Let me introduce you to 22-year-old Erica Ligenza, who is already generating income with her blog.
She’s done the work to get there. How? I won’t go into it here, you really need to check out her story in her own words.
You can do this by listening to the new podcast episode on the video below or by reading the transcript.
(My series of interviews now has a name: The Blog Chronicles. These will also be on iTunes soon.)
Enjoy! And if you have any questions for Erica, be sure to let us know in the comments.
Cheers to your success,
[tweetthis]How to Become an Influencer Marketing Star By Age 22 #influencermarketing[/tweetthis]
Erica Ligenza Interview Transcript
(For those who like to read.)
Influencer Marketing Case Study: Meet Erica Ligenza from ComingUpRoses.com
Welcome to a new chapter in the Blog Chronicles.
My guest today is a twenty-two-year-old entrepreneur and recent graduate of the Wharton School of Business. During her time in business school, she served several internships in the areas of; business development, branding, retail visual merchandising and marketing. While a college student, she started a life and style blog called “coming up roses”. Initially targeting aspiring college age entrepreneurs, her audience continues to expand its reach to diverse mix of online entrepreneurs of various age brackets. In less than two years the website became her primary business.
From her home office she handles the daily operations of her online business. Helping companies and entrepreneurs build their brand, with custom branding, marketing and social media strategies, and three times a week she provides engaging fun, life and style content for her growing audience.
Let’s now add the story of Blogger Erica Ligenza to the Blog Chronicles.
Matthew: Hi Erica, welcome to the show.
Erica: Hi and thank you so much for having me.
Matthew: Sure. So, is everything “coming up roses” today?
Erica: Oh, absolutely, always.
Matthew: Always… great! As a branding strategist, why did you pick “coming up roses” for your blog branding?
Erica: I chose the name after much deliberation with my mom, while I was in college and it was actually really difficult at first to come up with something that was… really representative of me.
It’s so some much harder to come up with a personal brand when it’s not just your name.
My middle name is Rose and my mom was throwing around ideas with me and we came up with “coming up roses”, because I really liked the rose sort of metaphor, in that… roses are so beautiful they’re this gorgeous flower that is the desire of every woman eventually, but they’re not perfect. Every rose has its thorns, roses blossom…
Matthew: Yeah, that’s a good song.
Erica: Yeah really, but roses blossom and then eventually they die, but it’s all about just enjoying them at their peak and I thought that was just a cool metaphor for life in that, life will never be perfect, but going along with the saying… “everything is coming up roses”.
It’s all about really enjoying the moment, striving to live as beautiful a life as possible while you have it and not necessarily focusing on the “thorns” that might come up in the way. So, I have a metaphorical background, if you will.
Matthew: Yeah, it’s pretty positive overall, your message and…
Erica: Yeah, totally, from the very start, the blog was always intended to be very inspirational and uplifting and encouraging.
Any posts I do, I’m always thinking…” okay, how can I make this, so that my reader can get as much out of this as possible”.
Whether that’s inspiration in a sense of motivation to just feel more empowered and go about their day better, or whether it’s inspiration on how to actually style something specifically, or organize something specifically, whatever. It’s all basically, “How can I make my reader’s life as beautiful and as inspired as possible”.
What’s the Difference Between a “Life and Style” Blogger and a “Lifestyle” Blogger?
Matthew: I noticed you call yourself a “life and style blogger”?
Erica: Mm mm.
Matthew: Is that a little different from “lifestyle blogger”?
Erica: I think so, because anytime I thought of lifestyle blogger… I don’t know, I don’t think of myself as portraying this very aspirational sort of lifestyle, for readers to look at and goggle over and envy. That’s not at all the intent, It’s literally supposed to be very down to earth, very real life.
The whole lifestyle connotation, just didn’t necessarily feel like it fit, I felt I was different to other, quote, unquote “lifestyle blogs” would be, so I categorize myself a little differently I guess.
Matthew: That’s interesting. How would you describe your unique selling points?
Erica: It really comes down to the inspiration and how in tune I am with my readership. I think because it’s very much a community and it very much feels like an ongoing conversation with my readers, that’s what it feels like.
It feels very much like I want people to e-mail me, or Snapchat me, or tweet me literally. If they see something that makes them think of me, or makes them think of something that I wrote or vice versa, it feels more like an ongoing dialogue. Which feels like, that’s the whole point, the point is to be as helpful as possible and not that it needs a dialogue in order to actually happen as such.
Who is the Target Audience?
Matthew: Yeah, yeah, that sounds great. Who are you trying to reach out there, who’s your niche or your target audience?
Erica: From the get go, I always thought that my audience was very much like your millennial female, the girls that are in high school or college, who might be a couple of years younger than me and that would look up to me in some way.
That was always a dream of mine, but my actual readership is pretty diverse. This morning I wrote a post on “essential organisational tools for entrepreneurs and college students”, I already have comments of people saying… “I’m forty-years-old… I have my own business and this is so helpful to me”.
So, the post wasn’t at all written for a forty-year-old to enjoy, it says “college” in the title, but I ended up having people connect to it that aren’t who I would have originally thought to be in my target demographics.
