‘Do you have a blog’? That phrase has become one of the go-to questions at interviews, casual meetings and get-togethers. Most of the time they don’t even wait for you to answer, as they yank out their phones to prepare themselves to look for the glorious blogging identity you’re about to bequeath to them. And no one can blame them for their hasty assumption because ANYONE can start a blog. In fact that’s the easiest and cheapest step in the process. However it’s one thing to start a blog and another to have an efficacious operation. Fashion blogging is a highly saturated and competitive field, so how does one become a prosperous, lucrative and renowned blogger?
But First: Let’s review the basics
Now most of you probably have this part down but if the traffic to your blog is a little lacklustre, perhaps you DO need to review this step.
Domain: It needs to be catchy and convey your niche or personality. Don’t let readers glaze over your blog name because it looks like every other one… and no, adding ‘z’ to the end of fashion doesn’t count. Sites such as Tumblr are for promotion purposes and you need a virtual home, with your own name, and blog hosting to have a legit blog.
Write Frequently: The first thing you probably realised when you started to blog is that it is actually a lot of hard work. To keep readers consistently coming back they need to know that there will always be new and well-written content to go back to. Set up a schedule, say three times a week, stick to it and remain consistent.
Presentation is key: this may go without saying – especially since this IS fashion blogging but appearances matter in this world. Because you are a brand in your own right, presentation should be at the forefront of your mind. Most bloggers do use semi to fully professional cameras for example to get the right quality of images for all their platforms. It’s also about how you choose to layout the page, which font you’re going to use, what kind of content they’re going to run with and overall presentation package. You’re appearance and your blog have the right to be and remain stylish; in the parameters of what makes you, you of course. Whether you’re an established brand or just starting out, this point needs careful consideration and more than just a paragraph. Luckily, we covered it in-depth in Fashion Branding 101 and Fashion Branding II.
Supporting Platform Must-haves: if you’re relying on Twitter to push your fashion agenda, you’re slightly out of the loop. Turns out the blue bird is the least influential platform in the fashion industry when it comes to social networking. Unsurprisingly, Instagram and Pinterest reign supreme due to their visual element, which offers more creative avenues via pictures and video. Instagram alone inspires decisions in at least one fashion category for 42% of women ages 18-29. While Facebook works best influencing 72% of social shoppers. Whatever media you choose to work with, ensure that they are linked and that they even carry the same hashtag. Just make sure you’re not taking on more than you can handle. You don’t have to be on every platform.
As Kenyans, we are famous at sticking to any format that looks successful. I mean, why fix something that isn’t broken, am I right? The problem with that logic is that there will be no incentive for the readers to want to come to your page when 10 other bloggers are doing the same thing already. We’re not suggesting earth-shattering alterations because quite frankly that’s impossible. The trick lies in the little things such as growing your own writing style, picking the perfect blog name that reflects you and the kind of content you wish to put out there, aiming to be ahead of the trends, choosing to showcase your photos in a different style or even adding a little more DIY into your projects.
Originality translates into staying power because choosing to run unique content will not only keep things fresh for readers but also get them to start identifying more with you than the latest issue everyone in the ‘fashionsphere’ is blogging about.
PR is your friend
Your blog is basically Tinkerbelle from Peter Pan. It needs a serious dose of applause and deep belief to keep the magic alive. And the only way it will get the admiration it deserves is by staying active online, maintaining relationships with brands and other prominent personalities in the industries, as well as mastering the art of graceful self-promotion.
It starts with making it easier for others to find you. Did you pop into Backyard Shoez and find THE shoes of your dream? Instagram and tag their handle. Did another blogger just refer to your page in their post? Keep calm and retweet that immediately! Nominated for the BAKE awards? Make a call out for your current readers to vote for you. Working on a project with other industry players such as MUAs (make-up artists) or photographers, tag them when the project is uploaded to your site. No matter how big or small your accomplishments are, use your platform to celebrate other people’s success as well. If you can’t remember any of the above, never forget to build and maintain your NETWORK. The more people looking at your page, the higher your web traffic will grow and that is what big brands notice. In a 2011 study by WWD (Women’s Wear Daily) Rumi Nely clocked over a million unique monthly page hits to her blog ‘Fashion Toast’ and 1.5 million unique page views a month to ManRepeller.com which according to WorthofWeb.com has translated to a monetary value of $1.3 million and $8.1 million respectively.
Suss out the competition
I know you want to be autonomous and your blog is a self-expression vessel but every relationship needs some work put into it to see results. In this case, it includes competition analysis. This can give you the facts that will help you put out a new blog, your next post or even a product. The thing about your original idea is that it probably has been done before in one way or another by someone else. Using a platform like Market Samurai can give you invaluable stats on what they got right and what isn’t working, such as trending keywords that get the people liking and following, or how many and where your back links should come from.
