Working with Brands & Tracking Sponsored Blog & Instagram Posts with Bruno from @curbly
Hey, everyone, welcome to the chances collective podcasts which on the red field, I'm really excited to have a guest this week. And this is Bruno Bornstein from curbly, and he's the producer creative guy behind it. So you want to introduce yourself. Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 2:37
hi, everybody. Um, yeah, so like Jenna said, my name is Bruno Bornstein. I'm the publisher of two blogs currently calm and men made diy.com. And I've been doing that for over 10 years. So I'm kind of old school.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 2:50
You are original? Yeah, I think you've been around the block for a long time. So I think you have a lot of good wisdom for some of us who are maybe new to the space. So how did you get started?
Bruno Bornstein 3:01
So my background is in journalism, public relations and web development. Okay. So back in like 2005, I was doing a lot of freelance web development building websites for people. And one of the ones that I built was a social network, oh, this is, you know, wow, early days of social networking. And then when I got finished with that job, a friend of mine and I decided we wanted to build something. And we kind of decided to build what we wanted to turn into a social network for the home. So like people for so for people to share what they were doing on their house, to get inspiration and learn about home improvement and design. And Kirby just kind of grew out of that.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 3:36
So we were talking before the podcast started, but explain the name.
Bruno Bornstein 3:40
Sure. So currently is kind of a play on the idea of curb appeal. So we like the idea of kind of turning that word, you know, curb curb appeal into an adverb. So we kind of made up this word curbly. And it's sort of stuck. I mean, these days, having a unique name like that is maybe not as important as it one was when we started out. So yeah, that's that's where that comes from. Yeah.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 4:04
Because I know that a lot of people struggle with coming up with names for their business is that
Bruno Bornstein 4:09
yeah, I mean, you know, I spent back when I, when we started Kirby, I spent a lot of nights just like sitting there and brainstorming and thinking of different words, I think it's a little bit less important these days. And it used to be just because you know, everything so easily google google level. Word. Yeah. And because people get so much of their content through bigger platforms, like Facebook, or Instagram. So I mean, obviously, I think it's really important still, as part of your branding and figuring out like, what your company is supposed to be about. Yeah, but it's not as important. Yeah. From a discovery ability point of view. Yeah.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 4:41
And I think that that is so true, because you've been around since before. So I mean, before Instagram and everything. Yeah. How has social media affected your business?
Bruno Bornstein 4:51
Um, you know, it's been pretty huge. It didn't all happen overnight. You know, first it was Facebook really like pulling in a huge amount of content share. And then Pinterest, when Pinterest came out in 2010 2011, it was a big traffic driver for currently right away. I mean, we were we were just happened to get lucky. And we were really early on Pinterest. And we were just one of the earliest accounts. And so we built up a big following. And for a long time, Pinterest was a huge, huge traffic driver. So I would say, you know, there was a period, probably from like, 2008 until 2015, where social media was really good for us. Yeah, drove a ton of traffic. And then probably from 2016, to now it's been more challenging, because, you know, obviously, Facebook's algorithm changes, Pinterest algorithm changes Instagram's, all these big platforms have like, amassed so much of the the distribution of content. And I for a while that was great for publishers, because they would just, you know, send traffic at us. Yeah. And in the last couple of years, I think they've all started to want to keep that traffic on their site. So you see things like Facebook instant. And you see Google app, and even Pinterest is keeping people on their site. But a lot of times they'll pull metadata from your articles into Pinterest. So I think social media right now is a little bit of a challenge for publishers like us figuring out, you know, how to how to grow your sharing on social media, but also how to keep traffic on your site versus just giving up all your content into these platforms. Yeah,
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 6:28
because I've talked to people and I think there's like a, it's like, Is there a point of having a blog anymore? If you can just have like an Instagram? You know, like, there's things where it's like, I mean, it's really good to have your own website. But I think the the idea of even like commenting on blogs is something that just doesn't happen anymore. Like, what are your thoughts on that?