I am open I’m not discriminating against people. I’ll just put the content out there for the millennial audience that I have in mind, who are very ambitious and have a lot on their plate and really just have a zest for life.
If other aged demographics connected to that, that’s awesome!
Matthew: Did you say, you just wrote this entrepreneurial post?
Erica: Yeah, I just wrote it this morning.
Matthew: Okay yeah, good ‘cos I’m a Gen X guy and I’m interested in reading it, so…
Erica: See, exactly, that happens all the time and I’m like… “that’s just cool”! I’m not like… “people can’t read it”, if it connects to them and it helps them? Then the whole point is to help people, so that’s awesome.
Matthew: Yeah, it is awesome Erica. So, how long have you been running “coming up roses” for?
Erica: For about three years, I believe it will be three years in September.
Matthew: Okay, three years in September.
Erica: Mm mm.
Matthew: Now, getting back to your niche, I have also in my research seen, somewhere, where you were called a “fashion blogger”, Is that also part of your niche, or…?
Erica: Not really, I think it all comes down to what I perceive of these kind of categorical headers to be and how I then categorize myself, but a lot of the times I think fashion bloggers are much more photography based.
Where it might be a whole slew of their style shots and then maybe a paragraph max, describing the outfits, and have a great weekend, outfit details and that’s it. Whereas I have never ever done that, and I never plan on doing that.
So, anytime I do have “style”, which I have sometimes because I just love style myself, and if I ever have a style posted, very much… Okay here’s like a stylist’s tip; Here’s how to wear something specifically and tips on how to incorporate it with the stuff that you already have in your wardrobe.
It’s not just a series of pictures that you can only replicate yourself if you have the exact same pieces that I do. It’s literally just meant to be, “okay we’re going with the printed cardigan”. So, regardless or not of whether you have a printed cardigan like mine exactly, you can just go with whatever printed cardigan is in your closet right now and achieve the same look, and here’s how… So, it’s much more tutorial based.
Matthew: Right, yeah I’m an expert on cardigans… Not!
How Erica Uses Instagram
Matthew: Speaking of photography and such, I noticed you have great profile on Instagram, do you find a lot of success on Instagram?
Erica: Success in what sense?
Matthew: Well, let me ask you this; I don’t know your traffic numbers, but are you able to get traffic from Instagram?
Erica: Instagram is never though my number one referral, Pinterest always does it for me.
Erica: I definitely do get traffic from Instagram, and I always track that because I have a Bitly, where I can have my hyperlink in my bio on my Instagram, but it’s never, never as much as on Pinterest or even Facebook for that matter.
Erica: I think that it really comes down to whether or not I have a really compelling call to action in the caption of a post. Otherwise it’s never something where I see people just passively clicking over, once they see my Instagram profile. It’s always more a matter of; I post something really interesting that day, and have a completely direct correlation to that on an Instagram post, and then have the strong call to action in the caption.
Erica: That’s the only way I can actually direct traffic to the blog from Instagram.
Matthew: Yeah, I’ve got a lot to learn when it comes to Instagram.
Erica: It’s “a beast”.
Matthew: Yeah. Now, maybe this wasn’t you, but as I was looking around recently, I saw somebody had a link in the post description. Is that now possible?
Erica: No, as far as I know it’s not possible. You can type out a hyperlink or a URL, but it’s not actually going to link where you can click on it, you’ll still have to type it into your browser separately.
Matthew: Yeah, for some time I thought that, the URL was live, but maybe that wasn’t the case.
Erica: No, I wish. That would be a game changer for sure.
Erica: But, you still have to type it all out at this point.
Matthew: I’m just curious how you operate with Instagram. Do you consistently and often change the link in your bio to fit your recent post?
Erica: No, I did that for a period, but then honestly, I don’t get enough traffic from Instagram to do that.
The only time I’ll do that is if I am posting in Instagram in reference to a post, that was not my most recent post. Then I’ll put the URL for the exact post I’m referencing there. Just so that there’s no confusion, or as little confusion as possible.
If someone just clicked to the main page and can’t necessarily find the post that I’m referencing.
Otherwise I usually just keep it to my home page because if it’s just the most recent post it’ll be right there anyways.
Matthew: Okay, yeah that makes sense. So Erica, why did you pursue this niche, I mean, what attracted you to it? It sounds like you’re interested in mentoring.
Erica: I am, I love mentoring. I honestly started it very much as the inspirational sort of idea and it was very much like… I posted one time a week when I first started, I was on free WordPress.com and it was very much like for family and friends sort of vibe.
People had commented that they liked my writing style so I was very much experimenting with that and going off on the whole inspirational idea from that as more of a means of expression that could also positively impact others.
The whole niche that I’m in now, I think was more so just a result of taking it more seriously and expanding upon that. It more so became… Okay, I can’t post one time a week if I want to see growth, if I want to work with brands and if I just want to take this thing to the next level.
So, that’s where it all started… Okay, how can I branch out with my content in a way that’s still inspiring and still somewhat in a niche, so it’s… I’ll touch on a topic, but try to keep the whole value of the inspiration as the underlying tone that carries over everything.
