Let’s say you amassed a large tribe on your blog (and yes, I stole Seth’s word here).
A large tribe doesn’t necessarily mean a large number of subscribers, but it does mean a respectable size that actively shares what you’re doing without your involvement.
Your tribe gets bigger and managing it evolves into a full-time job. You need money to keep it going. But how do you integrate that into your blog without pissing off your readers?
What Could You Do?
- You could use affiliate links for items you recommend the tribe uses.
- You could send sponsored messages and encourage the tribe to visit your sponsors.
- You could integrate a brand into your tribe.
The Problem With The Coulds
Option one isn’t too bad. The key is to disclose to your tribe, in multiple visible places, that you use affiliate links.
Option two won’t work (or at least, won’t usually work well), and should be avoided. If you throw advertisements at your tribe, you guarantee some will leave and spread negativity about you.
In addition to chasing members away, like the affiliate links, a critical mass of click-throughs would be needed for this to make it worthwhile. Indicating the message is sponsored in some way will limit your success.
If you want to advertise, advertise where your audience would be receptive to it (such as on your blog’s sidebar or in a newsletter), but remember a blog is no place for traditional advertising.
The last option is tricky. If a company offers something valuable, that is relevant and useful to your tribe, and it helps you continue your project, it should be considered.
But, if a company comes to you and tries to ram their product into your efforts, or even worse, you become a shill, blurring your cause or project into a commercial, this is the worst thing you can do to your tribe.
Unfortunately, option three is happening increasingly as brands learn they don’t need big advertising campaigns, just a handful of “influencers” to get the word out. The why behind this is beyond what we’re discussing, but it is happening, and killing good projects as it does.
What Should You Do?
Option two is (mostly) junk, don’t bother with it. Option one is okay as long as you inform your audience, but you have to be patient and plan for the long haul for affiliate links to be worth it.
Option three, can be a powerful thing. But it has to be done the right way:
- A barrier needs to be formed. Your message can’t become the sponsor’s message.
- Like the affiliate links, you have to clearly layout your relationship with the company in multiple locations.
- Don’t use money to decide what brand you should team with. Make sure you have a logical fit, preferably one that fits the needs of your tribe (FBBB partner).
- Promote in moderation. This segment was brought to you by Sprint, for instance is more powerful than “Oh my god I love Sprint, they are so awesome #Sprint #cellphones”.
- Be honest. If you need to keep your tribe going, tell them you reached out to a related company to help you, and in turn you are promoting something that could be useful to the tribe.
Let’s be clear: There will always be members of the tribe who resist advertising, regardless of form. But by following these steps, you can alleviate concerns and hopefully create a beneficial relationship between your advertiser and your tribe that allows you to fuel your project.
image: Kris Taeleman