Monday, August 11, 2014

Five Tips for Growing Your Blog Without Sponsorships


A few weeks ago I talked about how offering sponsorships didn't bode well for my writing and creativity. There was an immense amount of respect and support from y'all, like always, followed by emails with questions about how I grow my blog sans sponsorship. And, well, I was flattered to be asked for more information while I was stumped by the answer. 

So today, I provide you with a list of what's been successful for my sponsorship-free blog growing experience. The list isn't foolproof or full of epiphanies, instead, it's commonsense combined with some hard work. These are ideas that won't provide you fast growth or big numbers, but I have complete confidence you'll find your readers to be engaged and more tailored to your content. 

Without further ado, five tips on growing your blog without sponsorships

1. IGNORE SHY INCLINATIONS. 
Because your money isn't going to begin conversations for you, you're going to have to start them yourself. Sometimes this means some increased interaction on Twitter or Instagram, other times it means sending an email telling another blogger what you love about their latest or asking them for advice.

It's always a huge compliment to get an email saying how much a reader loved something or wanted to know more about that one post. Sometimes it spurs greater conversations that turn into relationships. I have several blogging friends who started with a simple email or tweet, so throw that little shy voice to the wind for a minute or twenty.

2. GO DOWN THE COMMENT RABBIT HOLE. 
Commenting is important. Oh how it is. But so is reading the comments other people have left on posts before you. This isn't a measure to ensure you don't make the offhand opinion or say the same as someone else, but because people say interesting things in response to posts. People who are interested in the same post as you are people you want reading your blog. So, go to your favorite blogs and find a post that you love, scroll through comments, click links of the responses you love, look at their blogs, and comment there too.

Who doesn't love a good surprise? Even if in the form of a simple email. Sneaking up on another blogger who isn't expecting to hear from a new reader is always fun (you know you love those comments in your inbox). Go, provide that surprise elsewhere and realize that they're more than likely to come and check out your spot. I know that's how I respond. 

3. CONSISTENCY. 
Just as it goes with workouts or bible reading or healthy eating habits, consistency makes a world of difference. I know we're all hearing this all over the inter-webs, but it's something we could all bear to hear just a few more times. So, be consistent in a lot of aspects of your blog: in content and in scheduling. In responding to comments and emails. In tweeting and posting to Instagram. In establishing consistency for your readers, you are also helping yourself set up a bit of a schedule to follow for the week, like when to write, to schedule tweets, to post pictures and edit drafts.

The more devoted to a schedule of posting I am, the better things go. I post three times a week right now: two miscellaneous (usually feeling-life-faith related posts) and one bible study vlog. Every single week my readers know when to expect to swing by. That means they aren't having to worry about me EVERY day, but it's not far enough apart to fall off the radar.

4. TAKE NOTE OF FAN FAVORITES. 
My coffee date posts, marriage letters and book reviews are always favorites. They track the differences in our lives from month to month, while allowing for enough time between posts to create new, interesting content. Knowing I have these "template" available to me each month makes it easier on me when the time comes for brainstorming content.

Readers get the chance to come and relate to new information and tales in old ways. In psychology this would be called integration of new stimulation into existing schema. Mostly I know that because of a single class I took in college, it's not like some undercover brainwashing gig over here. Your ability to make new things look familiar is comforting and interesting. Watch for what posts get lots of feedback and attention that are also sustainable over time (sometimes they're too much work or too little in expanse).

5. EXPERIMENT WITH CHANGE. 
On Twitter, on Instagram, on your blog, in real life. Try things that are a little bit different and crazy. Sometimes they're awesome, others will flop. But pushing yourself into new places and situations -be it online or off- will create a larger space for readers to relate within. Maybe it's taking one #OOTD or #selfie shot a week, or deciding to conquer a CouchTo5K program complete with a race, or planting an herb planter on your window sill. Maybe you want to write about your faith, or how you're interested in going on some blind dates because dating is hard, or the recipes that you've really been trying to make on your own.

People will respond to some with vigor and others will go down in flames: that's experimentation. I've learned as much about content from my failures as I have successes. That's all part of this blogging game. So, reach out to a blogging friend and toss some ideas around, ask for some encouragement when you're really nervous, and remind each other that flops happen.

