- Apologize for not posting. So you didn’t post for awhile? You really don’t need to worry about it. Unless you have something really important to tell your audience (I was gone because I was being knighted by the Queen of England!) then come back to your blog with something your audience will love as opposed to apologies. They love your creativity and that’s what they came for – so give it to them. You have nothing to feel guilty about.
- Write mega posts. This could be related to #1. And what I mean by that is don’t try to make up for not posting by putting together a huge post with all sorts of unrelated things. If you think about it, you can get six posts out of six topics as opposed to just doing one post. If you space out those six posts, that’s a lot of material!
- Rants. There are SO many reasons not to rant on your blog. And yes, there is a fine line between sharing pieces of yourself and maintaining a business facade. Constant rants about your personal problems, vague people that have wronged you or someone that took your photo are hard to read. You risk readers and brands thinking that you are a drama queen. And honestly, I go to blogs for fun, not to read complaining (but maybe that’s just me?). I’m not saying don’t do personal posts – I’m not saying be positive even when it’s fake – I’m just saying, think about what you write. The internet is in ink.
- Take every sponsored post opportunity. If I took every sponsored post opportunity that came my way, my blog would look like Times Square with cat hammocks, winter tread tires and baby formula (even though I’m not a mom!). Pick what fits and be reasonable with the number of sponsored posts you do every month. So what is “reasonable?” Well, no one can answer that for you. I ask myself, “would I want to read this many sponsored posts?” If the answer is no, I don’t do it. I also don’t work with brands that aren’t “me.” Being choosey is okay (more stuff will come along, I promise).
- Allow unsolicited guest posts by unrelated people. Have you ever gotten an e-mail from someone who would be glad to write for your blog about custom orthopedics? Okay maybe not that, but you know what I’m saying. They don’t want to do you any favors – they just want the text links. I delete all those e-mails quickly. If it’s not related and/or I don’t know you, then it’s not a good idea.
For most bloggers, owning and operating our blogs is highly fulfilling – after all, that is why we do it! But let’s be honest with each other . . . it’s a hard way to make money. You put in a lot of time and effort that sometimes results in pennies (sometimes a lot more, but you know what we mean). Unless you are rolling in blog dough, you likely have to make educated decisions about blogging tools to invest in. The good news is that we are here to help. We’ve had experience with A LOT of blogging resources over the course of time, and there are five that we recommend paying for. There are others, of course, but these are a great place to start if you need some basic tools to help you on your blogging journey. Check out our top five:
- Rafflecopter – Do you do any giveaways on your site? Are they kind of a pain to manage? Well, they just got easier! You can sign up for the Rafflecopter blogger account (less than $8 per month). It’s so easy to change start/end times to your giveaways, add photos and include Pinterest as a giveaway option. You can also generate standard terms and conditions by answering just a few questions. There’s a free version, but we recommend the $7.99 plan for awesome functionality!
- A link manager – These aren’t just for people who host linky parties! A link manager can help you organize your tutorials in a visual pleasing way on your blog pages. For example, I share all of my Mod Podge Rocks original tutorials on a page here. I organize them the way you see using InLinkz.com - specifically their Link Manager tool. When I add a new tutorial to my blog, it’s VERY easy to add to InLinkz and will automatically display on my tutorials page without adding new code. Plans start at free, but I use the $1 a month plan for up to 500 links. $12 a year isn’t too bad! Another option that bloggers love is Linky Tools.
- Accounting software – “But Amy,” you say, “I don’t do enough business to warrant accounting software.” Maybe so. But if you are running your blog as a business, even as a small (teenie weenie?) business, you’ll want to track income and expenses. It makes tax time easier, and then you don’t miss those VERY valuable deductions. There are tons of accounting programs out there, but I use FreshBooks, and I love it. You can invoice clients, too. I pay about $20 per month, and I KNOW that I have saved way more than that just by tracking. Plus now my accountant loves me because I have made his life much easier.
- A mailing/newsletter list – With so much up in the air in terms of RSS feeds, and also never knowing what the next awesome social media tool is, it’s pretty important that you get a mailing list going. Then you always have your readers right there, at your disposal, when you want/need to communicate with them. If the thought of having a newsletter sounds stressful, just set up a template to have your posts e-mailed out weekly until you figure out what you want to do. We use MailChimp and love it, but we’ve also heard Mad Mimi is great, too (and there are others).
- Animoto – Do you want to have video on your site but you don’t want to film it yourself? That sounds impossible, right? It’s not. Animoto takes regular images and turns them into animated slideshows, saving them in video format that is perfect for uploading to your site/YouTube. You can reach a different audience by getting onto YouTube as well. Video isn’t for everyone, but for those wanting to give it a try, Animoto might be the perfect solution!
