What Does It Mean To Be A Top Tier Blogger?

Reporting about Garance Doré's new monthly column in Vogue Paris got me thinking about what the term “top tier blogger” really means. We throw it around a lot, you throw it around a lot. But what does it mean? What does it quantify? What does it qualify? Really — what is a top tier blogger?

Having a seat at runway shows, making an income from your blog, and working with brands no longer qualifies you as “top tier” as it may have in 2007; now, we hear about how Tavi Gevinson has signed on to a Hollywood film with a major director, how The Man Repeller and Bryan Boy are under management by CAA (an agency that also represents Tom Cruise), and how The Sartorialist works on larger scale ad campaigns with J. Crew (just to name a few various examples off the top of my head).

The landscape of fashion blogging has consistently been raising the bar over the past five years. Appropriately following, the standards by which being a “top tier” have also risen immensely. 

Which leads me to think, in this current day and age, what qualifies a “top tier” blogger? What is the cut off? The number?

“Top tier” can mean different things to different folks, sure. The Style 99 list, a list created by Signature 9 based on a wide range of numbers which includes page rank, link score, unique IP links, Alexa score, Twitter score, Facebook domain activity, Google blog links and so on, is one way of looking at it. But the list doesn't include how these bloggers are viewed by the general public, how much money they make, or how they work with brands.

In the most recent version of the list, which was last updated in Spring 2012, these were the “personal blogs” that made it into the top 50:

(note: I'm excluding more “editorial” sites like Refinery29)

1. The Sartorialist
4. Garance Dore
6. Cupcakes and Cashmere
7. Fashion Gone Rogue
10. From Me To You
11. The Blonde Salad
12. Cherry Blossom Girl
14. Fashion Toast
15. A Beautiful Mess
18. Honestly…WTF
20. The Man Repeller
23. Jak & Jil
24. Style Scrapbook
27. Advanced Style
28. Style Bubble
34. Le Blog De Betty
36. Sea of Shoes
41. Bryan Boy
49. Karla's Closet
50. A Shaded View On Fashion

Just to give you a frame of reference, IFB is at 56, right behind The Glamourai at 55. While The Glamourai is not in the top 50, I believe most people in the blogging industry would include her in a “top tier” category. According to an article in WWD in November 2011, she stated she was getting about 4 million page views a month.

Outside of their Style 99 rank, here are some other examples of their reach in general:

The Sartorialist  – regularly has between 70-120 comments on his posts
The Man Repeller – currently has 151,891 followers on Instagram
Bryan Boy – currently has 291,000 Twitter followers
Cupcakes and Cashmere – currently has 41,217 followers on Pinterest
The Blonde Salad – currently has 202,469 likes on Facebook

These numbers beat out most editorial-type fashion websites. So, is that what makes you a top tier blogger? Is there a metric for measuring the tiers of blogging? What do you think?

 

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]

Bigger, Better, Bolder: IFBCON September 4 & 5th, 2012, this year’s ultimate fashion blogging conference!

 

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17 Responses

  1. Cynthia

    You can also be “top tier” in a specific niche, which I think IFB often ignores (why don’t you guys talk about niche bloggers that often, anyway?). As I’ve said in another post, as a petite woman, I follow many petite blogs, many of which are technically “top tier” for what they are. In fact, I read blogs like Alterations Needed and Extra Petite more than true top tier sites because I find them more interesting and more relatable to me as a petite female. Of course, niche top tier blogs often have its own problems with “diversity” as I’ve noted before (e.g. why do most petite bloggers look like me (short, under 100 lb and East Asian)? Where are the size 6+ petite bloggers (who are open about being petite)?) What about plus-petite bloggers? Come to think of it, why don’t body image people acknowledge height issues, unless someone brings it up (and even then, when they address it, it’s lip service more than anything)? I feel that when the mainstream says anything about body image, 99.9999999% of the time, they mean larger sizes. Anyway…

    Reply
    • Chelsea Burcz

      Hi Cynthia,

      Thanks for your feedback. Actually, IFB does address niche blogging quite often:
      http://bit.ly/NrLQ79
      http://bit.ly/RIzl3G
      http://bit.ly/AhgnNE

      It’s difficult, as you have noted here, to cover every nook and cranny of niches — but I think what I was trying to question in my article isn’t about niches, it’s about how the fashion blogging industry uses the words “top tier,” and what those words really mean in numbers.