Y'all can do this. Oh yes, you can. How do you grow your community with or without sponsorship offerings? 

47 comments:

  1. I have been on the fence in regards to accepting sponsorships (I have it but haven't promoted). Thanks for validation in regards to the fact one can gather readers without sponsorships.

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  2. Love this! It seems like sponsorships have really blown up in the past year, and now many of the blogs I follow are moving away from them. I agree that it takes a little more work to make those amazing connections, like sending an email, but it's so worth it for connecting with people who are really "your people."

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  3. This is great! Not that I have anything against sponsorships, but I think it's wise to know how to grow your blog the old-fashioned way, too. Since the whole reason I blog is to connect with people, I love using comments and social media to get to know other bloggers/readers. Twitter is great for this since it's an easy way to just say hi!

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  4. I love this post!!! I am so hesitant of offering sponsorships and I really think that you can grow your reader base just by being actively engaged in the blogging community! Pinning this!

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  5. Twitter is seriously the best- I agree!

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  6. Such great tips! :D Interacting with other bloggers is so important.

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  7. These tips are GREAT. Seriously. You've hit the nail on the head, once again.

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  8. This is so great! I love that by being authentic and real, we can grow our blogs. When I first started my blog, I thought I HAD to provide sponsorships in order to grow it. I was so relieved to find that that wasn't the case and I can easily grow my blog and make friends just by being me with others.

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  9. I love these suggestions! I have been trying so much harder to comment and interact on twitter. Normally, I don't ever just browse Twitter, but I've been trying to!

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  10. Love these ideas! I grew my blog without sponsorships for a few years, and all these tips are so on point. I really think sponsorships can sometimes get in the way of true blogging connections. This 'back to basics' approach can open the door to much longer lasting friendships :)

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  11. Seriously- the best. I love this post and these tips. I've definitely been getting more into twitter (because how fun is it to have conversations with your fav bloggers? SO fun.) and commenting more and I feel like it's made blogging both more fun and brought some extra traffic my way.

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  12. Thanks for this post, Amber! I do use sponsorships to help grow my blog, but if there isn't any kind of value in my blog, I know people won't stick around. And it's also important to grow your blog organically - it's a community building process that you don't get as much with sponsorships.

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  13. I love love love Twitter! I used to completely hate it, and didn't understand it at all. But it's such a great way to connect with other bloggers, find new resources, and share what you've got going on.

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  14. I hated Twitter at first, too! Once I realized you could use it to get to know people instead of just sharing status updates, I fell in love.

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  15. Your point #4 is something I should be thinking about more--I don't tend to have a lot of structure or types of posts that come back again and again...I haven't yet found what works for me to bring back again and again but maybe it's still out there...

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  16. thanks for the great tips. As an amateur blogger i need all the tips i can get!

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  17. As always, you are so inspiring and this post has been no different. Thank you for being a constant in my reader :)

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  18. This. So many times over. Yes. Why must you always stun me with your brilliance?

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  19. Excellent tips! I think it can work for some but even still this should happen!

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  20. And this is why we all love you and this little blogging space of yours is always a must read x

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  21. I think that sponsorships are so wonderful when bloggers love doing them (something I just can't speak to) and can be such an amazing way to connect with other bloggers (that's how some of my favorite online friends were made)... But it is a commitment to being organized and dedicated -something that just doesn't suit me and my writing! :) You can do it without sponsorships, it just looks different! :)

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  22. I've found myself much more invested in the connections I make in reaching out without sponsorship opportunities on the table (if that makes sense). I was really nervous to step away from running ads on my page, but after a couple of months out of it I've found such peace and inspiration because I don't have to worry about my own expectations of how I need to promote others! :)

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  23. YES! I have an amazing respect for bloggers who can manage and commit to sponsorships because it really is a business that needs to be handled professionally and with dedication.. Something I realize I couldn't provide while maintaining my love and inspiration in my writing. It's all such a learning game, isn't it?!?


