Will Blogger Super Force Drive Target’s Sales Higher?

Discussion
Apr 16, 2013

Target has recruited 16 women bloggers to form its initial "Inner Circle" of cyberspace influencers.

The bloggers primarily write about fashion and style, but a few cover topics such as home, food, schools and parenting. On average, each Inner Circle member operates six social media accounts, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The group, recruited last year, gains access to and are feted at special events, but are not paid. No restrictions are placed on what they can write, although all rate as avid Target fans.

An Inner Circle page on the retailer’s A Bullseye View online magazine features photos of all 16 bloggers as well as links to their Twitter accounts and blog websites.

"We’re thrilled to present members of Target Inner Circle, a program designed to give a select group of online influencers an all-access pass to Target, our leaders and celebrity partners," Target states on the page. "From design partnerships to style makeovers, to store openings and community events, and home décor, food, entertainment & more, these members share their experiences learning with Target in their online communities."

In February, the members were flown to Target’s Minneapolis headquarters to speak with executives, preview products and tour the facilities. Late last year, they were flown to New York to tour the Harlem store as part of Media Day. They also got to preview Target’s holiday collection with Neiman Marcus and hobnob with celebrities such as Naomi Watts, Alicia Keys, Tony Bennett and Shaun White at the retailer’s fiftieth anniversary party.

The women are also invited to attend local events, particularly those that align with their blogs’ subject matter. Amy Mascott, author of the Teach Mama blog, recently covered a ceremony in which Target donated $25,000 to a Baltimore school.

"Target looked at us as experts in what we write about," Ms. Mascott, a Washington, D.C., area resident, told the Star Tribune. "It’s not like I woke up one day and instantly had 80,000 viewers. Some of the people in Inner Circle are real rock stars in the blogger world."

Vendors across fashion, food and athletic categories recruit brand ambassadors, including bloggers, with free product, events and other perks. But it’s rare for a retailer to do so and even rarer to call out an elite team of social media ambassadors.

Is Target’s Inner Circle program an effective way to drive social media buzz? What are the upsides and downsides for retailers that actively bond with social media stars?

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17 Comments on "Will Blogger Super Force Drive Target’s Sales Higher?"

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Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

There could be a reaction if readers see this group as shilling for Target, rather than presenting honest reactions. And while Target claims no censorship, who’s going to believe there’s no influence?

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Does anyone believe that someone who starts out as an avid Target fan and then gets the royal treatment from Target will be unbiased in their blogs? Any credibility that they had should have gone away when Target recruited them to its inner circle.

Woe to Target if it doesn’t meet the expectations of one or more of their inner circle regarding their new status and the perks it brings. It could suddenly find itself being dished, not for its products or services, but because someone felt slighted. The same is true for any retailer that actively bonds with a social media star.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

This is really an old idea and one that oddly enough predates social media. Procter & Gamble’s Tremor program did the same thing in the “real” world.

The problem with this approach is that sooner or later the bloggers will lose their objective status and may even come under attack for being tools of Target.

One of these days branders are gong to realize that these social media spaces lend themselves better to anarchy than they do to broadcasting. This kind of program is the human equivalent of trying to game an Internet keyword search. You’ll fool some people, but fewer and fewer over time.

Mark me down as a skeptic.

Tony Orlando
BrainTrust

I see this as positive, provided there are no legal issues in regards to compensation (hello Feds). The idea is fine, and it helps Target’s image with woman shoppers.

That said, hey what about the men? I go to Target occasionally, and I’m sure some of us would like to participate. Just sayin’, as they should add some men to the mix in the future, and some young bloggers who like music and electronics.

Let’s see what happens, as they could always pull the plug on it. Great in theory, and I wish them well.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Am I the only person who thinks that the phrase “women bloggers” sounds strange?

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Target is treating social media like advertising, which usually does not work. By only recruiting bloggers who are avid fans of Target, they have tilted the scales in their favor and will potentially alienate the bloggers’ followers. By actively bonding with Target, the bloggers, whether or not they are being paid, have compromised their objectivity.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
4 years 11 days ago

What magic is there in Target’s Inner Circle?
I’ve pondered on that question, an answer to find,
How sixteen bloggers can influence consumer-dom
And upwardly revise the share of market bind.

