August 12, 2008, 12:00 AM

To gain more exposure, some retailers have begun reaching out to bloggers

Retailers with blogs say their blogs should not be too pushy when it comes to products. So some are connecting with independent bloggers, who enjoy doing product reviews and talking about brands they love.

Retailers with blogs say blogs should not be used as overt sales tools. Rather, retailers’ blogs should educate and entertain readers while gently dropping in occasional references to products relevant to the subject of a blog post. An educational and entertaining blog, they say, will bond customers to retailers, creating customer loyalty that in the end will translate into sales.

When it comes to pushing product, independent blogs are a different story. It’s the independent nature of these bloggers that readers grow to trust, and product recommendations from these bloggers are welcomed. For some retailers, reaching out to bloggers, without being too pushy, is another way to convert online shoppers into buyers.

GPS navigation retailer Garmin discovers bloggers through monitoring the web using Google Alerts, monitoring social networks and receiving word-of-mouth from customers. One blogger it found had a hard time finding his way around. He was constantly getting lost, and this personality quirk was a trademark. His name is Chris Brogan, and he evangelizes on social media and travels quite a bit on behalf of his social media company, CrossTech Media.

Garmin staff saw that Brogan’s posts received a lot of comments on a regular basis, and that he had nearly 12,000 followers on social network Twitter. So one of Garmin’s bloggers sent Brogan a Nuvi GPS device on the house.

“He was in Boston one day and got lost and blogged about it. And he mentioned it would be great if he had Garmin GPS. That mention of Garmin triggered a Google Alert,” says Kyle Johnston, web and digital creative director at Garmin. “I sent him an e-mail and within two minutes he and I were on the phone. We then approached him like you would a press inquiry. We sent him a GPS unit, said we follow his blog and are very interested in what he has to say, and said hopefully you won’t get lost so much anymore.”

The result: Brogan wrote multiple blog posts along with tweets on Twitter about how Garmin GPS was changing his life.

“Chris gets pitched a lot by companies that say we’ll send you something and we want you to do at least two posts and talk about how great the product is,” Johnston says. “When you use an approach like that, you are forcing things down the throat of bloggers and the whole effort becomes weird and unproductive.”

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