Last week I received an email from a new blogger. She wanted some tips about what makes a successful blog. While I don't proclaim to be an expert at blogging, I've been at it a while and had some pretty exciting personal successes through my blog. I started a blog to practice and showcase my writing. It's certainly given me a lot of exposure and opportunities - and I am so into blogging I am doing a Masters thesis about it, plus flying to New York for BlogHer.
Here are my tips that I told my new blogging friend.
Start up and stick with it
A successful blog takes time. So many people tell me they want to start a blog, but then make excuses for not doing so - they don't have time, they are afraid of putting themselves out there etc. Start up and stick with it. Set aside some time each week to start with, and then a few times a week when you get the swing of things. So many new bloggers give up very quickly. I had been blogging for a while before I found my voice, and became a part of the community. Writing a blog is good writing practice. And also good photography practice, and I think it really teaches you observation skills. Everything's a story. Sarah from That Space in Between said to keep blogging even when no one is commenting. Write what you are passionate about, again, even if no one is commenting, it will make you feel good writing about your passion.
Write from the heart. You'll find your own voice soon enough, and your readers will appreciate your writing a lot. Be honest and authentic, but also know when to draw the line with how much you reveal. I guess put your best self forward on the internet. You never know who is going to read it! Oh and ensure good spelling, punctuation and grammar too! Sometimes it can be strange to have people know you through your blog. But it's flatering too.
I definitely think blogging 60% content creation and 40% self promotion. I have Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Google Plus plus Instagram. I promote my blog A LOT, but I also interact with my readers and the blogging community though social media, and find new blogs to read. Social media is two-way, and it's fun! I leave comments on other blogs too. I have definitely made a few good "real life" friends through blogging who I catch up with regularly. Take advantage of blog meet ups. Conferences, dinners etc. Blogopolis and ProBlogger conferences are is coming up in Australia soon - I recommend attending these for networking and learning. (I'm not able to go to Blogopolis because I'll be on my way to London!) Plus interaction with other bloggers makes you feel good. It's a real privilege receiving comments and having readers open up by sharing your stories after you've shared yours.
Here are my social media buttons if you want to connect with me.
Be prepared for criticism. You will get it. I find that the blogging community has cushioned me - I wrote for the Punch and got FLAMED yet on my blog I mostly get love. I also have learnt to know that if someone visits my blog for the first time, it may be out of context. I wrote a post about Typo's use of the word "retard" on a card, and I had first time visitors pulling m down, and not understanding the context of why I blogged about that issue (disability activism). Try not to let the trolls (usually anon commenters) get you down. Sometimes it can hurt, especially if it's a personal attack on your character. But my experience has been that once you've found a place in the blog community, they'll have your back.
Seek permission from others if you are going to write about them. And keep work/blog boundaries.
Think about whose story you are telling? Is it your own, or are you unwittingly bringing someone else into the story? I made a mistake two weeks ago - I blogged about a conversation I had on a friend's Facebook wall. One of her friends had a go at me for not being a mother. I wrote about it, in a broader context, but without permission. My friend read it, got angry and we are no longer friends. I guess be prepared that you may upset someone you know. Usually I am so diligent in asking permission about who I write about and put pictures up of. That guy who broke my heart - permission sought. When I write about work (not often) - permission sought. I also keep my blog/social media life VERY separate from my day job. Work knows about my blog and freelance and TV, but I don't write about work (unless it has been relevant here). We have a strict social media policy. I don't want to get caught out. If you have a day job, keep this in mind. If your blog IS your day job - that is great!
You can make money from your blog. if you are going to monetise your blog, be authentic about it. Disclose that you were paid, or got something for free, and write your sponsored posts with heart. But don't expect to make a lot of money straight away (I haven't!!). And there may also be some backlash from readers for monestising. Lots of bloggers make money, but as Nikki Parkinson from Styling You (Australia's best blogger 2011) says, "don't look over the blogging fence, focus on your own backyard". The money I've made from my blog hasn't entirely been through advertising - it's been through freelance writing too. So try to make money because of your blog, not on your blog. If you are an artist or crafter, use it to promote your work. Same if you're a writer - it's a great way of building a portfolio and having writing picked up for other publications.
I hope these help you if you're thinking about starting a blog too.
And bloggers - do you have any tips to share? Would love to learn from you.