This summer will mark the sixth birthday of hannahlouisef.com, and also the end of my second year of life as a ~full time blogger~. It would probably be fair enough for me to consider myself relatively established in my field, but with this comes the risk of complacency. I do ok as I am, therefore my drive and desire to actively learn is not as urgent as it used to be, or indeed as it should be. So, when I was invited to Very and Cosmopolitan‘s ‘Self Made Summit’ last weekend, I was actually excited to drag myself out of bed on a Saturday morning to go do some learning for a change.
The seminar of most interest to me was entitled ‘from blog to brand’. Sam Chapman of blog Pixiwoo and bestselling make-up brush line Real Techniques, Youtube superstar, blogger and author Fleur de Force, and blogger, Made In Chelsea personality and jewellery designer Rosie Fortescue came together to talk about into how they turned their blogs into extremely successful brands, while Sedge Beswick from SEEN Connects and formerly ASOS provided an insight into what big companies really look for in a blogger. All bases from blog to brand covered.
1. you really do get out what you put in
One of my favourite things about being a full time blogger is the luxury of time management that it affords me, so I was somewhat taken aback to learn that Sam Chapman never puts her phone on silent. If an email wakes her up at 3am, she will answer that email. Similarly when Sedge took some influencers on a trip to Asia, they would set alarms for 4am in order to hit their peak engagement time on social media, and Fleur admitted that her blog has for the most part become her social life (but was keen to add that this was no bad thing).
This work life balance, or lack thereof, was not necessarily recommended by the panel, but it is clear that their extreme dedication has paid off. Do with that information what you will.
2. growth isn’t linear, and this isn’t the end of the world
As everyone battles with new instagram algorithms, it was a relief to hear that the ‘super bloggers’ are not immune. Sam did not hesitate to admit that some posts do not do as well as others and that this is unavoidable and not to be dwelled on, while Sedge put a positive spin on this by emphasising that you can learn as much from a post that doesn’t do well as you can from one that does.
When you have been blogging, making videos, instagramming or whatever it is you do, for a long time, your audience will come to expect certain types of content from you. Fleur expressed frustration about the fact that she could spend days working on a new type of content only for her audience to give negative feedback and demand that she go back to her ‘usual’. ‘Old school’ bloggers are constantly balancing old ‘safe’ content with something new and innovative that will help them continue to grow in a developing online community.
3. numbers aren’t everything
Plateauing or even losing followers, subscribers or traffic can be really disheartening, but Sedge revealed that an enormous following isn’t necessarily what brands are looking for when choosing an influencer to work with. A recent menswear campaign she was part of saw £5000 of sales driven by someone with 3k Instagram followers, while another influencer with over 700k followers sold nothing at all for the brand. Having a very distinct style of content leads to a more niche, engaged audience, and this can be much more valuable to a brand than simply a large number.
4. meticulous planning isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either
Some bloggers will have weeks’ worth of posts and photos for Instagram scheduled at any one time. I almost never do. The panel’s attitude towards planning and scheduling content varied: Rosie uses an ‘old school’ paper diary to manage her time and values spontaneity on Instagram; Fleur plans her ‘pillars of content’ each month and works in smaller pieces around those are she goes along; Sam’s attitude to Instagram is an altogether more relatable ‘shit, I haven’t posted, what can I post?’ (but does use the Preview app to check how a photo will look in her feed in advance).
The point is that planning everything to a T does not equal success unless that is how you personally work best. Some structure is important, but bloggers and audiences alike value spontaneity and organic content.
5. don’t underestimate the value of integrity
It can be tempting, especially when you are first starting out as a blogger, to accept any sponsored post that comes your way no matter how irrelevant it is to your brand, content or life (*cough* slimming teas *cough*). There is a balance to be struck; full time bloggers need to make money but sacrificing integrity for a few quid can really harm your brand in the long run. Rosie stressed the importance of staying true to yourself when choosing brands to work with, and that eventually brands that you love will be drawn to you.