Friday, August 22, 2014

Let's get real about blogging


Oh, hey. It's Friday--let's get meta and talk about blogging.

So, I've read a lot of 'blogging how-to' posts out of curiosity because I like to see what other bloggers recommend, especially bigger bloggers. Because, hey, they must be doing something right. But one thing I've noticed is that the tips can sometimes lack perspective or just be too general in a way that isn't actually helpful for the very beginner blogger. And then there are other bloggers who've deluded themselves into thinking their follower count is exclusively a result of their own amazing-ness.

Obviously, this isn't true of every how-to post out there--lots are great. But I thought it might be helpful to share some tips from someone who's not that far removed from a just-beginning blogger because I still get all the frustrations involved.

THINGS YOU SHOULD TRY TO DO  

 

1. Sponsor a big blogger right away, but make sure to purchase a good sponsorship spot that includes a post about you, the promise of twitter shout-outs, and, above all, a giveaway. The exposure and the followers you get from the giveaway will give you the initial boost your blog needs to get out there, and then you can take advantage of the momentum. Just make sure you're updating your blog regularly so the blogger you're sponsoring actually has something to promote.

1a. Just go sponsor Helene in Between. It was totally worth every penny. Also, The Happy Type. Yes, okay, full disclosure--she's my best friend. But she was also a PR powerhouse in another life.

2. Continue to sponsor other bloggers. This advice becomes moot when you can't afford to, but that's the shitty secret of blogging. You have to put money in to increase your follower count which means you basically have to pay a bigger blogger to say nice things about you. (And you know, if you're really serious, you could ask for a sponsorship for a birthday gift or something.)

3. Use giveaways to get followers. Yes, you will find that some of the people who end up following you don't actually give a shit about you or your blog, but the more followers you get, the more people will pay attention to your blog. Giveaways are the primary way bloggers grow their blogs quickly. If you think it sounds like bribing, that's because it is--and if you're above that, then don't expect your blog to grow very quickly.

4. Once you finally start getting comments (after you've gotten some exposure via a sponsorship), keep track of who's commenting and what their blogs are. If you never show them some love back, you're kind of already setting yourself up as an asshole.

5. If you have a friend who's already blogging, then use that shit. Crystal (a.k.a. The Happy Type) was my tireless promoter when I first started and it was really helpful. I kind of piggy-backed off her for awhile, introducing myself to her little group of blogger friends until I found my own niche, but it was a great entry into the world of blogging.

6. Comment on other people's blogs and interact on social media. I've written about how much I suck at this, but I've definitely found that the more involved I am, the more I get back. If none of your tweets or posts get any likes or comments despite that you're starting to get a decent follower count, it's probably because you never share the love but yet you still expect the entire world to fall at your feet at your own brilliance. (I kind of do this all the time, it's okay).

THINGS YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T DO


1. Don't set yourself up as the blogger who only interacts with big bloggers. It's not always about the hustle, okay?

2. Don't take new follows for granted. Check out who followed you, you narcissistic bitch (that was said with love). And maybe even consider following them back. BUT to be clear, the "I followed you, so you have to follow me back" mentality really sucks. Don't follow someone solely because you want them to follow you back and then un-follow them two days later when they don't. That's lame. Follow someone because you want to.

3. Don't use a social media platform just because you read you should. Those platforms only work if you actually use them well. If you have one just to have one but it's half-assed, it's not going to do anything for you. I had a Facebook page for awhile and I hated maintaining it. And the thing is, I only used it to post MAYBE once a day and I never interacted with anyone so my posts, realistically, probably only showed up in a handful of people's news feeds. And like they gave a shit.

4. Don't think just because your blog post is really good, the people will come to you. If you don't have a large readership, then it will take a hell of a lot of luck for your blog post to get in the right hands to make it viral.

5. Don't pay to be a tiny side-bar ad. When was the last time you clicked on one of those?

6. Don't suck up to big bloggers. They're not stupid. Also, they probably don't need your 50-follower ass to share their blog posts. I mean, it's nice, and I'm sure they think it's nice, but maybe consider #1 and share a blog post from another newbie instead. (Note to self: become way better at sharing other bloggers' posts).

