It’s been six whole months since I moved into this lil’ corner of the internet, something that just happened to coincide with a real life move into a real life house. And as it turns out the whole “moving in” thing is actually a tidy little metaphor for anyone who decides on a whim to stake their claim in that particular neighbourhood of the internet.
Starting a blog is daunting at first. It takes a while to figure how everything’s going to look and where it’s all going to go. Formatting layouts is like the flat-pack furniture of the online world and you tear your hair out as you try over and over again to figure it all out. Then, when you’re all moved in you peek over the fence and get a little bit jealous when you find that the neighbours have done something altogether brave and brilliant with their own patch and then stress over what they’ll think about you and yours.
Okay, I’ve only been a resident of the blogosphere for six months (not a huge amount of time, yes…), but they’ve been a great six months. I went to my first event, turns out the neighbours are some of the loveliest peeps you’re ever going to meet, and I even got a mention as part of Blogosphere Magazine’s #InTheSpotlight for issue 9 (What! How?!). I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve learned a lot too.
So here’s Six Things I Learned in the first Six Months of Blogging…
1. Get Social
Once you’ve got your blog up and running and looking tidy there’s no point hanging around waiting for the internet to pop round for a cup of tea. The sad truth is no one’s going to magically stumble upon your blog (…uh, unless you’re using Stumble Upon… hm…). If you want people to visit then you’ve got to invite them! Life’s too short to be shy. You need to, in a word, PROMOTE. This is by far, I’ve found, the most time consuming part of blogging.
- Follow like-minded bloggers on Twitter and Instagram and interact with them. 🙂
- Twitter Chats are undoubtedly the best way to meet other bloggers (other than real life meet ups!). There’s literally a chat for every niche, so it’s a great way to connect, troubleshoot and promote. @lbloggerschat happens every Sunday and Wednesday night at 7pm, @blogospherem chats on a Sunday at 8pm and if you’re a Welshy like me then take time out for the @welshbloggersrt chat every Wednesday at 9pm.
- Promote your new posts with appropriate hashtags (especially on instagram).
- On Twitter there are loads of accounts that’ll retweet your post if you mention them, literally throwing you and your blog up there centre stage in front of all their followers and thereby getting your posts more exposure 🙂
2. A Little Organisation Goes a Long Way
If you’re on the neurotic side like me then you’ll already be doing this. Blogging is hard work! You’re a one man band at the end of the day; writer, photographer, PR whizz, technical support and graphic designer all rolled into one (phew!) – so do yourself a favour and get organised.
- If you’re planning on keeping to a posting schedule then planning and writing a few posts ahead of time and then scheduling them in ahead really helps. When I started I planned to post roughly three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – which I’ve more or less stuck to, but if I miss one I don’t stress. The world doesn’t end if you forget to post, and I realised early on that I’d much rather put out something I’m 100% happy with than half-ass a post last minute 🙂
- When it comes to promoting via Twitter and Instagram there are apps than help with scheduling posts when you’re way too busy to. I keep a memo on my phone with all my social media promotions and then just copy them across when I need to. When the queue drops, I just spend a couple of minutes stocking it back up. I started out on Hootsuite, but moved over to Buffer recently and personally found it much better.
- As a follow on from the above, timing your promotions is key! Think about the times of the day when most people are using Twitter, Instagram etc. 8:50am and 5:50pm on the train to and from work? 11am on a Saturday and Sunday for weekend breakfast scrolling (best time to post anything food related!).
- The Blogger Bible. Keeping a notepad handy helps when you get a great idea for a post whilst out and about, and diaries are great for planning posts and keeping to-do lists.
- Bloggers Block. Inevitably at some point you’re going to lose your creative mojo. Sometimes being honest, stepping away and taking a break is the best thing to do, but planning ahead for those down days is a smart way of breaking through that wall. You can find my list of ideas for when Blogger’s Block strikes here.
You’re not going to like hearing this but gaining a readership takes time and effort. It’s not an overnight thing. It takes a while to figure out what kind of blogger you are (hell, I still haven’t got a clue – for now “lifestyle” is vague enough a label for what I’m doing here!), to decide which kind of posts do well and which ones tank. It can arguably take years to find your “voice”. So it can feel a little disheartening when a post you worked really hard on doesn’t do as well as you liked, or you drop a few followers on Twitter out of the blue (No don’t leave me!). Don’t panic. Growth takes time. You’re not planting magic beans here; you’re not going to wake up one morning and find a beanstalk the size of the Shard in your garden (unless you go viral, which really is the blogging equivalent of sowing magic beans!).
Blogging requires hard work and patience. So take a tip from Confucious; go slowly if you must, but don’t ever stop. Ever.
4. Be GENUINELY Nice
Luckily, I’ve managed to avoid the drama llama since joining the blogging neighbourhood, but I’m well aware that that thing stalks twitter looking for trouble like nobody’s business. What I have learned is that being nice goes a long way. What’s that old saying? Something about catching more bees with honey than with vinegar? Well it couldn’t be more true when it comes to blogging.
- If you’ve read another blogger’s post and loved it, tell them! Comment, like, retweet. Share the love. We rise ourselves by raising others at the end of the day. 🙂
- Reply to comments from your own readers, always.
- #FollowFridays on Twitter are a great way to show your favourite bloggers and readers how awesome they are.
- But for Gods sake don’t fake it, be genuine.
5. Be YOU
One of the biggest mountains newbie bloggers face in that first year is that at some point you just can’t help comparing yourself to everyone else in the game. You know; their layout is much nicer than mine, they’re a much better photographer than I am, and dammit, how do they come up with such great ideas?! Standing out and sticking to your guns is tough.
My biggest problem was (and still is…) the feeling that I just don’t belong or fit in with what everyone else is posting. I LOVE beauty products, but I’m not inspired enough by mascara to write about it (not to mention the fact that my skin’s insanely fussy and has a tendency to go nuclear if I try anything new…). I LOVE fashion but… I just can’t seem to get it right most of the time and my misbehaving hair and awkward posing will always spoil outfit shots. But , you know what? Who the hell cares? My irritable skin and sticky-uppy bits of hair are part of who I am. Perfection is pretty to look at, but boring and unrelatable (…so I keep telling myself…!).
I can count the things I’m passionate about on one hand. Exploring, Writing, Cooking, Photography, History. Do people actually want to read about those things? Maybe. Who cares. I do. This is my little corner of the internet and I’m going to do with it what I want. Besides, individual quirks and curiosities are really interesting!
Sure, getting inspired by fellow bloggers and following their lead is a great way to learn the ropes. But at the end of the day the best way to stand out from the crowd is to be yourself. Never feel like you have to write about what everyone else is writing about, or compare the start of your own story with the middle of someone else’s. 🙂
6. Have Fun!
What’s the point of putting all that effort in if you’re not enjoying yourself? If you’re not having fun, take a break and reconnect with the reasons why you started blogging in the first place.
Whether you’ve been blogging for five minutes or five years, what’s your best tip for new kids on the blog block? 🙂