You asked for it: 5 ways Offbeat Empire power-readers can support the sites (3 of them FREE)

September 9 | offbeatbride

holyshitballs

Amusingly, this question came in early last week, BEFORE our epic downtime. Maybe now is a good time to answer it:

Could you write a post on how readers can help the Empire?

Until a recent post, I thought that our comments were merely for us; I didn't realize they help advertisers see your traffic. Obviously we can purchase stuff through your advertisers. What else can we do to help the sites?

-Cassie

First, Cassie: I can't tell you how much I appreciate this email. Even before we spent 30 hours offline, it was already super sweet… but as we were suffering through trying to get the site back up, it was messages like this that kept me going. Yes, the Offbeat Empire is my business that supports my family (and helps support the families of my staff), but the real reason I keep doing it is because it feels like it's needed and appreciated by its readers. Thank you for that.

Does this mushroom nightlight set look interesting? If so, click it!
Your question is interesting. I've said many times that if readers have to consciously TRY to do anything that they don't naturally just do, then my business model isn't sustainable.

  • If you see a link that looks interesting, click it.
  • If you read something a friend might like, share it.
  • If you see a product you like, buy it.

All of these things help the Empire make money, either directly or indirectly.

But what about our slice of more invested readers? The readers who want to do more than just read and share and click? You guys make up a very small portion of my readership (I'm going to estimate we have maybe 1000 power-readers out of our 1,000,000 monthly visitors), but since you're the most invested… maybe I should stop being cagey about what you can do to help the Empire, and get it into a post.

Here we go…

FREE OPTIONS THAT COST ZERO DOLLARS AND ZERO CENTS

If I know anything about Offbeat Empire readers, it's that most of y'all don't have disposable income. That's cool! We're not catered to a luxury market, and there are tons of way to support us that don't cost anything.

1. Comment on blog posts

As Cassie points out, commenting on the posts themselves is hugely important. It helps with our pageviews, which is how our advertising rates are set. It helps with our community engagement, which is something sponsors look at. It also makes things more interesting, which is awesome.

We got feedback a few months ago that readers felt like we didn't do enough to encourage them to comment on posts. We've been making a concerted effort to end more posts with questions for readers, but honestly, it can feel contrived. ("5 ways to bla your bla… so how are you going to bla YOUR bla?!") So we're trying, but it feels weird to ask every time. If you're touched by something in any post, leave a comment! Don't wait for an invitation.

Bonus points for posting love letters in the comments on posts that touch you. πŸ™‚ We love getting emailed love letters too, but comment love letters are public.

2. ESPECIALLY comment on our sponsored posts

Our sponsored posts are the juice that keeps each of the sites online. You'll see them every Tuesday and Friday on Offbeat Bride, and intermittently on Offbeat Home. Each always says it's sponsored in about five different places.

Obviously, if you see a sponsored posts featuring a product you love… buy it! That said, I totally get that not every product is a relevant to each reader, and I even more understand that even when it IS relevant, you don't always have the money. But you know what's free? Comments of support!

Many of our sponsors judge a post's success not just by sales, but by conversations. Really, our sponsored posts are as much public relations (which is all about conversations) as they are advertising (which is all about sales). So yeah: when you see a sponsored post, even if it's not relevant to you, click the link and check out their stuff. Leave a comment saying what you like (even if you can't buy it). Thank 'em for keeping the sites you love online.

3. Share it

Funny thing about really deeply invested Offbeat Empire readers: when you love our tiny niche really hard, you tend to forget that we really are pretty small, and that very few of your friends have ever heard of us. I love the questions I've gotten in the past from readers who are like, "So, is Offbeat Bride basically mainstream now?" I'm all, "Uh, judging by the fact that we have 5% of the traffic that theknot.com has, I'mma go with no. We're not anywhere near mainstream." (I'd be able to pay my staff more if we were getting mainstream traffic.)

If you love what you read on the Offbeat Empire, share it! There are the obvious ways (link a post on Facebook! Pin a photo on Pinterest! Tweet a link to a comment you left!) but then there are less obvious ways (Use @replies on Facebook or Pinterest to flag a post for a friend to see!).