Bruno Bornstein 6:48
Well, I'm a little biased, obviously, because, you know, I come from the world of like, you know, I started blogging when you still had to explain to people what a blog was. But it's, it is interesting, you know, there are lots of influencers now, who don't, they're like, what, I don't have a blog, or and or if they do, it's kind of really secondary. It's just like this place where you can like, figure out what their email, yeah, you want to work with them. I really think it's, it's still super important for publishers to think about, like, what part of their audience they own, you know, so it's great to be an influencer on Instagram, and have a huge profile there. But at the end of the day, you don't own that platform true. And so if Instagram decides that, they're going to change their algorithm, or they're going to say, start taking 50% of all your sponsored content on Instagram, or whatever, you just have very little leverage when you're when you're up against a huge company like Facebook or Instagram. Yes. So for us, that's why, you know, we still really think it's important to have our own sites, you know, the email obviously, is really important because you own that relationship with the audience via email. So I think every kind of publisher needs to always be thinking about like, wait, okay, which part of this do I actually Oh, yeah,
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 7:56
I think that's a struggle that I had for them longest time because I was not a fan of email. And but I've really focused on this year, and the last like six months is getting those emails because it's like, it's the, it's the only way that you can confirm somebody will get your information, if they're on your email list, because sometimes that you miss it on Facebook, you miss the algorithm messes it up for everyone. Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 8:18
and even an email, you can't always be sure they're gonna get your email. But yeah, you know, at the end of the day, as a publisher, your job is to connect with an audience and give them something of value either for free or, you know, an exchange for money or exchange for something else. So as good as the social media platforms are, they also, you know, publishers are in a difficult situation, because the platform always is going to own the relationship, and you're always going to have control over, you know, who sees your stuff and and what format you have to put it into. So I think publishers begin smaller dealing with that. I mean, you know, New York Times, yeah, everybody's trying to figure out like, how do we have this relationship with these big distribution? Chandra? Sure.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 9:02
And I think that that is so true. So how did you get started making money on your blog? Because you started, it probably didn't have anyone at the beginning, and then it had to grow over time. So how did that relationship start developing? Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 9:17
well, so I'm currently curbly makes money or our sites make money in basically three ways. Advertising? So that's banner ads, sponsored content? And affiliate? Yes. Okay. And that's pretty typical for a lot of influencers or publishers out there. When we started, there was only one of those options available. I was basically advertising. So back in, you know, 2007 and eight, we started to get traffic, and we would just monetize that via AdWords, basically. Yeah. It wasn't until probably 2010 that we started, you know, seeing brands wanting to do sponsored content and understanding what that was. And it took a lot of communication and I, with them, explaining to them, you know, what it is? And why it might be helpful and how much it costs? Yeah, trying to figure out what to charge? Yeah. So yeah, you know, sponsored content has has gone from like, probably zero percent of our revenue in 2010, to over 50% of our revenue today.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 10:18
And how So, I have a question about, like, banner ads? Are those still stuff that people use? Or is that kind of gone away?
Bruno Bornstein 10:25
Um, you know, people have been talking about the death of banner ads for like, 20 years. And you know, and nobody likes banner ads, I don't like banner ads, you don't like banner? Yes, nobody likes them. But at the end of the day, there's still a really effective way for advertisers. To connect with an audience. They're very measurable, even though there's a ton of like, fraud and things like that. But at the it's, it's still an effective way for advertisers to reach people with a message. So now I don't think that they're like, extinct. It's if I were starting a blog today, I certainly wouldn't. Like count on that as my, that's my business model. So I think if you've already got that as part of what you do, it's obviously important to keep doing but for somebody who's just getting into it, you know, it's, it's probably something that you can just consider secondary. Yeah, other ways of making money.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 11:14
So when you started working with brands, how did you explain what you did? And like? Did you give them your analytics, all that stuff? How did that work? Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 11:24
I mean, it's a lot of explaining, trying to tell a story about what the value is that you're giving them. And I always tell people that, you know, sponsored content is really about a relationship, it's very different from like, you know, AdWords or passive income like that. It's really, you're just, you're developing a relationship with somebody at the brand, or somebody at the brands agency or a PR person. And so you have to learn what, what their job is, like, what are they trying to? What are they trying to do? Yeah, and then you have to try to find a way of telling them a story that explains how you're going to help them do that. So that's kind of like vape. But a specific way of talking about that is saying, alright, a brand comes to you, and they're like, we really, we have this new product, we want people to know about it. So then you have to say, okay, we're going to use that product in this way, which features its, you know, its benefits. Yeah, we're going to put it in front of all of our readers. And then you give them some analytics, like you mentioned, how many people that's going to be, if you're lucky enough to have done some of this before, then you can show them examples of past campaigns that you've done, which is actually a good reason why it's probably a good idea for new people to just get their feet wet, you know, start doing some campaigns with people, even if you don't make very much money, just so that you have some, some data
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 12:40
Yeah, to see that I've worked with these guys before. Because we're having we're doing a media kit workshop at the end of February. And so I just want to make sure that that's like what, what what we need to talk about is all the things like how so I think one of my questions, and I think a question that a lot of people have is how do you first of all, how do you find the right Brand Partners? And how do you reach out to them?
