By Elizabeth, Delightfully Tacky
I was first exposed to the world of blogging when, in the summer of 2008, I was living at home between my Jr. and Sr. years of college, working a kind of boring job and sort of just stumbled across fashion blogs. I ended up landing on The Clothes Horse and was incredibly inspired. I was reaching a point in my life where I was less self conscious and wanted to express myself more, especially when it came to personal style. Plus, there were all these really cool girls with blogs, and I wanted to be able to interact with them and comment on their blogs. So, I started my own, pretty much the same day I discovered blogging! I knew from the start that I wanted my blog to be a style blog. I slowly started getting into posting outfits, and posted wishlists of things I really wanted to get. As I continued blogging I refined my personal style and started really enjoying taking outfit photos. I also wanted my blog to reflect who I was, and so naturally I decided to include some text about my daily goings-on, my artwork, and other inspiration. I think my blog still retains a lot of the same focus as it did when I started it. I now post every day and it's probably evolved a bit, simply because I've grown up some since 2008 and new things happen in my life which affect the content of my blog (the Brave, living in Alaska, moving to Tacoma, falling in love, etc.), but I still love posting outfits, and I think most people would classify my blog as a personal style blog.
An important step to take when you're starting out as a blogger is to determine a focal point for your blog. Granted, you don't have to limit yourself to just one thing. Some bloggers have found success in covering a range of topics. Emily from Cupcakes & Cashmere has found a niche in covering both food and fashion. Elsie from A Beautiful Mess has everything from DIY, to fashion, to inspiration, to decor. The important thing is to give everything a cohesive feel. And even more important is to post about what you really feel passionately about. If you're not into runway fashion, but see a lot of bloggers posting images from the latest fashion week collections and think you have to do that to be a fashion blogger, think again! If you don't care about your content, your readers will notice and your blog will feel stale and contrived. Plus, you'll enjoy it considerably less if you post things that you have no interest in!
It might help to take a few minutes to sit down and write out things that you really enjoy. Then, after you consider those things, decide which things you would enjoy incorporating into your blog. For a while, my blog focused almost exclusively on outfit posts. Occasionally I would post something about my life, or art, or something else I found interesting, but for the most part I focused my blog on personal outfit posts. Some people love fashion, but are not really interested in posting about their own style, so they post inspiration photos, or street style. It's all about determining what direction you want to go in with your blog, and that's all dependent upon who you are!
This e-conference has a focus on fashion/personal style blogs simply because that's what Tieka and I have been blogging about for years and feel most knowledgeable in, but almost all of the information presented should be helpful to anyone looking to improve their blog, no matter what the focus. So don't think that this conference is going to teach you to be a certain kind of blogger, it's all about you figuring out what you want your own blog to be about, and then using the tools we present to make it the best blog you can make it!
One important thing to keep in mind, as you blog, is that you are a human being and by necessity, you will change. As you grow and change, so will your interests. Don't let your blog keep you from that necessary growth. Don't pretend to be interested in something that you aren't anymore. Don't let your blog hold you back from growing. Let it grow and shift with you. You might lose some followers by not posting as much of what they've grown to expect from you, but that's never a good excuse to keep yourself in a shell you've outgrown. Make your blog work for you, not the other way around!
Unless you are strictly a photo blogger, it's likely you will be composing some sort of text in your post. Are you going to be a more verbose blogger, or are you going to let your photos do the talking? What kind of voice are you going to take? Colloquial, as Vintage Virgin does-- or more poetic, such as the way Rebecca from The Clothes Horse composes her posts? I like to write my posts in a very accessible way, very much the way I talk. I think this makes my blog a little bit more personal and helps my readers to get to know me more.
Take time to consider what you want to write about in your posts. Will you write about what's going on in your life? If so, how much are you comfortable revealing to the wide world of the internet? It takes some balls to put yourself out there with honesty, so be prepared for the occasional mean comment, it's the price you have to pay for broadcasting your life on the web. Just remember that the haters aren't the people who matter! They've made a conscious decision to bring negativity into the world instead of bringing a positive attitude. Plus, you have exponentially more people who give you positive comments. Focus on that!
Don't let it scare you from being genuine though. Bring your voice to the blogging community because no one has your voice, it is 100% yours. If you look around the proverbial blogging room and feel like you have nothing unique to offer, just think about how you are totally unique. There is no other blogger (or human being, for that matter) who can be you- who can say things the way you do, who has the life experience you have, who has the same creativity as you do. That's important! Never forget it.
Take some time to think about your limits. Will you swear on your blog? Will you talk about loved ones and friends? Will you post about your faith or politics? Will you talk about being a vegetarian or vegan?
Another thing to remember about writing online is that you don't have your tone of voice, inflection, or body language to help people understand you. All you have is text and photos, so make sure what you write comes across as clearly as possible, especially if you're trying to write about something important or controversial. Misunderstanding can happen easily on the internet simply because you don't have those physical and verbal cues to aid in understanding. Learn to communicate yourself accurately and effectively through your writing. This is kind of a learn-by-trial-and-error process. If it seems like people are frequently missing your point, not getting out of your post what you meant for them to get out of it, or taking what you're saying the wrong way, you may want to evaluate your writing and try to work on communicating better through writing.
Most important: be yourself. Don't write like another blogger just because you think that writing like them will get you lots of followers like them. Be you. Be confident enough in yourself that you don't have to emulate someone else for people to like you!
What kind of blogger are you? by Elizabeth, Delightfully Tacky
In order to get in the mood for this session, why don't we all sit back and blast The Who's Who Are You? Just kidding. Well, you can if you want to, I won't stop you.
