Thursday, April 27, 2017

One Year of Blogging Q&A




 I decided to feature my favorite outfit to date to highlight today's Blogging Q&A!
I reached one year of blogging this past Sunday! I cannot believe how quickly it has passed by and how much has changed since I first started! I am forever grateful for those of you that have encouraged me since day one and for those of you that have followed my little hobby along the way. Your sweet emails, messages, comments, and encouragement means more to me than I could ever express! Thank you!

As promised, I will dedicate this post to answering all the questions you all have been
sending my way in regards to blogging. 

Before I start I want to mention that when I started blogging it was on a whim and I had NO idea what I was getting into. I had NO idea what blogging was, the amount of work that went behind it, etc. I followed several "big" bloggers for year and was always inspired by them, but never thought of actually doing what they do. One day while I was prepping for an upcoming trip, I was just like 'I'm going to blog too' and literally thought I was the first one besides those several bloggers I followed for years that came up with this idea (you can read more of what made me start a blog HERE). I LOL at myself now at how oblivious I was to blogging when I started. I had no idea that the blogging community was filled with thousands and thousands of girls with the same passions OR that you can make money off of blogging. No idea. 

I was in for a surprise, that's for sure, and a huge learning curve, but I have been loving it!! I'm going to go into as much detail as possible especially with things I wish I knew before I started, so lets get to it.... :)

HOW DO YOU GET YOUR OWN WEBSITE


Like I mentioned above, I started my blog on a whim and that included designing my website. I started my blog on Wix which in my opinion is great for beginners. It has a ton of different templates you can use, but there was a lot I had envisioned on my site that wasn't available to me on Wix. So two blog posts later, I went to the website of a designer that designed one of my favorite blogger's site (she no longer has the same layout/design) and started the website design process. She only works with SquareSpace and Blogger, so I had to say farewell to Wix. She is super talented and great at what she does, but I have no background in anything related to website design and wish I did more research. I wanted several things on my blog that were not doable because each designer kind of has their own designed template/coding and you just personalize it for each person if that makes sense and I didn't know that. Also, the more you add to your site, the prices obviously go up too, so that deterred me from adding everything I wanted to my blog when I first started. BUT at the same time, I didn't bother checking around to see if I found another web designer I loved do it for less. 

As far as the website, I chose Blogger, because it was a couple $100 cheaper that Squarespace to design, but I have friends that use Squarespace and I LOVE all that Squarespace has to offer! I'm thankful for my site and was involved in the process, but wish I looked at more designers, compared more prices, didn't jump the gun to design my blog until I got the hang of it so I had a better idea of what I wanted displayed & how. I was so excited to start that I didn't really lay all that out and is probably my biggest regret. There are so many great templates out that and so many of them are free, so I definitely recommend starting there before dropping a few $$$ on a website design that may not suit you down the line. 

Alos, don't forget about domains/claiming your site name. Most domains are yearly payments so don't let those creep up on you and have someone take your website URL. 

DO YOU HAVE A JOB OUTSIDE OF BLOGGING

Yes. I'm an Emergency Room Nurse and am in school full time for my Master's in Nursing to be a Family Nurse Practitioner.

WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLET HELPED YOUR BLOG GROW MOST

I get blog traffic from Instagram the most. Pinterest is also great because unlike Instagram, those posts are continuously getting reposted whereas Instagram posts are only "popular" for a few hours. 

WHO TAKES YOUR PICTURES & WHAT CAMERA DO YOU USE?

Mostly my husband. At the moment, we use the Canon Rebel T5i with the 50mm lens and my iPhone. I also use the Sony alpha 5100 with a 50mm lens when we travel because it's smaller.

DO YOU BUDGET FOR YOUR BLOG?

Yes & no. I have heard horror stories of people getting into trouble financially because of blogging or taking out loans. If you're that person, no judgment here. For me, blogging is/started as a hobby and had no idea that you could make money blogging, so I never really had an "budget" in mind.

