04 Aug Tech Support: Claire Sulmers – The Fashion Bomb
I’ll admit it: I’m winging it with this here Internets. There’s so much I don’t know about page views, advertising, layout and design. I often IM, Twitter and email fellow bloggers with questions about tiny urls (who knew you could personalize them? Thanks Anslem!) and how to figure out my stats (who knew you could get a stat counter for free? Thanks Michael!).
Y’all know I’m all about sharing the knowledge. So I’ve asked Haftime to start a column. It’s called Tech Support. Every week once in a while, Haftime and I will track down a blogger and beg them to answer our questions on running a succesful blog. Have a blogger you’d like to see featured here? Hit up Heather Faison AKA Haftime–at [email protected] Take it away Haftime!
For our inaugural column, we’re bursting with pride to feature Claire Sulmers, founder of The Fashion Bomb.
Since its launch in August 2006, The Fashion Bomb has been featured in Teen Vogue, Upscale magazine, AOL Black Voices and other online and print outlets.
The blog highlights chic celebrities of color and contributors give their take on what’s hot (or not) in men’s and women’s fashion.
Claire shares her pearls of wisdom from her home in the fashion capital of the world — Paris! Enjoy!
1. My highest rated post so far has been about:
Moving to France. When I announced I was moving to Paris, I received 98 comments from well wishers saying, “Wow, girl! Do your thing! I wish you nothing but luck in Europe :)” and “That sounds so wonderful and amazing!! I have always envied people who are able to live out their dreams in such a major way.”
It really touched me to read so much encouragement from readers! Sometimes you’re not sure if you’re talking to anyone at all out there; that post made it clear I had a real community that supported and inspired me.
2. My lowest rated post so far has been about:
Can’t say! I’d imagine there are a lot.
3. I started blogging because:
I wanted to compliment the work I was doing in my 10-6 job with articles I had an interest in writing about. I wrote about fashion at my old job, but I couldn’t write about Beyoncé or do show reviews, so I decided to do so online.
As the ‘editor-in-chief’ of my own site, I was the only person who could push me to walk up to Solange at a Tracy Reese show and ask her what she was wearing.
It was exhilarating to give myself assignments and push myself to do whatever I had to do to get the story.
4. The longest I’ve ever gone without posting:
The weekend. I take a requisite break on the weekend because I really believe in quality time, resting, and tending to outside interests (and friends!)
5. The best thing about blogging:
The possibilities. Funnily, I was reading my old journal from October 2006, around the time I just started. A few people had left nasty, hurtful comments, and I was ready to throw in the towel.
I said, “I could do without the blog. It’s sorta fun but I don’t even know what I’m doing. My blog is sorta take it or leave it. I think it has potential but I wonder if I really need it.”
I can’t say how happy I am I dismissed those negative thoughts and stuck with it.
The blog has allowed me to meet so many people I would have never meet had I not put myself out there. It gave me a reason to be at fashion shows aside from simply wanting to see them. It provides an outlet for fashion-obsessed urbanistas.
And it has become a second income for me. Win, win, win.
6. The worst thing about blogging:
The demands. I do Friday Mail Bombs where I find celebrity looks for less and offer wardrobe advice. This feature easily takes three hours to do – it’s a lot of work, but I’m happy to do it!
Some readers, unfortunately, treat me like I’m their personal shopping slave. They’re just like, “Find this for me.” No please, no thank you.
If I don’t find something for them, they write in like, “Where was my question?!?” If I do find something similar for less, but it’s not exact, they’re like, “Uh, not quite.” When I find the exact thing (which is normally expensive), I get a lot of, “Why can’t you find it for less?!?”
Basically, some readers are very demanding and are not always nice about making their demands or acknowledging the time I put into helping them.
That said, I understand you can’t please everyone. I also understand that I’m not a machine, I’m a person, and my blog is my thing. So I definitely listen to what they want, but ultimately I do what I want.
7. If you’re going to start a blog, you need to:
Be committed and understand it takes time. So many blogs start off great, but you look in a year and the authors haven’t blogged in six months.
Or you meet someone who just started a blog, but already wants investors, corporate sponsors, and a team of five.
Blogging is a huge investment of time and you won’t find real investors until you show you’ve paid your dues with simple man hours.
