Social Media Icon: Beverly Robertson on the art of nudging blogs

Beverly Robertson is the national director of the Pregnancy & Newborn Health Education Center at the March of Dimes, where she runs large educational campaigns. Her team answers questions from the public about preconception, pregnancy, preterm birth, and baby care; and they also offer daily pregnancy and baby tips trough Twitter. She twitters at @marchofdimes and @MoDBev and speaks frequently on social media strategies at conferences including South by Southwest.

This year she is taking her preemie message  global with World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17.

How did you take your campaign to the social web?
I’m a personal blogger. I have a personal blog at Murmuring Trees.  And I have always loved blog carnivals and working with other bloggers.

The March of Dimes has been gradually expanding our web presence.

In 2009, we launched Bloggers Unite to Fight for Preemies Campaign. Every year, 20 million babies are born too soon, too small, and very sick―half a million of them in the United States. Our goal is heighten awareness of this and the care they need.

The first year [2009], I had some internal discussions. By the time we got our assets together we were running behind a bit.

In terms of assets, you have to have an emotive picture that speaks to your mission. You have to have text. You have to have an objective in 140 characters. You have to have badges for the bloggers. Bloggers love bling!

I just started contacting people. I went to conferences. I discovered Bloggers Unite, was a member of Blogher. This year, I’ll attend Typeaparents.

How did your programs work in the past?
In the past, we had a call center and moved away from that.  We moved onto an email method. Now, this year for the first time, I am getting as many questions coming in through social media as  through traditional media.

I have a staff of eight who work with me to answer over 20,000 questions a year as well as monitor blogs, write posts, tweet and other social media outreach in 2 languages.

How did you start working with  Bloggers Unite?
Bloggers Unite does a charity of choice quarterly. They said, “We’ll pick you for fall.

Once your cause is registered on the site, the bloggers can then troll through the events and pick one.  Once a blogger has registered for an event, they will hear from me endlessly.

I can do shout outs. I will send “Thank you’s.” I will send reminders.  I will offer  badges for your site. You can expect me to visit you regularly.

It’s uber labor intensive.

How did things go in 2009?
My original goal was to get 200 bloggers to blog about premature babies on the same day.

Then with Bloggers Unite, I upped it.  So my new goal was 300. Then as things continued to build, my goal rose to 350.

We ended with 507 bloggers and 13,200 blog posts.

There’s a formula to use and algorithm that goes with it to determine reach. Using that, our reach in 2009 was 3.3 million readers. We had a long tail of people talking about us and the March of Dimes long after the day.

And in 2010?
I launched the 2010 event a little sooner. Bloggers Unite recommends 90 days ahead of time.

I did my email blast.  We started using Radian6, which is a paid monitoring program, basically to save me time. We had 350 bloggers with about 5,200 blog posts. That translates into an approximate reach of 1 million.

Going into 2011, we are expanding into a “World Prematurity Day,“ going global for Nov. 17, 2011. We’ll have to do all of our messaging in multiple languages.

Any thoughts about how to activate a for-profit community?
What is it they say? You have to touch people seven times to get them to act?

In social media, the key is engagement. In order to get bloggers to engage around whatever it is, you will have to make sure the mission, the product, the service is going to make a difference in people’s lives.

You can get people engaged around health insurance – absolutely. You can engage folks around anything as long as you can make a case and make it relevant. You will have to find bloggers in your right right topic area.

For me, it is babies. In the for-profit world you have to care about the bloggers who care about your topic or product. You have to get to know them one on one. I retweet them. I visit their blogs, thank them and encourage them. Then I post about the event everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.

I also go to a lot of conferences. BlogHer is a great one and certainly it is getting more commercial. You’ll see many brands there.

How do use Twitter?
I love Twitter.

Twitter is predominantly female. Of Tweeters, 53% are female. Of that, 63% are in my my target age, 18-44 – child bearing years. That speaks to my sweet spot.

I connect a lot with bloggers  on Twitter.  I know these woman, I know they have babies. They ask me questions on Twitter. We do Twitter chats.  Twitter really works for me in terms of finding bloggers and having a personal conversation with them.

To further reach the Twitter crowd, I go to the 140 conference now.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
I am a big believer … Thank your people.

Sometimes I will make a comment, and my community friend will ask “Are you the real March of Dimes?” Yes, I am.

I don’t believe in slacktivism. I believe the more you put into it; the more you get out.

Liked this interview? Let us know who we should interview next in the comments below or contact me on Twitter@SaDuros.

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