Blog sponsorships are kind of a strange thing, aren't they? We are paying other people to promote us and share our content. Recently, Jenny wrote a post called the "the blogging break-up" that really got me thinking. Essentially, she challenges bloggers who pretend to be in authentic community with their sponsors, and then just abruptly stop reading their content- even if they promoted it like it was the bee's knees for the last 30 days.
I have worked VERY hard to make sure this wasn't the case with those people who sponsor me, but I know I have failed at times. It's hard to maintain a relationship with previous sponsors, especially as the work load increases. That being said, I really do believe that we as bloggers can use sponsorships to grow authentic community. In order to do so, I think we need to work on some things.
1. Only accept sponsors whose content you believe in. If you don't enjoy someone's content, or it doesn't fit your niche, I would encourage you not to approve that person's ad. If you don't believe in something, your promotion of it will not be authentic. I know this can seem cruel, but in the end it's better for both of you. This also makes it easier to be in community with those sponsors you do accept, because you know you're likely to have something in common.
2. Invest in that person. Actually READ your sponsor's content and take the time to leave a quality comment. That person should feel like they are a part of your community when you take them on as a sponsor. If you're having a hard time investing in someone, you might want to go back to #1.
3. Get to know them. Every now and then a blogger I don't know very well will apply to sponsor me. After deciding their content would be a good fit for my blog, I spend some time reading their blog and getting to know them. Throughout an ads run time, I check in periodically with e-mails, engage them on Twitter, and mention them in things like #widn on instagram. This allows me to interact with them like I would any other person in the blogosphere, and usually it means I walk away with a new friend.
4. Don't cease to communicate with them once their ad expires. The majority of the people that have sponsored me have come back again and again. Believe it or not, it's not because I'm a tweet master but because now they are more then just sponsors, they are my friends! You can't expect to be best friends with everyone who sponsors you, but you can at least build some sort of relationship that continues beyond 30 days.
5. BE AUTHENTIC. It's great if you offer social media shout-outs to your sponsors, however, if you don't LOVE a sponsor's post or it doesn't fit well with your beliefs, share something different (hopefully this is kept to a minimum if you're following #1)! You need to tailor the content you share to your niche. Otherwise, your shout-out will go unnoticed, and your sponsor will not reap the benefits.
6. Take a honest look at your motivations. Do you offer sponsorships just to make some extra income? There's nothing wrong with that, but you'll have a hard time with all of the above and your sponsorship program might not be very successful in the end (especially if you're a smaller blogger). If community is more important to you then the money, take an honest look at your motivations and make changes accordingly.
7. Don't be scared to make changes. If one of your sponsorship options is making it difficult to grow in authentic community with your sponsors, don't be scared to ditch it. For example, I will never offer the option for people to pay me to pin their content because I only pin content I believe in and fully endorse myself. THIS builds authentic community.
8. Hold up your end of the deal. Keep your word. Produce quality content consistently. If something comes up that makes this a challenge be real with your sponsors and ask how you can make it up to them- just like a friend would.
The moral of the story is: VALUE your sponsors and give them the authentic community they deserve for believing in you and investing in your blog.
Are you really investing in your sponsors? Is monetizing more important to you than building community? Would you add anything to this list?