OPTIONS THAT COST MONEY

Offbeat Bride Tribe members are the only readers that have a clear way to give us money: they can become Lifetime Members for $50 to gain access to premium Tribe functions like photo uploading. In general, I don't accept money from readers, but there are a few ways your money can support us…

4. Do your shopping through us

Again, it's a big ol' DUH here that if you see something in one our sponsored posts that you like, you should buy it. We don't actually get a cut of the money, but it makes for happy sponsors who come back to sponsor again.

BUT! One of the ways my editors make money is through affiliate posts. When you click a link in an affiliate post, and then buy something, the editor gets a small commission from the store you bought from… usually about 5%. (Like sponsored post, affiliate posts always have a disclaimer: look for the little shopping bag message at the top of the post!)

So, you want to shop at ModCloth? Click a link in one of Megan's Offbeat Home posts! You've got some Zappos stocking up to do? Click a link in one of my shoe posts! We only make a commission if we're the last click before you buy, so if you know you're going to buy something from a store we feature, click a link on one of our sites first. It's worth noting that when you buy after clicking from an editor's post, the commissions go directly to THAT EDITOR… not the Empire. Think of it as "tipping." πŸ™‚

If you want to support the Empire directly by doing some shopping, here are affiliate links to the top shops that Empire readers buy from:

5. Become a sponsor

Uh, here's an example of banner ad you could do as a personal sponsor. I made this in about 2min with Ribbet.com
Uh, here's an example of banner ad you could do as a personal sponsor. I made this in about 2min with Ribbet.com
If you have a tiny little Etsy business, you should totally become a sponsor. But what about those of you who are thinking, "I'm not a business. Why would I become a sponsor?" Guess what? DOESN'T MATTER. We have super cheap banner options on every site, and there's no reason why you as a reader can't purchase them. But what would you link? Whatever you want:

  • Your personal website (get new readers!)
  • Your Tumblr or Twitter (get new followers!)
  • Your Facebook page (make new friends!)
  • Your favorite Empire post (make sure other people see it!)

Ok, so there you have it: 5 ways that you can help the Empire, for those of you who want to more that just read, click, and share. Based on these five things, here's a short story about an Offbeat Empire power-reader, code name Cassie:

  1. I'm on Facebook, and an Offbeat Home post shows up.
  2. I click the link and read it — this is awesome!
  3. Reading the post, I notice link to a cute mushroom nightlight set — wait, I think my sister would love this, and her birthday is next month. I'm totally snagging it for her.
  4. Clicking back to the post on Offbeat Home, I leave a comment, complimenting the author and asking if anyone else thinks they're supposed to look like it's from Mario.
  5. Ooh, wait: come to think of it, I'm totally going to pin this post to my Vintage Nintendo board.
  6. Ooh, double come to think of it, I'm going to go back to Facebook and @reply my gamer friend on the post.
  7. In fact, I think I'm going to use my Offbeat Home sponsorship to make a funny banner that's like CASSIE LOVES THIS NIGHTLIGHT SET!

Obviously, this is ludicrous. I would never expect anyone to do all these things — even a power-reader! I'm just saying there are a lot of different ways super-loving readers can potentially engage with each post to support the sites.

I'm happy to answer any questions y'all might have!

  1. Okay, if I do ever make that EP of ukulele songs about tragic/badass/interesting historical ladies, I am totally advertising it on OBH!

    14 agree
  2. Awesome!! I love the Offbeat Sites, and they are so interesting, even when they are not 100% applicable to my life or the life of a friend or loved one. I recommend it all the time. First found you all when my roommate was looking for nerdy decoration ideas for her wedding, and we've both been hooked ever since. Keep up the great job, everyone!!! We will do our best to support the Offbeat Sites as best as possible and whenever we can! (Soooo on the daily. πŸ˜€ )

    8 agree
  3. Great post πŸ˜‰

    As an aside (and totally nit-picky), I dislike clicking links to outside websites and NOT having them open in a new tab or window. Out of habit, I almost always right-click the link & open in a new tab anyway, but sometimes I don't and am rewarded with getting navigated away from OBB or OB-whatever :(. Not sure if anyone else feels that way.

