How one event designer used styled shoots to establish her blog and connect with national brands

Twinkle Twinkle Little Party is a party blog that works with brands like Starbucks and TinyPrints, and has been featured on Style Me Pretty and 100 Layer Cake (to name but two). Blogger Andressa Hara’s secrets to success leverage social media and her own stunning styled shoots.

Bloggers who make a living from their blogs walk a delicate line between delivering engaging, original content to their audiences – and serving their advertisers. Go too far in one direction, and you look like a shill. Go too far the other way, and you’re back to applying for a 9-to-5 job.

Andressa Hara has successfully transitioned from event planner to event designer and full-time blogger at Twinkle Twinkle Little Party (TTLP). If you’ve ever tried to pay bills by blogging, you’ll understand just what a challenging transition that is. But it’s one she felt compelled to make in order to fulfill her creative vision.

“When I was building my event planning portfolio, I used to invite several vendors to collaborate with me. They would provide all the party décor and food necessary for the shoot, and I’d use a photographer as well.”

For Andressa, that was giving over a lot of creative control. Each styled shoot was the result of the team’s vision, rather than her own.

I found that I am happiest when I plan, design and execute my own vision from beginning to end. So I chose to rebrand from being an event planner to being a brand stylist only.

“Once I rebranded and became a party stylist/blogger, I was able to establish my own style and stick with it. I started to incorporate more DIY ideas rather than having vendors to provide everything. I also started to take my own pictures.

Now I create content that is easy to recreate: parties my audience can get ideas from to host their own events rather than hiring someone to do it for them.”

Andressa says that producing styled shoots for her readers has become her biggest passion, and her strongest content for building her business and brand.

When she agrees to a brand partnership, her audience – real people planning real parties – come first. If what she does helps them to throw an unforgettable, joyful event, she’s done her job well.

“When a brand contacts TTLP to promote a new product they are
launching, we will only work on the campaign if the product is a good fit for
our blog. Since TTLP is a party blog, I will only promote products that can be
easily incorporated into celebrations.”

Her work has been featured on Style Me Pretty, Oh Lovely Day, 100 Layer Cake and Hostess with the Mostess, as well as nationwide magazines and brands like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Nestle, Kate Aspen, Tiny Prints and Shutterfly.

Andressa’s blog, Twinkle Twinkle Little Party Magazine and Etsy store work together like gears in an engine to support and promote each other. But none of these became successful overnight.

6 tips on building an audience and attracting brands with your blog

How can you build a thriving, paying blog and grow an audience impressive enough to attract top brands like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Nestle, Tiny Prints, Shutterfly and others?

Andressa took time away from her kids (Connor, 7 and Claire, 3) – and her demanding social media schedule (she’ll get into that later!) – to let us in on her secrets.

01. Social media: is part of your job

Andressa doesn’t treat social media as an extra thing she has to do in her day – she builds it into her schedule as part of her job. And she devotes a substantial amount of time to it.

“I love all social platforms and I devote at least one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening to promoting my projects and connecting with the party community on Instagram.”

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Currently, Andressa has more than 25,000 followers on Instagram with individual posts regularly garnering between 300-600 likes and over 100 comments – an impressive amount of engagement.

But Andressa’s followers engage with her because she engages with them. She responds to as many comments as she can, even if it’s just with a cheery “thank you!” (She gets a lot of compliments).

Yes, creating beautiful, original content and publishing hundreds of stunning photographs is helpful in attracting an audience, but it takes commitment and a desire to genuinely connect to build a community.

“I am a very active Instagrammer. I devote at least a couple of hours daily to promote any new styled shoot I have produced. I also try to establish genuine relationships with the party community. It requires a lot of time and dedication to build an organic following on Instagram these days. Having said that, trying to genuinely connect with accounts of your interest is essential to growing your business and your social media presence.”

Just liking a post is not enough. Engaging is necessary.

Of course, when such beautiful images are involved, Instagram isn’t the only social media platform ideally suited to sharing them. Andressa also uses Pinterest to generate traffic and monetize her site.

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02. Your readers: it’s all about them (everything else will follow – but they have to follow you first)

The target audience of Twinkle Twinkle Little Party is clearly defined – they’re craft-loving ladies interested in throwing beautiful parties, but they don’t have a lot of time. They’re looking for big impact ideas that can be done with time and money in short supplies. It’s a good thing they are avid DIYers. Give this group some washi tape and a staple gun, and they can take over the world.

Andressa’s understanding of her audience is thorough – in many ways, they’re her, minus the background in event planning. What she offers on her site is meant to bridge that gap. The goal is always to help the reader achieve her ideal outcome: a stylish celebration with minimal effort.

It’s content strategy, product-market fit, and customer success all rolled into one. And each post, product, and artistic decision is made with the reader’s end goal in mind.

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03. Your email list: get that first 100 subscribers with valuable freebies

The secret recipe to landing those first 100 subscribers – the beating heart of any blog – is 2 parts website optimization, one part bribery.

“In order to get my first 100 subscribers, I had to optimize my site for subscriptions by adding a checkbox field to all our landing pages so people could subscribe to TTLP with just one click.”