Concurrently you should also be self-evaluating by developing the habit of looking at your analytics.
Concurrently you should also be self-evaluating by developing the habit of looking at your analytics. From your Google Analytics account, you can get a daily report on how you faired the previous week, determine factually what did well and what flunked and apply what you’ve learned to improve your blog. That includes analysing your social media platforms too. You can use platforms such as StatCounter to help you build the habit or draw some inspiration from the “How Estée Lauder Creates Effective Pictures for Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram” published by The Wall Street Journal.
Determine your Niche
This one tends to be a tough one for most bloggers yet it’s one of the key tools for success. Entrepreneur Press and Marketing expert, Jason R. Rich explains in the book ‘Start Your Own Blogging Business’ that having a defined niche creates a dedicated audience base. It also gives the blogger a directive on what content to feature, what your specialty will be as well as how often you want to post. The bonus is, it helps with the promotion of the page. The more defined your niche, the easier it will be to cater to the relevant reader’s needs. The good thing about blogging is that there is room to evolve; of course following a well thought out plan of execution.
The more defined your niche, the easier it will be to cater to the relevant reader’s needs.
Spend money to make money
From afar it looks like bloggers have glamorous lives, what with the travelling, shopping sprees and freebies. However, the truth is you can’t get away without spending some of your own. Blogger BryanBoy, mentioned in an interview with Fashionista that there are expenses and they do add up. Apart from paying for your domain, you may want to spend a little more on getting a professional web designer or maybe a professional camera or photographer. Then there’s the need to build your audience. Jason R. Rich stresses that on-going marketing, promotions and at times paid advertisements are necessary to achieve this. There’s only so far sharing with your network and email subscriptions will take you. And this promotion is a continuous endeavour, just as important as having new content.
BBHMM (Blog Better Have My Money)
The most obvious profit-earning avenue is the selling of ad space. There’s nothing wrong with this… as long as the ad is relevant to your blog. That is on a content level, as well as quality and reputation of the brand. You can’t be an ethical blog running an ad or marketing campaign from a designer that has just been exposed for running a sweatshop without hurting your credibility with your readers. The ripple effect will lead to no sales for the advertiser making that a short-term partnership. Note, just because all the ads are relevant doesn’t mean you should squeeze them all in. Not only is it messy, it makes your site hard to navigate.
Google AdSense: While were still on the topic of ads, bloggers can take advantage of the world’s largest search engine to make some money. Google AdSense works on the principle where Google pays the blogger a small percentage for allowing them to display adverts from companies that have paid to be at the top of Google’s search results. According to online marketing expert, Zac Johnson, Google AdSense will only feature relevant ads on your blog and it’s the simplest method for newbie bloggers to make money.
Brand Partnerships: Brands like to team with up strong blogs that can hold their own but also complement the brand’s vision. In an interview with Style Caster Natalie Decleve of Natty Style suggested starting with small brands when your blog is still pretty young to build your experience and grow your portfolio to get the big brands to take notice. In the beginning, some of these projects will be on a non-payment basis but as you gradually grow and receive regular requests then the money will start coming in.
Affiliate Marketing: This is another straightforward concept where the blogger makes a commission every time a sale comes from the site or from the referral lead. The upside is that you can choose the products you want to promote and you don’t have to be involved with customer payments, holding inventory or processing orders.
Cut out the Middle Man: If the above isn’t working for you perhaps you can create your own product or service. This will have to be in relation to the kind of content you put out on your blog. For example, selling video courses or eBooks has worked for bloggers who didn’t want a labour intensive route. An article in the Huffington Post, ‘How to make Money Blogging’ offering paid classes such as online tutorials, small panels, seminars or one-on-one sessions.
Sponsored Content: This form of money making has to be approached with ethics of blogging in mind. The brand will approach the blogger to create content, at a fee, which is relevant to the merchandise or service they’re looking to promote. For example blogger Ms Kibati being contacted by CBA to create content on her platforms that would promote Concours D’elegance. Such content which is usually paid for by the brand should have the phrases “in collaboration with” or ‘advertorial’ clearly marked out in the text to let readers know it’s an advertorial.
The thing to keep in mind as you embark on your blogging journey is that good things do take time to come to you. While most bloggers appear glamourous, there’s a lot of hard work, late nights, and hours of networking that has gone into building their current empire. And the work doesn’t stop. There will be days where you’ll be overwhelmed and want to quit, but it’s your long-term goals that will keep you going.