7. Don't be the blogger that doesn't respond to comments. Look, if you get responses in the double digits, then you've earned the right to do what you want. But we're talking newbie bloggers here. There's no excuse for not responding to the handful of comments you receive.

8.  Don't save blog post ideas for when you get more followers because you think your idea is brilliant and people will lap it up. It never turns out as awesome as you think it will. Just regularly post quality content even if your page-views aren't great so you can set that precedent. 

THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER LOSE SLEEP OVER


1. Guest posts. Seriously. It's one thing when you and a blogger friend get together and do guest posts for each other. That's done for enjoyment. But if you sponsor a big blogger with high hopes about the promised guest post, just let your dreams die right now. Nobody who regularly reads that blogger gives a fuck about your guest post. Honestly.

Go find a big blog and find a guest post from a blogger who isn't already big and you'll see the comments go drastically down. Nobody cares. They go to that blog to read that blogger, not you. I have never seen a significant uptick in page-views after a guest post. But I will tell you what I have seen--when I co-posted with a bigger blogger once, more than half the comments were about a story the blogger told BEFORE she had even gotten to introducing me.

2. Shitty blog posts that get way more adoring comments than your naturally brilliant posts. Look, the blogger in question could've paid their way to the top and fake people comment on their blog to suck up OR they're having an off day and they already put the time in to get a loyal crowd of readers OR maybe their writing style just isn't to your taste but other people actually like it. No matter, you shouldn't waste your time comparing yourself to them.

3. If you lose some of the followers you gained after a giveaway ends. Of course you will. People like free stuff, but that doesn't mean you won't also get some awesome followers in the process. Giveaways are by no means an invalid way for people to be introduced to your blog.

4. If you don't get as many comments as you think you will even though you're finally starting to regularly get comments. Some things just don't connect with readers the way you think it will. It doesn't mean you're shit.

5. When you do something that another blogger tells you should never, ever do. It's cool. You're your own person.

41 comments:

  1. This was all really well said, and I appreciate your honesty! hahaha and humor ;)

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  2. I always read those 'blogging how-to' posts for the same reason but they're always so. . .advertising-like with the things you need/must do or the things you're doing wrong. I wish I had found a post like this when I started blogging. And I love how you never once mentioned branding or re-branding. Just so tired of hearing about blogger "brands."

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  3. oh yeah, day made. thanks so much!! i really appreciate this!!

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  4. ALso, super excellent tips. and I agree there are lots of things not to lose sleep over and blogging giveaways, they help. PERIOD.

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  5. Best post I've read this week! I love this!

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  6. Love this post so much more truthful and honest than most blogging tip posts. Although I've never done a giveaway It's obviously a great way to increase your followers and there is no shame in wanting more followers, people wouldn't promote their blogs if they didn't want people to read and follow. I totally agree with not paying for a side bar ad, I have never clicked on one myself.
    Emma x


    Writing Essays With Wine

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  7. These are probably the most interesting and least generalized tips I've ever read. I'm so glad you posted this!

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  8. So...what is it that people are giving away with these giveaways? I've got a couple of unmatched old shoes, some aspirin, and a copy of Elements of Style I got at a garage sale last month. That is literally all of my worldly possessions.

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  9. Just get your hands on some Kate Spade and you're golden. http://www.katespade.com/ Or go buy some stationery that would look good under an instagram filter. Bloggers love that shit.

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  10. Thanks, Ash! I'm so glad people are finding it useful.

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  11. Exactly--you wouldn't be blogging if you didn't want an audience, so there's nothing wrong with trying to get one. And, you know, I'm trying to think if I even click on the larger side-bar ads, and I don't really think I do... so I should probably expand the 'don't pay for a tiny side-bar ad' to don't pay for a sponsorship that only gets you a side-bar ad, no matter the size.

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  12. Thanks, Jasmine! I'm glad you liked it!