Bruno Bornstein 13:00
Okay, so great questions. First of all, definitely have a media kit. Yeah. If you don't, you know, I'm happy to share ours as an example. Or there's lots of them out there. So finding people. First of all, when you get to when you reach a certain point, a lot of people will find you Okay, so you'll get into different lists and whatever, we get a lot of incoming inquiries, okay, if you're not there yet, there's a few good ways of doing it. So you pick up brands, so like in our space, for example, you know, we were in Kirby's about DIY and home improvement. So you might pick a brand like Target, right? You want to work with them? I have a few things I do. First, I go to their site, and I look for contact info obviously targets really hard because of the company like that. Who do you reach out to? So the next thing I do is, I'll go to Google and I'll search target, sponsored, sponsored post sponsored content. So what I'm trying to do is I'm seeing like, Who else have they worked with? Because a lot of bloggers, hopefully every blogger is disclosing their sponsored content as sponsor. Yes. So if I can find another blogger, or influencer that's done some stuff for them, then I'm one step closer, if I, somebody I know or a friend of a friend, I can contact them. And then the other thing you can do is search for press releases. Yeah. So if you search for press releases, say, you know, company's biggest target, you might have to search for something specific about home. So you might search for like, you know, press release, Nate Berkus, because you know, Nate Berkus has a lot of target. And that press release, oftentimes will have a press contact on, say, you know, press contact, so and so. So now you at least have an email of a real live person that you can contact. Yeah. And then from there, it's really about being, like I said, before, building a relationship and being careful. So you know, you have to judge a case by case, but it might be the kind of thing where you just reach out first, you know, with a really soft email, like, Hey, you know, we did this, we did this post, where we featured target stuff to start, you should know, like, don't you don't necessarily have to go right in with like, a gas money. Yeah. But depending on the company, you might be able to be Yeah, forward. So I will often do that, I'll look for the press release from a company I want to work with. It's a press contact, oftentimes, I know that those PR people maybe aren't the right person for sponsored content, because a lot of times at at agencies or brands, those are two separate, yes. But it's still okay, I'll email the press person and be like, Hey, you know, I saw this press release about whatever, I'm looking for the right contact, for sponsored content opportunities. Here's our media kit, are you the right person? Or can you point me at the right person? And, and that works. I mean, you know, not 100% of the time, but it's pretty effective.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 15:34
D. So what I guess that that's a follow up? question is how like, is it? Does it work 80% of the time? Or like, do, do people turn you down? Like, what do you do?
Bruno Bornstein 15:44
I would say it works better than better than 75% of the time, okay. People don't turn me down. I mean, sometimes I just don't hear back, okay. Sometimes I hear, you know, we're not, we're not doing that we're not interested in sponsored content, or whatever. The other big trick that I should point out is to know that, again, depending on the size of the company you want to work with, but for for really any medium or big size company, they're going to have an agency that they work with for this stuff. So what you really want to do is you want to find who's the agency for target, rather than Yeah, who's the person inside target. So it's about figuring out who the gatekeeper is. And for big companies, it's often an agency, it's either a PR agency, an influencer agency, an ad agency. So then what you can do is, you can do a Google search type in, you know, target and agency of record. Because oftentimes, whenever these big companies change agencies, they'll do a press release about and they'll say, you know, Carmichael, Lynch or whoever is now the agency of record for target, okay. And then there are a few other like databases that you can get into if you want to, like try to find out who the agencies are. But then so like, once, you know, you know, say, Olson, which is a local agency here, and they actually do work with target, then you have to figure out, you know, who's the who's the account person, and then agency Horsley target, you gotta find a name. But it's really just about reaching out. And once you get to the agency level, that they're pretty helpful. I mean, you know, you're, they know that you're trying to help them do their job. Yeah. If you're polite and direct, and they're usually pretty helpful if they can be.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 17:17
So how do you decide who's a good fit for you? And who's not? Like, is it the kind of companies that you already using? Or do you try to find like, new people?