Andressa realized she had to make subscribing ridiculously easy to do for maximum participation, and with a few quick tweaks to her website, subscription numbers rose. But not fast enough. To give people a reason to subscribe (besides her regular content), she sweetened the deal by using her existing products as incentives, including free downloads of gift tags, favor tags and cupcake toppers, and printable party packages which are normally for sale in her Etsy shop.

This Valentine’s Day gift idea features one of her free printables she offers her audience to allow them to easily recreate the same look. And it had 307 likes.

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04. Your vision: be authentic at all times

Whether it’s on Instagram, her blog or her magazine, Andressa stays true to her artistic vision – something that sounds simple until you begin working with brands who want you to “just tweak this a bit.” That integrity lends itself to forming lasting relationships not just with her readers, but with other professionals in complementary niches.

Be yourself, find your style and stick with it. Networking with people from your niche will not only help you grow personally but also professionally.

For a recent workshop on making paper flowers, Andressa partnered with local artist Giovanna Diz Zurita, Marissa Pantoja (the owner and event planner at MeCupcake) and Pink Poppy Party Shoppe, which designs and sells party supplies. Some business owners might shy away from partnering with such closely-related (if not overlapping) businesses, but that’s part of what makes Andressa so successful. From her perspective, all boats rise with the tide. Whether it’s on Instagram, her blog or her magazine, Andressa stays true to her artistic vision – something that sounds simple until you begin working with brands who want you to “just tweak this a bit.” That integrity lends itself to forming lasting relationships not just with her readers, but with other professionals in complementary niches.

05. Be creative: make the most of the holidays

Andressa’s content calendar is scheduled around annual holidays. Mother’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Christmas and Easter are regular stars of the show, but she doesn’t limit herself to those nationally recognized excuses to celebrate. She also invents her own, like a Spring Tea Party, or a Fiesta Party that features some of her favorite treats from her native Brazil (Caiparinhas and Brigadeiros!).

“I love planning Holiday parties every year. My favorite is our Annual Gingerbread Decorating Party. My kids are the biggest inspiration I started to host this event each year. They love being creative and playing with candies and icing. I love how the kids can be really engaged during this event.”

She schedules posts well before the holiday itself, giving readers time to plan and get excited. If you haven’t made a holiday calendar for yourself (and added a few new ones – the Game of Thrones premiere maybe? How about a unicorn party?), do it!

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06. Be original: styled shoots the best original content that money can’t buy

Styled shoots are this blogger’s bread and butter. It’s what people have come to see, what readers have come to expect, and is the primary way in which Andressa expresses her style and creativity.

Because styled shoots are an inherently visual medium, they work well to attract readers on Instagram, Pinterest and other social media, while promoting her products (and partner brands’ products), creating a symbiotic relationship with the blog, brand, magazine and her own Etsy shop. They all feed into each other, but it begins with the styled shoot.

They are the beating heart of her blog, and she plans them accordingly.

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“As a party stylist/blogger, the elements I have to consider before I start planning a styled shoot are:

The purpose 

  • What product I am promoting and why? Is it a good fit for my blog’s audience?
  • Since TTLP is a party blog, I will only promote products that can be easily incorporated into celebrations.

How we will introduce the product?

  • Setting the scene to showcase the product in a way that will inspire the audience.
  • I will plan a creative setup to show my audience how they can incorporate that specific product into their own party decor. Location, beautiful photography, creative styling, and a great selection of props are essential to a successful shoot.

Who will be invited?

  • Some brands request real ‘guests’ to participate in the shoot.
  • Decide on whom you will invite then make plans for outfits, make-up and hair.

What platforms will be used to promote the project?

  • Instagram is a wonderful platform to not only share beautiful images from your project, but to also give you the opportunity to engage with other creatives. Some planning is necessary, such as the selection of an eye-catching image and use of popular hashtags to reach a more organic audience. You can plan ahead and write a draft.
  • Pinterest is another great platform to help increase traffic to a blog: 70% of our traffic comes from Pinterest. Plan to take vertical images of the product. Vertical images perform better than horizontal images on Pinterest.”

After the styled shoot hits her blog and social media, Andressa assesses how well it was received by her audience, and uses that knowledge to understand her reader base better and deliver what they want to see more of in the future.

“I measure the success of a styled shoot for example when I notice that specific image went viral on Pinterest driving a great amount of traffic to my blog. I can also measure it by the number of impressions on Instagram.

When popular blogs and national publications show interest in featuring that specific project is also a way of measuring its success.”

Final Thoughts: If there’s one secret to success, it’s authenticity

When asked about the secret to her success, Andressa had a few thoughts to share.

“Be authentic at all times. Your audience appreciates that! Avoid comparing your work to others’. I keep in mind ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ Always believe in yourself. You would be amazed at how many people out there appreciate what you do. Find your tribe!”

SaaS Consultant & Customer Success Evangelist. Founder at Authentic Curation. Moderator at @ProductHunt & @GrowthHackers. Previously: Growth at @Inboundorg. INFJ.