The best part about being a successful entrepreneur and influencer is not the freebies or VIP access; it’s being able to use your creativity to share your passion with the world. Arguably, one of the biggest measures of success is to take your creative output and turn it into a business. Our successful colleagues in this industry who are savvy about monetization wear so many hats! Photography, styling, editing, PR, and sales, to name a few skills. So . . . how are you going to get from blogger to entrepreneur?
It sounds easy, but it’s going to get much harder when the prospect of a much-needed paycheck is dangled in front of you. We all have been fans of a favorite blogger, only to watch her scale in following and then see her content become one irrelevant ad after another. It feels inauthentic. It alienates your hard-earned user base.
Don't be afraid to say no when a proposed partnership feels off-brand. Be polite, and if you choose, perhaps keep the door open for the future. Focus your brand partnership outreach where partnerships feel organic and where you know you can really create fun and compelling content. Here’s a recent example from my own social media platform (actually it's my dog's platform, but she's truly fabulous): I passed on a partnership with a brand because it didn't feel like it made sense with Ella Bean’s luxury persona, and I later saw the brand partner with some of the biggest names in social media. The campaign TOTALLY worked on those social channels, but it wouldn't have worked on mine. I was excited for my colleagues, and the agency actually told me they respected that I was so honest (polite, of course!). The flip side is we partnered with a luxury vacuum cleaner to make a fun video, and it was one of my top-performing posts in terms of likes and comments. The content was fun, on brand, and relatable. Engagement that is aligned with your organic content should be a benchmark of success for your business as you negotiate deals.
Monetizing your platform(s) isn’t all about giant deals and big paychecks.
Are you using affiliate links? No? Then stop what you are doing and go sign up for ShopStyle Collective. No, really. It's hands down the easiest way to monetize your content from day one. The open platform makes it easy to sign up no matter where you are in your blogging career, and the tools make it simple to create tracking links on all your favorite products, enabling you to monetize all the content you are creating anyway. Vloggers and Instagrammers, you can optimize with these tools, too. We've got you covered. Don't wait until you've got a certain amount of followers or think because you might be newer to blogging that affiliate monetization isn't for you. Starting to consistently create affiliate links from day one ensures you'll grow your revenue as you scale your following. Bonus: you’ll also have insights into products and brands your users click and purchase. You can use this information to help guide some of your content and glean insights into consumer trends. You’re now empowered to be a consumer expert AND you are making money.
OPTIONS, OPTIONS, OPTIONS
While you are creating content with all those affiliate links, don't forget to give your readers options. We all obviously want the gorgeous Chloé crossbody bag you are rocking in your post, but your readers may have budgets that fall on the lower end of the spectrum. Use widgets to create options at the bottom of each post to give options at multiple price points. This is also a great tool when you are showcasing something from a past season or if you focus on vintage. Experts tell me that the rule of thumb is to have three to five options on the primary focal piece in your post. That amount of product is digestible for readers and manageable for you. Plus, you can just plug in your search term into ShopStyle and voilà! Options galore. You are welcome.
We all know that converting users to make purchases on mobile is challenging, and that really is a bummer considering more and more users are spending time consuming your content on mobile. It’s time to get creative. One idea could be to create a newsletter signup so you can email users links to what you've worn. Make sure you stay up to date as new innovations roll out to get your users shopping on their smartphones. Challenge your affiliate partner to give you mobile monetizing options. We want to hear your ideas too, if you have them! We have some innovations of our own brewing and can't wait to roll them out for you in 2016.That said, don't forget your mobile ad placements. If you've got banners and widgets on your site, optimize some of those placements for mobile, and don't miss out on that audience. Prepare yourself — mobile money is going to be all of our BFF.
THINK BEYOND THE BLOG (AND INSTAGRAM)
Your properties are incredibly important, and you should be creating content that drives users across your various channels. That said, maybe your photos are incredible. Have you thought about marketing your photography to your clients and time as a photographer for brands to use on their content? Are you a killer stylist and could crush the styling on your favorite brand's next lookbook? Can you edit a closet or stage an insane vignette? Brands crave unique content ideas. Get experience doing something that sets you apart from the pack as you grow your business. Offer those services to small brands or powerful influencers that you align with, build your portfolio, and barter for social and blog post mentions while you grow. You'll make deep relationships that will last a lifetime. You’ll benefit from editorial features and social mentions that will help you scale and gain experience that makes you totally unique.
Bonus tip: not all payments happen to be made via money. Social currency is incredibly valuable when scaling your presence online. If a brand doesn't have a budget to work with you but you know that brand is an ideal partner, think about how to make it worth your while. Trade content for features on their various channels. Make the content and social exchange a recurring feature.
Through all of this, don’t forget to have fun. You got into this world to create your own business, so enjoy the process and remember to savor the wins and view challenges as opportunities to push your skill set and learn. Cheesy but true: in my experience, the hardest challenges I’ve come up against have made me smarter, made me faster, and allowed me to score higher revenue opportunities than before.
Hilary Sloan leads ShopStyle’s East Coast business development team and works with top brands like Net-a-Porter.com, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Barneys New York to monetize via affiliate and creative partnerships. In building relationships with brands and working with ShopStyle and ShopStyle Collective’s blogger community, she realized that many young bloggers don’t quite have the tools to get started on building their business. She’s spoken in the past at Create + Cultivate, IFB, and other blogger conferences on the topic of monetization, revenue, and brand partnerships. When not at ShopStyle, Hilary can be found applying all her skills to her own mini influencer, her dog, Ella Bean. Learn more of her tips on monetizing your blog on $$: Monetizing across different channels and strategically growing your following at Create & Cultivate Dallas.