Bruno Bornstein 17:30
That's a really good question. It's a, it's a, it's just a hard business decision that each person needs to make. Because a lot of times, it's like, well, you know, this company is not such a great fit, but you really need some money. Yeah, exactly. So it really comes down to each person's kind of situation, obviously, for us, we really try to work with companies that we like that their products makes sense for currently, that they're a good fit, that they're like, there's an organic kind of fit for what we do. We occasionally have to stray from that, either, because, you know, for financial reasons, or because we just really want to work with the agency or whatever, or they really want to work with us. In general, it's not a great idea to stray too far from like, what you know, is a good fit. And, you know, what's a good fit? I mean, you know, if it's like a, you know, I shouldn't give specific examples, we've had a few, we've had a few sort of bad sponsored content experiences, where we really stretch to work with a product or company that just wasn't a great fit. Yeah. And it doesn't work. I mean, they're your contents not going to perform well. Because your audience doesn't really care about that. Nice or whatever, for sure. And you're gonna have to work extra hard to make it make any sense. So, I mean, I think, what's a good rule of thumb, you know, is it is this something that you would want to write about anyway? That's true. That's a good one.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 18:48
So do you do it on Instagram and your blog? Or how do you do it? Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 18:54
so we, because our blog is like our strongest profile, most of our sponsored content packages, kind of revolve around the blog post. So when I pitch somebody on a blog, on a sponsored content package, usually it's like, a post a blog post, with supporting social media promotion. So like, in my case, it's up. In our case, it's like a blog post, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. And then you know, I'll do kind of different pricing different packages based on what the brand seems to want. Okay, some brands really want video. So we'll add that in, or some brands are more interested in Instagram. So add that in. We don't really do standalone, like Instagram sponsored, we don't have a huge Instagram. But we have done some standalone, like Pinterest boards, things like that. And I know there are tons of influencers out there who just do Instagram, or just passed or whatever.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 19:55
So do you come up with the ideas for the sponsored posts? Or do they? How does that work? Um,
Bruno Bornstein 20:01
it varies. Most of the time, we pitch them something, okay. So like, I just had a call yesterday with somebody who, you know, they came to us, they said, we've got this brand, they're an outdoor furniture manufacturer, and they want to do some sponsored content promoting, you know, these three key messages, that the furniture is really durable, that it's made from recycled materials, and that you can use it to like make your space great for entertaining. So that's enough for me right there. Like I know, okay, here's their messages, I know what they want to accomplish. I'll take that back and come back to them later this week with a pitch where the specific ideas come from us. I'll meet with our you know, the rest of our editorial team and talk about, you know, what could we do? What would make sense? And usually, I try to give them three to four different content ideas.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 20:49
So it's almost like you've become your own, like marketing agency
Bruno Bornstein 20:52
kind of a little bit. I mean, you know, I'm kind of like interfacing with, yeah. Other agencies. Yeah. Interesting. So how many on your team, we have four full time employees at currently. And then we have kind of a rotating cast of contributors, anywhere from, we've had as few as three and as many as 12. It kind of varies, you know, people turn over,
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 21:13
do you. So then you do everything in house when it comes to production? And like photography, everything? Yeah. Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 21:18
we do all our all our photo production in house video, and content creation.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 21:25
So what is kind of your role nowadays? Are you kind of running the whole thing? Or do you still produce a lot of the content? What are you
Bruno Bornstein 21:31
I actually have never really been the main content producer on any of my site, which is kind of funny. Yeah, I mean, I do create content here and there. But far less than some of our contributors. My role is kind of like catch all I do all the technology related stuff. So I actually build our sites. They're built on like a custom platform. Gotcha. And I do all of the obviously, the sponsored content, pitching and selling and managing all those relationships. I've got my editor, Chris, who is based in Portland, he kind of runs all the editorial side of things. Yeah, I'm still kind of involved in that on a day to day. So yeah, I do produce content we'd like last year, we flipped a house. So we did like a full House Renovation, working with sponsors. So that was one where I got more involved in actually, you know, swinging the hammer and creating Yeah,
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 22:25
what so is that all video content?
Bruno Bornstein 22:28
There was a lot of video, there's a lot of just blog posts content social. Yeah.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 22:32
So one of the things that you had talked about, before we started was you have this new software that you came up with? Explain that. Yeah.
Bruno Bornstein 22:39
So we built this software web app called blog calendar, it's a get blog, calendar calm. And it really is built, it's based on what we needed as a small publisher to run our business. Yeah, so it's actually an app that we've been using for years, and only recently kind of have allowed other people to start using, okay. And basically, what it is, is it lets us manage our entire blogging workflow. So we do all of our editorial planning there, we do all of our collaboration there. So somebody will pitch an idea will schedule it will comment back and forth about what needs to be done. And then the other really important thing is that it does all of our sponsored content reporting. So one, really, you know, crucial thing that new people who are new to sponsored content might not know or might be intimidated by is that it's really good to provide your clients with metrics. You know, the early days of sponsored content, nobody really knew what it was. So now, you know, it's a really big, but now people really want to know, like, okay, cool that you did this post. But what how did it do? Well, anybody who's done even one sponsored posts knows that reporting is just a pain. You know, you have to like, let's say, let's say, in our case, let's say we do a sponsored package that includes includes a blog post, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. That's five different platforms that I have to report on. Yeah, each one has its own reporting system. So I have to go into Google Analytics, I have to go into Facebook analytics, etc, etc. So you know, let's say that post, you know, goes live in the in the social goes live today. At the end of the month, when I invoice the client, it's also would be good to send them some stats so that you know, they're happy, and hopefully, they want to work with us again. So I have to spend a lot of time doing that. And then immediately, as soon as I send that email with the stats, all those stats are now out of date, because that post could get really big The next day, like,
