The business of blogging

Looking to start a blog or enhance one that you've already started in 2018? I'm definitely no expert or by any means one of the best, but I've been doing this for 7+ years now and would love to help you all in any way that I can. 

1. Find your niche: This sounds so easy, yet it's what bloggers and influencers struggle with most. While you should most definitely define your focus off the bat (whether it be fashion, beauty, lifestyle, fitness, food, etc.), you have to make it flow naturally with your lifestyle or you are going to set yourself up for failure. Trust your own voice, and create content that fits with your daily life. The second you start creating content for other people, you'll lose your voice.

2. Aesthetics: Yes your mother is right - looks aren't everything.  However, we all know making a killer first impression is key. The look and feel of your platform is what is going to initially attract followers, and then your content is what will hook them. This is something that I had struggled with for SO long.  I would try using the same regular Instagram filter on every picture, yet my account did not seem to flow at all.  I was using pictures with different colors, at different times of the day, and using various cameras/devices and expected it to all blend together using a simple "mayfair" filter. One of my friends (whose account you will see below) gave me the best advice I had ever gotten on branding my account. PRESET filters. That's it. That's the key, and that's what all of the accounts that I've idolized for so long are doing. For the life of me, I couldn't understand how they were making the two most drastically different photos flow one after the other. Thanks Hilary (Vibetribe Creative)! You've made my life a lot easier. If you take a look at my Instagram account, I've started doing this with the last 9 photos.  I still have a long way to go as I am still playing around with the program and getting to know my preset filter. There are still photos that just aren't going to go with the look of my account, which is why I've had to learn to be selective with what I post.  The preset filters are life changing. I've attached 3 of my favorite accounts who master the preset look below. When brands look to work with influencers, the consistency, flow, and overall feel of the page is one of the very first things they will look for.

3. BE PICKY! When I first started my blog in 2011, I would get SO excited when a brand or company would ask to work with me that I would work with ANYONE and EVERYONE that asked me.  However, as I became less of a rookie, I realized that in order to attract the audience that I wanted, I had to only work with companies and promote products that were authentic to my blog (and myself). Why would someone take my advice on a skincare product if I didn't actually try it and use it myself? Although you may feel "rude" turning down collaborations, partnerships, or even paid posts, it's more beneficial in the long run to stay true to yourself and the brand you are creating. Taking on too much and spreading yourself too thin will almost always come off as fake. This will not only turn off followers, but will also be a deterrent to more ideal brands that may want to work with you in the future. 

4. Authenticity: When a brand wants to work with me, they typically ask me for my media kit. One of the most important sections a brand will look for are your stats + engagement. On the other hand, when an account asks to work with me, authenticity is one of the first things I will look for in them as well. Accounts that have a high number of followers or "likes" but very little engagement is a huge red flag for brands + companies. Companies will look for a photo's "likes" and comments to coincide with each other. For example, on average, a photo's number of comments should be 5-10% of the number of "likes" they got.  If a photo gets 500 "likes", it should get somewhere between 25 and 50 comments. Of course, this is just an AVERAGE, so there will be photos that get way more or way less (especially depending on the time and day it is posted).  In general, this is what companies and brands will be looking out for. Also, "likes" should typically be around 6-10% of a brand's total follower count. Again, this is just an average number so there will always be outlier photos.  When the numbers don't add up, that can mean this brand uses bots, or fake, followers or likes. If you are authentic and still struggling to get your numbers to balance, try to comment on accounts similar to yours, and "like" photos under hashtags that relate to your niche, such as #fashion, #ootd, #style, etc. 

5. Engagement: This is one section where I really need to start practicing what I preach. User engagement is critical to the success of your blog or influencing platform.  This is done through responding to people's comments, liking their comments, asking questions, starting conversations, doing Instagram live sessions, Q + A's, etc. Your audience and followers want to feel like they know you, and can connect with you, and vice versa. Aside from the business end of this, I've genuinely formed relationships and friendships with people within my social media platform. As fortunate or as unfortunate as this may be, it's no secret that in 2018 social media will be a driving force behind not only businesses, but most relationships as well. When I "like" someone's post, it can be a way of saying "your baby is so cute", "congrats on your wedding", "I'm sorry about your grandpa", "great family photo", etc.  Use this to your advantage, and you never know the real life friendships, relationships, or business partnerships that can evolve from user engagement. 

