As the year is coming to a close, many of us are looking to the next year and thinking about how we can expand our reach. I know that advertising is a hot button topic for bloggers because we all want to make money. But I think that the other side of the coin isn’t discussed as much: what is it like to sponsor other blogs?
As a designer and small business owner, I’ve dabbled in sponsorship a little bit. I’ve had some great experiences, and some not so great ones. Here’s what I’ve learned from my experiences.
Be strategic. The best partnerships are ones where you can identify a need and fill it. For example, my most profitable sponsorship so far was sponsoring Melissa of I Still Love You. I had asked her a question about her calligraphy, and she actually let me know that she was looking for designers to refer people to if I was interested in sponsoring. She’s how I got Ashlee as a client, and we’ve wound up doing some collaborating beyond her own website.
However, if you’re looking to promote a blog rather than a business, think about what audience you’d like access to. A lot of times it’s blogs like ours that we aspire to be like who have larger audiences. If you see commonalities in a larger blog, and think that their readers might be interested in your blog, consider sponsoring them!
Make friends first. My best experiences with sponsoring other blogs is when I’ve had an exisiting relationship with the blogger. In addition to Melissa, I’ve also had good experiences sponsoring Joelle of Something Charming and Megan of Freckled Italian. I chat with Joelle on Twitter all the time and I’ve actually gotten to meet Megan in person. I read both of their blogs, and when they each put out calls for sponsors at the end of the summer, I decided to go for it. Both times I felt like reading their blogs and chatting with them before sponsoring enhanced my experience.
Part of that was on my end- in blog world, sponsoring someone is kind of like a vote of confidence. You want to make sure that you have a good idea of the character of a blog before you throw some money at it. The other part is that having an existing relationship helps them to promote you because they have an idea about what your blog is about.
I want to talk about Passionfruit Ads here: I think it’s a great idea. It helps make things easier for both parties. HOWEVER, it also promotes a little bit of laziness on both ends of the deal. The one time I had a not-so-great experience with a sponsorship, I purchased the ad on Passionfruit Ads without contacting the blogger at all. I would not recommend doing this. I just think that blindly paying for an ad is not where the real opportunity lies in blog sponsorship. The best sponsorships happen when you’re working together in some way.
Be clear about what you’re getting. There are a million and one ways to set up a blog sponsorship, and often it’s at the discretion of the blogger offering them. Are you just purchasing sidebar space, or will the blogger be featuring you in some other way? Asking for a media kit is always a good idea to get an idea of the stats and packages that a blogger offers.
Start small. The biggest question that most of us have when purchasing ad space is how much money is appropriate to pay for a blog of a certain size. This is really the million dollar question, and unfortunately I don’t have an answer for you. My best advice would be to start small with an amount that you’re comfortable with, and then go from there. It also doesn’t hurt to shop around to see what rates different bloggers charge. Keep in mind that a lot of times you do get what you pay for in terms of traffic, so if you start off with a $15-$20 sponsorship (which is totally fine!) don’t be discouraged if your audience doesn’t double overnight.
On the other hand, if you find a fit that you can tell is right (like what I described with Melissa where there’s a definite need that you could fill for a readership) then I would encourage you to go for it- those opportunities aren’t always easy to find.
What has your experience been with sponsoring other blogs? Overall, I’d say that I’ve had good experiences, but it’s not something that I do a ton of, and I haven’t always gotten direct business from advertising. But I do feel like in general it helps get your name out there. I’m not sponsoring anyone right now, but I’m thinking I’ll sponsor a few sites in January.