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 24:35
especially on Pinterest, because it's like that takes a long time to
Bruno Bornstein 24:38
build up usually. Yeah. So what block counter does is it automates every piece of that. So so all we do now is as soon as we create a piece of sponsored content for a brand, we just record it in blog calendar, and then it does all the reporting automatically. So what I can do is I can send my sponsor just a link your own, where they can go and see an up to the, you know, up to date, always updated report that shows them exactly how many pages use the post got, how many, you know, clicks and Facebook posts, got how many likes on the Instagram, you know, photo or whatever. So it's been really great for us, the brands have really, really liked it, because it's like an ongoing thing. Yeah, you know, we've got sponsored content that we did a year ago, that we can still provide good metrics on without having to like, remember to go back there and update everything. So so you,
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 25:27
did you create the whole thing? And how did you so you said, you just developed it for your company first, and then usually it's like, Oh, I should let other people use? Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 25:37
so we you know that what happened was, you know, back in, like, 2010, when we started bringing on a lot of contributors, we realized that we needed a better way of managing, like a multi contributor blog than email. Yeah. Because which is how we were doing it before. Because you know, our editorial process is basically once a month, we take in pitches from everybody who works for us. So like I said, that could be, you know, that could be six different people all pitching 10 different ideas and 60 ideas that Yeah, through doing that an email is not fun. So now, that's where the where the app came out of work blog counter came out of, we needed a way of like, looking at all these things, scheduling them all out and figuring out who's doing what and when. And then once we started doing a lot of sponsored content, we realized that it's really it gets to be really hard to keep track of everything you need to do. So like, you know, if you're doing we do probably anywhere between like three and six sponsored campaigns a month. Okay. And if each thing has, say, five deliverables, you know, five, like discrete things that you have to do. That's a lot to keep track. It's a lot like, did we put do we have to do for Home Depot again? And do we do that Instagram that we owed to, you know, Target or whoever it is? So knowing just just knowing whether you actually did the things that you agreed to do can get to be how, yeah, so blog calendar, again, comes out of those. And it's really like a scratch your own itch? Kind of Yeah, we just really needed some way of like, keeping track of this. Yeah.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 27:07
So what's kind of your goal with that app? Are you trying to turn that into a new business? Or is that just more just like, Oh, this is part of our brand? or? Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 27:14
no, I mean, I'm really working hard this year on spinning that off into a new thing. I mean, I've been beta testing it with a lot of, you know, bloggers that I know. And the feedback has been great. You know, people are just like, Oh, thank you. We needed some way of managing this. Yeah. You know, there are tons of project management tools out there. But none of them are really built for what we do. Yeah. You know, like, there's a lot of project management tools that are really kind of aimed at software developers or, you know, other types of jobs. But But this tool is really comes out of what we needed as bloggers. Yeah. As you know, as an influencer, you know, company. Yeah. So yeah, my hope is to get more and more bloggers using it, obviously, make it better and turn it into something.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 27:56
That's really cool, because I don't, I think they're, the one issue I get with a lot of people locally is they don't understand how to send the analytics or even like, basically, I guess, my question is, when can you start taking on sponsored posts? Like what point? Can you consider yourself an influencer, that people would start paying you?
Bruno Bornstein 28:17
Oh, I get? I've heard that question so many times. And my answer is always, as soon as you can convince somebody to sign a contract. Okay. So many people are like, well, how many pages do I need? And, you know, obviously, you know, you need to have some kind of traffic or track record. Yeah. So if you're, like, just started this month, maybe not. Yeah. But really, it's about like I said before, it's about establishing relationship, and telling a story. And then following up, which is where the metrics come in. So, you know, I even think, you know, if you just started blogging this year, it's not too early to start reaching out to people. I mean, obviously, you might not be able to charge as much. But it's not too early to start reaching out. I mean, you might just have to,
you might just have to say, you know, look at,
look at this work that I've done, how beautiful my photos are, how good my writing is, I'd really like to try creating some content for you. And so if you're really, really new, you might have to do that just in exchange for product. Yeah. But if you have some kind of traffic, or, you know, following on social media, you know, put a number out there
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 29:22
have local businesses been good at understanding bloggers, do you think does it depend on the size of the business? You know?
Bruno Bornstein 29:34
That's, that's a good question. I think local businesses are starting to get it more. But because so many blogs, but I should change that. The blog that I run, and, and most of the blogs that I kind of know and come in contact with, aren't super hyper, hyper local. Okay. So like, if you're a local business in Minneapolis, and you want to get something on currently, I mean, that's great. It might be good, but currently reaches a lot of people, not not Minnesota. And so it doesn't, there's not that good of a match. There are some really local blogs. I'm thinking of one that's called Family Fun Twin Cities. And those, they're awesome. I know those girls. Oh, yeah, I checked there. I checked the calendar every weekend. So I would assume I don't know this for a fact. But I would assume that they would have a much easier time getting local, getting local sponsors, because that's what they are. I don't know what the pricing for for that kind of thing is generally obviously smaller businesses yes to spend?