 If you read why I started blogging above, you know I looveeeee to shop! I was always a huge saver and saved every penny I made during college days so I only spent what could and knew what I could afford. When I got my full-time "big girl" job being able to see something I liked and buy it was new to me. I wouldn't say I went overboard, but I did keep up with "new arrivals" from some of my favorite stores/boutiques pretty much weekly and didn't really wear most of my clothes more than once or twice. I joke that blogging "saved" me from being such a shopaholic because now I have to plan my posts and what I buy. Getting something I love only to find out it's sold out by the time I can share it with you all is the worst feeling ever. Now I'm more mindful when I shop & make sure it lines up with other posts. Made me realize that maybe I don't really need five different white shirts that all look exactly the same haha!

I understand that it can definitely be overwhelming keeping up with trends but don't feel like you have to because "everyone else is." Find your niche! Maybe you can focus on how to wear one shirt ten different ways, or highlight sales going on etc. Also, reach out to your favorite boutiques and shops to do product trade. This helps you get free/discounted clothes in exchange for exposure to both of your accounts. Also, use birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, etc as opportunities to have people pitch in to get you that bag you've always wanted, gift cards, etc. 

HOW DO YOU FIND MITIGATION TO COMMENTS LIKE: "FASHION BLOGGING IS OVER SATURATED" & "TOO COMPETITIVE"?

I hear this ALL the time and it may be true, but I don't like to look at blogging as competition because there are SOO many opportunities and have made life-long friendships with other bloggers. Blogging has become so popular so more and more brands are wanting to put their advertisement into bloggers instead of billboards or magazines. It can definitely get overwhelming when you see other bloggers that started around the same time as you skyrocket in follower count or get collaborations you were declined. At this point, remind yourself why you started. I started my blog not knowing that all this "competition" exists so my husband constantly reminds me of that when I hop on the comparison train. This helps me focus on my account and not get wrapped up in the competition. Also, every blogger has something unique to offer and different brands will see that and want to invest in that. Be yourself, do it because you love it and you'll eventually get that dream collab.

HOW DID YOU GROW YOUR INSTAGRAM FOLLOWING?

I wish there was a secret, but here are a few ways that may help. One of the ways I grew my following when I first started was by doing loop giveaways. There are + and - to them and I'm more on the negative side of them now and here's why.... Basically you pay $20-$45 to join a group of bloggers/IG shops to pitch in to giveaway an item whether it's a gift card, IPad, etc. You can gain a good amount of people, but once the loop is over and the winner is announced, your followers that only followed for the giveaway drop like flies and then gradually keep dropping for weeks after. That part was discouraging. You wake up excited and realize you gain 25 followers, and look at your numbers and you gained 25 but lost 70. Also, it doesn't really help with engagement since they only followed you for the giveaway and not because they particularly love your content. I'm not against them, I've done my share, but I stopped doing them for a while, posting more about what I was passionate about, making sure my feed represented me and followers came. It also made me happier with what I was doing because I was enjoying it instead of constantly checking my following number (like that really means anything if you really think about it). I also did giveaways with blogger friends or boutiques instead of huge amounts that have nothing to do with blogging and it definitely gets you more exposure to the people you are wanting to reach AND giving back to your followers is the BEST part of blogging. Hands down!

Just to clarify, If I get the opportunity to sponsor a huge loop giveaway, I don't think I would say no. Or if I do one to boost me to another milestone, like I did when I reached 10K on Instagram, I probably will. Like I said, I'm not against them, but if you want true, loyal followers, this isn't your best choice to get them. 

