I've been running my style and body image blog for nearly nine years now, and at times I can hardly believe how drastically the blogging landscape has shifted since 2007. Back then, only a handful of people could make a living off of their social media presences, and retail blogging and blog-brand partnerships were new and controversial territory.
Now — as you undoubtedly know — Instagram stars can negotiate multi-million-dollar endorsement deals, and bloggers are frequently tapped as spokespeople for global mega-brands.
I know, I know. I sound like someone's granny trotting out a, "Back in my day ..." rant. But here's my point: Newer bloggers think this is normal. They enter the field believing that sponsorships from major household brands are inevitable, and they scoff at proffered relationships with smaller brands. Heck, most bloggers don't even talk about or link to products that won't generate affiliate commissions.
This is a mistake.
Naturally, it's tempting to focus exclusively on the big names and the big bucks, but there is tremendous value in partnering with smaller retailers.
Here are five reasons why you should consider using your retail blogging talents with local businesses, emerging brands and small-time labels.
1. Retail blogging for emerging businesses helps you stay relatable.
I was cruising through my RSS reader this week and a post showing a mid-level fashion blogger doing her laundry set my my Sponsored Post Radar a-buzzing. Sure enough, this gal had been gifted a super swanky, top-of-the-line washer-dryer set that retailed at around $5,000. The post included a dozen images of her lovingly folding her freshly washed garments in her perfectly lit and tastefully decorated laundry room.
This post did not make me want to run out and buy a super swanky, top-of-the-line washer-dryer set.
And even though the act of doing laundry could be considered a regular-person, down-to-earth task, the post itself made me feel quite distant from the blogger. And, if I'm being honest, more than a little jealous. My own dryer is from 1975 and sometimes shrinks my sweaters out of sheer spite. (Also my dank basement "laundry room" is 90 percent cobwebs and 10 percent old junk.)
Now, if YOU get approached by someone who wants to gift you a big-ticket item in exchange for your retail blogging skills, you are the one and only person who gets to decide if entering that partnership is a smart move. It might be amazing! It might boost your credibility and lead to other fabulous partnerships. Heck, you'll end up with a big-ticket item, and that alone is pretty freakin' cool.
But if you want to remain relatable, posting about the earrings you bought from your favorite Etsy vendor or the $30 blouse you got at a local boutique is a better bet.
A dash of aspiration can be blogging gold, but if you lose all relatability you'll lose loyalty, too.
If you want your readers to remember that you're a regular person, partnering with an emerging, toddler-toy designer or undiscovered B&B will help. Small-brand relationships reinforce your online presence as approachable, grounded and engaging.
2. You can support your favorite small brands.
Even if you're making a six-figure salary on your blog, you undoubtedly have a few favorite designers, brands or causes that are still small and scrappy.
Heck, you've probably got some friends and colleagues who are just getting started and would be unspeakably grateful for a shout-out. When you've got a blog or major social media footprint, that means you've got a platform. And yes, you absolutely get to make a living off that platform. But you can also use it to boost brands, organizations and charities that are near and dear to you. Even if doing so won't make you a dime.
3. You’ll enjoy access to local venues.
Your business might live in the ether, but YOU live on the earth. And if you ever have a book to promote or a product to launch, you're likely going to need a venue in which to do so.
Networking with and supporting local restaurants, shops and businesses gives you access to possible event locales, and it might even lead to valuable swaps with your favorite hometown haunts.
Trade ad space for haircuts, sponsored posts for free dinners — the possibilities are endless when it comes to retail blogging. At some point, you might want and need to meet your readers in person, and establishing relationships with small businesses in your area will mean you can do that somewhere other than your own living room.
4. You understand the non-monetary benefits of blogging.
Let me be clear: I love money. And I also love that countless writers, artists and thought-leaders are able to become successful solopreneurs because of the blogosphere. This is still a relatively new business model, and one that can be incredibly, marvelously profitable.
But there are so many wonderful things about blogging that aren't linked to revenue: meeting like-minded readers and bloggers, supporting people who are doing great but under-appreciated work, giving frustrated folks a place to connect and converse.
Working with local or emerging designers can remind you that you, too, started small and grew through the generous support of others. Partnering with small businesses and helping them gain exposure is a great reminder about the power of social media to amplify the little guy.
5. You can encourage other bloggers to follow suit.
Naturally, some bloggers will thumb their noses at small-time partnerships forever. But bloggers and blog-readers are an impressionable bunch, which means you truly can lead by example. A few carefully cultivated partnerships with emerging businesses — thrown in among the high-paying gigs and other passive income possibilities — will give other bloggers a concrete reminder that small partnerships are fine. Desirable, even.
It's easy to buy into the competitive, bigger-is-better mentality if you're trying to build your blog. But don't write off small-time partnerships altogether. Strategic retail blogging can be beneficial and important, fostering truly symbiotic relationships between you and up-and-coming businesses.