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 30:25
I think, I think the reason I'm asking is because we do have a lot of local businesses in Twin Cities collective that are maybe looking for bloggers to talk about them. So I'm like, I don't think that they know how to deal with bloggers, because they are so small themselves, right? Do they work with other small bloggers? Like it's kind of they might not have the budget, you know, to spend on a big blogger? So, I mean, it's the flip side of what you asked before, yeah, for you were saying, Well, if I'm a blogger, how do I reach brands? There are a lot of brands who don't know how to reach bloggers, either. Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 30:52
there are like, there are some big tools out there for really big companies, and they're really expensive. Yeah, that basically allows you to kind of connect up. But if you're a small business, those are probably out of your scope. Yeah. I think Instagram is great. You know, Instagram isn't easy. It's easy on Instagram to find people who are local, and get a sense right away for like, what their skill level is based on their pictures. So Instagram is a great place for I think brands to look if they're looking for influencers, your local. Yeah,
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 31:22
because I mean, that's kind of what we're doing in this collective is kind of connecting the two, because I feel like there's not really a way to do that right now. So that's, that's interesting. So, so with your, everything has just changed so much recently, as you said, so how are you still getting just traffic from Google? or How are you now getting traffic? If you said that social media is kind of gone away? Like, is it you still are getting, like, quite a large amount of readers, but it's like, how does? How do they find you now? Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 31:49
I mean, it's just the balances have changed. So I have to I don't want to have my Google Analytics in front of me. But yeah, we, we still get about a third of our traffic from Google. Okay. I'm gonna say another third, from social and another third from email, and I'll correct okay. And that is down from a much higher proportion of social, so probably from like, 2010 to 2015. It might have been like, 50%, so far, okay. And then from 2006 to 2010, it might have been like 50% search. So you know, Google used to be a bigger driver, Pinterest came along and became by far our number one traffic source. And now things are kind of re Yeah, sorting themselves out. I'm not sure how that will end up working. But I would, I would guess that for most people, that's pretty close that, you know, social is still a really big traffic driver. I think a lot of people have have been hurt by Facebook this year. And it sounds like we're all going to get by Facebook again in 2018. And that's, again, where we started off the conversation of like, well, if you don't own the relationship, and Facebook decides that they're going to shove all of the publisher content into a like, explorer feed or whatever. They're calling that the Discover tab. There's nothing you can do about that. For sure. Yeah, yeah.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 33:10
So how are you now dealing with having
Bruno Bornstein 33:16
all of that stuff? part of your brand? So how are you? How are you spending your time? Are you spending your time promoting on social if it's not working anymore? Or are you working more on SEO? Like how, like, what do you spend your time with marketing guys? So as a result of changes to Pinterest, and Facebook, we've definitely started focusing much more on email. Okay, ever before Really? Yeah, I mean, and we might not be a great example of this. I know, there are other bloggers who have been amazing at email for years, but email for us was always kind of like, okay, whatever, just Yeah, like do access feed of our, of our content, and who cares? So So we've definitely changed that approach, and are starting to work a lot more on making the email really engaging and valuable. And being smarter about how we send email. And by that, I mean, using services that let us target people based on what their engagement level is with our email. Okay, things like that.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 34:13
What platform Do you use for email?
Bruno Bornstein 34:16
We're currently using Active Campaign. Okay. Which is, which is good? It's pretty expensive. I don't know that I would recommend it to somebody who's just starting out, you know, who to use for email is like an angel question. Yeah. But yeah, so so email is one. The other thing is really refocusing on the quality of our content. So, again, because we've been doing it for a long time back in like 2010 2011, our big priority was producing a large volume of content. I mean, we don't get me wrong, we still we wanted to always great create good content, but it was really like, okay, we want to publish four times a day, or five times a day. And the reason for that was because these platforms, were sending some much traffic, but then you needed to have a lot of volume to get, you know, to get in there on Pinterest. And on Facebook, we have totally changed that now over the last, you know, two or three years to where we're publishing once a day, maybe every other day. And really just trying to, like, make sure every piece of content is super high quality, has beautiful pictures, fits sort of our our brand, our vision for our brand. And we're hoping that by focusing on the content that that, you know, we'll be able to survive whatever changes happen in terms of how the content gets distributed.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 35:31
So I've heard a lot of things over the last few years about there's like a content overload, like there's too much content, is that something you've seen, too? There's just way more voices out there on the internet? Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 35:41
I mean, that's definitely true. There's just so many people producing so much content on so many different platforms, it's, it's very hard to figure out like to kind of cut through the noise. But I don't think that it's like hopeless, I mean, that there's still, there's still a really good, there's still a place for people who produce great content. But there's just a higher bar than there used to be, you know, it used to kind of be like, well, you just like, throw some pictures up and go viral. Yeah, or even not go viral. But like, you know, you could just do like a post that was like, links to 20 other posts or something like that. Now, we're really trying to make sure that every that the writing is really good. It's like funny or interesting or controversial or something. And then, you know, there's still a lot of people looking for stuff to read and consume. But it's definitely an adjustment.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 36:34
Do you think that? And this is a personal question? Because I do have done a lot of videos do you think video has kind of shifted that to? Are you trying to focus more on that? Because I know that's kind of really big right now? Yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 36:44
we've definitely tried to do more video.
