I hear a lot about people trying to make a living through blogging, but rarely do I get to see an example. So it was great to be in the audience at a recent meeting in which owners of a successful blog were interviewed.
The blog is youlookfab.com, a fashion blog run by Angie and Greg Cox, who live in the Seattle area. Even for someone with little interest in fashion, it was fascinating to hear how they made this blog work.
They talked about how they:
- got started
- built a blog so successful it supports them both
- developed a thriving online community—a real community
You can check out the site yourself to get a sense of what they do, but the short version is that they started in 2006 with no particular goal, developed the blog and an online forum, and eventually Greg quit his job at Microsoft to run the back end. Now they run the blog together. Angie also has a business consulting with clients as a fashion stylist.
Fashion is not my thing, but for bloggers and web editors who deal with comments, social media, and the like, I found a lot of clues about what led to this couple’s success.
Not a Casual Interest
By the time Angie began a blog, she already had nearly two decades of professional experience in the fashion industry—as a fashion designer, buyer, and stylist.
How does she come up with ideas for ten posts a week? She answered that she is thinking about it all the time. Really all the time: when she’s with a client, she notices things to write in her next post. And when she’s not working with a client, she’s still thinking about fashion and what to blog about.
Elements that Form a Community
Since marketing has zoomed in on social media, “community” has become a holy grail for companies (who want it for marketing purposes). It’s no surprise that communities online tend to develop organically around shared interests. But even with common interests some groups thrive and some disintegrate.
What sets youlookfab.com apart is that it is a fashion advice blog. Fashion blogs come in lots of different types: celebrity-following blogs, daily photos of the blogger’s oufit, photos of street fashion, gossip+fashion, etc. Angie’s blog is really about style advice and helping people with their own style.
Angie and Greg didn’t set up the forum on the site until the volume of questions Angie was answering demanded it. The forum was an almost instant hit: it transformed the dynamic from Angie helping readers to Angie and readers helping other readers. The more I thought about advice—asking for and getting help—the more it made sense that it’s a perfect foundation for a thriving community:
- People who help other people are usually nice
- Nice, friendly people attract other people
- Groups of nice people have some built-in immunity to trolls, keeping things useful and pleasant
Angie mentioned something else that I think further builds on the foundation of nice people+advice: her philosophy. To paraphrase, when it stops being fun, you stop.
If I had to sum up in one word my impression of what makes Angie and Greg’s endeavor successful, it would be authenticity.