Saturday marked the first UK iFabbo conference ever, and I was lucky enough to attend. The program promised some top-notch talks and advice from amazing bloggers and industry insiders, and as a new blogger with little to no industry know-how, I could see that I definitely stood to gain a lot of knowledge from this event!
iFabbo exists to educate fashion and beauty bloggers about the different channels and methods out there for improving and monetizing their blogs. Because, let’s be honest, though I know most of us bloggers do it for the fun, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to try and make a living out of it! Personally, I blog as a hobby (and because my friends have in interest in hearing about my favourite new nail polish…) but I am an aspiring journalist, so I was really interested in learning how to improve my content, build relationships and utilize different apps and networks to my advantage.
Panel 1 was a great start to the day, as it focused on creating lasting and valuable relationships with brands and PRs. For me, this panel was interesting because, as a small-scale blogger, my contact with PRs and brands is quite limited, and I often go into a mode of thinking “must please the PR! Must please the brand!” without realising that it is a two-way street. Hayley from London Beauty Queen, Edwina from Amazing PR and Tala from My Fashion Diary gave some great advice, with Hayley coming from the dual perspective of being a blogger and working in PR and Social Media. It was really valuable to hear about the lessons that Tala and Hayley have learned through blogging (with Hayley joking that she’s been a bit “too gobby” in the past). I did a little air-punch when Edwina said that when bloggers contact her, she’s on the lookout for excellent spelling and grammar in their communications and their blog; it was nice to know that something this simple (along with good manners) can be so influential. Edwina also said that at Amazing PR, they like to have bloggers give them a quick phone call after making initial contact via email. This was something I hadn’t actually considered, so I really learned something new! At the very heart of it, it’s important to be positive and polite, and to always remember that there should always be an element of give and take.
Sarah Bush – ShopStyle Joe Stepniewski – Skimlinks
Monetizing my blog was something I had never thought about, at all. Apart from installing Google Ads on my blog (for which I have earned a princely £1.57, I’ll have you know!) I always thought monetizing was for the big girls and boys. Panel 2 brought together a pair of professional bloggers, Christina and Colleen, with Nik, Sarah and Joe, who all work in the blog monetization business. We learned how to use sites and applications such as Skimlinks, ShopStyle and other affiliate programs to boost our blogs’ earning potential. Christina, of HairRomance, told us about her eBook, and that was stupendously interesting. A good many eBook releases have gone stratospheric in the past year, and as an aspiring writer, it was amazingly inspirational to hear of a blogger using her blog to launch herself into publishing. This is the aspect of building a blog into a business that I am most interested in, and I love the idea of making your blog into an online CV that represents your ‘brand’. This is something I’m trying to do with my blog, by interspersing outfits and product reviews with longer, more opinion-led pieces that showcase my writing. Of course, selling your own advertising space can be hugely lucrative, too, and the panel said that although it’s important to be flexible and amenable, you should never compromise yourself. As Nik fabulously said: What Would Vogue Do? In other words, if it doesn’t fit in with Vogue’s aesthetic, ethic and feel, they won’t put it in the magazine, no matter how much they’re being paid. Your blog is your little Vogue, so treat it accordingly!
If you’ve been to my blog, you’ll have seen that when it comes to photography, I’m not exactly Rankin, so I was really looking forward to Panel 3. Kevin, Michelle and Arianna gave us tips for how to make the most of our equipment, such as which apps to download to improve smartphone pics, and a really snazzy LED video light, which Kevin said you can get for around £15, and which will give you perfect lighting for product shots and close ups. I’ll definitely be investing in one for my nail polish and nail art shots! Arianna from Streetstylish and Michelle from Who is Bobb-Paris are leading street style photographers, and they gave us great tips on how to capture a good street style shot: light from the side, look for character and don’t be nervous when approaching stylish street peeps! Michelle said that street style is like portraiture, which I thought was a beautiful, artistic way of looking at something so simple.
