Once upon a time, in the dark, early days of the internet, bloggers wrote to miniscule audiences for the love of it. Now, blogging has become business, with bloggers who may have audiences of millions creating sponsored content for brands.
With bloggers trusted by their readers, it’s important for them to connect with the right brand that their readership can identify with. Brands, too, need to find the right blogger to represent their name.
After being approached by parties on both sides, Melbourne entrepreneur Kim Westwood started Shopping Links last year to help bloggers and brands connect.
Describing Shopping Links as a “dating site crossed with a recruitment platform,” Westwood said that it made sense to provide a platform where brands could detail what they were looking for in terms of influencers, or bloggers, and the influencers themselves could respond if they were interested in promoting the brand.
“After I discussed the idea and feasibility extensively with bloggers and also with a number of fashion brands based in the US and the UK, it was clear that this was something that a lot of people were looking for,” Westwood said.
Shopping Links identifies and engages prominent fashion, beauty, and lifestyle bloggers, encouraging them to sign up and complete a profile detailing the kinds of collaborations they are interested in. The sign up also allows them to connect their social media accounts and Google Analytics, creating a ‘digital media kit’ to represent them on the site.
“We connect bloggers and brands based on their specific requirements, taking the guesswork and time out of blogger outreach. New blogger talent is emerging daily, making it difficult for brands and agencies to remain on top of ‘who’s who’ and ‘who’s new.’ Shopping Links makes it easier for brands to identify and connect with new talent as soon as that talent emerges,” Westwood explained.
The team personally reviews and evaluates every blogger that applies to the platform; while Westwood said there are no hard and fast rules about who gets approved and who doesn’t, they look for things like post frequency, level of reader engagement, type of content, and overall professionalism.
“We have spent an inordinate amount of time on social media over the past 12 months searching and finding bloggers and influencers that we would like to invite to join the platform. We have become part of the conversation with bloggers, not only helping them to facilitate the connection with brands, but supporting them in their analytics and genuinely building great relationships,” Westwood said.
The development of the platform has been bootstrapped, with Westwood adamant that the business be able to sustain itself, demonstrate success, and then look to scale.
“I have been super conscious not to attempt scale before testing and trying each idea. Every cost is scrutinised and anything we can effectively do ourselves we try to do,” she said.
“It may not always be right but we have a good go at it and learn a lot along the way. We appreciate that we can’t always do it all ourselves and with a very small team we have to strategically evaluate where we need to spend our time versus engaging others at a cost. We are determined to give the business every possible chance of succeeding on its own merits, allowing it to grow organically before we seek investment and scale.”
There are a number of sites offering a similar service to Shopping Links, like Blogger Connect and Blog Meets Brand. However, Westwood believes the major difference is that her platform doesn’t just give brands a list of talent to choose from, but rather allows brands and bloggers to connect based on opportunities and create genuine relationships based on transparency – in blogging, transparency and trust are key.
The team was connecting bloggers and brands while the platform was being built, and has since seen 150 brands registered on the site. At the moment, brands pay $89 to post a collaboration opportunity, though Westwood said that the site’s monetisation strategy may change.
“We firstly want to see some runs on the board before we embark on a number of exciting developments and further integration with affiliate marketing models.”