    7 agree
    • Not forcing links to open in a new window is an intentional UX choice: http://offbeatempire.com/2011/08/links-new-windows

      But you've got the right idea: if you like new tabs for external links, hover over a link to see where it's going, and then just right click! The power is completely in readers' hands, just where I like it to be. πŸ™‚

      6 agree
    • I can't remember the last time i DIDN'T ctrl-click a link on the net πŸ™‚

      2 agree
    • I always want a link to open in a new tab, but I never ever want a new window and I never want the new tab to steal focus. So I actually prefer it the way it is now!

      1 agrees
  4. Thanks for this!

    It's a good reminder that while the Empire has been a massive part of *MY* life since forever, so many of my friends don't know about it.

    I just take for granted that the Empire is a 'known' entity. I'm going to be more conscious about doing my part to link/share/comment/etc!

    (Seriously, I've been here for like forever. I've been an Empire junkie since OBB was basically just a PR blog for the book! I even have a vintage 'fuck taffeta' tee tucked away somewhere in my storage unit at my mother-in-law's house!)

    5 agree
    • If you have a Fuck Taffeta tee, you are indeed TRULY old-school! I had to ditch that whole early marketing campaign when I realized A) how few people could pronounce the word "taffeta" and B) how many people who COULD pronounce it, liked taffeta and didn't like me dismissing it. HA!

      Oh the early days of Offbeat Bride… thanks for sticking around all these years, SamanthaB!!

      4 agree
      • I found OBB when I was getting sucked into being the maid of honor for my cousin's wedding — the book had *just* been released and I ordered her a book, and me, as a 'please don't make this a tortuous experience for me!' gift. I think the tees were gifts-with-purchase. And… I've been around ever since!

        1 agrees
  5. Coincidentally, me and my husband received that mushroom lamp set as a wedding present! … After the wedding I planned with so much help from OBB! Love the Empire!

    3 agree
    • Oh, man. The problem there is strictly an issue of time… we're just too busy with publishing to get into the tshirt designing business. πŸ™ If you have design skills, feel free to submit a tshirt design! It's easy for me to get designs up… I just don't have the resources to put into MAKING the designs.

      That said, we totally used to have Offbeat Empire logo tshirts for a while and … no one bought them. :/

      5 agree
      • Maybe we can have a poll/survey thing for our fave Offbeat Empire quotes — especially ones pulled from the comments! — and have the winners turned into tees? (Or coffee cups or totes or whatever.)

        If they're sold through something like CafePress there are tons of product options plus basically no overhead for the Empire.

        Even better, to make quote-based tees you don't really need any design skills and I'm sure that a lot of us have favorite posts/comments we'd love to submit.

        11 agree
        • And when it comes to designing text-only stuff, I'm more than willing to offer my help designing!

          First suggestion? "It's Octopodes, Not Octopi", ala Hermione Granger.

          11 agree
      • What if you made a blog post calling for t-shirt design submissions and then we could all vote on our favourites!

        7 agree
      • In all seriousness if people come up with ideas for t-shirt designs I'd be happy to actually do the work or making the grafix for them. I'm to busy designing every freakin' aspect of my wedding from the ground up and same with my still "super-new-not-making-any-money-yet-business" to come up with original concepts but I'd find time to tweak the concepts given to me and attempt to do the art for shirts or tote bags or whatever.

        2 agree
  6. This is funny…I was just talking last week about how once this wedding thing is done, and my online store/blog are up and running again, and I'm not procrastinating like a mofo, I really want to buy advertising on OBH. I wondered if it was expensive. I'm very excited to see that it's CHEAP!

    Also, I've been having a problem for a month or so now commenting on posts on both OBB main blog and OBH…I type my comment, click "leave comment", the page refreshes and my comment disappears. Sometimes I type it again, and the same thing happens, so I say fuck it and don't bother trying to do it a third time. Sometimes it goes through on the second try. I have no idea if this is my problem, has something to do with the server difficulties you guys have had, or if it is something that is happening to other people as well. Might be one reason for the lack of comments on certain posts?