Anyone who’s been awe-struck by the London Lipgloss’ Rockalily lipstick collaboration or Bagsnob’s massive collaboration with DKNY will know that bloggers are gaining more power in the world of brands. Dan from Last Style of Defense (who happens to be the most stylish man I have met in a long time) pointed out that this upsurge in blogger/brand collaborations is a backlash against the ubiquitous trend of reality TV stars touting products. Basically, a blogger is a real person, with integrity, and that is instantly more valuable to both the brand and the consumer. Certainly, I’m more likely to pay attention to a collaboration if it involves a blogger whose style I admire, than something being worn and promoted by someone who’s been on Big Brother and is famous for falling out of clubs! Ceanne from THE OUTNET pointed out that bloggers have always been a huge part of THE OUTNET’s web presence, with Natalie Massenet leaking the launch to a handful of bloggers. That, to me, was mind blowing! With this panel, the idea of trust, synergy and professionalism between bloggers and brands, and bloggers and readers was really key. At the end of the day, if the brand doesn’t have faith in you, there won’t be a collaboration, and if there is, the reader needs to trust that you are sincere and more than just a face: you’re a curator.
Social Media was the order of the day in Panel 5, and we got some great tips on using it to our advantage. This was a really short panel but, like the best Tweets, it got its point across! My favorite comment was from Alex from Motilo, who said that the biggest sin of Social Media is overshare, so when you’re using it to promote your blog, “think like an onion, peel away the layers.” They also gave us great advice on keeping the personal and professional separate, and using clients such as Tweetdeck and HootSuite to schedule Tweets and run several social media accounts at the same time. I’ve actually just set up a blog-only Twitter (just yesterday in fact!) and am using Tweetdeck to control it alongside my ‘real life’.
Amber Venz, rewardStyle
At the very end of the talks, we had a quick speech from Amber Venz, of VENZedits and President of RewardStyle. Following stress over all the affiliate programs she’d signed up to, Amber developed rewardStyle, a kind of catch-all affiliate program that does all the legwork and rewards bloggers and brands. She pointed out that when you monetize a blog, you’re launching and monetizing a brand, and having a program such as RewardStyle is a great way to achieve that. Alongside her fabulous advice, Amber was wearing a fierce white fur top, and looked stunning, despite the epic heat in the venue! Such a pro.
Me with iFabbo’s Co-Founder Tonia Korakis & some gorgeous bloggers
With a delicious cocktail in hand (and in an air-conditioned room!) we all schmoozed and chatted, and it was great to get to know a few new bloggers! Put together with the invaluable tips and hints, and the amazing goody bag, it was the perfect end to a really fun day. The goody bags (because although it’s not all about goodies, they are still important!) were amazing. I’m currently giving my face a total overhaul with the Hydroxatone microdermabrasion kit and the Konjac vegetable sponge, and I can see a difference a matter of days in! We also got lovely lashes from Let’s Go Lashes, sparkly nails from Nazila Love Glamour, some skincare treats from Sarah McNamara, and a great tester kit of Kinara Skin Care, which has a celebrity client list as long as your arm!
To wrap up, I’d like to share three key messages, which ran through all the panels:
- Authenticity is key. Be original and honest in your content, and believe in it. Your readers trust you, and this trust will only grow if you maintain authenticity and nurture that trust.
- Do your homework when approaching brands, PRs, networks, affiliates and other bloggers. There’s nothing worse than impersonal ‘catch-all’ emails, and if you’ve ever received one of those yourself, you know how bad they can be!
- It’s a two-way street, but don’t compromise yourself. Your blog is your little bit of the internet. Basically, this comes back to Nik’s valuable edict: WWVD!
So, while I still stand very much at the beginner stage of blogging, I really feel like iFabbo and their excellent guests, sponsors and, of course, founders, have given me some great tools to carry on and make my own bit of the internet, my own ‘little Vogue’, work for me. I can’t wait to go again next year, and if I could go to the October 13th conference in San Francisco, I’d be there quicker than you can say, well, “iFabbo!”
All pictures were taken by Annabelle John of Three Little Buhos