Hello, friends! Happy One Month Blogging to me. This past month has been such a whirlwind. I have met so many beautiful souls! And I’ve worked with brands I never thought would want to work with me. I just wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned in this first month, as well as some of the things I’d like to do differently moving forward. As I’ve stated before, I know that blogging is a learning experience. I don’t expect and will never expect to know absolutely everything about blogging (or anything, really), and trial and tribulation are my teachers moving forward.
I’ll preface this by saying vulnerability and the admission of our shortcomings are part of what make us strong. Contrary to what you may think about vulnerability, it allows us to connect with one another on an extremely emotional, hyper-personal level. I’ve only been doing this for one month, and the things I’ve been doing that haven’t worked for me may work differently for you. Or, maybe my confession that they’re not working for me may make you realize they’re not working for you either! I don’t know. I just hope it helps you somehow, in some way. Let’s get into it!
1) There are a handful of resources for micro-influencers
I’ll start off with this one since I think it’s the most surprising. I had no idea there were so many resources for micro-influencers looking to break into the industry to work with brands. Like zero idea. It makes sense, now that I think about it in hindsight. After all, influencer marketing has been successful for a literal decade now. Affiliate marketing, too. It’s an extremely lucrative way to connect with audiences, especially Millennials and Gen Zers (which now make up 40 percent of consumers, I might add). I don’t know why it surprised me so much that there are actually ways (and a number of them) to connect with smaller brands.
Apps to Connect with Brands
Let’s talk apps. There’s quite a few that allow you to connect with “smaller” brands, meaning brands with <10k followers on Instagram. They’re working at getting their business off the ground, and they want to work with micro-influencers like me (with <10k followers) to reach more people. Now, let’s say you’re a brand that sells… socks, for example. Your sock company has 100 followers. With that being said, it may not be the best thing to go straight after the “Insta-famous” influencers. You know the ones, that are working with brands that are featured in Sephora or Ulta. Think of all of the other sock companies out there that are sending them DMs on the daily, asking them to promote their socks.
However, with micro-influencers, you have a much higher chance at getting your name out there and connecting to their followers. And you start to slowly grow your brand, your reach, your sales. It’s a great way to reach consumers.
Collabor8 is a great way to connect with those smaller brands. Brands are able to describe what they’re looking for, and you can request to collaborate. You can set different guidelines, timelines and time requests, as well as the trading requirements to ensure you both are on the same page. I’ve gotten to work with quite a few brands through this app, trying different travel tools and health supplements thus far.
Another useful app I’ve accepted a few collaborations off of is an app called Rep. There are a ton of different listings on here, which make it easy to connect with brands and decide if you’re a good fit for their campaigns. However, I do find that the communication isn’t as streamlined as Collabor8. There seems to be more of a “bulletin board” vibe on it, but it makes for great user to user interaction in addition to brands. There are many opportunities to join different engagement pods, which I’ll get to in just a minute 😉
Heartbeat, Glambassadors and Influensters
These are all other applications I’ve tried out, and I actually highly recommend Heartbeat and Glambassadors. Influensters is a bit odd because you give product reviews to earn points, whereas Heartbeat and Glambassadors allow you to apply for different opportunities. I have been rejected from quite a few campaigns, but I’ve also had the chance to work with different brands I really believe in. So, I’d highly recommend those. Give them a try!
I’ve joined the CJ and Bead and Reel affiliate networks, which I found have worked the best with my blog and the brands I want to represent. However, there are several out there to join. Most of them require you to apply to be a part of it, but don’t get discouraged if you’re rejected the first go-around! You can always reapply later on. Just be sure to find an affiliate network you personally believe in, meaning: don’t just join any of them just to join. Choose networks with products/brands you truly believe in and want to represent. I haven’t started promoting affiliate products just yet, but I’m learning about it and want to start off on the right foot once I do. Any pointers?
Side note: It’s also super important to be organized about your partnerships from the beginning! I have a folder in Google Drive that’s dedicated to my promotional marketing. It’s important to keep track of your posting requirements, financial transactions and deadlines from the get-go (I learned the hard way). Staying organized from the beginning will ensure a professional relationship between you, your affiliates and campaign opportunities.
2) Saying no is totally fine (as always)
Alright, now I’m going to get into the nitty-gritty. I’ve just listed a bunch of different ways to connect with brands, not to mention the various boutiques and online stores that’ll reach into your DMs or comment on your posts, letting you know they want to work with you. At first, I was so excited by this. This brand wants to work with me? Of course, I want to work with them! Sign me up.
But… let’s hold on a second! Is this a brand I really believe in? Is this a product I truly want to represent? These are all things I honestly didn’t consider right off the bat. I was quick to send brands my mailing information when really, I should’ve taken a step back and inspected a bit further.
My goal is to be intentional, honest and genuine with the products I promote and the content I create. I have always respected influencers and content creators that are extremely intentional with their partnerships, and thus it is natural for me to approach campaigns the same way.