We were not compensated in any way for recommending these services, we just honestly like them. Let us know what you think if you have any recommendations for your favorite blogging resources in the comments.
In March of this year, the FTC released some new guidelines surrounding disclosures in digital advertising. When bloggers do sponsored posts, whether the goodies are paid or free, they are required to disclose a relationship. This is so the person reading knows that there is a relationship between the blogger and a company – it’s all about being honest, making people aware and ultimately consumer protection.
You are probably wondering what Blueprint Social will require in terms of disclosures. Since, per your contract, you are all independent contractors, you are responsible for familiarizing yourself with the FTC policies and making sure that you are in compliance.
Basically, even though it won’t be the most exciting reading of your life, we ask that you read the new guidelines here. If you have questions about the FTC policies, you should consult an attorney, do online research (make sure the source is reputable) or even contact the FTC.
Our Blueprint policy will be the same as it has been – you will be required to have a disclosure, but we’ll not monitor the location of and/or how you disclose. That is up to you.
If you are wanting to move your disclosure to the top of your post like many are doing, that is fine – also acceptable is putting a disclosure graphic in your post like our own Carolina from 30 Minute Crafts:
We recommend that you get familiar with the FTC guidelines as soon as possible. As we find out more information about them, we’ll be sure to share. Thank you for being a part of the The Blueprint Social!
When the news came down that Google Reader was going away, I didn’t panic… because I’ve gotten used to the internet changing on me. Things that used to be free suddenly cost money (thanks, Hootsuite), and tools that I use daily get pulled from me (I’m talking about you, Picnik). The internet is always changing, and we have to change with it. So – here are 5 steps I’m taking. I invite you to take these as well.
1. Make sure my blog is registered on Bloglovin’.
The name is not my favorite, but I got dozens of notices in the days after the Google Reader announcement that my readers were moving to Bloglovin’. And I want to be where my readers are. So I took the steps to verify myself on this platform. It takes less than 20 minutes.
2. Check out Feedly.
We want to make sure our sites render properly in the major browsers – Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE… and so I want to make sure my blog comes across in the major readers as well. Readers checking me out in a reader may have moved to Feedly, so I should make sure that I’m all set up there as well.
3. Start a newsletter.
When Picnik went away, I bought Photoshop Illustrator. I wanted full control over the program I was using, and the only way to do that was to buy it and install it on my computer. This Google-Reader-going-poof thing makes me want more control over distributing my content. Starting a newsletter is the only way I can really “own” my list of readers. If readers sign up for a newsletter, then I get to decide when information is sent, what they get, and even send along extra goodies for those who are big enough fans to want me in their inbox.
There are some great newsletter services out there like MailChimp, Mad Mimi, and Constant Contact. Do some research and ask you fellow bloggers to figure out which will be the best for you.
4. Tell readers all the awesome places they can find me.
A blog is more than just a post in a feed reader. For most bloggers, if our readers only see our blog posts, they are missing out on a lot of awesomesauce content. Let your readers know that they can find you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram… and now on Bloglovin’, Feedly, and in your fun-filled weekly newsletter!
5. Don’t panic.
Most of the features of Picnik got rolled into Google+. Chances are something similar will happen with google reader. So if you’re not already hanging out with the cool kids… consider this your official invitation/kick in the pants from the folks at Google. If you’re just starting out there, check out these 75+ TBS Google Plussers that you can circle.
And if Google is really getting out of the feed-delivering business forever? I’m still not worried… because I’ll have taken care of steps 1-4 here already… so I’m covered.
If you’re a blogger, Pinterest is way more than a way to store every great idea you come across on the web. Pinterest is a networking tool and a way to connect with your followers. But followers are only valuable if you don’t lose them. Make sure you avoid these five Pinterest gaffs and keep your followers around!
- You pin the same thing to multiple boards within 5 minutes
This is the number one bad behavior that bloggers engage in that will get them unfollowed (or even worse: blocked!). I know you are really excited about the awesome blog post you just finished and want to share with the whole wide pinning world. But nothing is more annoying to a Pinterest user than to see the exact same thing pinned 2, 3, 5, 7 times in a row to just as many boards and clogging their Pinterest feed. Need a better idea? Make a spreadsheet and use it to track which posts have been pinned where – and don’t pin the same post more than once every few hours.
