As a new(er) blogger with a sizable audience, I’ve often been asked the question “How did you initially grow your following?” and I think, more importantly, “How do you maintain your audience?” I wanted to share some of my tips for new bloggers and brands (i.e. influencers) looking to expand their networks, and grow a consistent and reliable audience. With a background in business and technology, I found that one of my key assets is the ability to blend my passion for influencer marketing (millenials!) and technology. From this, I have been able to set clear goals for myself and form a strong platform for achieving these goals. Before I list a few of my tips, I wanted to clarify that it is important to not judge your personal success by the number of followers you have. If you are happy with the content you are providing to your audience and helping to better inform them, you’re doing a great job! Even if you have thousands of followers, your comments will be moot if you do not have the content to back them up.
Personal Branding & Content
When I first began Auburn Robes, I struggled with developing my personal brand. After graduating college, I needed some time to explore my style and the city by myself. In the first year after graduating college, I took the time to gain confidence in myself and learn about my needs and goals. I took initial steps to becoming the best version of myself (as cliche as that sounds). During that time, I was blogging, but was never truly happy, consistent, or cohesive with the content that I was creating. I didn’t feel as if what I was contributing displayed the personal direction I was headed in my life. After a few months of random, inconsistent blogging, I decided to re-brand. I deleted a lot of my older blog posts and many off of my Instagram feed (about 50 or so). Essentially, I wanted a restart. That’s why, my first advice to new influencers is to establish a strong personal brand that you are happy with growing upon. Take time to establish this and don’t rush it. Once you establish this brand and feel beyond happy with the result, here are some next steps to take:
Set Clear Goals
Where do you see your blog or personal brand in five years? Is it just a hobby that you hope to evolve in the future, or do you see yourself developing it into your career? Do you want to work with brands, or contribute to a magazine? Whatever your goals may be, write them down! Determine them and remind yourself daily. The moves you make should align with these goals, and contribute towards their achievement. Try to avoid tasks that will deter you from accomplishing your goals.
Consistent, Cohesive Theme
Another thing I struggled with (but finally feel like I’m getting there!), is creating a cohesive theme throughout your blog/brand website and social media channels. The most successful blogs and brands tend to have a very defined and apparent feel. For example, Wendy’s Look Book is a wonderful example of strong personal branding. Both her blog and Instagram embody light, airy tones (think whites and grays with soft light) and incorporate soft hues of pink, along with hints of black. Another great example is Molly from A Stylish Side Project, who shows off her bright and colorful personality by incorporating fun and vibrant colors into her blog and social media channels. Find a theme you enjoy, and see it through. Mine has finally evolved into featuring bright tones of gray, black, and white, but adding accents of purple, red, burgundy, and pink (Auburn Robes, after all! See images from my Instagram above!)
Content Worth Reading
What’s the most important aspect of any blog or brand? Content! Provide your audience with notable content that is consistently thoughtful and informative. Write about what you know, write about what you are good at, write about anything that has substance. Add a story or a personal touch to your posts. How boring would my posts be if I just threw down some pictures and wrote “Nice shirt”. As a reader myself, I find that I love blogs that incorporate everyday stories into their posts. Amber from Barefoot Blonde does a wonderful job of incorporating the right touch of personal detail into her posts.
Investment in Visual Appeal
While your content needs to be stimulating, investing in your blog’s appearance does make a significant difference. Readers are more likely to stick around if your layout is aesthetically-pleasing and dynamic. For beginners, I suggest using a WordPress(.org) pre-made layout. You can buy many with installation instructions through Etsy. For shops, I suggest using Shopify and buying a premade design. After a few months of creating content, I would then suggest investing in a custom design or a full branding package. Depending on how interactive, packages can range anywhere from $295-5,000. As mentioned above, it’s very important to define your goals before investing. Last advice on this – invest in your photography! Readers/other influencers notice professional photography versus pictures taken on an iPhone, and are more likely to Pin professional photos on Pinterest and repost on Instagram.