      – CB

      Reply
      • Cynthia

        I find it interesting that you’ve included Wendy’s Lookbook in one of your posts but not actual petite bloggers. While yes, Wendy does get more traffic and more replies, I tend to think that the petite blogs I’ve listed above are more true niche blogs to their market than Wendy’s. To me, Wendy is just another style blog who happens to get good traffic. #justsayin

      • Courtney

        Wendy is, at heart, an amazing YouTuber who gets a ton of traffic from her YouTube Channel. It’s a bit unfair to bloggers because she’s built a huge audience in YouTube that then comes to her blog. When I think of Wendy (and I love her!), I think of her as a YouTuber more than a blogger. She remains, to this day, the only YouTuber who’s ever made me cry over a video about animated shoes. Yes.

  2. TheAsiaMonique

    I’m not sure if I’m really excited about how they deem who should be a top-tier, because I’m shocked that certain sites, editorial or not, hadn’t made it up there!

    Reply
  3. robotÔdotcom

    As a designer, I choose to work with bloggers and social media pros vs. using “mainstream” channels of marketing because I wanted a sense of “social” and trust as a part of my campaigns from the beginning. We speak of “top tier” bloggers as a reference to those that no longer do (blog) what they did (blog) to reach their current level of success. Blogging has a very special opportunity right now to distinguish itself from mainstream media, by selling brand trust and niche level reach to advertisers, as well as newness and excitement to it’s readers, while delivering an important message through a unique voice. Unfortunately, as humans we are fallible and the hard work and dedication that it took to build the blogging brand is easily forgotten and the blogger trades up for another “sexier” profession, title, or revenue stream. This usually translates to less real content and more Instagram pics of Italian soda cans and Paninis. Blogging will start to look like a leap pad for people to get into some fields or maybe out of others. This perception will be bad for those truly blogging because that want to create a voice and share that we loyal readers. Today, blogging is seen as a driving force in the communications and media industry, as seen by the blogs on every mainstream news site. Advertisers and readers will lose trust and question the seriousness of bloggers if this perception is perpetuated. Of course am I not against business diversification, and to the contrary, encourage it. I truly love blogs and simply hope that this medium does not go the way of the 80’s day trader, or the 90’s scrapbooker. I choose to invest my marketing dollars in blogs because I believe that they speak to the reader and that the reader listens. I read over 50 little blogs a day, because of the unique perspective a girl from Colorado or Barcelona can have on Balenciaga or the new Toms loafers. Trust that your readers love that your perspective is yours and not that of the junior level accessories editor standing on the wall next to you at Marni. If blogs will eventually go the way of aspiring celebrity spring pad with 95% bounce rates and Twitter accounts associated with Team Followback, I guess I will need to take a closer look at my Adwords account. Ô

    Reply
    • Suzanne

      I think this is a very important thing that you’ve said: “Trust that your readers love that your perspective is yours and not that of the junior level accessories editor standing on the wall next to you at Marni”. I’m sure there are a lot of us writers/bloggers that hope to make a living at what we do (some of us are making a living at something else). But its important not to loose sight of your true self. So if it means turning your blog into something that makes money, be aware of your uniqueness, stand true to your message or niche. For me personally, my blogs are entirely personal, and I don’t expect nor seek for more followers, advertisers, etc. It’s nice when someone comments or gives me feedback and shares. But it’s not my goal. I just enjoy sharing and being creative.

      Reply
    • Fetishists Notes

      You made a very interesting point here. I also sometimes think to myself – what will happen with blogging in general over lets say, another 5 years? Will it still be the gloreous profession, where you can start by snapping your own photos and grow into an international journalist who owns his voice and has audience that is ready to listen? Or will these bloggers be swallowed by the wave of Reality Show bloggers?

      Reply
  4. Ashe @ Ash in Fashion

    This is an excellent question, Chelsea, and I’m glad to see you’re showing the tip of the iceberg in what it means within the fashion industry!

    It seems that, when people desire to be a top-tier blogger, they don’t know exactly what they need to do to get there or what it is even is that makes up the top tier. And as you’ve shown–there’s really not a clear cut answer!

    For many of those sites, I see them as innovators. They came along at the right time or had the right opportunity/education/background/insight to provide something that wasn’t there before. Many of those sites have been running a long time and began when blogging wasn’t as densely populated as it is now. Many of them find success because they’re using their blog as a vehicle for another means– their goal isn’t to write, to make money off affiliate links, but it is for exposure–whether their work as a designer, journalist, photographer, etc.

    The top tier exists in every industry though– and while not everyone may be a Congressman, an NBA player, or the cutey mohawk behind the NASA Curiosity landing, there are people at all places in between who make a living doing what they love.