- You write all over my stuff instead of repinning it yourself
Comments on pins are great. However, if all you’re doing is coming in to tag your friend on my pin over and over and over, it’s rude. I’m not saying to never comment on people’s pins. What I am saying is be thoughtful about what you write. Do you love the idea? Have you tried this pin and had success or failure? If you want to just tag your friend or write nonsense that won’t mean anything to the original pinner, re-pin it to your own board and leave your thoughts or tag in the pin description.
- You only pin your own stuff
If you only pin things you wrote yourself, you will get boring very quickly. Make sure that you are pinning other things you find interesting in addition to your own content. This not only keeps your feed interesting but helps readers with similar tastes feel more connected to you.
- You pin stuff to unrelated boards
If your “Great Recipes to Make” board has way more followers than your “Sewing Crafts” board, avoid the temptation to pin your latest sewing project to the wrong board just to get it in front of more people. People often select a few of your boards they are most interested in and if you start pinning stuff that doesn’t belong it feels like a bait and switch.
- You only pin affiliate links or links to members only sites
You never want to look like a spammy bot to your followers. If they aren’t able to click through to find out more about a pin without being presented with a “sign up to proceed!” page, you are not succeeding. Same goes for affiliate links. If your pins don’t reflect genuine interests- but only ways you want to make money from readers, you may soon find yourself short on followers.
The calendar year has an inevitable ebb and flow of traffic. Before holidays, blog traffic goes up, at other times of year (like in February and March), traffic slows down or even dips. Don’t worry, though, just because your blog’s normal flow of traffic is slow this month, doesn’t mean you have to sit there and take it!
Take matters into your own hands, and increase your blog traffic with a few simple tips. And by the way, these tips work at all times of the year, so if you need to increase your traffic, make sure you try some of these tactics:
Things to do if your stats are dropping:
1. Pin old content to give it new life
Go back a year or two on your blog and mine for some gems that haven’t gotten as much attention as they deserve. Create a new “pinnable” graphic (and make sure it’s at the top of your blog post), and go ahead and pin it.
2. Do a round up and include links to old posts
After you’ve freshened up some old content (point 1), let your readers know you have some posts from the past they might enjoy. Create a roundup, and send them to those spruced up old posts. Don’t forget to create a pinnable graphic for your round up (“7 organizing posts you shouldn’t miss”).
3. Coordinate with bloggy friends – promote each other or do a theme party
The natural lull in the year’s events mean it’s a perfect time to create your own events! Coordinate with other bloggers to post on a theme (Dr. Seuss Week, National Doughnut Day, or Return of a new season of Mad Men — whatever you are excited about). Have everyone write a post, or do a giveaway or another type of promotion designed to push traffic around to each other.
4. Join some group Pinterest boards
Group Pinterest boards (like the Crafterminds Crafty Contributions board) can introduce your content to a whole new group of pinners, and because they have many contributors, group boards can have a lot of followers. Ask for an invite for a few strategic group boards, and then be sure to follow any rules for the pin board. Some ask that you pin a limited number of pins, only pin on a certain topic, or have other rules you need to know before you pin.
5. Submit to higher traffic blogs
Anytime you post something you’re proud of on your blog, you should be sharing it with big blogs that specialize in that topic. Those blog editors aren’t psychic — they might not see your project, so make it easy for them!
For instance, if you made your project with dollar store stuff, be sure to submit it to Dollar Store Crafts, or if Mod Podge is a key ingredient, submit to Mod Podge Rocks. Designer-inspired projects can be submitted to Knock Off Decor, and One Pretty Thing or CraftGawker are always on the lookout for a new pretty project to feature. There’s a Craft Gossip topic for just about everyone, and a feature on a FaveCrafts site (such as AllFreeHolidayCrafts or AllFreeJewelryMaking) can give you traffic for years to come.
There are a few things in the blog world that make visitors cringe. I’ve been blogging for five years and have heard these things over and over . . . and over again! As bloggers, we try to appeal to the widest audience possible, right? Appealing to the widest audience possible sometimes might not make sense to you, but if you are trying to grow your blog it’s probably a good idea. Here are five reasons we always hear when people say “I won’t go back to that blog.” Are you guilty of any of these?
- Word verification is required to leave a comment – I know sometimes you get spam and sometimes it’s annoying. But there are things you can do to mitigate it (Akismet for WordPress, 5 day comment approval for Blogger). People really don’t like word verification, enough that they might not even bother with your blog.
- Unwanted noise from autoplay videos or music – I usually keep my sound off, but there are times when it’s on. I visit a blog, and I hear something . . . I’m not sure what it is, but it sounds like an informercial. This can make me run screaming for the hills. And a lot of other people too. Think about autoplay when choosing your ads. Is it really a good idea?