Another way that I swore I would never do, but fell on the train was the follow/unfollow method. I actually started it after a loop giveaway because so many followers were dropping like flies. When I first started I used to get excited to have other bloggers follow me to find them unfollow me days later. I finally found out what they were doing and it is following you to get you to see their page and follow them back, not necessarily because they want to follow you. You can view this two ways, just plain "fake" OR from a business perspective which I see now. You're basically handing out your business card to people who may not otherwise come across your page. I did this for a few weeks (myself, not with a company!! those third-party accounts will get you into trouble!) and it does help you gain followers but it's not that simple. You can get blocked by Instagram, be flagged as a "spam" account (which is basically anytime you do the same thing repeatedly for example like to many photos at one time, comment too many times, follow too many times, etc.). When you are flagged as a "spam" account you can get Shadow-Banned. I won't go into too much detail of what that is but it happened to me last week and I'm done with the follow/unfollow for now. because it is S C A R Y! Basically, Instagram makes your account invisible to other accounts that are not following you. So if someone searches a hashtag and is not following you, you will never pop up to them. So for me where I will die happy with Like To Know It reposts my photo, but will never see it because I'm Shadow-Banned is a big deal for me. It's not worth it getting your account blocked and it takes up soon much time having to follow and unfollow people. It can also piss them off (you know what I mean if you were ever on the other end lol! sorry guys!)   

Engagement groups are also a great way to gain exposure. It's a group of bloggers on IG DM that basically like and comment each others photos. Again, repetitive comments/likes can get you Shadow-Banned or blocked for a period of time so be careful! I used to be in like 5-6 at one point when I first started blogging and let me tell you, it was overwhelming! It would eat up all my free time and when I quit all but one I never felt more free. I met SO many amazing girls I still keep in touch with, but I realized that I started to get comments and likes from people that I never did before after I quit. Not sure if that had anything to do with Shadow-Banned or because I had more time to focus on content, or what, but that's just what happened to me. Also, don't get so focused on engagement groups that you forget to engage with readers that are taking the time to respond to your posts. I love the new "heart" feature on comments. I use those to let the reader know I read their comment and will answer any questions they ask. It is "social" media. Be social!

One last thing, DO NOT buy your followers! I NEVER did and NEVER will! Don't do it! First of all, they're not even real people, second of all it'll show through your engagement (for example,  you have 50K followers on IG, but less than 500 likes on your photos... raises a red flag. You may be ok with that, and that's fine. But your readers see that you all of a sudden gained 5K followers overnight, and brands see that and WILL deter from your account if your engagement isn't good). This also goes with automated comments. I get emails on emails of different companies trying to get me to buy their packs of comments, etc. What they do, and I'm not even 100% sure, but if a hashtag dings on someones account, an automated comment will pop up from your account on their post. Have you noticed those comments like "you are stunning" with a heart or some other kind of emojii and it's commented on one of your #OOTD flatly... busted!! lol! Not genuine.

Like I said these are some options, but there's no secret and if you haven't noticed a trend, there's a negative aspect to each one of the "easy way out". Be genuine, be consistent, be yourself, be patient, and I promise, people will relate to you and want to see more!

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST BRAND COLLABORATION?

Through Email. I received a few brand collaborations via email that I declined before I accepted one. Now I don't want to make it sound like I had collaborations falling from the sky or SO many of them. That's not the case, especially when I first started...BUT I didn't want to accept a collaboration (and still don't) if I didn't 100% love the product or would buy it myself. For a while, I just waited and waited refreshing my email waiting for another collaboration. Don't do that!

When it comes to collaborations, pitch yourself! I've been at it for a year and still have to reach out to brands about collaborating. They find you, but remember we talked about there being so many bloggers?! You have to prove to the company why they should pick you and make it easier for them to find you. When you reach out to a company you love, tell them why you love them, if/how you have used them before, send them pictures, give them an idea of how you would showcase the product on your blog/social media, etc. 99% of the time they will say yes! And if they don't, that's ok! Work hard, be yourself, grow the trust of your followers and try again. I felt like a broken record writing the same company email after email until they finally said yes. But I knew I loved them and I believed in myself and knew one day they would see that too :)

DO YOU HAVE A MEDIA KIT/ARE THEY CRUCIAL FOR COLLABORATIONS?

Think of a media kit as a resume! You want your media kit to showcase who you are, what your brand stands for, different brands you have worked with in the past, the number of your followers on all social channels, how much you charge for posts, etc. Not all of these will be feasible if you're a new blogger but when they are keep your media kit updated and attach it to emails that you send to brands. This gives them a better picture of who they are working with and can give you some brownie points. If you don't have a media kit, make sure you add this information to the email that way emails don't become a cat and mouse chase trying to figure out if you fit the part they are looking for. 

