Whenever the topic of blog monetisation comes up there is a phrase that will get used in one form or another. It goes something like this: “don’t underestimate your worth” / “your time should be valued”.
While it’s important to talk about monetistation and the best way to approach it, there is a risk that we create a culture in which bloggers believe that they ought to be paid simply because they have a blog.
It seems to me that we talk a lot about ‘our worth’ but we say almost nothing about trust. Without trust, a blog is just a bunch of words on a page that have great significance to their author. Trust is what makes social work, it’s what makes social so vibrant and it’s what makes a blog valuable to a brand.
A blogger has to earn trust with their audience if they want to be successful – not just successful at monestising but at forming a community. If you look at any of the blogs you would consider successful, you can see the trust they have with their community everywhere you turn. Hands down, if you want a successful blog you need to stop thinking about how you can get brands to pay you and start making darn sure that you have a community who trusts you.
You don’t need a huge readership to monestise, you just need one that trusts your opinion.
So how do you go about building trust?
1. Be personable and real. People trust people, so they need to see the person in the blog. It’s important that you show something of who you are as the blogger, even if your blog is not a personal blog. This should be the priority of every blogger, not just those who want to work with brands. If you write a personal blog you are likely to want to share your story and offer advice, you hope that in sharing your journey you might inspire/encourage or reassure someone else who is going through the same thing. In order for you to successfully do this your readers will need to trust you. This is called the Know-Like-Trust factor.
2. Be an authority AND a resource. This is particularly true if you want to write on a specific topic within a specific niche and build your business and monetisation strategy around that area. For example, if you want to be a fashion blogger then you need to be talking about a whole breadth of fashion not just the fashion that you like or know of – you need to be on the hunt for new trends and labels to inform your readers. That’s what makes you a top of mind resource in a world that moves so fast; fashion changes month to month, even week to week sometimes, so you need to establish yourself as in the know. This is true in any niche.
If I can talk a bit more about this issue of authority, it’s important to realise that to do this you will need to be willing to write about brands without being paid. As you establish your credibility in your chosen niche you will be able to negotiate more and more with brands to the benefit of both your own hip pocket as well as your readers – you will be able to bring them fresh and exclusive content that they want to read and that moves them to action. If you are only ever willing to write about a brand because you are paid then it will be very hard to establish yourself as an authority. This is not to say that you should accept every pitch that comes your way, but it does mean being savvy about the ones that come your way that will help you with your end goal of building trust with your audience.
There’s a great saying I’ve heard from Problogger Darren Rowse which goes something like this: “solve a problem every day; if you can solve a reader’s problem then you make a fan for life”. Darren has solved many problems for me, some intentionally and some through the great content he shares and he’s right, he’s won me as a fan for life. If your blog is about a specific topic like fashion, beauty, education, craft, technology, health etc… there’s a good chance that solving these problems will involve talking about brands and businesses. Be ok with this and use it to your advantage.**
(*Also measure it. If you are linking to other sites then make sure you use trackable links so you can see if people are clicking on them, which links are the most popular, which type of content drives the best response etc… This not only provides you with great data to share with brands but also, more importantly, lets you know what content is of most interest to your readers and what others topics you could write about that would help them.)
3. Say no. Your readers will trust you as much by what you don’t do as by what you do do.
4. Disclose. This should be a no brainer but I still visit blogs and read posts that I know paid content (perhaps because I received the same pitch for my personal blog, perhaps because it’s a blatant SEO post for something unrelated to the main blog content and perhaps sometimes it’s just because I smell a rat) and they haven’t disclosed. The hard truth is that I will never send a client to work with a blogger who doesn’t disclose – even if they agreed to disclose the brand campaign we were running, and even if they report high stats I just wouldn’t ask my client to bring their content to a site that works this way because it’s a tell tale sign that there’s a trust gap between the blogger and their readership (& also because numbers alone are meaningless).
5. Enage. Reply to emails, reply to comments as much as you can, ask questions and then interact on your other social networks. Don’t let them consume you (I don’t have Facebook on my phone anymore and it is SO wonderful!) but deliberately spend time there hanging out and engaging with the people who are interested in you.
I’d love to see bloggers spending more time talking about how to win trust with their readers, how to cultivate communities with strong buy in and how to change the world, one blog post at a time. I’ve been blogging long enough to know that for most bloggers, this is their motivation.
Once you’ve done this, once you’ve succeeded in creating a vibrant community, of any size, then you will have more avenues open to you for monetisation than you can imagine.
Related post: Let’s talk about paying bloggers