- Bad photography – Are you shooting at night? With a flash? Your project might be amazing, but it’s not going to be perceived that way if the photography is poor.
- Too many sponsored posts – This might sound funny since we work with you on sponsored posts . . . but there IS a balance. The reason people love your blog is for the original content from YOU. While they probably don’t mind a few posts about the latest in candle scents, if every single post is sponsored, they are going to rethink their visit. Be careful about integrating sponsored posts into your content.
- No search box – Reader wants to find Easter projects, they can’t, they leave and never come back. Have a search so they can find what they want . . . and then engage with you. They are much more likely to stick around and follow via social media, etc.
For more information, visit Crafterminds blogging resources.
After sharing last week what we love about our Bloggers, we asked them to share what they love about working with us. The answers have us blushing, and we wanted to share what was said.
The support and the great opportunities
- Tammy One more time Events
What’s NOT to love?? You guys have such amazing campaigns and opportunities and you’re so easy to work with. I always jump at the minute I see an email from you guys because I know it’ll be something great. It’s so wonderful getting blogging support from blogging pros like you ladies and I’m so grateful to be part of such a great community with some many amazing opportunities…not to mention extreme “happy” mail when I get my huge boxes of Martha Stewart crafts!! Thanks for all you do.
- Abbey The Cards We Drew
I love the awesome campaigns that allow for broad creativity! I love being able to do what I want with a product and I love seeing what other bloggers do as well.
- Randi Dukes and Duchesses
The dedication, organization, diversity and fabulousness you all put into what you do to make Blueprint Social successful.
- Jen 100 Directions
I love that you empower creative bloggers with the tools to be successful. Since we’re largely a group of women ( maybe completely), I love that we have a place that’s supportive without being competitive; that you encourage us to be our best, go for it, but still remain authentic and have each other’s backs.
- Carol The Answer Is Chocolate
I love how helpful you guys are! You’re on top of communication. You do an awesome job of answering potential questions in mass emails but whenever I’ve other questions or questions that just pertain to me one you have been so easy to contact and fast to reply with help!
- Marissa Rae Gun Ramblings
I love how well-organized Blueprint Social campaigns are, and the fantastic companies Blueprint Social works with! Such high quality products, and plenty of room for bloggers to get creative!
- MaryAnne Mama Smiles
What don’t I love about TBS? I can’t think of a single thing that I DON’T love about TBS and I’m not blowing sunshine.
I love the quality of the campaigns and products. I love how easy the Facebook groups make it to swap ideas and ask questions, not to mention I’ve made some pretty tight bloggy buddy relationships through TBS campaign facebook groups.
I love the attention to detail with each and every campaign. I know exactly what I need to do, when I need to do it and if I have a question it’s a quick Facebook post away from being answered.
I could go on and on. What I love most about TBS is being able to be a part of it!
- Amy Plucking Daisies
I love how well organized everything is. I always get product on time to create for the campaigns, I know where all of the forms are and I know what I’m supposed to do. It’s great having everything so well thought out and organized.
- Vicki The Creative Goddess
I Love that you offer campaigns that are creative – not selling leggings or whatever.
I think you do a great job with communication and I feel like if I have questions you will be quick to help out and find the answers.
I love the support you give to bloggers and the Blueprint Social blog as well.
I also feel like your compensation for the campaigns is very fair.
Thanks for everything you do!
- Beverly Flamingo Toes
I love the community. I LOVE the Blueprint Social is ”real” and easy to get in contact with. I DOUBLE LOVE that even us Canadian get to participate in campaigns!
- Christine The DIY Dreamer
Amazing opportunities to work on similar projects with other creative bloggers who are working on the same things!
- Kathryn Crochet Concupiscence
I love that the opportunities are craft-based and are with high quality brands. The campaigns are well-organized, straightforward, and fun. Heather, Amy, Carolina and Carissa are generous with their time, feedback, and inspiration.
- Jenn Rook No. 17
Great communication!! Love the Facebook groups for the campaigns where we “meet” the other bloggers, see what they are doing and also can contact you regarding any questions or concerns. Class act!
- Lynda Bloom, Bake & Create
1. Awesome opportunities to work with high quality companies.
2. Excellent communication.
3. Fun company…lots of great bloggers to mingle with.
4. Getting paid to craft!!
Morena Morena’s Corner
The best practices support!
- Christie Mountainside Bride
Thanks for asking me
I love Blueprint Social because it gives me an opportunity to share what I do.
Blue Print Social also gives me a chance to “meet” other bloggers and see their ideas and creative talents.