It literally was an extension off of that… okay now I’m posting three times a week. So, how can I get creative and provide content that fits within my different “buckets” as I like to call them… that are all inspirational in some way, but diverse enough that they are of interest to my demographic.
Matthew: Yeah, that’s right, I saw you describe something on your site about a “bucket”, I thought that was pretty cool.
Erica: Yeah, that’s how I organize my editorial calendar, it’s very much in terms of buckets.
I have many categories on my blog, but then, I actually talked about this in today’s post ironically… I have many posted notes that are in different colors. Each color represents a different bucket, so whether it’s a series that I have ongoing or it might be a sponsored post, or it might be something that’s a one-off in some sense, that fits in one of the categories and that’s how I keep it balanced.
If I don’t want multiple sponsored post back to back, or I don’t want to neglect a series for too long or something. It’s just how I can visually keep track of my different content buckets, to make sure it’s balanced across a month.
Living the Life and Style Niche
Matthew: That’s very interesting yeah. What do you like about your life and style niche?
Erica: What do I like about it? It’s very dynamic, literally everyday you can wake up and something new is happening in the industry or there’s a new trend or there’s a new “just anything” that sparks inspiration for more.
I think especially since this is such a tech heavy sort of thing. It’s just so dynamic and that it’s just a really exciting space to play in.
I think it very much feels like the industry is still new in a sense, so I like the fact that I am part of something that’s still so much in its baby steps, if you will.
Matthew: Yeah. Do you feel like there’s a lot of competition in your niche?
Erica: Yes and no, there’s a lot of people in the niche, but I think you can feel more so saturated if you’re not differentiating yourself in someway or if you’re just starting. It can feel very over whelming at times, like “oh my gosh, how do I stand out amongst all of this”?
Erica: If you’re really doing the work and setting yourself up from the very start to stand out, especially to the people who you want to stand out to.
Then it’s not necessarily as hard, because it’s really about cultivating that relationship and once you have the relationship that you want with whoever that is. Whether that’s your audience, whether it’s brands or both, you know, what have you.
It’s more a matter of maintenance at that point, but once you have that relationship and have a name already begun for yourself, then you just build upon that.
Erica: It’s not like all of the people who start free blogs, every single day, it’s not like that’s going to necessarily shadow you. There’s room for everyone at the top, if you are very pointed at who you’re targeting and what you’re offering.
Matthew: Right, that is a good point.
Matthew: I did some research in the niche and I noticed that there’s a lot of blogs per say, like you were saying, but a lot of them are not as active as yours, they’re not consistent and they’re not getting near the amount of traffic you do.
Erica: Right, and I think what it come down to is, it’s easy to start feeling over whelmed and start feeling, like “oh my gosh there are so many people out there”.
Erica: When I sit back and think about it, you can have confidence in what you’ve done, and what you’ve created, and I feel good about that at the end of the day.
Her Favorite Niche Competitors
Matthew: Well, speaking of competition and I’m just curious like… Who are a few of your favorite bloggers in your niche and why?
Erica: So, it depends, a lot of them are friends of mine now at this point actually, ironically.
My friend Morgan, her name is Morgan Tim and she has two blogs, she has one called; Mostly Morgan dot com and then she has one called (Morgan Timm dot com) and her blog Mostly Morgan was a lifestyle component with a college lifestyle blog.
Then she made Morgan Timm dot com as a business and blog related counterpart.
I love Morgan’s posts because she is so thorough with everything and I love the writing aspect of it. I really, really appreciate that, so I appreciate when someone clearly spends hours flushing out amazing content.
Erica: Morgan does that time and time again, every single post she creates is around five-hundred words or more and it is in-depth and it is thorough. It is so evident that she cares about what she is doing. So, I absolutely love and appreciate that.
Matthew: Yeah. So, what’s her URL?
Erica: Mostly Morgan dot com is the college lifestyle one and then Morgan Timm dot com, and that’s the business side of it. (Links in Show Notes below)
Matthew: Okay, I’ll put up all these things in the show notes.
Erica: Yeah sure. Then another favorite of mine is called, Chronicles of Frivolity with Katey Mc Farlan.
The girl who runs that… her name is Katey, and She seems awesome, but I love her blog because even though she considers herself more of a fashion and lifestyle blog, she makes herself very relatable to her readers.
So, it feels very much like a dialogue and in all of her social media, it very much is a conversation with her readers, where she wants them to engage with her and tell her, “what do you have questions on or what do you need help with or how can I help you”? and it feels more service-based in that sense.
It works, especially in this saturated lifestyle need niche. When you have your readers knowing that you can be their first resource, when you have a question about what they cover. That’s almost a position of power in a way, because then they are going to want to know as soon as you publish the relevant thing to them, I think she just handles her engagement very very well and that’s very admirable.
Matthew: What’s her domain again?
Erica: www dot chronicles of frivolity dot com (link in Show Notes below)
Matthew: Yeah, I would love to see how she’s engaging with folks online, it sounds really impressive. So, who are a few of your other favorite bloggers in other niches?