    Twitter was SUCH a struggle for me initially, but I've come to really enjoy the back and forth ease that it provides. :)

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  24. Twitter really was SUCH a struggle for me when I first started using it because it just felt so endless and gigantic. But like anything, make some friends and the BIG OLD ROOM feels more like home! :)

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  25. It's about making the big pond feel small and special with Twitter... I struggled feeling SO small and out of it initially, but then realized it's about connections not updates! :)

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  26. I think that sponsorships can be so awesome and can create amazing opportunities and connections, BUT with that, they transform blogging into a business and it was a business I just happened to stink at. Engagement is easier for me when there isn't the pressure of money or expectations because otherwise I get all gun shy and nervous! :) Just a weird quirk that is my personality I guess... :)

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  27. Interaction is key -especially when it's genuine and fruitful (something that can happen with or without sponsorships involved)... I just realized I couldn't fit the money and ads into my writing comfort zone so it was important to do what's best for my love of writing and the content here! :)

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  28. I'm just lucky that the nail head is as big as it is, otherwise, I'm doomed.


    Also, do you know that nail heads are one of my FAVORITE home decor trends.


    Finally, I get sort of random and snarky when I'm flattered.

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  29. I felt the EXACT same way. I started offering them because I felt like that was how I was supposed to grow... And then I stopped and came to terms with the fact that there might be no growth from there... Then, there was. And I realized that there's more than one way to create a community in one's blog!

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  30. Twitter is so tricky girl. I hated it initially. I really truly dreaded the whole thing until I realized that I needed to create a small, comfortable place for myself in the BIG old pond that Twitter is... And now I really enjoy it! :)

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  31. Yes, yes and YES! I know that the sponsorships overwhelmed my ability to be creative and comfortable... Which doesn't make for very interesting content. The pressure (which seems to be entirely internal) became something I just couldn't ignore any longer so I decided to take a break and was pleasantly surprised to continue making connections sans $$$.

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  32. THAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT TWITTER. I didn't realize that it would be a more casual place to girl crush on some of my favorite bloggers when I got started... :)


    Commenting has always been so joyful for me BUT I'm still so inconsistent with it... EHHHH.

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  33. This is precisely it! I struggled so much with sponsorships because I created an internal pressure that completely shut down my ability to be inspired... Some weird thing that happened in my brain that I just couldn't seem to reverse that ended up being a good lesson in following my own arrow in the direction it points despite my deepest desire to make it all work! :)

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  34. That wasn't something that caught my eye until lately and then I was like HI PEOPLE ARE RESPONDING TO THIS FOR A REASON. Goodness, why do those patterns take so long to recognize sometimes!?!

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  35. Oh you flatter me. And encourage me. And make me happy and joyful and all the good words.

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  36. Oh yes girl, it doesn't work for everyone... But it took me WAY TOO LONG to come up with the fact that growing our blogs doesn't all happen exactly the same way! (Obviously I'm on the slow learner's track).

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  37. Oh Sara, you're always so kind and dear to me... Slash WHEN'S THAT BABY GETTING HERE BECAUSE I'M DYING TO SEE HIM!?!

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  38. I haven't been the best at being consistent lately but I do try to do the others you have listed here. Totally agree with you on all!

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  39. Thank you for writing this! I'm a newbie and trying to grow my blog without diving into sponsorships at least for now. I plan on taking your tips and implementing as many as I can!

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  40. I agree, comments are totally the best part! I love visiting people who leave their blog links with me and I comment back on their blogs too :) It takes a lot of time but I love it! :)

    Every Day In Grace

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  41. I have tried this time and time again. I finally gave up and have closed my blog due to drama n hate cuz I will not be put down on my blog. There's too much hate and too many cliques out there too.,I don't have time for it. I'm much better than that

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  42. I am dying to see him too! LOL! I'm hoping any day now! We can only pray for his safe delivery and that he doesn't make us wait TOO much longer :)

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  43. Fan favorites is such a good point and thing that people often overlook - sure, your blog is for you and for your creative outlet but the posts people engage, comment, pin, tweet, and share are a great indication of what your readers want!

    xx Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

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  44. Maybe I'm behind, but I've just found your blog and I'm loving it! Thanks for being honest about your sponsorship experience - it's super refreshing to hear.

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  45. Great advice! I think it's hard to find the balance with sponsors sometimes because I want to keep my blog genuine and personal. But, I do want to keep my blog growing. Thanks for the tips!
    xo Tia | www.bigcytytyro.com

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