6 Weeks: Sponsorship Programs
I’m Kyla Roma, a twenty something web designer, friendly introvert, thrifting addict and vegetarian foodie. I’m the co-owner and managing director of Freckled Nest Design, and I blog weekly about my life, good food, and handmade that makes me swoon at KylaRoma.com.
Adding sponsors to your blog is a big trend online right now and if you want to jump in it can be hard to know where to start. I’ve had an advertising program on my blog for over two years (that I just decided to end) and in my work with Freckled Nest I’m part of the team that manages advertising for the successful parenting and handmade blogs, Smile and Wave and Prudent Baby. I also spent the last few years of my nine to five life in marketing and have managed six figure media buys in print, radio, television and online for national theatre tours and high profile bands.
And for the record, bloggers are way more fun to work for with than radio stations and musicians!
I’m here to share some of my tips and thoughts on adding sponsorship to your blog, and I would love to hear your thoughts, questions and experiences in the comments below!
What’s Right for You?
Before you add sponsorship to your blog, it’s important to take a step back and ask if it’s right for you. While sponsored blogs are a hot trend and might help your blog feel official, running a sponsorship program requires your time, energy and usually some basic graphic design skills for those sponsors without a perfectly sized ad.
As well, with sponsorship comes responsibility: you need to be committed to blogging frequently, should avoid topics that conflict with the interests of your sponsors, and will have to watch your statistics more carefully. That being said, if you have the time, a blog that aligns with small or medium businesses, and consistent high quality content, sponsorship could be a great move for you!
Choosing a Your Program & Being a Fair Blogger
It’s important to understand the trends in your corner of the internet, and with blogger run programs growing there are lots of options available to you. You could join a large program that matches you with sponsors based on your statistics and content, like Blog Her, Federated Media or Six Apart. For a more hands on approach, you can run your own program by accepting payment through Paypal or use a new hybrid service like PassionFruit. Most small bloggers are choosing the latter options because it lets them capture more profit than a traditional ad service. Woo Hoo! There’s nothing wrong with getting paid :)
What can be a problem is that because sponsorship is a trend and the deals happen behind closed doors, things aren’t always what they seem. Bloggers without the audience to naturally support a program will add excessive trades in slow months, and may only have a handful of paying participants. Without statistics and an engaged community it’s hard to get value for your advertising dollars- which is usually scarce for small business owners.
On the other side of the same coin, many companies have seen the impact of social media but created huge cookie cutter programs that don’t allow for individuality or personality. After seeing the same sponsor run the same promotion on dozens of blogs, it’s no wonder that readers get burned out on sponsored posts.
Both of these approaches give blog sponsorship a reputation for being tolerable at best and impersonal at worst- and it can lead to cynical readers who can’t wait for everyone’s end of the month sponsorship drives to pass. But for all our creativity, why not imagine ways that sponsorship could be impactful for businesses and fun for your readers?
Imagine Your Possibilities
Before you create a sidebar advertising program and blend in with the crowd, it’s worth considering if that’s the best way for you to work with sponsors in the first place. After all, your blog is a unique place filled with people who you’ve drawn in with your creativity and personality- why shouldn’t your sponsorship be tailor made too?
Consider these alternatives:
- What if you held an annual sponsorship drive to cover the cost of your hosting, domain name, and paid accounts associated with your blog to make your blog cost neutral? (This is what my program started out as!)
- What if your blog just had one featured sponsor per month, and they offered an exclusive giveaway that benefited your readers?
- What if you decided that you wanted to have featured handmade sellers or bloggers ever month that you hand picked and gifted ad space to?
- What if you had no sidebar ads but offered a newsletter that was specifically for people who wanted to get amazing discounts or free product from high quality sponsors you personally approve?
- What if you only had a product sponsor for important aspects of your content, like a fashion blogger working with one watch company for a year or a crafty blogger who has a dedicated fabric sponsor?
The right decision depends on why you’re exploring working with sponsors, but by thinking about your site as the unique space that it is you can create creating customized opportunities that sponsors will love and readers can look forward to.
By taking that extra time and care you’ll send out a strong message: that your audience can trust you, sponsors can count on you, and that your creativity & fabulousness extends way beyond your post ideas :)
Thank you Kyla for your insight and advice!
So now the question is, to add sponsors or not to add sponsors? If you already have a sponsorship program – how do you run things and is there anything you’d do differently after reading Kyla’s advice? Are any of you thinking of adding sponsors or, like me, are you opting out?
05.11.12 in 6 Weeks to a Better Blog