This is a guest contribution from Sam Wright at techgirlblog.com.
I’d had my technology lifestyle blog for little over a year when I began working with an influencer marketing platform, connecting brands and bloggers on sponsored collaborations.
Blogging in my region hadn’t become a true income source yet (that has changed in recent months and I like to think I had something to do with it) and a solid nine-to-fiver seemed the “safe” bet, especially as the platform would let me continue my blog.
One year on, I’ve had my job title change almost bi-monthly, I’ve stood in boardrooms and fought, almost to the point of tears, for bloggers, and I’ve also stood in boardrooms and been let down, almost to the point of tears, by bloggers.
The business of blogging is evolving at a rapid pace and I’ve been lucky enough to wear both “hats”, that of the creator and that of the brand on the other side, fearfully giving up creative control of their identity to a blogger.
Playing these dual roles has taught me four key lessons that I now apply to my blog and my job. These insights have allowed me to better monetise my own platforms but also given me the ability to ensure income for other creators. These are my learnings and whether blogger or brand, I’m hoping they can assist you as much as they have me!
Content. Content. Content.
It seems like such a cliche but the truth is everything links back to the content you produce.
Good content builds your audience and invites engagement, which then makes you attractive to brands – who then become interested in paying you to create good content in order to get exposure for their product or service.
Creating great content isn’t rocket science but there are a few additional things I’ve learnt over the years. The first is that good content is subjective. I’ve seen things produced by other creators and thought: “what the hell is that?” and yet it has gone on to do incredibly well with their audience. I’ve also seen really bad content that has little to no creative flair that gets published, getting no response from the targeted audience and yet the brand is over the moon because they liked it.
Sometimes it is hard, as a blogger, to remember that you don’t create content for brands but for your audience. It shouldn’t be hard, but it can be. I have a day job, so for my blog it is easy for me to say no to something that doesn’t sit with me, but I know that when your livelihood depends on the income your little space on the internet derives, it could be easy to think you could twist the content to work. You can’t. You shouldn’t. Don’t do it. All the money in the world won’t make up for the audience you’ll lose down the line.
As a creator myself I can say this with confidence: that audience means more to you than anything and if you’re true to your craft you’ll happily penny pinch to retain them. Long term it will mean less penny pinching because you’ll be far more respected than the blogger who chose to make the quick buck along the way.
Report on EVERYTHING
Vanity stats, the stuff you think no one cares about and then the extra statistics you don’t even understand – make sure they all go in your closing report.
My biggest learning from a blogger’s perspective after my first year at an influencer marketing platform has been that sometimes the blogger in me gets far too caught up in the creative.
The business of blogging has two parts: Blogging and Business. Business needs a return on investment. Lots of eyeballs on some gorgeous flat lays isn’t enough and, in time, we’re going to see even the best creators fall away if they don’t begin to show an accurate conversion. Your blog post or Instagram photo is simply one section of a giant funnel leading the consumer to the point of sale.
Bloggers, when approached to work with brands, need to ask what the goal is and what the measurement criteria is going to be. Don’t do the job if you don’t think you can deliver – and when delivery time comes be sure to over-deliver: track links, track audience demographics, track the keywords they searched to get to the post you wrote. Every little detail is like a tiny golden nugget for a brand attempting to not only target the right consumer but also lead them to a point where they purchase a product.
I’m about to be a little bit controversial now but if I take off my influencer marketing hat for a minute and put on my blogger hat: I know how annoying influencer marketing platforms can be.
I realise that they constantly hound you to sign up with no real promise of reward. I know you think they take the power out of your hands. I feel you. But the truth is, these platforms offer a service to the brand on the other side that bloggers have failed at: they know how to accurately report on a campaign.
Rather than fighting ten bloggers to get any sort of statistic other than “it got 20,000 views”, “there were 35 likes”, “my monthly uniques are…” it is far easier for a brand to pay a fee to a platform to pull the data they need to build their digital campaigns. The truth is we, as bloggers, are selling ourselves short and not delivering on the costs associated with running content on our blogs.
Report on ALL. THE. THINGS.
Blogging is about community – start collaborating
Sometimes during the hunt for money to put food on our table or the obsessive need with growing our platforms I think we forget why we started blogging in the first place. I think we forget that we wanted to have a space to share with like minded people who think like us or feel like us or could relate to us in some sort of way. We forget the conversations with our friends that revolved around theme design or the concept art behind our latest blog.
You’ll notice that most influencer marketing campaigns usually involve more than one blogger or creator. That’s because a few bloggers reach a far larger target market than just one. I’ve learnt to take the business thinking and apply it to my blogging. Working with other bloggers on projects (even ones that don’t make me money) allows me to reach a new audience who might potentially be interested in my blog. It also allows the other blogger to reach my audience. Most importantly though? It makes me happy.
Even if you want to make your blog a fully-fledged business, it should still make you happy. It takes so much of your energy to create, it’s important you enjoy it. I enjoy working with other creatives (usually far better than me at what they do) because I am able to learn so much from what they do and how they work. There’s a reason we flock to a site like ProBlogger and it is because the only people who really understand the passion that goes into maintaining a blog are other bloggers.
It comes down to relationships
In one year I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest brands in the world. I’ve collaborated with some of the most well respected international media and advertising agencies both on my blog and at the influencer marketing platform I work at.
My boss is going to want me to tell you it is because of our amazing technology and the blogger in me wants to say it is because of the incredible, but small, audience I’ve built. There is no doubt that those things play a big role but I’m pretty sure there is one defining factor across that board that results in success: good relationships are built on a foundation of trust.
My blog readers trust me and because they trust me they come to me for advice or read my content for assistance. My “day job” clients trust me when I suggest our tech to better manage their influencer campaigns and report on them because I’ve been able to prove it delivers on what I say it does. My “blogging” clients trust me to look after a brand they’ve cherished, nurtured and built because they trust me (sometimes blindly). Those relationships aren’t made overnight. They’re like any other relationship and take time to nurture.
The first three things I learnt all link directly to the relationships you build: be it with other bloggers, your audience, with brands or even with the influencer marketing platform you might decide to sign up to.
In my time juggling hats I’ve realised the importance of people and of the connections we’re able to make. Ironically, the need to make those connections was the reason I started blogging in the first place.
Sam Wright is a lifestyle technology blogger at techgirlblog.com. She also heads up the software partners division at Webfluential – an influencer marketing technology company.