How to turn your blog into a business
BlogHer.com, an online community for women bloggers, recently held the BlogHer ’11 Conference in San Diego, where experts shared tips for turning your blog into a viable business.
BlogPulse.com recorded 156 million public blogs as of February of this year. According to Technorati.com, nearly 40 percent of bloggers are actually generating revenue through things like ad sales, corporate sponsorships and speaking engagements.
Women are no strangers to the world of social media. In fact, BlogHer.com research shows that 42 million active social media participants are female.
Here, we share some of the best BlogHer '11 takeaways on how to make the leap from hobbyist to professional blogger.
Joining a publishing network can simplify the sales process and bring ads to your qualified blog, whatever its size.
"We work with companies to sell ads on our network, and that leaves bloggers free to do what they love: write," said Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer.com.
According to Page, bloggers considering joining a publishing network should keep the following in mind:
- Quality, not (always) quantity. Potential advertisers are evaluating you just as they would a cable network or magazine. They are looking for consistent posting with quality content, and a site that is clean and easy for readers to navigate.
- Ethics and transparency. Follow basic industry guidelines for disclosure and be honest about relationships with businesses. Readers are generally OK with you writing about a sponsored product or event, as long as you tell them.
- Think and act like a pro. A blog may not be a brick-and-mortar store, but it's still a business. How do you interact with people? How do you approach design and content? Think about how you are presenting yourself to potential advertisers.
In April, BlogHer.com released its 2011 Social Media Matters study that found 88 percent of active readers in the United States trust the information they receive from familiar blogs. Nearly half of them have purchased products based on blogger recommendations.
It's no surprise, then, that companies are integrating these bloggers directly into their marketing programs. Working with a corporate sponsor can be as simple as writing a few posts for their company blog or as involved as becoming their brand ambassador at events.
"No matter how you decide to work with a company, just remember that your blog is both your platform and portfolio," said Page. "And even smaller bloggers can do well for themselves, especially if they are focused on a niche."
"Your life stories should be woven throughout your blog in a way that communicates your personal brand," said Amie Valpone, who started blogging at TheHealthyApple.com and has since become a brand ambassador for Rudi's Gluten-Free Bread and Musselman's Applesauce.
Interested in working with a corporate sponsor? Here are some tips from BlogHer '11 attendees and guest speakers:
- Don't force it. The basis of the partnership should come naturally. Don't approach a haute couture fashion company if your blog is about budget-friendly style, no matter how much you love their shoes. The partnership should be an obvious fit.
- Create a proposal. Good bloggers are not only writers; they're marketers. Develop a proposal for the company you want to target and include a summary of your blog, qualifications, monthly visitors and a paragraph on why that company should work with you. Outline your ideas for marketing that company, but be careful not to give away too much information.
- Hone your pitch. Find the right contact at that company (usually a public relations or marketing rep) and send them a pitch email, which is a shortened version of your proposal. Instead of regurgitating the same information, though, focus on this question: What makes you the only person in the world that can do the things outlined in that proposal?
Evolve your content
Make your expertise accessible to a wider audience through things like e-books, speaking engagements and seminars. Nicole Longstreath of TheWardrobeCode.com did.
Tired of a drab corporate wardrobe, Longstreath set out to renew her clothing arsenal by shopping only at Goodwill for nine months. She blogged about the experience along the way and gained followers who, before she knew it, started asking for tips.
In October, she is launching a three-week webinar called "Cracking the Wardrobe Code" based on her social experiment and blog. Her tips for developing an online seminar include:
- Think strategically. Put your ideas on paper and develop a marketing plan that includes ways to promote your seminar and how you want to structure each session.
- Determine a cost. Start by figuring out how much money you'd like to make, then decide on how many attendees you can realistically handle. How much will you need to charge each attendee to reach your goal? Most importantly, make sure the content of your seminar matches that value. Don't shortchange yourself or attendees.
- Market the seminar. Your social media networks are full of potential business. Use your online communities to market the seminar. Take the promotion offline to networking events and local businesses that are relevant to your message.
New ways to make money with your blog pop up every day. But whether you're selling ad space or working for a corporate sponsor, there is one recurring theme: brand authenticity that's supported by a strategic plan.