Written By Macala Wright
The Los Angeles Times recently wrote that fashion bloggers are becoming more influential than traditional media outlets; fashion bloggers are not only the new journalists, they’re also brand ambassadors. As more fashion brands venture online, brands and their marketing agents are developing strategies to build mutually beneficial relationships for both bloggers and their websites. In order to build successful partnerships, etiquette is definitely in order.
How Fashion Bloggers Can Work With Brands & Fashion Marketing Agencies
More and more fashion brands & retailers are taking their marketing efforts online. Where are they going to for product reviews, write-ups and promotions? Directly to fashion and lifestyle bloggers.
- So how does a blogger, who never in his or her wildest dreams thought their blog would be so sought after, work with fashion brands?
- How does a fashion blogger, who’s committed to building his or her own brand, build their awareness through these retail partnerships?
- Moreover, how do they monetize it (yes, I said monetize – meaning MONEY) in ethical ways?
What Brands Are Looking For
- A Point of View: If you want brands to partner with you, have a point of view and stick to it. The best bloggers are the ones that approach their content from a fresh perspective and they translate that perspective into their product reviews, stories or articles (even if its been retweeted and written about 50 times).
- Consistency: If you’re a fashion blogger who wants medium to large size brands to sponsor/advertise on your blog, you must be consistent. As a writer, you can’t post entries every week or two and think it’s enough. Active bloggers with dedicated readerships are much more enticing than nicely designed blogs with sporadic updates. If you’re a fashion blogger with a consumer audience, your goal should be three to four posts per week. If your goal is to build more of an interactive lifestyle forum (in which your talk about multiple topics), then you should aim for seven to ten posts per week. Consistency shows your advertisers/sponsors that you’re committed to your work and that you’re committed to your readership, thus you’re committed to them. Show them your website is the worth the investment through your content, proactive promotion and syndication. Your distribution and syndication are exposure for your advertisers and sponsors.
- Aesthetics: You have to invest some time and money into the design and aesthetics of your website. Your blog has to be visually appealing, easy to navigate and search engine friendly. Buy a dedicated URL, learn about the basic principles or search marketing and establish your personal brand. Don’t look like everyone else.
- Statistics: Yes, traffic matters. On average, social media marketing agencies target blogs with 10,000 unique visitors or more per month. Google Page Rank and Alexa rankings are hold some weight but shouldn’t be the only methods of quantifying and qualifying blogs. In fact, American Apparel found that in smaller, niche blogs had a better ROI when it came to PPC campaigns. Not all those blogs had 10,000 uniques impressions per month, but they had dedicated, cult like followings. It’s a fashion brand’s (or their representative’s) job to establish the best blogs outlet for their product, but it’s the blogger’s job to make their website an appealing marketing resource for those brands.
- Provide Data: One of the blogs I consistantly advertise with is OffBeatBride.com. I utilize Off Beat Bride for vintage style bridal jewelry ads. The ad costs me $85 per month and generates 5x’s that amount in revenue. Every week, the blog owner over sends a break down of how many impressions I recieved, what the CTR (click through rate) was and what the average CPC (cost per click) was; I measure here data against my analytics and include it metrics reports for the week. A great service and makes my job just a bit easier (subsequently, the owner of this blog works for Microsoft). If a blogger doesn’t have this capability, a great alternative for blog ads and display advertising is BlogAds.com. While BlogAds takes a percentage fo sales, the blogger establishes the advertising cost. BlogAds has metrics, CPC and CTR information that easy for the advertiser to access and interpret. The-Coveted.com is a blog I’ve advertised on through BlogAds with a conversion rate of 2% and a higher than average order size ($85.96). One conversion paid for the cost of the ad. Delicious ROI.
Building Strong Relationships with Your Sponsors & Advertisers
As a blogger, you want to build a strong relationship with your sponsors, partners and advertisers. Here are few simple steps to ensure relationship longevity:
- Promptness: Always respond to advertiser emails or inquiries within 48 hours. We are all busy people, but in growing and monetizing your website, you have to be proactive.
- Professionalism: Always be professional in phone calls and emails. If one of your sponsors or advertisers asks to you do something that is against your editorial guidelines, inform them in a professional manner that you can’t fulfill the request. You should also go a step further and offer a creative or alternative solution if there is one.
- Understand invoicing and purchase orders: Larger brands and retailers do things a bit differently than smaller, independent brands. Medium to large retailers can’t just click a PayPal button to pay for advertising or sponsor packages. There’s usually three to ten pages of documentation that goes along with purchasing online advertising. While some retailers may have a method of delivering payments online, many have to send an actual check. Have a formal invoice/contract with detailed payment instructions available for advertisers that require them.
