Last week, I posted details (and a discount) for #BlogHerPro ’13 Conference For Professionally-Minded Bloggers. This week, I would like to highlight a subject covered at the October 23 discussion, where I will be one of the speakers. The topic is, “Monetization: Brands & Bloggers Keynote Discussion” with some fantastic fellow social media professionals including Ana Picazo of Finding BonggaMom, Jim Lin from Ketchum PR and Busy Dad Blog, and Sarah Penna from Big Frame.
When the panelists held our first organizing conference call a few weeks ago to prepare for the conference, the conversation was enthusiastic and covered much ground. We could have talked the whole day about making money from our brands. Here are some of the key concepts I will be covering. Please comment with any thoughts you have on Monetization: Brands & Bloggers!
Because I am a believer in plans (per my book “My Parent Plan”), I decided to give my Brands and Blogger tips in the form of a 5 year plan based on my 6 years of blogging, looking over what made money and what could have been done better to monetize. I started blogging from a passion for technology but waited years to assemble a business plan to make money.
I believe that anyone considering professional blogging or social media entrepreneurship should create their business plan from the beginning to help them create a monetization structure that supports their business. In social media, there needs to be a balance between creating a community and creating a business. Many parts of creating an online community do not involve monetization, requiring engagement, listening, giving information and sharing perspective. As Guy Kawasaki expressed in his book, Enchantment , you need to “enchant” your customers to have a success business.
The key for anyone setting up a social media business is to engage the target community while also building a business, all the way being very clear what social posts are “editorial” and which are “advertorial”. These rules are important for both FTC disclosure compliance rules as well as keeping an authentic relationship with your audience. Another key part of a business plan includes creating a monetization structure to get paid for “work” (which means not working for FREE). As many social media professionals have learned, that balance can be a challenge.
Every business person needs to feel empowered to get paid a relevant wage for their work. “Relevant” means that the wage should be reasonable when compared to what is being paid in the market for that service, taking into consideration factors such as audience, influence and engagement. At the same time, there is no magic formula to determine pay in social media so just analyzing numbers or statistics may not show the true influence of that engagement.
I chose early on to focus my blogging content on technology because I realized that women are the power consumers of technology and want to participate in that conversation (editorial and advertorial). As Jennifer Elias wrote in her SV 411 article about BlogHer Pro13:
Listed below are TechMama’s recommendations on a 5 year Business Plan for Professional Bloggers/Social Media Entrepreneurs:
By Year 1: Develop your PLAN (incl. working w/brands):
- Define business goals, online brand, niche, target audience, social media platforms and tools, media kit, brands to build relationships with (press &/or paid), when/if you need to hire help and how you will enchant your customers online.
- Define monetization strategy (what are your service & rates). Ask yourself:
If you are your own “start-up”, then how will you get funding?
Are you making a living from social media or another job(s)?
- CREATE CAREER PLAN: Types of jobs, work skills & what you need to earn. Define what is “paid” work and what is professional brand building.
- DEFINE COMMUNITIES FOR OUTREACH (community = engagement)
- MANAGE RELEVANT LEGAL ISSUES : Learn about (or hire lawyer ) FTC/Disclosure & contracts (esp. service, exclusivity, name/likeness)
- ANALYZE MARKET TRENDS: implement tools to keep AHEAD!
Year 2-5: Focus, Assess and Revise Plan (no pain, no gain)!
- FOCUS: Refine “business” to focus on specific services (paid) and brands (i.e campaigns, spokesperson). But always put your AUDIENCE first. Keep “press” relationship with brands for editorial content.
- ASSESS & REVISE: Assess ROI of your business. Do you need to make changes to your business strategy to reach your business (and financial) goals? IF so – create new business opportunities or pursue another job .
PRIORITY CHECK : Always make sure your personal life (family) and medical/financial health are a priority!
Along with creating a business plan, social media entrepreneurs should also spend time to understand the different types of relationships they can have with brands. Here are the ways I define my relationships with brands:
EDITORIAL: First and foremost I value the press/editorial relationships I have with brands because it allows me to obtain information that I can then share over my social media channels to my audience. If community = engagement, then engagement = editorial sharing. I find that my audience wants to hear my editorial perspective on the topics I cover and share their perspectives with me. I feel that type of conversation is the most important to have in social media. It is also good to look at working with brands for editorial purposes as also building a (mutually respectful) professional relationship. Although this type of relationship with brands does not involve any sponsorship, it may at a future time (with proper disclosure).
ADVERTORIAL (SPONSORED): This type of relationship with brands that involves either sponsored posts, advertising, ambassador, spokesperson or other paid projects. Before working with brands in this manner I always suggest to have a media kit to provide clear information on what services you offer and what rates you charge. To understand what are the relevant rates to charge, it is helpful to have an understanding of are market rates for specific services or if you have special factors for charging a premium. I feel it is important to feel empowered to get paid for work and look at your ROI (return on investment) for the amount of time you spend on a project versus what you are being paid. In the 5 year plan “focus” phase, this is especially the time to review ROI and say “no” for projects that don’t meet your criteria. I also feel it is important to always keep an authentic voice when working on advertorial posts.
This is also a phase where understanding contracts (or as I said hiring a lawyer to help) is very important. For example, I focus close attention on sections in my contracts such as exclusivity, services, name/likeness, compensation and ownership. But each contract is different and I learn new things every time. Luckily I had a great lawyer help me understand contracts for the first few years (and still use them on occasion). The FTC Disclosure rules are also something very important to comply with for all advertorial posts.
PERSONAL BRAND BUILDING:
Another type of relationship with brands is what I call “personal brand building”. For those starting out, it may be mutually beneficial to work with brands (non sponsored) in your niche to build up experience and meet new communities.
As I mentioned before, it is always important in any phase of your business to share an authentic voice with your audience and give “goodwill” back to social media communities you participate in.
Please share your tips for interacting with brands and what type of business plan you found helpful for your social media business.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. My words are my own.
GoDaddy launched a new brand strategy last month that revolves around small businesses. ‘It’s go time’ is a comprehensive company-wide messaging transformation supported by a refined GoDaddy user-experience and reinvigorated products sharply focused on helping small business owners. Check out this article by The New York Times.