    Reply
  5. Emily Jenny

    Those numbers are outrageous! A girl can only dream…slowly working my way from the lower 100s to the upper 100s. Being top tier isn’t everything though I just want a loyal follow base so I can keep shooting editorial style looks that make me happy and keep my passion alive. (Although I wouldn’t mind being The Glamourai for a day…or two) Round of applause to the ones who made it on the list…they deserve it!

    xo
    Emily Jenny

    http://www.stilettobeats.com

    Reply
  6. Amber Nefertari

    Being a top tier blogger is just that, being top tier in the blogging arena. However, where one chooses to go after achieving that goal is something totally different. There are many bloggers out there who’s plans are much bigger than publishing posts…..but rather, expanding into a magazine, working as a full blown journalist at an established publication, being a fashion designer, actress, book author, whatever it may be. The possibilities are endless and there is no one path to go that is the great part. The scary part is, sometimes we feel like we are blogging forever and ever without a definite answer to the question ‘where am I going with this?’ and it makes you feel so uneasy you want to cry. Atleast, I have felt like that on many occasions. However the answer is getting clearer for me and I am determined to keep pushing. Its hard out here in the blogging world for a pimp..er..I mean blogger but we’ve got to fight til the end! We can do it y’all!

    http://www.beautyandthestreetmag.blogspot.com

    Reply
  7. Rachel

    Though stats and figures is the only way to quantify bloggers like this, I don’t think you can really use them to quantify top tier, as what makes blogs top tier is something different about each blog. I think it was much easier in your post about mid tier bloggers, as that is more of a numbers, monetization and collaboration game. On the other hand, I don’t really know how else you could make a list of who is top tier.

    Reply
  8. Fetishists Notes

    Asking what is a top tier blogger is in my opinion like asking who is the top tier actor? Everyone will name actors she/he personally like. While you can name actors who earn the most, those who get the most roles, those who win the most awards – of them may be different people. So who IS the top tier..?

    Reply
  9. Brooklyn

    At the end of the day, after reading this article and researching these top tier blogger (columnists), Why isn’t their more people of other ethnic backgrounds (Native American, Latino, Black.. Etc.) on that list? I noticed that the majority are of Pan Asian, European or Caucausian-American decent. I’m not downing their credibility in the slightest, I just want to see more color.

    I’ve written fashion, music & popculture and LGBT adult interview blogs (columns) for years and have gotten next to no recognition. I think there is plenty of room for other fashion or style bloggers of color to come up and be side by side with the rest.

    Color shouldn’t matter, only the material should. If it’s good, then it’s good. I’m going to study every single tip I can from IFB, build a solid yet, well structured plan and work harder than before. I want to prove that a person like me who is trangender and of color can pull it off, become top tier and build a loyal fan base, breaking the mold.

    Reply
  10. Brooklyn

    At the end of the day, after reading this article and researching these top tier blogger (columnists), Why isn’t their more people of other ethnic backgrounds (Native American, Latino, Black.. Etc.) on that list? I noticed that the majority are of Pan Asian, European or Caucausian-American decent. I’m not downing their credibility in the slightest, I just want to see more color.

    I’ve written fashion, music & popculture and LGBT adult interview blogs (columns) for years and have gotten next to no recognition. I think there is plenty of room for other fashion or style bloggers of color to come up and be side by side with the rest.

    Color shouldn’t matter, only the material should. If it’s good, then it’s good. I’m going to study every single tip I can from IFB, build a solid yet, well structured plan and work harder than before. I want to prove that a person like me who is transgender and of color can pull it off, become top tier and build a loyal fan base, breaking the mold.

    Reply
  11. Calvin

    I’d have to say those types of numbers would place a blogger in the “top tier” realm. If you have hundreds of thousands of likes, followers or fans…you’re doing something right in terms of reaching a wide audience.

    I would also have to disagree with Fetishists Notes by saying people would label someone top tier just because they like them. Boomkat is one of my favorite music groups but I wouldn’t call them top tier in the music industry.

    It comes down to numbers no matter if many think the content is unoriginal, uninspired or what not. If a score of individuals are paying attention to it, they’ve accomplished something.

    Reply
  12. Thrifty Cent

    What I would like to know is, just how long did it take these blogs to get to where they are today? When you first start a blog you get very little traffic aside from google searchers and friends and family. How does it expand? All word of mouth, or are these people advertising?

    It is very daunting to look at those numbers… and know that a lot of the top tier personal fashion bloggers deal a lot in high end fashion and expensive pieces, along with using expensive DSLR cameras, and usually someone to take your photos for you.

    Can someone make it to the top tier with a tripod and a small budget? Seems like it is possible for the youtube fashion “vloggers” to get a good following, but nothing in the millions.

    Reply