What started as a hobby for the writer and entertainment for the reader has quickly evolved into a big business.
Blogging has become its own profession, with the best of them raking in millions. In today’s frenetic startup scene, some of the most powerful (and profitable) entrepreneurs I know today are running a blog. There’s a lot we can learn from this talented group.
Here are five lessons to learn from the best bloggers out there:
1. Think about the long game vs. the short game.
Growing your list is most important in the beginning; making money is most important later. Audience size and engagement are power in the blogging world and power attracts better advertisers and partners later on.
Who’s doing it well: theSkimm. The daily email newsletter had a content-first approach in the beginning, quickly ballooning in size because of its fresh, informative and entertaining daily news digests.
“Our mandate from investors is not to think about revenue this year but to get an engaged user base that loves the product,” co-founder Danielle Weisberg said. That user base has grown from 800 subscribers at launch in 2012 to over one million today, with an “open rate that crushes industry averages.” Now everyone from the NBA to Showtime wants to work with them.
2. Build a brand with personality and polish.
Bloggers know a thing or two about branding. Their very success hinges on their ability to show a consistent and desirable personality.
Just like a blog, your company is more than the function it serves: It is the lifestyle it represents. Here’s a smell test: Ask your employees to write down what celebrity they feel embodies your brand. If the answers are vastly different, the branding might not hang together as well as you think.
Who’s doing it well: Orlando Soria. The design blogger uses all caps and sarcasm freely in his Instagram captions. At first it’s overwhelming but when you see the consistency you start to think of him as your best friend. You “get” him. Honorable mention goes to Julia Engel of Gal Meets Glam (20,000 people just liked a photo of her in Alaska, how’s that for fandom?).
3. Create a feedback loop.
Bloggers get never-ending feedback. From site traffic to click-throughs to social shares and comments, bloggers can analyze the performance of every single thing they do. As a result, they iterate and improve with each piece of content they create. Unfortunately for companies, most of the immediate feedback comes from within and groupthink can emerge. The team has talked for months about how great the company’s product pipeline is. Is it, though? Set up processes to get external feedback and weigh it heavily when you do.
Who’s doing it well: Emily Henderson. The design blogger reads and responds to almost every comment she receives.
4. Sell yourself, but do it authentically.
Once you’ve built a following and are ready to monetize your hard work, pretend your friends, family or co-workers are your audience. The top bloggers make a point to tell you they don’t promote products that they haven’t tried yet — authenticity is their key to success. In business, choose partners deliberately and make products you would truly want your friends to use.
Who’s doing it well: Olivia Palermo. The style maven is partnering with sunglass maker Westward Leaning. Both brands are at the intersection of high-end fashion that is also accessible. The fit feels natural.
5. Scale through partnerships.
Bloggers are excellent at cross-promoting each other. In the home decor space, where my company UGallery sits, you start to see that the top end of the blogging world is very small and interwoven. The fastest and most impactful way to scale is when your influential friend talks about you; the same goes for entrepreneurs and companies.
Who’s doing it well: One Kings Lane works with Oh Joy. Oh Joy works with Designlovefest. Designlovefest works with SFGirlByBay. Emily Henderson knows everyone. And they all travel to Tulum, Mexico to brainstorm new project ideas.