Erica: Melyssa Griffin – she ran the nectar collective dot com, but she recently rebranded to Melyssa Griffin dot com. She’s almost exclusively a bloggers, blogger if you will.
Erica: Her posts are insanely in-depth she has a lot of great free content. She branches off to video content too, which is at the forefront right now in terms of bloggers, bloggers using video content for regular old content that’s not necessarily a paid course or something. She’s also really engaging in that sense. She is one of my go to business blogs, or blogs about blogging.
Matthew: Okay, You mentioned videos and I noticed that you have some well done videos on your YouTube channel, but you haven’t published a video in approximately seven-months or so. Why have you gotten away from creating videos?
Erica: I ended up putting that on a pod, because it was just taking me so, so long to edit a video and go through that entire process. At the time I was still in my senior year at Wharton and it was just honestly too much, where I just couldn’t maintain all of it at one time and it was driving me crazy.
Matthew: Mmm mm, yeah.
Erica: So, I had to put it on hold, I still have all of my equipment and I got a new camera and what not. I have the capability to do it, it’s just really, really time-consuming.
Erica: If I started that up again, I want to make sure I’m in a position where I plan on continuing it and being really consistent with it, other wise it’s kind of crapshoot at that point.
Matthew: Right. Are you going to consider maybe outsourcing some help for that?
Erica: I’m not sure, I hadn’t actually thought of it before. I think it’s more so just on the back-burner for now.
Especially given my marketing and brand strategies side of things coming in. It feels like I have two full-time jobs.
Erica: I might consider it, but I would just want to make sure that it was really, really relevant to the rest of the content that I was producing and it had a clear correlation in that sense. So…
At this point I plan on starting up on Periscope again soon and I’m really active on Snapchat.
Matthew: Oh, okay.
Erica: Snapchat actually kind of fulfills the inner vlog sort of side of things. I can connect with my readers in that sense and do so really often on videos on Snapchat, but they don’t necessarily take at all the amount of time, that editing and filming a full beautiful YouTube video does.
Matthew: Right. How can people connect with you on snap chat?
Erica: So… my user name is:- erica_lig Yeah, you can add me on Snapchat.
Matthew: Okay. Do you ever sing?
Erica: Do I ever sing?
Matthew: On these videos?
Erica: I do, I do.
Matthew: I couldn’t help but notice all of the videos on YouTube of you singing?
Erica: Oh… my gosh! I did a capella in college, so those are my a capella videos that will come up if you Google my name.
Matthew: Yeah, that’s an impressive group. Wow, these guys are good.
Erica: Thank you, that’s actually John Legend’s Alma Mater group from when he was at Penn State Fun Facts.
Matthew: Oh okay, check it out guys. You have a good voice, so…
Erica: Thank you!
How a Busy College Student Found Time to Blog
Matthew: You were talking about… finding time and I could see where as a college student, it could be a little challenging. Aside from the time crunch challenge, what would you say are the three big challenges to succeeding in you specific niche?
Erica: I think the biggest challenge that’s on my mind as of late, is how brands collaboration come about, because influencer marketing is actually still relatively new and it’s only been until recently that brands are really starting to take notice of the possibility of smaller or whats called the “mid tier blogger”, that sort of niche if you will.
That’s a challenge, it’s a challenge when you are trying to be a full-time blogger or when you’re really trying to monetize your work and you’re constantly having to validate to people… “okay well, this is why I deserve to get paid”, period.
Erica: It’s almost just more of a stressor after a along period of time. Once you have some really awesome brand collaborations under your belt, to have people constantly come to you like “oh, I don’t have any budget”, or ” oh, no I’m sending you a fifty dollar product so that should be enough”.
It’s more so just frustrating having to constantly be justifying… “no, this why this is a really an important and valuable tool for you”, and this is why you should be budgeting for this, this is why this is not a matter of fairly compensating bloggers who have gotten to a certain point, but it’s a matter too of, “this is a valuable marketing tool”. So… companies should be budgeting for awesome influencer marketing campaigns. This is a huge direction that marketing is going in, period.
That,s a frustrating thing since I have a marketing background. I see both sides, and I ‘m always wanting to tell brands, like… “no… I work in marketing”, like “trust me you should be investing in this, this is worth it for you”.
Matthew: Mmm mm.
Erica: That’s one of the bigger challenges, it’s always a challenge to just keep growing you traffic and growing your audience. It’s something that people are always thinking about, or at least that’s what I think because I’m always thinking about that.
Matthew: Oh yeah, absolutely. Another thing people are always thinking about is… I shouldn’t say always, but a lot of people want to know, how do you make money with your blog? So, I’m glad you brought up this whole influencer marketing topic, because I wanted to focus on your example of when you did some promotions on Hickory Farms.
Erica: Mmm mm.
How Erica Makes Money with Her Blog
Matthew: I wanted to know; as I get a lot of questions on this. How do you make money with your blog? I was wondering if you could share the process of how you hooked up with Hickory Farms and get that promotional, you call it a branding relationship. It’s that a sponsored post, you know, how did that process take place between you and Hickory Farms?