DO YOU BUY CLOTHES, POST ABOUT THEM AND RETURN THEM? IS THAT EVEN ETHICAL?

No. No. No. I never started my blog to turn it into a business or showcase every new or brand name product out there that I can't afford. Again, no judgement if you do that, it's just not me. I started my blog because I was already into fashion and shopping and it was an outlet to share that with others that may be interested. I wanted to connect with other girls that have the same passions and just have a space for some girl talk and all that fun stuff. Now, enter the world of fashion blogging where to some it is a competition of staying afloat or making a sale it's easy to get wrapped up into buying, returning and all that.... but I would never do that in real life, so why would I do that with my blog or make you guys think I am something I am not. 
Blogging can be a business and as you grow, you may be able to afford more expensive items, or be in on discounts, or get gifted items you may not have had a budget for when you first started. That part is fun, but I promise you it doesn't bring happiness :)

HOW DO YOU GET MORE TRAFFIC?

This is tough because social media is constantly changing. Take Instagram for instance, after the algorithm change recently, most of my followers can't even see my posts any more because the IG feed is now based on the most popular post being at the top of the feed instead of the most recent. With that being said, your blog is the only thing that's 100% yours and not going to change. I use Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram to bring followers to my blog by announcing my blog posts on there or sending them there to see where they can purchase an item I found, etc. Make sure your blog is user friendly, relatable, and represents you that way they keep coming back. If it's hard to navigate or doesn't have much to offer, you will lose their traffic. 

Also, don't forget about SEO. This is still a little confusing for me to grasp, but basically write in a way that would pop up on search engines like Google. For example, instead of writing "Curly hair tutorial" try "How to Curl your Hair."

HOW ACTIVE ARE YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA ON A WEEKLY BASIS?

All. The. Time. lol! But I seriously LOVE connecting with you all! It can definitely be 24 hour job/hobby! Social media is meant to be social, so you want to take the time to socialize or recognize readers that took time out of their day to comment on or like a photo of yours. I also, constantly search my favorite stores to see what's new, plan different posts, browse Pinterest/IG accounts for inspiration, etc. BUT I  also have learned that it's OK to skip a blog post, or an IG post, etc. It is not the end of the world and when I am out and about with my husband especially at dinner/lunch we put phones away (in my bag, out of my reach away). I love social media and blogging, but I also don't want life to crumble around me or miss out of life while I'm soaked up in it. Much of the time I'm scrolling aimlessly and not really paying attention, so at that time, I realize it's time to take a break and do something else. I think starting school again full time was what really helped me be more time sensitive and more mindful of where my time goes since it feels so short nowadays lol. 

TOP (wearing an XS & more colors available) || JEANS (similar HERE) || SHOES (this year's design HERE) || BAG (dupe HERE) || LIPS || WATCH

I hope you guys found this helpful! I tried to answer your questions as well as give you my experience which I know may not be anything like yours.Blogging is different for everyone; that's the beauty of it! Thanks again for taking the time to send me questions. I feel like I could write a novel to answer each question, but I touched the surface, so let me know if you have more questions, want me to elaborate on my answer, your experience or tips , etc in the comments below!! XO!

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4 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for writing this blog post! It's so good to see what it's like when you first start out blogging! You're doing a great job and I enjoy following you! :)

    - Stevie | Irresistibly Petite Blog

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    1. You are so welcome! Thank you SO much for following along!

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  2. Congrats on one year of blogging and thank you for this honest Q&A! I appreciate your info about the loop giveaways. Most of the time I don't think that they're worth doing, but every once in awhile I think about giving it a try. I think I'm going to steer clear for now, because many people have said what you have...that the followers don't last and they don't really care about your content. Cheers to many more years of blogging!
    -Kristin
    countdowntofridayblog.com

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    Replies
    1. So glad you found it helpful! And I agree! If you need a boost for whatever reason (aka some brands/collab apps only accept you with a certain amt of followers) they're great but yes! definitely not for consistent loyal readers :)

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