Riccardo Pozzoli – The Man Who Monetised Blogging
CEO Today had the pleasure to connect with Riccardo Pozzoli – a 33-year-old entrepreneur, adviser and author from Italy who co-founded The Blonde Salad – a media and talent management company which was born out of Riccardo’s ex-business partner Chiara Feragni’s fashion blog. Currently, Riccardo works as a consultant for brands and helps promising projects and start-ups take off. Below, he tells us all about his current work, The Blonde Salad’s beginnings and how that project transformed blogging forever and created the term ‘influencer’.
Tell us about the very beginnings of The Blonde Salad? Whose idea was it and how did you turn Chiara’s blog into a media company & a talent management agency?
It all began in October 2009 when I was doing an internship in USA and Chiara was in Milano studying and feeding her passion for fashion. We had been brainstorming about blogging for a while and on one cold Sunday in Chicago, I decided to buy the domain and set up the blog. Since that day, Chiara started posting her photos on the blog and a community started growing.
In 2010 I went back to Italy, I finished my Master’s degree and decided to fully dedicate my time to the blog and try to figure out what it could become. Back then, fashion bloggers were just seen as fashion enthusiasts who had nothing to do with the actual fashion industry, so I began building up a network. I started reaching out to fashion houses and their marketing managers and the running theme from my conversations with them was that they all needed people who can attend events, post photos and share their experiences in a more personal way – which is something that journalists who write for magazines were not doing. So I started hiring people and building a team that was managing our customers’ needs as an agency – getting the brief, creating an editorial project, producing content and sharing our posts on the blog. We were very professional about it from the very beginning and only chose to work on projects that were in line with Chiara’s brand and the things that the blog stood for.
How did you approach the business side to it, considering that not many bloggers were earning money from their blogs back in 2009?
Back then, fashion companies were not used to paying for visibility on digital properties, but they were used to paying for content productions (campaigns etc.), so I started leveraging on that side of things – letting them pay for things they were used to. Slowly, they understood the value of visibility and traffic, and we started monetising on that too.
The influencer market is now maturing – users want to be entertained by quality content and quality messages.
What was the most important business lesson that your work for The Blonde Salad taught you?
The most important lesson was about strategy: if you want to be accepted from an established and snobby industry like the fashion/luxury industry, you need a long-term strategy. We rejected a lot of opportunities that would have provided us with easy money and instead, we sometimes worked for free for big companies that offered good positioning. Quality over quantity.
What do you think the future holds for today’s bloggers and influencers? What’s your piece of advice to them in regards to their brands and businesses?
The initial phase where your popularity was driven by numbers (such as likes on Instagram) has now ended. The influencer market is now maturing – users want to be entertained by quality content and quality messages. It’s best to post less and to focus on providing your followers with meaningful content. People want deeper engagement, they want to follow influencers who offer more storytelling and more authenticity.
What qualities does an influencer need to possess in order to start a successful business? Can anyone do it?
The market today is very different from what it was 10 years ago – you need to have a strong point of view in order to make it. So my piece of advice is to have an opinion, show your character, stay focussed and curious and be patient.
You’ve also worked on another very successful business venture – fashion marketplace Depop. Tell us more about your involvement in this company?
The founder of Depop, Simon, is a very close friend of mine. When Depop reached 100,000 users, he asked me to get on board as an adviser. We set up a growth strategy, based on influencers and ambassadors, that helped the company get to tens of millions of users in just a few years. Simon’s vision about Depop’s branding strategy, and the skills that Maria (the company’s CEO) possesses are the main driver of their impressive success!
Tell us a bit about your book Create Uniqueness: How to Turn a Passion Into a Business.
I would define it as a very honest book – I was extremely open when I wrote it. The book looks at my first years in the business arena and it sums up everything that I’ve learned along the way – how to face business today and how to set up your dream company.
What does the future hold for you? What projects are you currently working on?
I keep up with all the streams – I’ve just started a very challenging advisory project at Luxottica (RayBan, Oakley, Oliver People, SunglassHut etc.), I’m mentoring and investing in tens of different start-ups, and I’m also working on a new book!
Create Uniqueness: How to turn a passion into a business by Riccardo Pozzoli is out now, published by Kogan Page, priced £14.99. For more information go to www.koganpage.com.