Erica: Sure, with Hickory Farms specifically, they reached out to me… and
Erica: I think it was September this past year, like… in September 2015 I got an e-mail from Hickory Farms, saying that they wanted to work with me on an ongoing collaboration for the holiday season.
Erica: So, from there, we hopped on a phone call and they told me exactly what they wanted. They wanted to sponsor posts in October, November and December. All surrounding their holiday content for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas… all the big sorts of holidays that are in that season.
So, it was two sponsored posts per month and then all of these surrounding social media. Then they also wanted me to host a couple of Twitter chats for them, and they had me do unboxing on YouTube since I was still doing more YouTube stuff at that time. So… yeah.
Matthew: Mmm mm.
Erica: They just basically outlined the deliverables, they tell you their budget and you align their budget with what their desired deliverables are and that was literally the scope of the collaboration.
Since we had a great time working together and I maintained a really close relationship with my contacts there. Now they’ll still reach out from time to time if they have something that they think my audience would be interested in, they’ll just reach out, or if they need me in some capacity. I hosted a twitter chat for them yesterday actually.
As long as you have a successful collaboration, especially if you’re working directly with a brand, I’ll often times have an ongoing relationship, just because I really value that from an influencers standpoint and I see the value in that from a marketing standpoint having that established repeated collaboration is really valuable.
Matthew: Yeah, so they reached out to you, do you think that’s more because of your influence in the niche or is it because of your marketing background?
Erica: I think it’s neither, because I’m not a food blogger, so I was actually pretty shocked when they first reached out to me. I think I was one of the first few “lifestyle”, quote unquote “bloggers”, that they were reaching out to, a lot of people are more so food bloggers, ‘cos Hickory Farms is more; cheese and meats and what not.
I think they reached out to me because they really value the content and they had been reading a lot of my posts and really liked my writing style. They really liked my engagement rate that I had and how many comments’ I would be getting per post and they could tell that my audience was really engaged with what I was saying.
Erica: They loved my writing style, because I have a really clear writing style and writing comes across as being one of my kind of the “baby of the blog”, if you will. It was literally more so that, that they just wanted to see how I could create a story around their brand.
Matthew: As a business major, did you minor in English? Where do you think that writing talent comes from?
Erica: I have always loved writing, my mom would always joke with me, when I was in first and second grade and the teacher would say write a paragraph, I would write at least a page or probably three pages.
I always was a pretty precocious writer, I always loved it. I wrote for my city newspaper when I was in high school and I interned with them and stuff. I always loved writing, I always did as much of it as I could it was always a really cool creative outlet for me. So, it was really just a natural extension off of that.
Matthew: Yeah, everything you just described, we have that in common. So, when it comes to writing…
Erica: Yep! (giggles)
Matthew: Yeah, I remember in third grade, everyone had to write a story and mine was three pages long which, as a nine-year-old, it was three times longer that everybody else’s so…
Erica: Exactly! Exactly. I think that’s how you can tell from a very young age, like… Alright, they really like to write.
Matthew: Yeah, absolutely. I have also noticed that you take wonderful photos, do you do all that yourself too?
How She Gets Those Fabulous Photos
Erica: Well, thank you. It depends, when there are photos of me, in any style photos… I’m not taking those myself, my mom is fantastic!
Matthew: Oh really?
Erica: Yeah, I call my mom, “my manager”. My mom will take a lot of my outfit photos. I’m trying to get my fiance into it, but he’s not necessarily into it as much as my mom. So, I give the brunt of the labor to my mom.
Erica: But, if there are product shots and stuff, I’m usually taking those myself.
Matthew: Yeah, she does some really good shots, I mean…
Matthew: They look professional.
Erica: Well, they weren’t for a long period of time, because I didn’t have a digital single-lens reflex camera, so it was challenging to start, but once I finally got myself a really nice camera, we took it upon ourselves to learn how to use a camera in manual mode. Which, that was always fun, now it’s the process of figuring out, “okay, how to make these as professional as possible”. So, it’s a constant experiment, but it’s really fun.
Her New e-Course Coming Soon
Matthew: Yeah. You’ve obviously monetized your blog with affiliate links and sponsored posts and you’re working on an eCourse. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Erica: Sure, details are not actually released yet. But, I can say that the course is going to be about; if people are interested in working with brands specifically and having a unique way to work with brands in learning how to actually reach out and pitch brands yourself.
That’s what the course is going to be centred on. So, I am really excited, that’s a lot of how I actually do get sponsored opportunities, is because I’m really good at pitching brands, I’ m really good at negotiating with them and creating these long-lasting relationships. I am creating a course about it because I believe it’s really important for people to be able to do that, especially since this is such an up-and-coming and quickly growing industry.
Matthew: Absolutely, yeah let’s keep in touch Erica, ‘cos that sounds like a course that a lot of Build Your Own Blog followers would be interested in.
Erica: Totally, yeah. It’s going to start very much from the basic’s of how do you even prepare your blog to be monetized and how do you even make your blog something that is appealing to brands, so that you have representatives like from companies on your blog and thinking, wow I want my product on their space.
That’s the position you want to be in, it goes all the way to pitching them in clothing deals and pricing yourself and negotiating deals and all of that fun stuff.
