Blogger Spotlight with Annabel Beeforth, founder and editor of the UK’s #1 wedding blog, Love My Dress. In this interview Annabel spoke to us about the Little Book for Brides, a fledgling new venture launched by her team, the advantages of using Instagram and challenges of using Facebook to promote content as well as the three best practices every PR must follow for better blogger outreach,
What’s new on Love My Dress? We’ve just launched a beautiful new sister site to Love My Dress called Little Book For Brides (http://www.littlebookforbrides.com). I saw a gap in the market for a more sophisticated and elegant British based but international wedding directory and my team and I have been busy creating it for the past 12 months. We launched this week and the industry and user response has been overwhelmingly positive – way surpassing our expectations.
Give us an example of successful brand collaboration. What did you learn from it? We have worked with a lot of brands up to now – mostly bridal fashion brands. More recently, we’ve been approached by some much bigger brands and asked to collaborate and have really enjoyed working with the Goldsmiths the Jewellers, through Newcast, a specialist branded content and experience division of ZenithOptimedia. We were commissioned to produce bespoke blog content as well as a set of image assets that would present the brand in a way we knew would connect well with blog readers and the online community. We were provided with full creative autonomy which I’ve learned is really important in these kids of collaborations. I worked with a team of wedding suppliers and we spent an intense day shooting with both Goldsmiths and Zenithoptimedia present on the day. We are all thrilled with the results.
How do you use social media to promote/share content? What are the challenges? We use all the major social channels to promote our content but my favourite by far right now is Instagram. Instagram is so easy to use, provides an instant visual fix and the community of followers we have built around @LoveMyDress are all so lovely and supportive.
For me, Instagram has offered an opportunity to build community through micro-blogging. I make a huge effort to reply and engage with followers through Instagram and this is obviously very time consuming. Instagram is also one of the most popular apps in use by millennials planning a wedding. It’s one of the first thing they check on grabbing for their mobile in the morning and probably one of the last things they look at before they put their phone to one side at night. We’ve seen our follow numbers and interaction soar in recent months.
The fact you can’t include live links on Instagram shouldn’t put bloggers or digital marketers off from using it to promote content and support their sponsors and advertisers. There is much to be said for the daily, positive pervasive effect of brand promotion through Instagram. Plus if you’re smart, there are ways of increasing your blog/site traffic from Instagram. You just need to experiment a little in how you direct your followers to the link in your Instagram profile.
A key social media challenge for us right now is learning to work with the ever changing Facebook algorithms. We’ve observed our organic reach dwindle to almost negligible levels over the past two years. We post quite frequently to our Facebook page so will quite often get a post that just flies and is instantly very popular but more often than not the organic reach levels are tiny in comparison to our page follower number. This is Facebook’s way, I suppose, of pushing their digital marketers community towards paying for promotion. We’re experimenting now with paid Facebook advertising – trying to work out what works best. I definitely think brands need to be investing money for this. We held off for as long as we could but paying for promoting through your Facebook business Pages is an important part of our marketing strategy now.
A key social media challenge for us right now is learning to work with the ever changing Facebook algorithms. We’ve observed our organic reach dwindle to almost negligible levels over the past two years.
What advice would you give to a someone who wants to start a blog? Starting a blog purely with the aim of earning money from it is not advisable. I started my blog out of a passion for weddings and bridal fashion, not because I ever expected to earn money from it. Despite having worked very hard over the past few years, I was also lucky to be in the right place at the right time; I started blogging in 2009, just shortly before the blog scene exploded, elevating some bloggers almost overnight as key influencers and having a huge impact on the way many businesses chose to spend their advertising budget (redirecting funds from traditional print media to digital and blog advertising).
I think those looking to start a blog purely for money earning purposes can expect a struggle. I really do believe it is your personality, passion and drive to publish and share content based around something of great importance to you that will provide the primary basis and foundation for potential later monetary success. Blogging is about building a community – without that community or reputation or daily interaction, there really is nothing there for any advertiser or sponsor to invest in. And establishing that community has become even more challenging as readers choose to interact with their favourite bloggers through their social channels these days, not so much through the blog itself (in a way that they might once have done through blog commenting for example).
So my main advice would be to focus on your passion first and foremost – use this to work towards establishing your own community and aim to build your influence within and beyond that community.
How do you work with PRs? We only tend to work with PRs who represent some of our sponsors if I’m honest. Other PRs simply don’t seem to have time for building personal and meaningful relations – I lose count of the number of press releases we receive that just end up in the trash folder. The PRs we do work with are brilliant at keeping us connected when our sponsors. They want results as much as we do so in my experience they go out of their way to be helpful and supportive – they understand that bloggers work differently to traditional print media. We liaise with our PRs on blog content, promoting events, and social media support etc.
Do you feel bloggers need to be compensated for the work they do? We mostly only ever work with and promote a brand if they are paying us to do so, and in order to get to that point, both parties have agreed exactly what is going to be paid for, when it will be delivered and ironed out any potential misunderstandings or concerns. We have a clear set of terms and conditions that we have had professional produced by our team of legal advisors. So there is never any concern for us about whether we will be compensated adequately for the work we do – we negotiate payment and expect to be paid up front for any work we agree to.
I think having a much clearer contract in place could perhaps have helped avoid or lessen the damage in the recent #bloggerblackmail case. It doesn’t need to be complicated, just a clear agreement via email on exactly what is being exchanged so that everyone’s expectations are clear. That said, the blogger in this case did, I believe act most unprofessionally when communications broke down.
We mostly only ever work with and promote a brand if they are paying us to do so, and in order to get to that point, both parties have agreed exactly what is going to be paid for, when it will be delivered and ironed out any potential misunderstandings or concerns
What do you feel about sponsorship disclosure? We’ve been disclosing all our sponsored content from the beginning via the blog, though, I have to admit, I’m only just starting to use a #sponsored hashtag on Instagram. I think it’s important that you declare when content is paid for – for me it’s simply part of the relationship and trust between the blogger and their readers/audience. I actually feel very uncomfortable about the notion of not disclosing. I see it happening all the time though.
List three best practices PRs need to follow for better blogger outreach?
- Make a personal approach and get the name right. Always. No excuses. Bloggers loathe press releases that are not personally addressed in this way.
- Do a little homework – tailor your approach in a way the reassures the blogger you really do know who they are, what they do, what they’re about. In my view, you’re better off tailoring 10 approaches rather than sending out 200+ emails to nameless contacts on a press release database. I spent weeks tailoring my own emails when I was building up a supplier list for Little Book For Brides. I was essentially cold-calling so wanted the approach to feel and be as personal and tailored as possible. It paid off massively.
- Make an effort beyond email – Connect and comment through the bloggers favoured social channels, but be visible on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – let the blogger know you’re there and that you appreciate them and are wanting to connect.
I think it’s important that you declare when content is paid for – for me it’s simply part of the relationship and trust between the blogger and their readers/audience.
What will be big in your blogosphere in the coming months? Little Book For Brides – we launched this week but have months of developments to roll out that will enhance the user experience. Also focussing on how we can continue to work with our sponsors in a truly meaningful way, and continuing to develop Love My Dress as our reader numbers grow and their personal reader habits continue to change and adapt (i.e., the huge percentage of readers who now view our blog via a tablet or mobile device means we’re having to continually review and adjust blog design and page layout.) But we’re not complaining, it’s a challenge that we enjoy and one that certainly keeps us on our toes!
Photo Credit: Naomi Kenton