- Respect embargoes: Once you’ve become a reputable source for your advertisers or sponsors, they may share information and stories before they actually happen. You must respect embargoes and launch dates, don’t leak them beforehand or blatantly disregard release information. You’ll lose your advertisers and media contacts because they can’t trust you.
How Brands Should Develop Relationships With Bloggers
To most web savvy people, social media and online communities (anything that can viably be labeled Web 2.0 related) are not new; they’ve existed for over 10 years. But honestly, its only recently they’ve gained notoriety. Fashion brands & retailers have had to recognize that blogs and online magazine deliver trends and news faster than newspapers or magazines. The once esteemed, exclusive world of fashion publishing has blown apart by open source platforms such as WordPress and Joomla.
Savvy writers, aspiring trendsetting fashionistas and future stylists don’t have to stand in line and pay their dues anymore.
Naturally, brands and retailers have been adopting social technologies by incorporating them into their marketing strategies. They’ve discovered that social media is a cost effective marketing tool that can help build brand awareness.
Sponsoring Contests & Giveaways
Sponsoring blog contests and product reviews are becoming a popular promotional strategy for bloggers and brands. Sponsoring contests or giveaways isn’t something that a brand or retailer just “does” for promotional purposes though.
Before a brand sponsors a contest or giveaway, I encourage them to ask themselves the following questions in order to establish measurable ROI for the campaign:
- What is purpose of the giveaway/contest? Is it to build brand awareness, drive web traffic or to launch a new product?
- What is the goal of the giveaway/contest? Can the goals align with the purpose of the campaign?
- How are you planning on measuring success? What are your expectations?
Once a brand has established their criteria for measuring success, they can target appropriate online outlets. Brands should qualify blogs by the following:
What is it you’re offering to bloggers as a promotional use? Jewelry, clothing, beauty products, a gift certificate to your website/store?
The blogs that a brand targets should focus on that type of product.
If you’re jewelry designer, giving away a unique earring and necklace set is going to have better traction with a blog focuses on accessories and accessory trends rather than a blog that focuses specifically on handbags & shoes. The feedback and participation will provide better data than a contest without focus and entrants just wanting to win free product.
Interacting With Bloggers
Interacting with bloggers can be tricky. When first contacting a blogger, start off with a personal introduction to you and your product. After you’ve established a relationship, the next step is scheduling giveaways with the blogger and their website. When I partner with a blog on behalf of my company, I have two methods for product promotions:
If the goal is brand awareness or to test a new market, I let the blogger choose the giveaway. They know their audience best and know their readers’ tastes. I don’t skimp on product, if the writer says our higher end lines will resonate with her audience, then that’s what I provide.
Providing the best quality or most unique product elicits the best participation. Readers are willing to do more for higher value, higher quality product.
Example: 1928 recently partnered with La Petite blog for the Antiquities Couture Art Deco Statement Necklace. The contest ran for one week, received 1000 entries internationally, 150 twitter mentions and four other blogs featured the contest. For generating awareness and traffic, it was an extremely effective contest with just one outlet.
If I want to draw attention to certain product, I send the product to the blogger for review. It’s completely up to the blogger what he or she writes. We provide basic product and purchasing information, but don’t dictate the editorial content. If the blogger actually like the product they’ve reviewed, we’ll sponsor a contest that for that piece or something within the line.
Example: 1928 partnered with Boutique Flair to promote new enameled bracelets for Macy’s 2028 line. The community owner wrote a review of an independent piece in the line and we sponsored a giveaway for the bracelets, which wouldn’t be released for another season. The winner had the bracelets before they were available.
In order to be eligible to win, contest participants had to add their favorite 1928 piece to Facebook, mention it on their blog, Stumble the product or add it to Polyvore. The contest elicited 525 comments and contributed to our brand being mentioned in a Forrester’s Research study on unpaid sponsored conversations. Direct web traffic grew by 150 unique visitors per day; we received 200 email sign ups and had an additional $8,000 in retail web sales. What’s more, it revealed that consumers were willing to utilize their social outlets in order to have an exclusive item before it was released or for a one of a kind item. Was this cost effective? Absolutely.
Maintaining Blogger Relationships
Once your campaign has ended, maintain a relationship with that blogger, especially in social space. Retweet (if your on Twitter) their links, Stumble them and even send great pieces to colleagues and friends. Pop over to their website and leave comments, add them to your press release distribution list and personally email them. If you can connect with them in person at an event do so! Bloggers are journalists and media resources; they are also colleagues. I love the people we work with and always make sure I connect with them on a regular basis.
What’s your experience with the blogger/brand relationships?