Ideally so that people can just get the money that they deserve from these brands that need influencers to reach their demographic that they want for their products.
Matthew: Wow, so your course is going to cover all of that stuff?
Erica: Yeah, it’s my baby right now, it’s going to be the signature course. Yeah, I’ve been planning this and thinking about it for such a long time, it all has just started… it kind of just fell together once I started getting deals that were a little bit bigger in nature from like household names that were reaching out to me personally and vice versa.
Erica: It was like… okay, I need to help other people to this too, because this totally changed my life. If it can do the same for other people who have similar ambitions and similar desires for their own blog, why not?
How to Become an Online Marketing Influencer that Brands Want to Hire
Matthew: Yeah, we’ll get back to the changing your life thing in a moment. But, as far as to get to that point where brands are contacting you, wanting your blog to promote their stuff. Can you share a couple of tips for a new blogger to get to that point?
Erica: Sure, for me, I saw a complete like three-hundred-and-sixty-degree or one-eighty-degree, I guess to friends and once I re-branded my blog and redesigned it, I took it to the next level I think it was February of this past year.
I had been using not that kind of great blog design at that point, I hadn’t invested in an actual designer. I hadn’t invested in really strategically laying out my blog, and figuring out, “okay, what is going to maximize the amount of traffic within the blog”, but also be the appealing place and help for brands, so I invested in a designer who absolutely executed the vision that I had in my head.
From that redesign alone I have seen so much more… I have seen such an increase in people reaching out to me, to want to work with me, because it looks just so much more professional.
Erica: So, if the blog looks unique in some way and looks like it is a professional blog, then sometimes my brands won’t ask me for my media kit at this point. Which is hysterical to me from a marketing standpoint, but there are some brands that reach out to me with a number and a campaign, and they literally don’t even know how many readers come to my blog in a month.
So… when it looks professional, because you put that much time into it… let’s just assume they’ll know that you handle your work in a similar way – because it just looks so professional.
Erica: So that’s the first thing that really made a huge difference, and then it’s consistency.
Matthew: And there’s design…
Erica: Yeah, consistency is the second huge one is… I blog three times a week without fail, I blog, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I’m getting better at this, but I’m trying… my goal is to have all my posts up first thing in the morning. I’m consistent in all my social media platforms, so there will never be a period where there’s… besides with the exception of YouTube, but that was because that was experimental for me at the time.
Across the board I’m on every platform and I’m on every platform consistently, posting consistently. My brand is consistent across all the platforms, so I’ll be posting similar types of content ans sharing similar types of things on all of them. I thinks that’s something that’s important to them too.
So the consistency and then engagement, I love starting conversation and I consider myself to be pretty good at it at this point. I just care so much about creating that dialogue with readers.
There will be pretty much comments and pretty much back and forth on platforms as well, and that’s because of my tone always really being relate-able-down to earth, super authentic. I’m not afraid to just be myself and let people connect with me and see the realness behind the blog. I think that’s a huge help in creating these genuine conversations and people feel like they can just reach out to you to ask my opinion.
To get the post that you wrote about something, because they feel that you are their friend, that they have known forever, sometimes they would just call up and ask for advice. It’s really being able to figure out your audiences needs to, starting a conversation that is compelling enough to them to create that dialogue.
That means that they trust you and if brands see you having that sort of conversation with your readers and having your readers be that engaged, where they genuinely care about what you’re saying and they genuinely ask… “well, what is your opinion on this”? The brands are going to know that your readers trust you, because they see them and they see them taking your word and implementing that into their lives.
That’s the point where you’re truly developing influence, where you’re not just writing things and hitting”publish”, and then have people view it and then call it a day. Once you’re actually starting a conversation and it’s a two-sided conversation, I think that’s when the doors of influence truly open and that’s where brand collaboration starts to happen. They want to make sure that your readers are truly engaged in such a way that they would consider buying something if you recommended it.
How She Defines “Transparency”
Matthew: Someone who is so effective in engaging with an audience, what do you think about the term transparency? I mean, how far do you go to be transparent?
Erica: Sure, it depends on the platform, I actually read an article about that not too long ago, about the idea of authenticity and how too much and too little is not necessarily a good thing. This comes from building a brand, period. You have to still be careful and tasteful in terms of crafting something. It still has to be something on brand, it can be too transparent, where obviously everything is coming up roses, I posted a post on what it’s like to deal with anxiety. I’ll still post things on like… “not too hot”, but I’ll still spin it in a way that still points to a brand.
It’s not one-hundred-percent transparency where I’m showing pictures mid breakdown or something… “this is something I’m going through at this moment”, I’ll still acknowledge that and say, “this is something that I’m dealing with right now”. If you’re dealing with something similar, ” here’s how we can get through it together”.
It depends on the platform… like I did this yesterday on my Snap-chat, because of that “real-time”, it just has a more real and authentic feel. I was stressed out during the day yesterday and I went on Snap chat and said that. People can relate to that then. It’s something that, where you’re not necessarily posting your “stressed out”, “wigged out” on Instagram.
