|(photo of Barcelona traffic via Unsplash)|
Happy Friday! We’re almost to the end of my week-long series on ways to grow your blog. If you’ve missed any of the posts this week, you can go back and check them out here: how to smarten up your homepage and layout, fixing your “about” and PR info, producing great content, adding great photos, and using social media to network and grow your blog. Today I’m going to talk a little more about networking, hooking up with brands and other bloggers, and how to increase your blog exposure beyond the social media realm.
With so much traffic through the blogosphere, the idea of networking with bloggers and brands can be daunting, but it shouldn’t be. Whether your aim is simply to make bloggy friends or eventually work with brands full-time, here are some tips for making new contacts, increasing your blog exposure, and landing sponsored gigs.
Leave comments–lots of comments
Whether you’re looking to draw new readers to your blog or just want to make friends (or both!), one of the best ways to get things started is to leave comments. Leave lots of ’em. Make sure you’re not a “no-reply blogger” so the blog admin can e-mail you a reply to your comment if they want to! If other people comment on your blog, replying (by e-mail if possible) is a great way to further engage with them. You’re not obligated to visit their blog, if they have one, but it’s nice to drop by and say hi if you have a moment.
A word on comment etiquette: if bloggers ask that you not leave a link back to your blog, don’t include one; and please don’t ask other bloggers to “follow for follow”–this is rude and a good way to get your comment marked as spam. Asking someone to check out your blog is kind of on the border, so I typically don’t do it. Some bloggers will say that it’s okay to leave your blog link, in which case you can include it as part of your signature, but if in doubt–leave it out. You don’t want to look like you’re only there for the self-promotion.
There are more link-ups in the blogosphere than I could possibly list here, so rather than try to point you to a specific link-up I will just tell you to get out there and find a link party you think you’d enjoy, and have fun! You can find topical linkys, challenge linkys (like weekly fashion link-ups), “hop” parties based on a type of social media (Instagram, Pinterest), and so much more. This is a fun way to find new bloggers to follow and also to draw new readers to your blog. Plus, it forces you to write a post when you might otherwise be lacking for inspiration!
Participate in blog challenges
If you really want to get crazy, try a blog challenge. Some of these run on a weekly basis, others ask you to blog every day for a month. Like link-ups, they’re fun, they provide instant exposure, and they’re a great way to “meet” new bloggy friends.
Here’s a scary idea: consider hosting your own linky or blog challenge! If you’ve made the acquaintance of a fellow blogger and think she’d be a great co-host, shoot her an e-mail and ask her–if you’re both somewhat new to blogging and link-ups, this is a great way to test the waters together, while also dividing the work of creating buttons, linkys, etc.
Join blog networks
The SITS Girls is my personal fave, but there are others out there as well. These not only provide you with chances to network with bloggers and brands, they can provide great sources of tips and inspiration for your blog, from creating better content to utilizing social media, networking, handling legal issues (like copyright and photo usage), and more.
Hook up with brands
It would be nice to think that e-mails would just show up one day, asking you to work with a brand or test a product, but in the meantime take advantage of blogger programs that hook you up with brands looking for sponsored posts and reviews. Influenster connects active bloggers with themed VoxBoxes based on their blog niche and expertise; products can include anything from beauty products to home goods to food. BzzAgent hooks you up with products for review; like Influenster, the products offered cover a wide range of blog niches, from beauty to health to parenting to food. The site is partnered with MyPoints so taking the eligibility surveys (usually 1-2 minutes long) and reviewing the products you receive for review racks up points that you can turn into gift cards–a nice little added perk!
Tomoson lets you apply for promotions based on your niche and blog stats and provides products from clothing to makeup to food to books and more. iFabbo offers bloggers free luxury beauty products for review. etailPR and Brandbacker are two more sites that primarily work with fashion and beauty bloggers. These are just a few of the hook-ups that I use and enjoy; keep in mind that many of the programs currently available are only open to U.S. bloggers. (Sucky, but hopefully they’ll expand in the future.)
If you hope to work with brands full-time, you need to prove that you’re worth their products and money. I’ve touched on these points throughout the week, but to recap: proofread your posts for clarity and spelling errors, and use clear, sharp photos. Insert that disclosure policy at the beginning of every sponsored posts. Use your social media pages to talk about the brands you’re working with or hope to work with. Make sure you’re not lacing your pages with profanity or anything that’s not “family-friendly”, since brands will not want to promote you in turn if they think your content will offend other customers or readers. Finally, respond to all e-mails in a timely fashion, even if you aren’t interested in working with the brand; a short polite response is all that’s needed. Which brings me to my last point…
Say “no” once in a while
I think that one of the biggest challenges for newer bloggers is learning how to say “no” to invitations to review products, join networks or link up with new projects. You can spend a long time getting zero offers while watching other bloggers get tons, so when the offers start arriving it’s tempting to say “yes!” to everything just because you’re so thrilled to finally be on the inside of the blogging community. But saying “no” is an important thing to learn, because not every offer that comes your way is going to be worth your time or even pertinent to your blog.
Out of the brand offers, sponsored opportunities and e-mail pitches I see on a weekly basis, I probably accept or apply for less than half. There are simply too many that don’t really fit with the theme of my blog, or maybe involve products and services that I wouldn’t really use of my own volition anyway. There’s a lot of mixed sentiment about sponsored posts in the blogging community and if people feel that you’ll give a thumbs-up to any product that’s tossed at you just so you can keep getting free stuff, it will seriously hurt your credibility.
As far as getting involved in networks or linkups: don’t stretch yourself too thin. Once you’re no longer having fun, there’s not much point (you are blogging because you enjoy it, aren’t you?). If it becomes a chore to join in hops or linkys every week, or if you find that keeping up with a network is just too time-consuming, consider bowing out. Streamlining your focus will give you a smaller pool of contacts but also allows you to cultivate more quality time within those networks, and leaves you more time for the most important thing of all: writing new content for your blog!
I hope these tips will help propel you forward into the fun world of networking, making new blog friends and working with brands! Tomorrow I’ll be wrapping up this week of blogging tips with a post on giveaways: hosting, joining, the benefits of group giveaways, and the legalese you need to consider before you get started. In the meantime, leave me your questions in the comments section below!