I’ve been blogging for three years, but a lot of the big big ones (YBF, Perez, Concrete Loop) have been blogging for at least six! And in their first two-three years, I’m sure only a small percentage of their current audience read them.
But they caught a big break and someone noticed them. They were only noticed because of all the work they’d done prior. I’d just say to look at it as at least a five-year commitment and do your best to do whatever you do well. People are paying attention and the right opportunity will strike when you least expect it.
8. Besides my computer, I couldn’t blog without my:
Canon Camera to snap Real Style and event pictures.
9. The best forms of promotions that have brought more traffic to my blog are:
I have a monthly newsletter with the names of everyone I’ve met since I started blogging. Whenever I take a picture of a stylish person or meet someone at fashion week, I try to take their card and I add them to my mailing list.
This is great because there are lots of people who wouldn’t stumble on my blog normally. Maybe they’re not Web savvy; maybe they’re not a blog person. But if you hit them up every month or so with what you’re doing, they’ll take a look. And sometimes, you never know.
I met an editor at Teen Vogue at a Sean John show; took his card. He learned that I met Marc Jacobs thanks to a newsletter I sent three months later. Because of my MJ coup, he decided to feature me as Blogger of the Moment on Teen Vogue.com.
It’s important to target outside the people who are already on Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace (it’s also important to go for people who might not necessarily read an ‘ethnic’ blog). They may not read everyday, but they might present you with a golden opportunity when you least expect it.
10. I would love to guest blog for:
Fashionista.com. A lot of mainstream blogs don’t even acknowledge or know we exist! I’d love to bring a bit of Fashion Bomb flavor to Fashionista. The ultimate would be to blog for Style.com and do a party type blog like Derek Blasberg.
11. My advice to new bloggers in one sentence would be:
Don’t give up.
12. If I knew what I know now about blogging, I would do these two things differently:
I would have bought the URL www.thefashionbomb.com! The minute I started to get even a hint of press, a cybersquatter bought it and is still trying to sell it to me for thousands more than he purchased it for.
It’s annoying to say the least, but the good thing is that people will come to whatever you create. They can just Google the name and find the site.
The other thing I would do differently is understand SEO. SEO is what makes posts easy to find in Google searches. When I first started I would have titles like, “Manolo Madness.”
That title is not descriptive enough to tell what the post was about, which was going to a Manolo Blahnik Sample Sale in New York. Now, I’d put, “Claire’s Life: Crazy Manolo Blahnik Sale in New York,” or something like that.
13. True or False: I’m a Full-Time Blogger
I work on my blog part time. I freelance copy edit for a fashion magazine in Paris. I have a weekly Style Column with AOL Black Voices. I freelance for Essence. And I teach English (I taught English two days a week to high school students until the year ended in June. I just got a job teaching English to French Businessmen). I’m a true Caribbean – I have five jobs.
14. Through advertising, my blog brings a monthly income of:
It varies! We’ll just say it pays a few bills but it’s not enough to live off of.
15. To draw more advertisers I:
Advertising is a very strange thing and I can’t profess to know *anything* about it. All advertising I receive is because a company comes to me and asks me about rates. They can also find us on Blogads (which advertises how much average weekly traffic a site gets).
I’d say that to draw in advertisers, a blogger should create a media kit. It’s about a five page PDF that basically tells what the blog is about, has a little bit about the blog owner, has pictures of press the blog’s received, includes demographic information about the readers, and lastly has your advertising rates.
Any legitimate company will ask you for something like this, so find someone with a bit of an art background who can whip one up for you. You can be proactive and send your media kit out to the marketing departments of companies, but I’ve only had success when they ask first.
16. My average daily/monthly traffic to my blog is:
Daily is 11,000 page views, monthly can be as high as 300,000.
Check out The Fashion Bomb: http://www.the-fashion-bomb.com/
Did Claire’s advice help you with your own blog? Are you ready to get your idea off the ground? Do you feel confident enough to take your blog to the next level?
I’m a huge fan of The Fashion Bomb so it was great to learn about the ins and outs of the site. Is there a blogger doing big things you would love to get on Tech Support? Post your comments and share.
I (Haftime!) would love to hear from you…