Instagram is more an aesthetically pleasing, visual curation of things that are all beautiful and pretty. People don’t want to see your breakdown on Instagram, but they do want to hear your real talk on Snap-chat or read a tweet that’s really real and down-to-earth and it just depends on the platform and I think love being able to leverage that, it’s kind of to get the best out of every world in that sense.
Is It a Good Idea to Use Foul Language (Cursing) On Your Blog?
Matthew: I would love to get your take on this; for bloggers that are interested in promoting products or being an influencer. You know there’s a certain percentage out there now that cuss, they like, you know… You were talking about being tactful at times and things like that. What do you think of the blogger that just totally says whatever is on his mind and cusses and… Does that actually help them or hurt them, when it comes to earning an income an as influencer?
Erica: I think it depends on the brand they’re trying to work with, because if they wanted to work with a brand that, that was inline with, you know, maybe if the brand was more “rough and tough” and really edgy and maybe the brand is a little more out there with their own messaging, that might be perfectly inline.
Whereas if they want to work with a Proctor and Gamble brand for example, where Proctor and Gamble is very much family-orientated in a lot of their products.
Erica: That messaging won’t carry over well to Proctor and Gamble’s ideal client, therefore Proctor and Gamble is not going to work with that blogger.
It depends on who you are actually trying to target because you have to think the brands audience, they’re the people who have to be receptive to what you’re doing. That’s how the brand would want to work with you. They want to know that their ideal client would be reading your blog and therefore would want to buy from them more.
Matthew: Mm mm.
Erica: It depends, I like to think of it as – if you were meeting the CEO of the brand that you were trying to work with, would you say those things in person? If you would because that is who you are and you’d be very comfortable doing that, then do it because that’s how you’re carrying your brand and you have to stay true to that.
Erica: Whereas if you would definitely not be comfortable doing that and you would feel awkward and feel like you have to be someone else in that sort of situation. Then either don’t act like that, if you want the brand deal or it’s probably not the best brand fit at that time.
If there is such a disconnect where you feel you have to overtly filter yourself or change who you are in a way. If it’s just a matter of keeping out a couple of cuss words to make it more family friendly for bigger brands, that’s different.If you’re dropping f-bombs all the time, that’s a bit more of a chronic issue, I think.
Matthew: Right. So you think it depends on their personality?
Erica: Yeah, I think it depends on their personality and the brand that they are building and whether or not that would be inline with that or not.
Matthew: Do you think it could be used as a differentiation USP tool (unique selling proposition)? Because taking the “how to blog” niche, you know, there’s some people who are edgy and some people who are not.
Erica: It really comes down to, what their audiences are receptive to. Some people like it if you’re a little bit more rough and tough and edgy and dropping some swear words now and then, because they find it to be a little bit more relate-able and they’ll listen to you more, because they feel like you’re their best friend giving them advice.
Erica: Whereas, the opposite might be true for a separate audience. For some people the second you drop an f-bomb in a public or more professional setting, they might just completely discredit everything you’re saying because they find it to be unprofessional.
Erica: It totally depends on which of those categories of people are the one’s in your audience. If they’re relating to it and think that you’re more trustworthy because of it, great. If they don’t and they think that, that makes you unprofessional and they don’t trust your opinion because of it, well now you have a problem.
Matthew: Mm mm, so, it’s knowing who your audience is.
Matthew: So, you’re publishing three times a week now consistently, are you using an editorial calendar?
Erica: Yeah, absolutely.
Matthew: Yeah, which one do you use?
Erica: I’m a sucker for printout calendars. I have two separate printout planners and the way I structure my editorial calendar is, I have a Google sheet and an Excel document that has all of my bucketed ideas.
Then when I decide where I want that to be within a month, I use my many-colored post-it notes and I categorize them, based on the buckets of content, and I post the sticky notes on the printout calendar directly. I find that so much easier than having to write something in with pen and then scribble it out fifty-two times.
That was a nightmare I had a couple of years back, and I like having things that are printed out and that are tangible and sitting on my desk, right in front of me.
Right now my editorial calendar is a Lilly Pulitzer monthly agenda, so I just have all of my post-it notes on their respective dates and then I can shift them around as I need to.
Matthew: You know Erica, there might be a product there, as far as editorial calendar and buckets… I don’t know…
Erica: (giggles) you never know.
Matthew: Ha ha … you know it’s something to think about.
Erica: Mm mm.
3 Keys to Succeed in the Life and Style Niche
Matthew: Let me ask you this, as a life and style blogger – if someone who is aspiring to make it in that niche, asked you; “what are the three keys in that niche”, what would you tell them?
Erica: Consistency, that’s not even necessarily though just for the life and style niche that’s just in general and what feels to be a saturated blogging industry. That’s a number one, because a lot of people will post only when they, quote unquote, “feel inspired” or when they, “feel like it” or when they, “have the time”… and that just doesn’t cut it in the industry right now, I think.
Being consistent is key, being willing to differentiate yourself in some way to purposefully stand out, I think is also key. it’s easy to see what all these successful people are doing and think, ” oh, okay I should do that too, because it’s clearly working if they did it”, forgetting that this is such a fast-moving and forward-thinking industry, that being the same as them, you’re already behind them.