    4 agree
    • That sounds like your comments getting trapped in a spam filter. Does it happen every time you comment?

      1 agrees
      • This has happened to me, too. Not every time I comment but often (and maybe it happens more since my guest post went up? It definitely happened a few times when I was responding to comments there). I thought it had something to do with my crappy rural internet, but maybe not if it's happening to others.

        3 agree
      • Not every time, I'd say about every third comment using my computer, and almost every time I try to comment on stuff using my iPhone.

        2 agree
      • This happens to me if I try to comment from the mobile site. Or it will randomly tell me that my email address isn't a valid email and then eat my comment.

        1 agrees
        • Buh? I have never heard of this happening. What mobile browser do you use?

          1 agrees
      • Yeah, the one time I commented using my phone, nada happened. I had no clue why, but I chalked it up to user error.

        1 agrees
  7. Quick question: if I'm going to share an article by email, does it matter if I click on on your share links (with the envelope), or if I copy and paste the URL and use my own email account to send it out?

    1 agrees
    • Totally doesn't matter. Do whatever is easiest for you. If you click our share buttons, I can track the sharing, but I have more than enough data. I don't need to track everything. πŸ™‚

      2 agree
  8. This is awesome! I never thought about a personal sponsor ad. That's nifty.

    2 agree
  9. Love this. Been a reader for over a year and your blackout almost killed me. Commenting and sharing awaaaaaaaay!

    5 agree
  10. I'm going to get a personal sponsor ad that says
    "Dishwasher: It's Not a Magic Box."

    πŸ™‚

    9 agree
  11. I would normally (and almost *did*) just think to myself, "Wow! What a helpful post. Those of us who aren't immersed in the blogging/social media/life-supported-by-internets world generally don't understand how anyone ever makes *any* money with a website, and this was super enlightening!!"…and then close this tab, and go about my merry way.

    But, instead, I'll take the time to say that in a comment, and share this with friends. Duh. Thanks for teaching me something new today! ;o)

    15 agree
  12. Does "THIS"-ing comments do anything for your stats/traffic/etc? I'm a classic lurker – I read tonnes of OBB/Families/Home/Empire but almost never leave a comment. I do "THIS!" things a lot, though.

    (I'm also *that* person on FB who doesn't comment on any of my friends' stuff, but just "Likes" it all. Yep, I'm annoying… sorry guys!)

    6 agree
    • THIS!ing doesn't contribute to our financial goals in any way, in that it doesn't help pageviews and isn't anything that advertisers look at. It's really just a community engagement tool.

      Likes on Facebook, however, are actually useful — if you like one of our posts, Facebook's algorithms parse the post as more useful and will show it to more people.

      1 agrees
      • It does, however, make you feel like a badass when you get lots of THIS!'s on your comments.
        "What? 12 people clicked a button to show their agreement on my mildly interesting opinion? I AM KING OF THE INTERNET!!!"

        42 agree
      • Boo, alrighty, I'll try harder to comment on things!

        1 agrees
  13. Man, this is exciting. I can be a Offbeat sponsor??? Once I get my butt in gear with my blog, it is ON.

    Also, I always feel like I have a comment, but don't leave them because I don't feel like it adequately contributes? Like, I'll have a thought and then scroll down see that someone else said it already, and better. Or it's just a "O RLY, ME TOO!" type comment and I feel like a goofball.
    However, now that I know you want all my relevant but not brilliant comments? It is on like Donkey Kong. And I know I'm not the only one who feels that way, so I have a feeling you're going to get a deluge of comments over the next few weeks.

    RELEASE THE COMMENTING KRAKEN!!!

    12 agree
    • If you have a comment, but someone else has said it already and said it better, see if there's anything you can add to that. Do you have a personal anecdote to share to support the existing comment? e.g. "our wedding photographer was so awesome she baked us cookies!" could be followed with "ours got us cupcakes! Who knew this was a thing?" Or maybe you have a small twist on a suggestion. "I love this idea! I think I'd add X to make it even better."

