Why Industry Brands Should Love Pet Bloggers
BlogPaws’ recent conference demonstrates the power and influence modern pet bloggers and social media specialists have with consumers--and brands are taking notice.
Pet blogger Terry Kaye gets to know the brands at BlogPaws' recent conference. Pet bloggers and social media experts have power and influence over consumers, which is something brands are starting to understand.
Imagine if a company took the business conference model, flipped it upside down, shook it a bit and added in a pet-welcoming aspect so that the more than 500 pet industry pros and brands who attend are upbeat, happy and engaged for three days.
This is BlogPaws.
BlogPaws recently hosted its eighth three-day social media and pet blogging conference at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler, Ariz. The event featured educational sessions, brand events and influencer interactions, with pets at the heart of it all.
The people and bloggers who attend BlogPaws, which is designed as a pet-welcoming event, remain one step ahead of the latest trends and celebrate the human-animal bond by promoting pet health and welfare via social media.
Pet bloggers can influence the purchasing habits—translation: pocketbooks—of today’s modern pet owners. More lifestyle bloggers dedicate a category, section and/or include pets in their blog headers. In turn, because the audience gets amplified, bloggers with a pet niche must do their research to separate fact from opinion.
From Whence They Came
Founded in 2009 by three dedicated pet lovers and bloggers, BlogPaws grew out of the need for a focus on excellence in social media and a devotion to helping pets in need. Yvonne DiVita, Caroline Golon and Tom Collins launched the company to connect bloggers and social media influencers to the brands they buy every day. What started as a yearly conference evolved into a social media empire.
“The success of BlogPaws is based on the fact that pet bloggers and pet influencers on social media have taken a strong hold in the industry,” said Chloe DiVita, director of events and programs at BlogPaws. “Brands also consider BlogPaws the go-to resource when looking for social media attention and contacts. Together, it’s a win-win for the people and the pets.”
BlogPaws is owned by Pet360 Inc., a division of PetSmart, which acquired online pet products retailer and integrated media company Pet360 in fall 2014.
Pet Brands, Pet Bloggers
Hundreds of pet influencers attend BlogPaws Conferences to learn about their craft, network with others in the community and connect with brands. Brands attend for face time with influencers in order to amplify their messages and work with those in the know within the online pet journalist space.
From a big brand perspective, Natural Balance Pet Foods returns to the BlogPaws Conference each year. Greg Fullerman, a marketing specialist for the Burbank, Calif., pet food manufacturer, said relationship building with the pet bloggers is key.
“We love creating relationships with all the bloggers who are here, getting our messages out while helping them get their messages out,” he said.
“With our new wet cup formulas and the Buy With Confidence program, we knew that coming to BlogPaws would connect us with the bloggers who have influence,” Fullerman said. “These pet bloggers are the experts, and if people are listening to what they have to say, we want to help them share our messaging.”
Wholesaler, manufacturer and retailer Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips For Dogs attributes renting a space at the BlogPaws Conference with a direct increase in site traffic throughout 2015.
“We typically only do veterinary trade shows,” said Julie Buzby, DVM, founder of the Beaufort, S.C., company. “Coming to BlogPaws took us out of our comfort zone, but it was transformational for us. We had a huge continual spike in website traffic [and], more importantly, we formed relationships with pet bloggers.”
Online retailer Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. attends to get to know the pet bloggers in person.
“As first timers to the BlogPaws Conference, we wanted to get the word out,” said Matson Magleby, co-founder. “We are a small family business without a large marketing budget.”
Manufacturer Sees the Light
Sylvie Bordeaux, inventor and founder of Muffin’s Halo Guide For Blind Dogs, attributed BlogPaws with a “big time” increase in her product’s sales.
“I am bringing forth awareness for blind dogs with this product,” she said. “Pet bloggers are pet lovers at heart, and both they and their followers get who I am and what this product is all about.”
The 4-year-old company manufactures an assistive device for blind and visually impaired dogs. It helps keep them safe from bumping into walls, furniture and other objects.
As a leader in the natural pet food space, Merrick Pet Care reported a three-peat presence at the BlogPaws Conference.
“When we started to really grow as a company, we knew that we needed to form relationships with influencers in the pet space,” said Betsy Berger, communications manager for Merrick Pet Care of Amarillo, Texas. “Dog and cat food is a highly researched category. Third-party authentication from a trusted pet blogger is important to pet parents.”
As a manufacturer of pet foods that are made in the USA, the company looks to match the right pet bloggers and influencers for honest reviews, and it finds influencers at BlogPaws, Berger added.
The Cat’s Meow
The Cat Style Lounge by Hauspanther was conveniently nestled into a large corner of the BlogPaws Conference. This isn’t your grandmother’s den of cat products.
Cat style expert Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther hosted the lounge for attending cat bloggers and influencers.
“Pet bloggers come in and see the coolest, latest cat products on display,” Benjamin said. “The BlogPaws Conference is the best place to showcase these brands because most of the attendees don’t go to trade shows.”
For Benjamin, making the connection between products and attendees is the piece of the pet industry she treasures most.
“In the Cat Style Lounge by Hauspanther, these are primarily manufacturers showing off their newest lines of cat products,” she said. “There have been huge improvements in the past 10 years within the cat category, and the pet bloggers are able to see and touch these products. They can then reach out to the manufacturers and form relationships.”
By the Numbers
In 2014, BlogPaws worked with 35 brands—doubling its 2013 number. With more than 1,100 sponsored blog posts and over 780 bloggers onboard for campaigns, overall 2014 growth was 175 percent over 2013 for sponsored posts. More than $150,000 was paid out to participating bloggers in the BlogPaws Pet Blogger Network.
In 2015, BlogPaws bloggers and influencers created more than 1,475 sponsored blog posts, and the company paid out more than $285,000 to bloggers, representing a 90 percent increase.
“Everything has grown, and everything is up, which means our power is growing, and that is hugely significant for a field where so many care so much and yet know so little,” said DiVita at the 2016 BlogPaws Conference press conference.
DiVita noted that BlogPaws is drowning out the inaccurate and insignificant noise on the Internet. BlogPaws-sponsored content, she said, is educational, informative and accurate.
Pets are family, and their humanization has become a stronghold, from the “makes sense” and dollars perspective.
In her paper, “Anthropomorphism Is Not the Only Driver of Pet Industry Growth,” BirdsEye Consulting owner Carol Frank wrote: “It has become common knowledge that anthropomorphism is the driving force behind the pet sector’s faithful 6.7 percent growth nearly year after year.
This begs the question: Is anthropomorphism the cause or the result of the industry boom? Has there been a deeper cultural shift beneath the pet industry that can help guide pet product producers to the promised land?”
Pet bloggers are pitching tents on the promised land, with brands taking notice.
Hello, brands: It’s us, the pet bloggers and social media influencers. Come and knock on our very influential doors.
For information about the BlogPaws 2017 Conference taking place May 18-21 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., visit blogpaws.com.
“A dog lover of the highest order” is how Gayle King introduced Carol Bryant when she and her cocker spaniel, Dexter, appeared on Oprah Radio’s Gayle King show to dish dogs. She is the founder of Fidose of Reality, a canine-centric online magazine dog blog, and its fundraising arm, Wigglebutt Warriors, and she has contributed to numerous pet publications. The marketing and social media manager for BlogPaws, Bryant trademarked the phrase “My Heart Beats Dog” and wears it proudly as a permanent tattoo. She is the current Women in the Pet Industry Network Woman of the Year in the Advocate category.