Thursday, 13 September 2012
You Blog and You Learn
There have been a lot of rumblings of late that all is not well in the blogosphere and a Twitter conversation with some of our fellow bloggers last night further compounded this feeling of upheaval and really got us thinking. The source of this discontent seems to stem from an observed "negativity" and has been said to encapsulate everything from bitchiness and trolling to a cliquey, exclusionary attitude. Thankfully, we haven't really experienced much of this so-called negativity first hand. We very much live by a philosophy of "you do yours, and we'll do ours" but, that doesn't make us oblivious to goings on around us, nor does it make us immune to feeling overwhelmed and disillusioned with the whole blogging experience from time-to-time, despite the fact that we always quickly bounce back from it.
There have been a number of posts relatively recently, from blogs that we love and hold in high regard, expressing concerns about the shift of mood in the blogging community. One of our favourites, and one which seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people if Twitter chat is anything to go by, is by Jane from British Beauty Blogger in which she discusses how easily blogging can mess with your head - even for a seasoned pro like herself!
The more of these posts we've seen crop up from blogs around the world (Yep, it's not just an Irish thing, folks!), the more we have felt compelled to share our two cents in the hope that other bloggers can relate and realise they aren't the only ones and also give some loose guidance to those bloggers just starting out and who may be feeling a bit apprehensive about dipping a toe into the massive blogging pool. Last night's conversation was the push we needed to put our feelings into words and share a little of our experiences, upsets and how we overcome them in the hope that it resonates with some of you. We're not experts and we're not by any means "perfect" bloggers (Is there such a thing?!) but, we have experienced and witnessed a fair bit in the past two years that is worth sharing.
Paranoia is Par For The Course
"Bloganoia" is a vicious, violent disease that affects almost all bloggers at some point in time. Whether it is, as Jane admitted to doing, a question of "Why did they get that exclusive/product/invite and not me," or a vague Tweet that sounds like it could be, may be, quite possibly be directed at you, it's easy to let the little voices take over your mind and affect your overall mood and attitude towards things.
So, how do you deal with it when bloganoia rears its ugly head? Firstly, back away from the computer. Sign out of every social network and email account you have and take a few minutes just to get some perspective. The last thing you want to do is let rip a foul-mouthed, thinly-veiled tirade on Twitter or leave a sharp tongued comment on a peer's blog that seems like a really great and clever idea at the time but, subsequently just serves to make you look immature, bitter and, honestly, stupid.
Secondly, consider why they got an opportunity that you didn't. Try and be objective for a minute and look at the bigger picture; is their blog more suited to the situation than yours, is their readership just that bit more significant or specialised that it will appeal more to that brand? Not getting something is not a direct reflection of you or your blog. Don't get bogged down in the small stuff, try to remember why you started blogging in the first place and draw a new determination and drive from these missed opportunities.
Oh, and even if you think a Tweet is 99.99% about you, it 99.99% probably isn't!
It's a Numbers Game: Posts, Stats, Readership
When we look at where we are now as bloggers in relation to where we started, so much has changed. We used to post three or four times a day but, that just wasn't sustainable for us and so, we adapted. We also used to be quite consumed with stats; followers, page views, unique views, Google rankings, because that is what we were told was important but, not so much anymore.
We have a solid readership that, while largely steady, does fluctuate up and down slightly but, that's only to be expected. We used to agonise over why X post hadn't got as much traction as Y post (FYI: Usually the posts with the poorer hit rates were those later in the day which contributed to us adopting our current one-a-day system for those of you who had wondered!) but, we soon learned to take this information on board and focus more on the posts that we have greater success with.
The point here is that it is very easy to be consumed by the figures and the data and the graphs. However, while it is important to keep an eye on things to help your blog grow and evolve, it's also important just to say "So what?" if you have a poor day, week or month numbers-wise. If blogging isn't your main source of income, don't sweat the stats. Give your analytics a quick audit once every few weeks and pick out the posts you clearly excel at and reduce those that aren't working for your readers. You'll save yourself a lot less heartache by not agonising over things like impressions, bounce rates and other words we still don't really understand!
Let's be real, getting beauty samples to consider for review is an amazingly exciting thing for any blogger. It's almost as though it is an industry affirmation that you're doing things right with your blog and it's also an opportunity to expose your readers to products you may not have ordinarily tried. However, the hustle for samples can be quite intimidating, with every blogger clamouring for samples and, we'll share a little secret with you; samples are limited. They cost the brand money, and a PR person's duty is to ensure that samples go to the publications; blog or print, where they will get the most exposure which, in a way, is continuation of our first point about why you didn't get something someone else did.