      Or you could always just comment with "I had this exact same idea! You said it better than I could have, but I definitely agree with you and THIS!-ing is not enough!" if you feel like it's worth really supporting the suggestion!

      1 agrees
  14. This post is a good reminder of how I can help out the offbeat empire, so thanks for posting it.

    I have an unrelated question though: On the mobile site I keep getting ads that pop up and cover some of the text. They move as I scroll and are pretty annoying. I am using the standard browser on an Android phone and have been noticing this for the last couple weeks. I can try to get a picture if it would be helpful, as I imagine this is not how the ads are supposed to be working.

    2 agree
    • I'm pretty sure you're talking about the mobile Glam ads that are served at the bottom of Offbeat Home and Offbeat Families. They scroll with you as you scroll, and while they're irritating if you're scrolling really fast, that's how they're supposed to look. Irritating ads are how the Empire's lower traffic sites (almost) break even, since we never have enough sponsors buying non-irritating sponsored posts, or non-irritating sponsored banner ads.

      If you want to support the Empire, click the irritating ads. We make money every time you do. But yeah: I know they're irritating. It is what it is.

      2 agree
      • It isn't just when scrolling fast, it is when I scroll at any speed and it's bad enough to make me avoid viewing the Offbeat Empire sites on my phone. It really makes the articles almost unreadable because it ends up in the middle of the page as I scroll. I'm all for supporting the Empire, and I click on ads and allow scripts from my computer (and I comment on posts fairly often), but the ads on the mobile site just aren't working for me. Ah well, I guess my answer is just to avoid mobile browsing on the Empire websites. (I was recently moving and had no internet other than my phone, so it became particularly noticeable to me of late.) I understand that ads are needed, just wondering about that particular type.

        2 agree
        • Yeah, ive definiyely been having the same problem with them ending up across the middle of the page and being hard to read around. My internet consumption is almost entirely mobile these days so it tends to limit my willingness to read and add to the comments.

          1 agrees
  15. If we get the posts in a RSS feed is it less traffic? Should we click into the site?
    I can do clicking!

    1 agrees
    • Ah, ye ole RSS question.

      Technically, reading posts in RSS doesn't help our pageviews, so clicking over is great. That said, I do most of my own reading in an RSS reader, and I'm sure as HELL not going to click through to every post… so I can't in good conscience suggest readers else start clicking through all the time.

      …Then again, if you want to help by commenting more, you can't comment via RSS… so yesss…. click first, then comment. Yesssssss. [mrburns]

      3 agree
      • I know this affects only a small number of readers, but can I just say that I LOVE that the main blog posts are now crossposted to the Tribe activity feed? It's totally replaced my RSS reader, and now that I know you get good things from my click-throughs, it makes me feel like I'm contributing! Whee!

        1 agrees
        • YAY AWESOME! Kellbot invested some significant hours into that project, so that's great to hear.

          1 agrees
  16. So, like Cassie here, I've been making a concerted effort to a) check on the main blog, and b) comment whenever I feel like I've got something to add. I share like a fiend (my friends are probably largely getting tired of OBB links… Just wait til November! It'll be all OBH!) From a business standpoint, how useful is it to comment on, share, and generally interact with older content? If it's something I feel strongly about, I'll often leave the comment anyway, but if not, I'll usually shrug and brush it off as thread necromancy.

    Perfect example:
    Another commenter mentioned opening links in new windows (anyone on the Tribe who's read any of my journals will probably know where I stand on this) and I clicked through the link explaining the choice (and suddenly felt slightly guilty about not disclaimering all over my journal that my links open in new tabs/windows). All I had to say there was a basic, "Thanks for explaining your choice. I will be substantially less annoyed by it now that I realise it was a conscious, thoughtful decision." But the post was 2 years old, and netiquette has taught me that one does not simply dredge up 2 year old posts. How does that work within this context?

    2 agree
    • Sharing old posts TOTALLY helps. Especially on Offbeat Bride where our readership is transient, a 2014 bride might not think to ever check into the archives to see great advice we posted in 2010.

      Commenting on old posts isn't bad (hey: pageviews are pageviews!) but it might not be the best use of your time, since as you point out… most old posts don't have active discussions.