we've, we've upped our video, the amount of video that we're doing. Me, who's our editor and video producer, has done a great job of producing a lot more video for our posts, but also like just to improving the way that we do things for video. I think video is just such an engaging format. And especially we didn't talk about this yet. But you know, our our percentage of mobile traffic went from zero in 2008. To now it's like well over 50% 60 65%. And video is just a more friendly format for the mobile
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 37:22
platform. Do you Where do you publish video? on Facebook? YouTube, Instagram, everything? Yes.
Bruno Bornstein 37:27
Oh, yeah, we publish. We publish video on every on every platform. Not every platform, we do Facebook, we do YouTube, Instagram, or Instagram stories. And then we embed videos on our site directly to that make sense? So I think video is huge. I wouldn't I mean, I think that's an area where we can improve and grow like, sort of like email. Yeah, where there's a lot of space for us to get better and learn. Yeah,
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 37:52
for sure. So what advice would you have for people who are literally just starting out and they want to maybe become an influencer? Or a brand? What what's your like, first suggestion for anyone starting out? Well, so my first thing is like to say something encouraging or motivating, because it go for it. I mean, there's so it's like a real job. Now
Bruno Bornstein 38:12
it is, ya know, like, yours. Yeah, no, but you know, like, when I started blogging, it was people are like, what's blog? And how are you ever gonna make any money? So I guess my first thing to somebody who says, like, I want to be a blogger, or an influencer is like, Great, that's awesome. Like, you can do that. Yeah. And I know, it might seem really intimidating, or like, scary or whatever, but it's a real thing. And lots of brands are looking to work with influencers. So it can happen. The second thing is to develop a strong voice, you really have to, like, you have to be able to break through all the other people out there. And you got to be Yeah, and that doesn't just mean like crazy, or bright colors. It just means like, you have to have an opinion and a point of view, and you have to learn to be willing to like, share that. I'm personally actually not very good. Which is maybe why I'm not the primary blogger on our sites. But But yeah, you know, like, think about, like, what it is that you that you want to share. That's Dad, you know, look into your background, maybe you come from a different country, or you have some different upbringing or something but like, or maybe you just, like, have a different view, you know, there's so much like, especially in our space, of like, everything's kind of the same, like melting melting ice cream cone in an Instagram or, like confetti ever. And so when you start seeing that, as somebody who's new, you should say to yourself, like, okay, maybe I can take a contrarian stance like do something that doesn't look like everything find out fight you know, that's a great I think tactic for like separating yourself at the beginning and saying, like, it's going to look completely different different from all these other Instagram.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 39:53
Interesting, cuz I, I used to do stock photos. And like, I always tried to, like I was like, but I like get in from other accounts. But But I want to make it unique as this is kind of hard to balance that.
Bruno Bornstein 40:04
Right. I mean, it's, it's a creative at the end of the day. It's a creative like field that you're good. Yeah. Yeah. And what that means is you like creativity is hard. And there's no rule for it. Yeah, there's no like playbook as a lot of it is a lot of it's playing, you know, playing, experimenting, trial and error. But if you're a creative if you're somebody who's like an artist, or a musician or something like that's, that's great. You're sued for that. That's,
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 40:27
that's so true. And I think that's like, why part of the name of our group is for bloggers, and creatives. Yeah. Because I think that you don't have to have a blog to be a creative and you don't have to be a creative to be a blogger, like it can kind of, but it is better when you are have more of a creative mindset for coming up with content ideas, I believe so, I mean, the other thing is,
Bruno Bornstein 40:48
it's really good to be, this is gonna sound so lame, but it's good to be good at something. So, ya know, be known for something Yeah, we're like, have a skill. So some of the best bloggers are people who like some of that, when I think about it, some of the people's blogs that I really like, they're like, amazing woodworkers, or their artists or whatever. So, you know, it's good to not just like if you're want to be an influencer to have some other, like, skill that you're really good at. Yeah, that can inform what it is that you blog about. Yeah, cuz I know that there's bloggers who are like, sewing people. Oh, yeah. Like, make, you know, they make their own clothes. And they, you know, it's theirs that makes them unique. And people remember them, you know, for that. Yeah. I mean, it's hard to have a blog about there are blogs about blogging, but it's hard to. So I think it's, you know, think about, like, what are your interests and like, go deep. You know, if you're interested in something, and you're passionate about it, you'll be amazed by like, how much people really want to hear. I mean, she want to hear about that, you know, like if you really know, like, why one sewing needle is better than another? So yeah, that sounds crazy. But I bet you that that would be a really good, like a post that would
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 41:52
Yeah, that's true. Because there are people that have that interest. You know,
Bruno Bornstein 41:55
and the great thing about the internet is that, you know, you can find thousands of them, even if it's a a crazy niche subject, like selling needles. I don't know how we got it. Yeah, that's my needles, but you know, yeah, it's it's focused on your passions. Yeah,
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 42:08
for sure. And I think that's so true. And I, I feel like that is something people kind of can just be very general, because they know that that works. Because it's just something that anyone could listen to, or anyone can read. But if it's very focused, then I think you'll find those right. Audience people. Yeah, I mean, I think another great example is family function, twin cities that we mentioned. Like, think about serving people. Yeah.