I love that Blue Print Social gives me the chance to try new products and share them with my followers.
Blue Print Social has confidence in me that I can share their campaign products in a quality blog post.
Thanks for having me on the Blueprint Social Team!!
- Meegan What Meegan Makes
I love how you are geared toward crafters! And I love how you help bloggers troubleshoot. And I love how you are bloggers, too!! I feel like I know who I am talking to!
Rachel Architecture of a Mom
The Blueprint Social is run by creative bloggers so they understand what bloggers like and don’t like. They don’t dictate how posts should look. They let us be creative with the product reviews so that our readers embrace the product instead of feeling like they’re looking at an ad.
- Carolyn homework
Well first thing, I love that I get to try new products that I otherwise may not have. I love that we do have such a great support group and all the girls are so enthusiastic about their projects. It’s a lot of fun.
Debbie Manno Debbiedoo’s
I love the sense of community that TBS builds around it’s bloggers. Being part of the Facebook group during the Mod Podge campaign was a fantastic way to connect with like minded bloggers, discuss topics that were the other members could relate to, and make new friends! Thank you for creating that group! It really felt as though I was working as part of a team to make the product shine in our own individual ways, with a common goal!
- Barbara Chase the Star
I love the varying opportunities to work with different brands!
- Kristen capturing joy with kristen duke
I have only done one campaign, but I loved it! I loved getting to stretch my creative muscles to dream up a new creation with some amazing products. I am still making things from the stuff I got. I appreciate the helpful tips I get from the Blueprint Social’s emails and the overall feel I get from all of you is that you are friendly, passionate and helpful.
- Kristina ReMadeSimple
I love to have the opportunity to try new products, stretch my self creatively and get paid for it!
- Justine Sew Country Chick
At the Blueprint Social, we are so thankful for the awesome creative force of our bloggers. We had a tough time narrowing down the 5 things we love about all of you, so we had to go with SIX! Here you have the 6 things we LOVE about Blueprint Social Bloggers:
1. TBS Bloggers are always up for a challenge
Regardless of the challenges of the campaign, our amazing bloggers are always excited. They try out brand new products, test ideas and techniques, and come up with new ways to use old favorites. When needed, they work under tight deadlines. Nothing is too out of the box for the bloggers in our network!
2. Our bloggers are creative
Give 40 crafters the same box of supplies, and you’d expect several duplicate projects… but this rarely happens! Our bloggers come up with so many creative ideas that there is rarely a duplicate craft in the bunch – and if there is, the two projects vary so much that they’re far from twins. TBS bloggers come up with so many fun, creative, innovative, and downright inspiring ways to use the supplies that they’re given!
3. The way our bloggers interact with readers
Our bloggers really connect with their readers. When reading campaign posts, it is easy to see that TBS bloggers have their readers in mind when they put together tutorials and reviewing products. They share insights on social media with their audiences. Their readers are more than just pageviews – they are visitors who have become friends.
4. They care about what they write about
Because our bloggers care about their readers, and value their integrity, they take care with the products they write about on their blogs. They take time crafting thoughtful and engaging posts. We love that our bloggers create high-quality tutorials and photograph them beautifully for campaigns.
5. They support each other
Through re-tweets, pins, and adding links to the bottom of their posts, our bloggers support one another. While the bloggers are creating, they share tips on how to best use the product. During the campaign, they encourage each other and provide support through social media. Blueprint Social campaigns are more than just a single post – they become micro-communities.
6. They have great attitudes!
Our bloggers approach campaigns with excitement, and a desire to succeed. They are problem-solvers who love to find creative solutions to any challenge.
We love our bloggers!
The Crafts and Hobby Association (CHA) puts on a twice-annual tradeshow. The winter show is held in Anaheim each January. CHA is a fun show to attend to see all the latest and greatest in crafting supplies, techniques, and tools. This year The Blueprint Social was at CHA in a couple different ways.
Heather Mann co-presented with Alexa Westerfield and Beckie Farrant on working with bloggers. Brands, shop owners, and bloggers packed the room as the presenters discussed different ways that brands and bloggers can work together for mutual success. It is great to see more and more companies including blogging and social media in their marketing campaigns!
We worked with Plaid before the show to help find demonstrators for their booth at the show. The bloggers showed off new Plaid products, giving hands-on, real-time demonstrations of how the products work, answering questions, and giving both a professional and user-oriented perspective on how these products apply to crafting end-users.
In 2012, the Blueprint Social worked with brands and bloggers to create successful campaigns. We were thrilled with the results, as were our clients… and we were excited to see these results showcased on the floor during the show.