      So when it comes to old posts, I'd say lean toward sharing. You might have noticed that I've started sharing a couple older posts every day on Facebook… and people LOVE them! There's SO much good stuff in our archives!

      1 agrees
      • I don't know who's in charge of the Pinterest OBB account, but I LOVE seeing the older posts that get pinned there. I've gone through a lot of the archives anyways, but at least half of the older posts that get pinned and catch my eye are ones that I haven't read before.

        Speaking of Pinterest–does it make a difference to y'all if we pin directly from the site versus repinning from the OBB account? I doubt it generates revenue really, but does it look better numbers-wise to do one or the other?

        1 agrees
        • Oh hey! That's me. πŸ™‚ As far as I know, repinning vs pinning directly doesn't make a difference.

          1 agrees
  17. What a coincidence… I JUST shared your site with a friend who recently started a wedding photography/videography business with his wife. He was lamenting over what his site "should" look like and I said, "I am going to show you a site that will blow your mind and perception of the wedding industry." He liked it, he shared with his wife, who sent it to her friend who is getting married. Fuck yeah. Maybe I can convince him to join as a sponsor? πŸ™‚

    1 agrees
  18. This is a super useful post. I'm not a 'power reader' persay, but I do read or skim every post that you send out, and often pin and share when I like things. If I realized comments made a difference, I'd comment more! I rarely have the $ to buy the sponsored things and sort of figured all I could do was keep reading, so I'm glad to have some ideas of tangible things I can do to support a culture that I believe in. Despite not being a power reader, I AM really invested, I was super excited to go to the party you guys had at Geek Girl Con a couple years ago, and am looking forward to getting my studio finally unpacked so I can do a post to submit to Offbeat Home.

    2 agree
  19. Haha, I am forever telling people in my life, "Offbeat Bride/Home/Families just had a post about that!" Just about to e-mail a link to a friend who wants to put her catbox inside a cabinet. πŸ™‚

    3 agree
  20. I've just ordered your book from Amazon, by following the link from your site. Yay!

    1 agrees
    • Aww, thank you! πŸ™‚

      It's interesting: despite the 700k monthly readers of offbeatbride.com, very VERY few people buy the book (maybe 100 a month? MAYBE), so I tend to forget about it when talking about how readers can support the Offbeat Empire. My publisher pays me about $1 per book, so book sales end up being only a small sliver of the Empire's annual revenue, but every little sliver helps. (And I like to hope the book is entertaining… although I haven't read it in five years, so who knows?! πŸ˜‰ )

      1 agrees
      • It is both entertaining and useful! I really enjoyed reading it while we were planning our wedding and would recommend it to friends.

        3 agree
      • I have probably bought five or six copies, because I often send it to friends or family who get engaged (and point them to the site and tribe!). Good to know I'm helping…even only five or six dollars' worth.

        1 agrees
  21. If I really love something you post in a post (I'm thinking of the dorm decor one) and I want to buy it, but I live in the UK, can I request a UK Amazon link so that it still supports you? Or is that too much faff to be worth it?

    1 agrees
    • Sadly, I don't think we can collect affiliate sales from the uk…

      1 agrees
  22. Ever since you talked about comments/lack thereof on the OBB blog being a major force of income for the blog, I've tried to comment more on things. It's difficult because I'm one of those people that will often write out a whole comment, look at it, decide no one cares, and delete the whole thing and move on.

    In fact, I want to delete this comment, but I won't. Gotta overcome this somehow, amirite?

    3 agree
    • Yep! Just remind yourself that the bar for comments on the internet is very low. If you're saying something more intelligent than "lol funy," then you're doing better than 90% of the internet! πŸ™‚

      4 agree
  23. I have so many super skilled artist and artisab friends that I have wanted to buy advertizing on Offbeat Home for, but I always thought in terms of the sponsored posts which cost hundreds of dollars. I could totally buy a banner ad!

    It is also a solution for every time I submit an adorable picture to the flickr pool and then sit around sad that it doesnt get featured anywhere. I can just put it on the blog myself! πŸ˜›

    2 agree

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