6. Monetizing your account: 

Once again, when I first started my blog in 2011,  I was actually embarrassing with how excited I would be to do anything and everything that could make my blog a dollar. It felt so good to put so much work into something and be able to see a return on the investment, regardless of it being extremely minimal. However, what I didn't realize was that I was working against myself. I would post a dress and confuse the F out of my audience by giving them 10 different platforms to go through to try to find and then purchase the dress. At that point, it became a lot easier for them to just google "Gold Dress from Cusp" themselves and bypass my affiliate links altogether. 

Don't get me wrong, I am ALL for monetizing your blog or platform, you just have to do it right. If you are putting in the work and want to make it a business, you without a doubt deserve to be paid, just like anyone else is for the work they do.  For my blog and Instagram account, I stick exclusively to rewardStyle and independent sponsored posts. Mostly everything else you see is a collaboration of brands that I just genuinely want to work with, or actual lifestyle posts. Just remember, it's not about a quick paycheck or having tons of collaborations/partnerships under your belt, but more so about constantly adhering to the model of your brand. 

For those of you who are interested, rewardStyle is what all of my "LikeToKnowit" Instagram posts are through. It is the first and largest invitation-only end-to-end content monetization platform for top-tier digital style influencers and brands around the world. To date, it's the only platform that measures and monetizes the influence of content on a global scale, across owned and social channels, powering influencer compensation. Essentially, rewardStyle is my agency that pre-negotiates commission rates with over 4,000 retailers and more than one million brands worldwide. Pretty cool, right?  This is why I've stayed extremely loyal to rewardStyle over the last 7 years, and exclusively use them as my form of monetizing all things fashion on my blog. 

7. Simplify EVERYTHING: RewardStyle is a perfect example of this. The gold dress I've posted above is so easy to find on the internet if you really tried. This is why putting it all in one place and spelling it out of your audience is the only way to get them to purchase things through you. I put a link to the dress, a couple different places you can get it, different colors and styles it comes in AND even went as far as to put similar dresses they may like if you know they like this one. The second they leave your page you lose them to Google (no offense, I don't know anyone that can compete with Google) which is why you want to make everything as simple as possible for them to navigate on your page. Below is an example of what I can do with each and every outfit I link to through rewardStyle. 

8.  How do you pick a blog name? Funny you should ask. What I chose as a blog name 7 years ago, Celebritized in Chicago, just no longer felt very fitting to my brand.  I don't remember how I chose it, but I remember thinking of the title of one of my favorite TV shows "Sex and The City" and thinking how I could turn it into a fashion blog title. Somehow, I got to Celebritized in Chicago. It's ironic because that title was so fitting for who I was at the time. I was a 21/22 year old girl who had just graduated from college and was all over the place in every aspect of my life, trying to make it in Chicago. I was a preschool teacher going to grad school for Sign Language Interpreting for the deaf while partially blogging on the side.  I was all over the place in my love life (we can save that for another blog post - ok or two).  Some of my friendships were a disaster and drama-filled, and I was living at my parents' house while trying to be cool and fit in in the big city Friday-Sunday. 

I started to evolve as a person and as a brand.  I wanted to continue this business and have it be all inclusive...of my family, friends, my dog Dash, getting married, starting a family one day, my other full time business Shadow Social,  and pursuing other dreams in the fashion industry.  I knew I would have to think of an all encompassing name. I came to the conclusion that going forward,  I want to be "byShanna". 

Okay, so now on to helping you guys think of a name. It's really hard, but my biggest piece of advice is to choose something that is short and catchy.  The title should serve as a thesis statement for your work, but can tangent out into every single aspect of your life. Some brands that did a really great job of this are "Cupcakes and Cashmere", "Gal Meets Glam", "Sincerely Jules", "Mama and Tata", etc. Pick a name that's not limiting or in any way restricting to what you want to achieve.  Make sure you can always relate your lifestyle content back to your brand, and then you should be good to go!

You guys can always DM me on Instagram @shanlakes!  I am no expert, but I am happy to help in any way I can. Cheers to a happy, healthy, and  successful 2018! 


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