation measurement system to track Kmart's "share of social voice" against the shares of sister retailer Sears and JC Penney. The SMI system can determine a daily share-of-voice index for a brand by tracking the extent of online conversations about that brand, including mentions on social networks, blogs and Twitter and video and photo sharing.

Prior to starting its social media campaign (which launched December 2), Kmart's average SMI index or share-of-voice in November was 12.8, according to Vitrue. For example, on November 11, Kmart's index was 14.49%, versus 24.81% for JC Penney and 50.67% for Sears.

As of Wednesday, Kmart's SMI was 23.21%--a 59% increase over its average SMI in November--against SMI's of 12.45% for JC Penney and 43.09% for Sears.

"Kmart has clearly realized significant gains in share of social media voice through this campaign--in fact, it's pulled ahead of JCPenney, and has made gains on Sears," notes Vitrue CEO Reggie Bradford. "Kmart's transparency in this effort was key, and a good example for any brand looking to use paid sponsorship elements to leverage social media's power."

Izea's Murphy reports that as of Dec. 5, the Kmart initiatives had resulted in more than 2,000 related comments across the six blogs, more than 2,500 contest entries via tweets, and collective reach across the blogs, Twitter etc. to approximately 500,000 people. "This has been huge," he says.

Indeed, Sears Holdings has now decided to sponsor a similar blogger shopping spree/certificate contest for its Sears chain, to launch in mid December, according to Murphy.

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