Bruno Bornstein 42:32
Like educating or helping, you know, that's, that's I mean, to me, it's just like somebody sat down was like, parents need to know, like, what's going on? And how what to do with their kids on a Saturday? And no one's doing that? No. Good job with that. Because maybe because there's not enough money in it for like the Star Tribune to do it or something. Yeah. And so for them to sit down and address that. That question is great. Yeah.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 42:55
I think that having a solution to a problem, and that's kind of what software is doing. Yeah, it's a solution to things that people are wanting, you know, yeah.
Bruno Bornstein 43:04
And I know that that can be hard advice, because probably people are out there sitting listening to this, like, well, I don't know what the salute, you know, I don't know what the problem is. I know what the solution is. Yeah. But you know, I don't know a lot of it just comes out of repetition, too. So asking, you know, a lot, a lot of it is just like, you need to start like yeah, and not not just wait around until you know exactly what your needs are exactly what you're going to do. You need to just like, get going practice. Get your reps in, as they say and figure out what Yeah, what you want to do.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 43:32
The first year, I had a blog, it was about everything. Like I had no, I had no focus. And I think over time it like, I saw what people liked. And then it's easier for and then I found new skills and stuff. So I think it's it doesn't have to be perfect right away to you know, and and set. But I do think that Yeah, starting is so important. And the last thing that comes to mind for me is, like,
Bruno Bornstein 43:55
interact with other people. And this is where Twin Cities collide. Yeah. helpful. Yeah, spot, so much of like the online world. And blogging is like, so isolating even and I know that seems weird, but it is it's so isolating, you're not really interacting with people. So getting out having people having coffee with people. If you're listening in the Twin Cities, there are so many amazing like influencers and creatives and bloggers. And I know a lot of them are part of the group. But you know, just getting together with people is so helpful.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 44:24
I really promote coffee chats, I really promote. That's how we met. Like I asked, I said can you can we like meet some time. I just want to get to know people locally. And for me, I get so much out of being in person. That's why I have such a passion for Twin Cities collective is because it's like I can actually talk to them in real life. Yeah, and not just like over Instagram messenger. It's just it's a different thing. And so yeah, that's a really good thing. Because we do have a really big creative industry in the Twin Cities. It's one of the biggest in the country. Yeah, you know,
Bruno Bornstein 44:52
I mean, I you would be shocked to the people who are like the blogs that you read every day or every week that are out of the 20
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 44:59
Yeah, right, Minnesota and a lot of people don't say that they're here and I'm like, why not? Like I think that it's a it's a should be a proud thing to say that you're from here. Yeah, yeah,
Bruno Bornstein 45:07
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 45:09
But Awesome. Well, I think that's gonna wrap it up for today. Thank you so much Brennan for coming on. Thanks for how can we find you
Bruno Bornstein 45:14
so how So currently, Curbly.com is our site and then if you're interested in blog calendar, it's get blog calendar calm.
Jenna Redfield of Twin Cities Collective 45:21
And on Instagram. It's Instagram @curbly. Okay, sounds good. Thanks so much, guys for listening and I'll talk to you next week. Thanks for listening to the Twin Cities collective podcast with Jenna Redfield. Creative This was recorded at Studio co work in Golden Valley. You can learn more at Studio co work com thanks again to Nicola high less for the use of the music in the intro and altro and to Melanie Lee of my ability designs for the cover art design. Thanks again guys. And we'll see you next time.
Jenna Redfield is the leader of the Twin Cities Collective, the largest resource in the Twin Cities for bloggers, small business, entrepreneurs & creatives.
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