Network effect is a term that's usually used to explain rapidly expanding technologies and the increase in value that comes from more people adopting that technology. Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are all examples where the value of an account increases relative to the number of people using it. Advertising networks like Glam Media have built multi-million dollar businesses by bringing individual publishers who cover similar topics together. Bloglovin' built an audience of millions of visitors a month by focusing on a network of RSS feeds, and those are only two examples specific to fashion blogs.
While it might seem like something that's only reserved for huge websites and companies, focusing on creating a network effect is one of the things that often pushes a small blog to the next level. Here are a few network building techniques that you can borrow at almost any stage of blogging.
Build or Join a Regional Network
If you're in the US, it may seem like all of the big name bloggers are in New York or Los Angeles. New York, the official fashion capital of the country (and one of the fashion capitals of the world) has the major league brands and runway shows. LA has the proximity to some of the most watched red carpets and celebrities in the world, and even a bit of a manufacturing industry to support up and coming designers and brands. Which means that there are still a lot of places in between those two where there are boutiques and stores, shoppers looking for fashion inspiration, and probably not a lot of people putting out content to connect the two.
Bonus: it will probably be easier to meet and work with other fashion bloggers in Georgia or Kansas than it will be to get through to the blogging A-listers in New York or LA anyway.
This is something that holds across languages and international cities as well. Paris is so tied to fashion that the French edition of Vogue isn't even Vogue France, it's Paris Vogue. That still leaves film favorite Cannes, wine haven Bordeaux, mountain towns in the Alps and other places that probably have at least a few stylish locals, in addition to the well-heeled tourists who descend on the cities during various high seasons.
Sure, there probably won't be as many readers in these cities as there are in the established fashion capitals, but by aggregating content and pooling audiences in a network you can reach more people together than you would on your own. You'll probably also find a group of loyal readers from those fashion capitals who are interested in seeing a take on fashion that offers something different than what the established locals offer. There are plenty of examples of people building or maintaining well regarded blogs from outside the established capitals on their own – Tavi from a Chicago suburb, Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes from Texas, Jessica Quirk of What I Wore maintaining a dedicated audience fro Brooklyn to Bloomington, Indiana. If you're just getting started, or more recently established, build a network with bloggers in your area to increase the chances of a network effect from all of the people interested in style outside of the established fashion capitals.
Regional Blog Networks to Consider: Atlanta Style Bloggers, CapFABB (Washington, DC), Fellt (Australia), StyleLovely (Spain), Italian Fashion Bloggers (Greenland – no, just kidding, Italy naturalemente!)
Build or Join a Content Network
One of the things most ad networks offer is a content exchange between publishers, but some of the largest blogs form their own through traffic sharing deals that aren't tied directly to an ad network. Check out the sidebar for Fashionista, the Cut and any number of Popsugar sites. You'll probably notice that in some way, they all link to the latest stories from each other on almost every page of the site.
Depending on their traffic levels, these are deals that could be straightforward exchanges where the sites agree to link to each other, or possibly paid exchanges where blogs with smaller audiences pay to get their stories in front of a similar audience (with the hope of growth).
At a minimum, these are blogs that pull in hundreds of thousands of visitors each month, and while part of that's because they're all established with backing from professional media companies, this is one of the easiest types of networks to replicate. Think of it as the natural evolution of the blogroll.
Content Networks to Consider: This is the type of network that really is super easy to establish with minimal technical skills (can you use Google? Search for RSS feed widget, find one you like or a tutorial that makes sense for you, include the feed of your blog content partners, have them do the same) and one that only requires a few other blogs since this type of network is about quality and relevance more than quantity.
If you do want an established network though, Taboola and Outbrain both offer options that recommend content based on individual posts, and drop in paid content placements from larger publications. Depending on the traffic you send, you can also expect to see your content showing on other blogs, which could help in identifying similar blogs you'd like to have a more direct content exchange relationship with.
Build or Join a Special Interest Network
Special interest is as broad as I can make this while including everyone, but one of the best ways to encourage a network effect is to create or become part of a network that really hones in on a particular segment of fashion. Over 40, but not yet ready for Advanced Style? You're not alone. Do you follow fashion and a religion that calls for adaptation of the trends? There are Mormon fashion blogs that focus on “modest” fashion (no cleavage, looser cut clothing, longer hemlines), and Hijabistas who highlight colorful head scarves and clothes for Muslim women. Don't blog about personal style? The blog you're reading right now has developed a strong network effect by covering business and technology for style bloggers without any posts that are actually about what the author was wearing.
The biggest networks evolve and adapt, but there are plenty of readers and authority to be had by building a network around a specific topic. Even Facebook, currently the world's leading social network started as a special interest network. First it was a network for college students, then high school students, then recent grads and professionals, until it finally grew to include everyone. LinkedIn stayed a bit closer to their original target audience, and have become the leading network for professionals.
At its best, a good special interest network does have a bit more technology involved – ways for members of the network to message each other, and tools for the people who run it to keep the network membership focused. Don't let that stop you from starting though – the large networks around you today also started small.
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