Morning Update: My roommates tell me I’m apparently obligated to tell you all that it’s my birthday. So… I’m turning 20 today. YIKES! I’ve been a teenager for exactly half my life and this change is freakin’ me out… I’M SO OLD! I celebrated with a very nice dinner with close friends last night and I’m celebrating today by going to class from 9:00am-6:30pm and going to rehearsal from 6:30pm-9:00pm. Exciting, no? Hope you all have a marvelous day!
This is my second in a series of several posts about the amazing eye-opening things I learned about blogging at the Texas Style Council Conference in Austin over spring break. The first panel following Jennine Jacob’s keynote address was titled Going Pro, and discussed in detail the ins and outs of monetizing your blog and seeking sponsorships, affiliates, and advertisers. The panel featured Alessandra from Lulu*s, Elisa from BlogHer, Grechen from Grechen’s Closet, Patty from Charming Charlie, and was moderated by Jen from Jen Loves Kev.
I want to preface the lessons I learned by pointing out that clearly I’m not an expert on this subject. I don’t have any sponsors, affiliates, or advertisers, (yet), and have never tried to seek them out. However, that will probably change in the future and after hearing this panel I feel very prepared to make this transition and ready to navigate the wide world of monetization when I feel my blog is ready. So, without further adieu, here are the important lessons I learned about “going pro.”
1. Know the difference between making money from your blog versus making money because of your blog. The difference is actually pretty important. Making money from your blog means directly earning income from ad sales, sponsored posts, affiliate links, etc, which come directly from your blog and are generally paid to you (the blogger) by a company, service, or brand. Making money because of your blog is a little more difficult to identify. You would fit into this category if your blog helps draw customers to your business, such as a store or photographer or some type of consultant, or even someone with an online etsy shop. However, you also might fit in to this category if you use your blog as a portfolio of work or accomplishments, which you use to solicit business or showcase your talent to potential employers. You also fit into the “because” category if you are paid for appearances due to the expertise you demonstrate on your blog, or garner a book or writing contribution deal due to your talent as a blogger. Once you know which category you fit into, and which you want to fit into, then you can begin building a plan for expanding into monetization.
2. While numbers (traffic) are important when soliciting partners, what comes before numbers is readers, and from that, a need to establish a relationship with your audience. This is definitely what I see as the weakest area of my blog and the thing I want to improve the most. The reason I started blogging (aside from my boyfriend telling me to just do it already so he wouldn’t have to here me ogle other people’s blogs with envy anymore) was to have the opportunity to share my views on trends with other people with strong opinions about similar things and hear their point of view. Above all other things I wanted my blog to be interactive- a real discussion. For the month of February, my blog received over 1,000 page views for the first time in the 5 months I’ve been blogging. (YAY!!!!!) However, my posts for that month typically received less than 5 comments. I know there are clearly many people reading my writing, but not feeling the need to respond. I’m going to try to ask questions and do what I can to encourage participation in my thoughts. There’s no one way to do this… so it’s going to be mostly trial and error. I’ve heard asking questions is a good way so I’ll try that but I want to do something more. How do you cultivate the communities who follow your blogs? What strategies really generate authentic discussion? Talk to me people!!
3. When seeking out sponsors, don’t sell yourself short. Explain how you and your blog offer something unique for the company/service/brand and how valuable you will be to them. Anyone can run a giveaway and put a little ad square on their sidebar. (And many do, and those work, and they make money, and it’s totally fine.) But to really attract a potential sponsor’s attention, you need to think of what you can provide above and beyond the typical advertising methods. Maybe you’re really witty on twitter and have a strong, active group following your tweets. Maybe you have a passion for outfit styling and like to encourage your audience to compete in styling contests. Figure out how to exploit what your best at for sponsors. With the wide array of platforms available blogging can be completely free (mine is)- you don’t need sponsors to be able to blog. But, sponsors do need bloggers to successfully make an impact in the age of social media. Therefore, they need you more than you need them. Bloggers have the power, you just need to show them how powerful your blog can be!
4. What is a media kit and do you need one to send to potential sponsors? A media kit is basically an e-packet of information for advertisers that lets them know all about your blog. It typically includes a bio of the author(s), a profile and demographics of the typical readers, press your blog has received, blog statistics (traffic etc), and other relevant information you want advertisers to know about. If you’re going to have one, you want companies to be able to download it as a pdf directly from your site, or you can e-mail it to them upon request. Of an unofficial, non-scientific poll taken at the conference, half of all bloggers in attendance had a media kit and half had no idea what that was. The corporate representatives on the panel said that when they consider potential bloggers to work with, an official media kit isn’t necessary. Sometimes a thorough and intriguing “about me” page will serve exactly the same purpose. Especially for relatively new bloggers, a media kit is not considered a necessity nor will potential advertisers think you’re unprofessional for not having one. That being said, however, most “big time” bloggers have one, and it could be a smart business move if you’re looking to make some serious income. But, definitely not necessary for a while. Do you have a media kit for your blog? What does it include? Have you gotten more or less success with or without one?
Were these tips useful to you? Do you plan on monetizing your blog or will you stay free and simple? For those of you who have already monetized, what was the transition like, and do you agree or disagree with these ideas? Please join the interactive community I’m trying to create and discuss :)