When I first began blogging in 2009, one tool that was noted as essential to fashion bloggers was Polyvore. The social commerce platform allows users to create collages or “sets” featuring items from virtually every e-commerce site you can think of, as well as editorial images, design flourishes and text. It's easy to use, and easy to export your creation to your blog using HTML embed code. Personally I've used it many times on my blog, and aside from some wonky editing functions (the sets shrink if you publish and then try to edit it after), I've been happy with the aesthetic results.
Betabeat reported in August that Polyvore recently topped 17 million uniques per month. They also opened an office in New York's Soho neighborhood (right near us) this summer, in hopes to better connect with the fashion side of their business (the tech team is still based in Silicon Valley). It's evident that Polyvore wants to work more closely with fashion media and bloggers; they had a partnership with T Magazine back in March, and held Blogger awards in 2011 that nominated bloggers who appeared often in Polyvore sets. They also have a blogger network, for which the potential benefits are largely related to traffic and general exposure.
Polyvore definitely has a lot going for it. Recently though, I've found myself wondering if there isn't a tool out there that benefits me (or my blog) more. Sales made through Polyvore don't return financial dividends to the user, which to be fair, is not their intent as a tool. “At heart, Polyvore is a fashion community focused on creating beautiful images, so we are focusing building our tool that we know helps bloggers make beautiful collages and connect with a huge fashion-forward community,” says Eugenia Chein, Polyvore's Blogger Marketing Manager.
If you're using Polyvore for the fun, the visuals and for the convenience, that's great – and same goes for spreading your influence to different communities on the web. But if you're a blogger trying your best to monetize – is Polyvore your best option for creating collaged visuals?
So, now you're all looking at me going – alright then, present the alternative!
The best straight-up monetized collaging tool I have found is through ShopStyle's ShopSense (owned by Sugar, Inc.) – which uses affiliate links so you can earn money from click-throughs and purchases by your readers. ShopSense has a “Layout Widget” (among a few other visual widget options) that allows you to create a shopable collage. Truthfully, the visuals with this one aren't quite as dynamic or customizable Polyvore's.
If you're creating collages yourself, your freedom is virtually unlimited. Many bloggers I know use Photoshop or even Powerpoint to make theirs by hand, then list out affiliate links of their choosing to lead readers to shopable sites. (I think Grace of Stripes & Sequins does this really well.) Using a freehand program also gives you much more control over the specs of your visuals, and allows you to mix and match links from different networks. (This isn't to say you can't incorporate the same tactic below a Polyvore set, which you definitely can.)
Collaged visuals have a lot of money-making potential for bloggers, but of course, that's not all that blogging is about. You should create layouts and images that you like, and that your readers like. A site you love and are proud of is more important that squeezing every last drop of possible monetization from it.