Before blogging, we had no clue about what a PR agency did or how they divvied out samples. There are many brands that don't work with us and, you know what, fine. It took us a long time to understand the processes and systems in place but, now that we do, we would encourage you not to take it personally if your blogging comrade has a contact that you don't. Don't get involved in a samples showdown with other bloggers, don't badger the brand for products and information and don't beg for contact information on Twitter. Remember why you chose to blog in the first place, it was, hopefully, for the love of your subject and not for freebies.
The Written Word is Oft Misunderstood
This, in some ways, relates back to our first point about paranoia and assumptions but, is worthy of a blurb all of its own because it's such a common, hard-to-control occurrence and one which we have experienced a few times ourselves. The nature of the internet, of blogging and of writing in general is that everything is open to interpretation. It is very easy to find a meaning in words that is not there or to assume that something is alluding to you when, really, it may just be a simple sentence. Don't worry, we're all guilty of it.
As with bloganoia, put the situation in perspective. If you automatically feel that something is referring to you, get someone else to read it and see what they think. Consider the context of the words and the person who wrote it and, if you still feel 100% sure that you have been unduly targeted, ask them about it. However, bear in mind that you may well be wrong, that you have misunderstood and misconstrued what was said and that you will have to take them at their word if they explain otherwise.
However, as a blogger, you also have a duty to be as clear as possible in your writing. If you mean something as a joke or as sarcasm, make sure you indicate as such. The unfortunate thing about the written word is that there is no inflection, no easy way to convey humour or any other emotion and, so, you really do need to be quite clear about your meaning so as not to offend anyone who may misinterpret what you have said. As for slyly alluding to things; people, brands, blogs or otherwise, in your text; don't do it. Not only will you come across as petty and immature but, you should have more respect for yourself and your blog to be above such carry-on.
The Blog-Life Balance
This is the biggie, the million dollar question, the jackpot. If you, as a blogger, can figure out a blog-life balance that works for you, we believe you can handle anything that's ever thrown at you in life! Before we were bloggers, we were readers and we used to sit in front of our computer screens not really appreciating the work that went on behind-the-scenes to produce the posts we were lapping up. However, when we made the leap from reader to blogger, we soon discovered that crafting a decent blog post took so much more than we could have ever imagined.
We both put insane pressure on ourselves to keep a constant stream of content on-the-go every single day. Sinéad wrote blog posts alongside her thesis. Dee kept posting throughout her exams. It was never-ending cycle of pictures, writing and editing and, while we loved every second of it, we couldn't keep it up forever. So, we tried a new approach and that, thankfully, worked better for us in the long run. We have the utmost respect for bloggers who, like Temptalia, post two, three, four, ten times per day as we can appreciate how much work goes into that however, looking back, we would say not to compare yourself to anyone else. Do what feels right for you at that time in your life and be prepared to adapt, change and modify as your blog and your life evolve so that you can enjoy both simultaneously.
Reputation, Reputation, Reputation
What we all need to remember about the Internet is that, as soon as you put something out there, there's no taking it back. People have very long memories when it comes to online material, and if you mess up, it can be hard to recover quickly. Pick a format and stick to it - try and be consistent, honest and, most importantly, yourself.
We always try to think,when looking at and evaluating products, "Is this something that I would recommend to my best friend/mother/auntie/granny?" This question helps us form a really honest opinion of the product and ensures that we are being as transparent as possible with our readership and upholding the reputation we have worked to create for ourselves. Don't let your opinions be swayed by an overbearing PR person or a pushy brand. They have everything to gain from getting a positive review while you have everything to lose if that review isn't completely honest. When it is your reputation on the line, don't bow to the pressure or sell yourself short, stick to your guns and, again, a sense of perspective will help you see that no freebie in the world is worth compromising yourself for.
If you made it this far, you deserve a glass of champagne and a Ladurée macaron as a reward. No, make that two macarons! However, this long-winded post has been a long time coming and if even just one point helps just one other person out there, we've achieved our goal. We're lucky in that we don't bear the brunt of the negativity or discord in the blogging community and we are are eternally grateful that we have each other as an in-built support system. The fact that we have been friends since we first started school makes blogging together a doddle and our friendship has actually strengthened from creating this site together (Aww!) so, any upsets we've had or mistakes we've made all pale in comparison to the awesome opportunities, fun times and love we've developed for writing about beauty.
In short, the message we're really trying to impart is that no blogger is "alone" in all of this. We all have our ups and downs and we all make mistakes. The important thing is that we learn from them and focus on ourselves and our own blogs and not worry about everyone else. If you are a new blogger, please do jump right in and join the fun! The positives far outweigh any negatives as far as we're concerned and, really, it's a great community to be a part of all things considered!