3) Sticking strong to your morals
Story Time: I had a brand reach out to me to work with me in promoting their skincare items. They let me know that I could try it for a few weeks, and if I liked it, I could promote it. I sent them my address, they sent me the serum. Seemed like a pretty normal interaction, until their rep informed me that I should not mention it was sent to me for free.
If I’m being honest, that just didn’t sit right with me.
Your voice is important, and it’s always extremely necessary to stand up for what you believe. This brand already sent me their product, then told me not to mention that it was sent to me for free. To me, that’s pretty sneaky.
I’ve been a YouTube content consumer for some time now, and let me tell ya: drama channels eat this right up. Right! Up! And they should, too, because it’s kinda unethical to me. I let them know I wasn’t comfortable with that, and they assured me it was totally cool for me to mention it was gifted, but that they didn’t prefer that. When it comes down to it, just wanna be up front about it to the brand and to my audience from the beginning, which is why I bring this up.
I have a specific page on my website dedicated to detailing my Disclosures and Policies for transparency, and I’d love if you checked it out.
4) Who am I trying to reach, anyway?
I’ve taken various strategic communications classes in college. In so many of them, the importance of defining your audience is underlined and highlighted to the max. Who are we trying to reach? It’s important to recognize your target audience in advertising and marketing, and of course, your blog is no different.
At first, when I started this, I thought: I want to reach girls. Girls from the ages of 15-30, girls who are finding themselves and building their lives and their careers. I want to reach women who are passionate about a lot of things, like me. That’s my target audience.
And, well, that’s great, and I still want to reach those women, but the reality is: that’s way too broad. It took me a little while to realize that the audience my content was resonating the most with were bloggers. Girls who are also in the creative, content creation space. Women who are also passionate about social media, digital analytics, graphic design and fashion. My audience hasn’t changed, but it is more clear to me the people who I’m actually reaching: people exactly like me.
I find this difficult to wrap my head around, even now, because how does that make any sense? I’m blogging to connect with other bloggers? What does it mean to build an audience based off of the exact audience that wants you to be theirs? I’m getting very meta, I know, and that’s what’s hard to process for me. It’s like the Inception of the blogging world. It was difficult for me to understand, but I feel that I’m much more clear on it now; I’m working to connect with other women the same way they’re working to connect with me. I’m pinning things on Pinterest and building blog posts that resonate with women just like me, and that’s how I’m going to grow.
5) Reciprocity is a major key
And that leads me to my next point: reciprocity. Because I’m trying to connect with these women the same way they’re trying to connect with me, reciprocity is extremely important. Of course, I’m a big believer that you’ve got to support your Girl Gang, and this is an example of that. We’re growing together, and in turn, you’re meeting amazing, incredible women behind brands and blogs that deserve the exposure. Sounds like a win-win-win to me.
Before starting all of this, I had no idea what the heck an engagement pod was. Aforementioned, you could join them with a plethora of people you don’t know over on Rep, where people post bulletins and you can just join their pod no problem. However, they are a bunch of people you don’t know, with content that you may not necessarily normally consume.
Don’t get me wrong, you could probably find an engagement pod or two off of websites like that where you actually meet people that align with your interests and actually build authentic connections. I just haven’t had that experience yet.
After a while, though, my good friend Katiee who runs her own blog invited me to one with other gals she knew. All of our content, I think, is really similar; there’s only about 9 of us in there. I don’t know, I’m just a big fan of that because I’ve gotten to meet some pretty cool people and I have people who are interested in reading my content. It works because we’re all really similar, and we’re real people that want to build authentic connections with one another. Which to me, is the ultimate goal anyhow, right?
6) People don’t always have pure intentions
Gonna keep this one short and sweet. Starting this has made me realize that not everyone has the purest of intentions, especially when meeting and working with new people.
You just have to realize: it’s okay to let go of what you thought was a healthy, symbiotic relationship with another person, but was actually more of a parasitic situation (lol, high school biology makes its first appearance ever). It’s okay to say no, and politely decline to work with others that you don’t feel have genuine, pure intentions. It is perfectly fine to walk away if that friend’s “season” is over. I’m telling you that, and I mean it. Just be fair and kind enough to yourself to realize when those relationships have evolved and are hurting you more than they’re helping you.
7) Be vocal about what you want
One of my favorite bloggers from Something Sakura recently did a behind-the-scenes Instagram story where she discussed her photography process. She went into detail about how she chooses her outfits, how she pairs the outfits to locations and how she asks her photographer to get the job done. I needed to hear this! It is incredibly easy for me to shy away from asking people exactly what I want or need, especially when it comes to photography.
Her stories particularly encouraged me to be more vocal moving forward, and let people into my vision for a brand shoot. I think I let my insecurity take over before, whereas I need to grow confidence in my voice. This is definitely something I’m going to abide by in the future!
This past month of blogging has opened my eyes to the realities of it all in just a short time. I hope this post helps you, whether you’re an established blogger, just beginning like me, or are considering taking the leap to start your own. It’s been every bit worth it, and I’m excited to continue sharing this journey with you all.