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  13. They really do! But, seriously, I'm happy to give you the shout-out. I've definitely learned that being good at promoting sponsors takes some skill that not everyone has.

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  14. Hahaha, ugh "branding." I work in PR and I hate that word. I don't have a brand, okay?! I didn't create this blog to make money off it, or at least not yet. Which I'm not against or anything, but I feel like so many of the blogger how-tos are about getting followers/etc in order to monetize your blog, when I just want to grow my readership so I can get a bigger community on here.

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  15. Thanks, Mandi! Sometimes it's hard to tell if your own tips are useful at all, so it's great to hear that.

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  16. Thanks, Jamie! I'm sincerely glad people are finding this post useful!

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  17. Chicks dig free shit... Absolutely hilarious. You have made my day.

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  18. Well. I did what you said and got some from Kate Spade. She was terrific! I never see that kind of enthusiasm from ladies my own age. I left my number on her nightstand and did a walk of shame straight to my office. I'm still confused about how this should affect my blogging.

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  19. Well you've basically fucked everything up is all you need to know. I guess you'll just have to go back to making fun of Collegian writers on your blog, you know?

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  20. Haha, thanks, Megan! Who doesn't dig free shit though? I think the only reason I don't enter giveaways often is because I'm too lazy.

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  21. Amen sista. I think we could be friends.

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  22. These days I mostly post music videos. Also, Kate Spade is all up in every contextual ad on every website I visit. I hope she calls me back.

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  23. This is straight to the point, the kind of advice I like. Thanks for sharing some kick ass tips!

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  24. This is such a great blogging advice post! A lot of it is such taboo stuff that nobody ever says like that giveaways really CAN be helpful - I don't suggest doing a ton of them, but I try to be in at least one every month or every other month - and they've definitely helped me to grow my blog. Sure a lot of them don't stick around, but you do get new readers, and the giveway really helps to get your name out there! I do think guest posts can be super helpful though, but they have to be well-written, cover a topic that is usually covered on that blog, and be posted at a good time.

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  25. "(And you know, if you're really serious, you could ask for a sponsorship for a birthday gift or something.) " Oh my god, this is adorable. And I thought, why had nothing like that (like asking for things related to my blogging or even to my freelance work for my birthday) ever occurred to me before, and I realized I started blogging and freelancing a few years after I gave up on my family ever being able to afford to buy me birthday gifts. Wow, that got real sad real quick. SORRY. I was amused by the parenthetical, honestly.


    This is a fantastic post, I don't know how I missed it. So glad Marielle linked to it! I'm bookmarking this in my 'link this' folder for whenever I get around to doing another link love post. In which I can honestly say I've never linked a big blogger's post as a way of sucking up to someone else. I link articles I consider good and helpful and it has nothing to do with the writer's stats, like... It's not like they're going to share my post? And even if they do, it's pretty unlikely I'll get any hits from it. Just like tiny sidebar ads, I don't click when bloggers say "thanks to so-and-so for featuring me in a link round-up."


    I was going to try and shoot for once a day on my Facebook page, is that still too little?!!!! LOL, Facebook. I keep it because I realistically have a ton of content I could share there, but... lol, facebook.


    2, 4 and 5 on the 'don't lose sleep over this' remind me SO much of being a fanfic writer. Write a 50,000 word novel about Spencer from Pretty Little Liars realizing the mystery in the show is VAMPIRES and becoming a vampire slayer with begrudging help from her sister: three comments in a year! Write a quick bit of porn about a popular pairing? Two thousand hits and three hundred kudos in a week!


    Also, re #5 on the 'do do this' — I just realized I never shared the photos I took of my friend Ashy (my best friend's other best friend really) all the way back in APRIL. Early May. Late April. I am SO BEHIND. But I'm glad I was able to help her out and I do try to share her content with my tiny audience.

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  26. Totally agree on guest posts. You need to put your best, most shareable content out there or it's useless. If I seldom read it when a blogger I follow introduces another blogger (and even skip over the end-of-post sponsor spotlight things some people do), why would I expect someone else to?