Establishing & Growing Your Network
Alright – you’ve established your brand and you’re ready to be heard and seen! What do you do next? The answer is surprisingly simple: establish connections! Use social media as a tool to grow your network. Find similar influencers within your niche and look at their followers and following. Take the time to interact with others who may seem interested in your content based on who they follow. Comment something memorable on their content and not just “Awesome”. Take the time to explore their blog (and not just social media channels). Comment on both! The more love the better. I’ve found a lot of my favorite bloggers (and now friends!) through other blogs. Send out emails to your favorite influencers introducing yourself and that you would appreciate the support. The extra effort goes a long way! Show a little love and receive a little love. Show a lot of love and receive a lot of love! This really applies to all aspects of life.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to brands and boutiques requesting to work together and collaborate. Search for Public Relations contact information and prepare to be able to speak about why you would be a good fit to work with their brand or shop, etc. Don’t reach out unless you are genuinely interested in working together. For example, I just reached out to a company asking if there was any available opportunities to work together, because they combined my two interests: technology and fashion! While well-known brands are good & great, don’t forget about the up-and-coming smaller brands/shops! While they might not have the biggest of followings, everyone starts somewhere (hence this article!), and who knows where a brand could be in five years. I’ve found that smaller brands/shops usually have the most reliable and dedicated customer base. Suggest hosting a following giveaway to expand both your networks.
Very important, as well – do not be afraid to say no if a brand/blogger/shop reaches out to you! It’s okay to kindly decline any offers, and it isn’t hurtful. I believe it’s important to only work with brands that you feel you can represent in a strong manner. Trust me, it will be appreciated by them.
I recently joined The Blog Societies, which has helped me connect with a number of influencers. It creates a common connection and strong sense of togetherness. It also gives you the ability to explore other influencers within your niche or industry. Networks such as The Blog Societies and ShopStyle or RewardStyle sometimes repost your content, which is great exposure! I recently gained 500 followers or so from one share on LiketoKnow.it’s page.
I’m a member of the Out of Office NY Network, which keeps me up to date with events tailored to connect influencers. I recently attending a few events, including the amazing Lovely Happenings Event in New York (I even brought my Mom, see picture!). By attending events, it really helps expand your network. Look for events of interest online, or ask others within your industry if there is anything coming up that you could attend, such as a conference. I’ve even reached out to venues or hotels to see if they were having any upcoming events. It’s a great way to meet other people nearby that share common interests. Note: always carry your business card!
You’ve made those connections! So now how on Earth do you maintain them?! Honestly, this is pretty hard, especially if you work a full-time job like I do. I’ve made so many connections over the years that it’s really hard to stay up-to-date with everyone, both pertaining to work and my blog. I’ve found that the best way to stay in touch with people is by physically attending events or even just stopping by to say hi! If you find that you’re traveling to an area, reach out to connections you may know and ask to meet up or grab coffee!
Consistent Interaction with Audience
Consistent and thoughtful comments and interaction is very important. It helps create a connection with your audience. When it comes to social media, I actually subscribe to post notifications, so that I don’t have to look at my phone throughout the day, but I can view them at night after work. With my blog, I love Bloglovin’and Disqus, that send me emails with recent posts and comments, and also suggest new connections that pertain to my interests. I find that it’s easier for me to balance different platforms of communication if I send everything to one place.
Track Your Analytics
Track your analytics using Google Analytics. See your monthly views and unique visitors and look up tips for increasing the traffic to your blog. Utilizing Pinterest and Instagram, and placing the link to your blog within posts definitely helps! Give readers an incentive to head to your blog. Only give a preview on your social media channels, almost like a cliffhanger! Personally, whenever someone posts “I’ve got a special announcement” or something of that sort, I usually always head over to read about the new change in their life. I find it very exciting and feel like I know them a little bit better, knowing that they can share something personal with their audience!
Time, Patience, & Effort
Establishing and growing a network takes a lot of time and effort, but honestly, it’s really fun! You get to meet a lot of interesting people and build your networking skills. Slow and steady wins the race in the long-term. Stay organized with events and meetings through balance and tracking everything. I suggest investing in a planner or agenda. I have a personal daily planner, along with a planner specifically for blog posts and collaborations. I found all of my favorites on Etsy!
I hope my article helped! I wanted it to be a truthful insight into what I love to do, and what I’m all about! Feel free to reach out to me with any questions!
Note: Third image courtesy of Out of Office NY Nework, by J.J. Keys and Eric Miller