They are already established and successful and succeeding, so being the same as them at ground zero, is not actually going to get you far.
You have to think very early on; what is going to make me standout and feel true to my own brand. Something that I want to be, what I’m known for in the future. I think that when you do that very early on so that all of your post shave that sort of underlying thing, like for me it’s very much based in my writing style.
That stands out and that’s how you get brands reaching out to you, once you are starting to see more growth on your social Media and on you page views and all of that. That’s when you start having brands reach out to you because of your differentiating factor, because that’s what they’ll notice you for.
So, that’s a big one, I think having a clear direction and intention for yourself from the start. So, whether that kind of goes along with consistency, but being intentional about the direction that you’re taking and not necessarily shifting too far from that. One day you’re a life and style blogger, the next day you’re going to blog about recipes and then the next day you’re going to blog about sports or whatever.
Erica: All of a sudden you just start muddling things, and it models things across the board for everyone. Once you have – “okay, these are my buckets or this is what I’m kind of all about here”, I think that helps you stand out even more and it helps you stay consistent.
Matthew: Yeah. I mean, people start out wanting to talk about too broad of a canvas of topics.
Erica: Yeah, absolutely and I think, the key is not to be afraid of turning people off. I think a lot of times people start off, very broad and very much like…”okay, well, I’ll write about everything, because I don’t know what people will like. I think that works in the very, very, beginning, in terms of literally just as at the preliminary market research tool for yourself.
When it comes to blogging seriously the approach just isn’t going to work, because then you end up having like a whole bunch of brands and people, that see one post of yours that they like and then they can’t find anything else in the mix of your content that is similar or that floats their boat similarly. So, then it’s kind of like, why would they stick around.
Erica: So it needs to be diverse enough where you feel fulfilled and are covering the topics you want to cover, but still sort of like all within some sort of umbrella of similarities here, so that the same people can still find interest and enjoyment out of the bulk of your content.
Matthew: Right. If there’s something interesting or dramatic in your life, you know, maybe that’s okay, like once or twice a year, right?
Erica: Yeah totally, I think the thing is though, if, for people who want to blog seriously and really start growing and working with brands and what not, a lot of times being too personal in that sense, doesn’t necessarily help.
If you think about it, if you meet someone in the grocery store, do you want to automatically want to know everything about their personal life? No, not really, but if they have something or know something that will help you, then you’re interested, because by nature, humans are much more selfish people.
As sad as that might be, the first time someone comes to your blog, they probably don’t care about your dog, or your husband or whatever… they care about, “well, what’s in this for me”? So, you have to entice people initially, by making sure that there’s a lot of content there that’s very value based and that like genuinely enhances peoples lives.
I see this all the time, where people are doing like… “oh, pin my pin for me”, and it’s like their time at Disney world. I’m thinking, but my audience isn’t going to care about your time at Disney world. People that are new to the blog won’t necessarily care either.
But, if they’re people who, if you are more established and have a following who does know a little bit more about your personal life, then that’s where you can see people start to bring in a little bit more detailed as they see that people are a bit more interested in, “okay, well now I get so much out of you when I follow you regularly and I’m a loyal reader, now I want to know “, like… ” what do you do on a Saturday”? like… “what is your personal life-like now”? Now, there’s an interest there. But, it’s because you first gave them so much value and so much of a reason to care in the first place.
How Has Blogging Changed Erica’s Life?
Matthew: Right. So, much good stuff Erica, to wrap-up, looking back from where you started and where you are now. How has your blog changed your life?
Erica: Oh, my gosh, well, when I first started it was literally a complete hobby, it was a creative outlet while I was at Wharton. It was to destress and I at the time thought I was going to be a brand manager, for like something that was related to consumer packaging goods and now I’m a full-time blogger and I work from my house and I’m not corporate. That in and of itself has been hugely life changing, because I, in a million years never thought this would be my full-time thing.
It changed my life in a sense that, I can impact these people, who I’ve never met before and who have never even been in the same State as me and I think that’s just really humbling to know that, I can put something out there. And, someone can comment to me and say, “oh my gosh, I needed to read this today”, like… “this really changed my outlook on some things”. It’s like… ” that’s just a really powerful and impactful sort of thing”,
That in and of itself is life changing for me, because it just makes me feel like, I can help more than just this small community around me. It makes me feel like I can just scale my desire to serve and help other people, and in what I’m qualified to do and in what I think I can do, that’s one of the biggest things for sure.
Matthew: Erica, if people want to get in touch with you or follow you, how can they do that?
Erica: Sure, they can go to, Coming Up Roses dot com.
All of my social media links are all linked up on the right hand side, right underneath my picture on the home page and there’s a contact form on there also my email – and my e-mail is just: Erica dot ligenza dot gmail dot com
So people can reach out to me however, I’d be happy to talk.
Matthew: Okay, and I’ll put links to all of those things in the show notes.
Matthew: It’s been a pleasure talking to you today Erica.
Erica: You too, thank you so much for having me, this has been great.
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Visit Erica: http://cominguprosestheblog.com/
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