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  27. Great post! I'm always wondering what the "secret" is to creating a great blog and gaining a following this is a Godsend. Question- How many posts should I post a week? Do you schedule a day to get all your posts out of the way? How do you schedule them?

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  28. This is the realest post on blogging I've ever read! Thank you so much for being totally honest. As a newbie blogger myself, I could definitely use some genuine advice.

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  29. Thanks for the comment, Lix!


    It is really nice to help someone you like out. But it's definitely time-consuming and it's hard to give as much as I'd like to, when I don't even feel on top of my own blog posts. I think I need a better system or something each week to devote to blogging.


    Can I read this 50,000 word novel? Spencer's not my favorite but it's probably her after Hannah. Honestly, I think a lot of people just like the easy-to-digest stuff that won't take too much time for them to read, that they can just give a bullshit comment to and be done with.


    Also, thanks for thinking of linking this post in a future post--I really do appreciate it! Regardless of whether they result in page views or not, it's also nice to see when other people like my posts enough to recommend them to others.

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  30. Thanks, Brita! It really does get old to read bullshit though, doesn't it?

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  31. You know, that's really true about guest posts. It REALLY depends on when and where. I'd just say you shouldn't expect great things from a guest post just because it's on a site where a blogger typically gets lots of comments. It really does all depend on the audience and what the blogger typically rights about, so it does have to be strategic in many ways.


    And while giveaways are a great way to grow your blog, it's always SO satisfying to get followers when you're not even involved in one.

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  32. Love this. As a new blogger I've come across other posts that are really broad or just not informative. Thanks for some real advice I can use.

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  33. Honestly, I feel like as long you're regularly updating each week, you should create a schedule that you're comfortable with, whether that's 5x, 3x, 2x or etc a week. Just get a schedule you know you can keep up with so people will figure out that's when you'll be posting (i.e Tuesdays and Thursdays, for example) and they'll keep checking in. The only thing that will really hurt you is if you are super inconsistent about posting to the point people just give up on checking your blog.

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  34. Thank you, Desiree! I'm glad you liked the advice--I'm also so sick of really broad, not actually useful. advice.

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  35. I think it's so rewarding though, helping someone you like out. It's the kind of thing I'm more than happy to make time for. I'm always so caught up in doing things for money that it's really nice to take a step back and help out a friend.

    Hanna is my second favorite, actually! I used to not think much of her but then Caleb happened. When I was still watching, my investment in the show was basically 40% Spencer, 60% Hanna and Caleb (together mostly). I fell behind a while back and I kept considering picking it back up but being reaaaally scared that Caleb had left. I've got a couple of people on Hanna/Caleb patrol now, I want them to let me know the show is safe to watch again now that his dumbass spinoff has flopped. I was very invested in them as a couple, lol.

    You can totally check out the novel and see if you want to read it here: http://archiveofourown.org/works/334985 It's Spencer-centric but overall it's an ensemble piece. Also, you can access all my fic from that one, if you want to nose around. Most of it is unrepentant porn, so... yeah...

    Np. I actually LOVE link round-up posts from fellow bloggers and I click on a lot of those links when they appeal to me (when they have to do with blogging, design, photography, freelancing, running a business). That's why I want to make more posts like that.

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  36. This advice is so awesome. I've made some of those mistakes in the past and am quickly correcting myself! Also, the money is a no-brainer, but so many people are in denial of that! Spending money is necessary for making money-- and also necessary for building a following. It just is... which makes it seem like the rest of our society where folks with $$ usually get ahead. But these are all so, so true. Thanks for these reminders-- especially the stuff not worth losing sleep over.

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  37. This is amazing. Sharing it on Twitter tomorrow. You've basically summed up all of my thoughts on blogging in a nice little package.

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  38. People are in SO much denial about the money thing! Like it cheapens their success or something. If I have to hear, "just produce great content and you'll get there" one more time, I'll pull my hair out. I'm glad you like the tips, Daisy!

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