Monday, December 8, 2014

The Truth About Blogging

Hi friends! Hope everyone is doing well! I am fighting off a cold which is not fun and popping Zicam like it's my j-o-b. I was checking emails last week and one the most frequently asked questions is about blogging. Then one of my girlfriends texted me asking the same thing so I figured I would share my two cents on the topic.

Why Write a Blog:
People write blogs for all different reasons: how-to's, inspirational, journaling, share a passion for a specific topic, attention, photo blogs, fashion, make a living, and so on. I started this because I wanted to keep myself accountable to my fitness and weight loss goals. That was five years ago! Now when someone asks me what I write about I generally respond that its a girly blog and write about dieting, dating and shopping. It doesn't tell you the dos and don'ts of each or really, how to do anything, it's really just my small perspective on the world.

What to Consider:
Before you start your blog you need to ask yourself if you are willing to put your name and reputation on the worlds you throw out into the world? What would happen if your co-workers saw it or someone you just met or the neighbor you barely know? Because anything you put out there is there for anyone to see. There are some precautions you can take so help seek anonymity but again, it's the internet so nothing is safe!

Privacy:
Some blogs are open, people promote them on their Facebooks, Twitter, etc. and some are a little less mainstream. Mine is definitely the latter. When I started I was writing about how I was chubby and wanted to lose weight. Then over time it began to include details about my personal dating stories and well, that is not necessarily something I want thrown out to every person who knows me. Strangers, sure! Here are some things you can do to attempt to keep it private...
... Use an alias. My real name and email address are not associated with this blog at all. I did this because of the nature of what I talk about. I don't need every Facebook friend hearing about a bad date I went on or how I gained 5 pounds over Christmas break.
... Speaking of Facebook and Social Media... you have to decide how integrated into the social webs you want your blog to be. I mean, the purpose is to get followers, right? Well if you want to protect your privacy then this becomes tricky.
... Think carefully who you choose to share it with. You can't take it back! For probably the first year of writing the TRP it was more of a secret blog. Well, a secret from those I knew. I only shared it with my family members and very close network of friends. Over time I became a little more relaxed to idea of people knowing about - some people who know you will care and some won't. Just be prepared and again, think carefully who you want to share it with. If the blog has sensitive, personal information then you need to make sure you trust those people.
... Private Blogs. There is also an option to keep a private blog so it could just be for you or you can set it up so that only the people you invite to read it can.

Spreading the Word:
As I became more comfortable with the idea of blogging and I guess, "found my voice" I didn't feel like I had to be as secretive - but again, there is always that buffer. In the last 5 years I have gone through waves where I worked hard at increasing followers/readers and then many years where I did not care. Here are a few tips on increasing your visibility...
... Post often and make it relevant to whatever the theme of your blog is. Always include some type of picture. Since mine is more of a diary the topics are a bit more scattered but generally it lies within the those three main themes.
... Network with other bloggers - this means working with other 'like' bloggers to have them write guest blogs and vice versa. I did this for about 6 months in the beginning and had one of my good friends guest spot as my resident fitness expert [Carrie I miss those days!]. I have also guest blogged for many other people as a way increase awareness.
... Social Media is your friend in this context. Post it everywhere and always have it link back to your blog.
... Endorsements/Sponsors. Over the years I have had a lot of correspondence with designers and vendors that want me to push their products and as a result I would get paid or get something for free. While these offers are flattering I have yet to do it. For me, the moment this blog either feels like work or feels disingenuous is the moment I need to stop writing it [Note: I am not saying that if you get paid to write about something it is disingenuous but it does happen - especially with many of the fashion blogs I follow]. I guess I should never say never, but to-date I have not found anything that I really want to change my stance on this for. [However, I do often regret not pairing up with Fitbit about 4 years ago when they asked, dangit!]
... Titles are important! The post title is what comes up in people's search so if its too specific or clever (I tend to really love witty puns) then it may not be that searchable. You can also buy SEOs but I would think you are getting pretty serious at that point and in which case, you do not need me to tell you how to blog!
... OH! I can't believe I almost forgot about giveaways! Omg, people are obsessed. Personally, I think they are a pain to manage but if you are looking to boost your numbers, have at it!

Possible Downside:
'Cause haters gonna, hate, hate, hate... There are some harsh realities when it comes to blogging that you need to consider... Not everyone is going to get it. They can read one post and make a quick decision about who they think you are. So what you say matters. With most blogs, authors take some creative liberties to help "entertain" the readers - sometimes that can be embellishing, or omitting details that you think are not relevant to give the gist to the readers or you take a tongue-in-cheek approach. But not everyone might get that humor or rhetoric. I don't know if this is really a "warning" but more of just a "be aware." Someone is aways going to be offended by something at some point. Of course there are blogs out there that are written for just that purpose, but in my case I try to avoid that whenever I can as that is definitely not my intent!

Also, no matter how brutally honest you might come across in your blog, chances are, you are still filtering yourself. Just remember that while you and your best friends who you talk to all the time know there is a filter, the majority of your readers don't think that way. I can't tell you how many emails I get from friends that read a post and then shoot me a note saying things like, "I know there are details you left out... what happened?!" or "I need to know the real scoop on this." In my case, my family reads this blog, I have causal friends or co-workers that I know read it. I can't stop it but know that depending on the subject, there is definitely a filter.... always honest, but always with a filter!

The Audience:
Lastly, understanding your audience is key. When I first started out I was sometimes offended when I found out some of my best friends weren't keeping up with the blog. However to them, they lived my day-to-day life so what did they need to read about it for? Some of your friends and family, you will learn, just aren't into reading blogs. That's ok! You may also find comfort in strangers. I am always so surprised and humbled by how many people I don't know read my blog. These people will find your blog for various reasons, searching something, friend of a friend, or by mere accident. Then there are the Greys. These are people whom are on the outskirts of our social circles. You know them but not that well - like a co-worker or classmate, someone you know from the gym, etc. For me these people are often the ones I do not want to share my blog with because it's like, they know a little bit about you but not enough to make a fair judgement and now they are getting access to your personals. That's where the filter comes back into play. There is no surefire way to keep it out of their eReader so just keep that in mind with whom and what you are sharing.