Blogging, like mental flogging, is the IN thing now.
It has replaced the time we used to use to think,
But social media stars are now queens of the road
Still I must see more evidence before I wink.

Kurt Seemar
Guest
Kurt Seemar
4 years 11 days ago

As has been stated by many of the other commentators, the objectivity of the inner circle bloggers will be questioned sooner or later. When the bloggers objectivity is questioned, that will not necessarily hurt Target but rather the bloggers. The idea seems rather low risk and low cost for Target.

Joan Treistman
BrainTrust

I agree with the doubts and reservations already mentioned. On the upside I think how lucky these 16 people are to be part of Target’s Inner Circle. On the downside… the opportunity to tarnish Target credibility and brand equity for starters.

Oh yeah…and do we who are not part of the Inner Circle feel that we are outsiders? Maybe…. Do I want to enter the same store that has already told me I am not as special as some other customers? Have to think about it.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
4 years 11 days ago

I like what Target is attempting. Consumers want to hear from people like them. If your friend writes a positive review for an item, it may influence your decision to purchase.

The downside is that Target will have honest fans giving them feedback and some of that feedback may not be what they wanted to hear. That said, if taken seriously, and it sounds like they are, this power group of 16 will be very effective at getting the Target message out to their followers.

I commend Target for introducing the 16 bloggers to Executives at headquarters. It lets everyone involved know that these bloggers are being taken seriously and what they say counts.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

These bloggers became popular because their point of view resonated with consumers as authentic. They have no term of office. As long as they remain authentic and resonate with consumers as authentic, they will be successful. If they become obvious spokespersons for Target, they are likely to less effective. Other bloggers or people on Twitter or Facebook may become social media influencers. This is a fluid market, not a static position.

Doug Pruden
Guest
Doug Pruden
4 years 11 days ago

How clearly will each of these 16 bloggers disclose the nature of their relationship with Target? Assuming clear and open disclosure of the “consideration” being given is made; readers can make their own judgments about how significantly it’s influencing their favorite bloggers’ opinions and advice.

As long as readers continue to trust the bloggers, this strategy could help raise top-of-mind awareness and consideration of Target’s products and help to strengthen its image. If the relationship is not properly disclosed right from the start, it could backfire badly.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

Putting a real name and face on a brand advocate just brings more personalization to the brand. This is a good thing.

Now let’s dispel the myth that the bloggers are going to be biased. If a blogger wants to become a superstar, like these 16 obviously are, they must share the good and the bad of their subject matter. Most of us can see right through biased rhetoric so let’s give these bloggers a chance.

I say kudos to Target for trying this. It fits their brand to a T.

Martin Mehalchin
BrainTrust

This program seems very consistent with Target’s brand and social/PR strategy and will probably be a net positive for them.

One risk here that’s similar to the case with celebrity endorsements is that one of these bloggers could say or do something offensive and the negative publicity from such an incident would overwhelm any prior benefit from the program.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

I agree with the comments already made on both sides of the discussion. I am still believing the bloggers are not paid…yet. But I also agree how biased they have to be in order to keep their name out there. I wonder what their true motivation is? Could it be to draw a large network of followers and then start a fee-based program?

Brian Numainville
BrainTrust

The perception of objectivity is a big issue here. Clearly this has to be overcome in order for this to succeed. While these may be expert bloggers, Target will need to prove that their “special treatment” does not cloud their objectivity and render their influence less valid.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
4 years 10 days ago

Hey, does anybody here remember the big department stores’ helpful “College Board” girls who were chosen and publicized with great press and fanfare every summer? Of course that predated blogging and social media but the concept seems to be pretty much the same: select popular cool kids to help influence less cool kids about what to buy and wear on campus. What ever happened to the college boards? Well, I believe those PR programs eventually got nuked partly because times changed, and shoppers came to laugh at them (and all the obvious shilling) more than they were impressed or influenced to purchase.

Also, did anyone else notice in the picture that the upper end range of Target’s blog crew seems to be about 45 max? That doesn’t look so good either.

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