Blogging is a huge, I mean enormous, realm out there on the interwebs. There are blogs about pretty much anything you can think of, encompassing pretty much every nook and cranny of any topic. Food (cooking/restaurant critics/beer/coffee/etc), politics (Republican/Democrat/conservative/green/etc.), fashion (high fashion/celebrity critics/runway/personal style/street style/etc.), wedding (DIY/eco-friendly/high-end/low-budget/etc.).... and the list goes on and on. You can probably bet that if you're blogging about it, someone else is also blogging about it.
This might seem depressing at first, knowing that there are thousands of bloggers out there among whom you're attempting to make your mark. What is it that makes a blog get noticed? What is it that makes one blog grow and another not? It can seem, at times, like it's just some magical "it" factor that some people have, and that if you are not possessing this mystical it-ness, then your hopes of a growing blog are in vain. I don't believe that to be true. I also don't believe that a successful blog looks like just one thing. There are a ton of different ways a blog can be successful and that mainly has to do with your own concept of what success is.
Some people might see their blog's success in terms of monetizing. That is, if you can make money off your blog, then it's successful-- and all the better if you can quit your day job and blog full time. Other people seek to have large quantities of followers. Some people desire to have large blogs mention them, or get their photo featured on a favorite site (think getting your living room makeover featured on Design*Sponge or Apartment Therapy. Or maybe getting your photo snapped by the Sartorialist, or your wedding on Style Me Pretty). Some people want tons of comments on their posts. Other people just love to share their content and could care less about accolades based on quantity of daily visitors to their site, or how many are subscribing to their site.
So success comes in many shapes, sizes and colors. It's important to decide for yourself what your concept of success is. A lot of people will want to foist upon you their idea of what success is, so you need to know for yourself what your goals are for blogging and what it means to you to be a success at what you do. For some of you that might mean producing great content and putting it out there to share with the world. For others, it might mean getting paid sponsorships. It's important to respect that there are a variety of different goals for blogging. Some people see monetizing as a bad thing and could tell you that you're "selling out" for monetizing, and on the flip side some people also might tell you you're silly if you choose to not take sponsors. It's likely you'll get critiqued no matter what you do, so be true to yourself!
The beauty of blogging is that it's fluid. Your blog doesn't have to stay the same, with the same kind of content for its entire existence. While my blog's content has stayed relatively consistent over the years, it has also fluctuated quite a bit as well. For the first two years of my blog, posts were pretty exclusively daily outfit posts. Once I started moving towards going on my Brave trip, I focused more on that and once I was actually on the road, I had quite a few more road-tripping posts than outfit posts. Now my blog is a mix of lifestyle, DIY and personal style (and recently, wedding planning!). Staying true to yourself is important. If you're trying to blog about something that used to interest you, but no longer does, people will be able to tell that your posts don't come from the heart. Not only will your readers be able to tell, blogging also won't be fulfilling to you! I say, what's the point in blogging if you don't enjoy it?
If you're just starting out on your blogging adventure, take time to sit down and brainstorm what interests you have that you want to blog about and what you want to focus on. If you've already been blogging for a while, take a look at your blog and see what parts of it you love and what isn't working and cut out the stuff that you don't love! No sense in spending time posting about it if you don't love it! You can also take a look at your life and see where your interests are shifting and if maybe your blog is lagging behind this shift. I spent some time hanging out with one of my favorite bloggers last year and she was doing just this! She had grown her blog on DIY projects and scrapbooking, but was phasing out of that part of her life and into more focus on vintage and fashion. She's made a beautiful transition-- still keeping the parts of her blog that she loved about it when it focused more on DIY stuff, but infusing vintage fashion and style!
Whether you're just starting out, or you've been blogging for a while, I encourage you to get out a pen and paper (or... a word document and keyboard) and answer the following questions:
1. What are you passionate about? What do you feel like you would be able to post about all the time?
2. Do you want your blog to have a narrow focus or a broad spread of topics? (ex. just a food blog vs. including recipes, outfits, and lifestyle posts)
3. Would you like your blog to be monetized? Why or why not?
4. How do you gauge the success of your blog?
5. Think of your favorite blogs, what is it about those blogs that makes you love them? Can you learn something from those blogs that you can apply to yours?
This is the biggest thing you need to figure out before you start your blog. Or, if you've already started your blog, it's something you need to deeply think about and make sure you're living up to. This session will be of great help to you to figure out what kind of blog you want to run! Most of the truly successful blogs out there have a clear purpose for their blog and expand on it within every post they create. Let's dive in!
There are so many different things your blog can be. It can be a fashion blog (which can even expand down to a shoe blog, a dress blog, an accessories blog, but make sure you don't limit yourself too much that you run out of topics within the first month!). It can be a food blog (baking, cooking, dinners, soups), but again, don't limit yourself, but you do want to have a clear focus. Or, you can mix and combine! There are amazing blogs out there that mix fashion and DIY, baking and sewing, vintage and film reviews. Just remember to take what you love and what you're passionate about and try to stick to those topics. If you choose a topic you're not passionate about, you'll run out of ideas and become uninspired. We don't want that to happen!
1. Fashion. You can do several things with fashion. You can post personal outfit posts, images from an upcoming line that you love, photos from a magazine or online photos you found that you love, wish lists of items you'd like to purchase, ways to put together outfits, video blogs on how to style a dress, the possibilities are endless! Choosing a broad topic like fashion will give you many options for posts so you shouldn't run out of ideas!
2. Cooking. A lot of bloggers mix cooking with fashion! Even though, they may not go hand-in-hand, they are both creative and both give you a lot of options to work with! You could feature a weekly recipe, show what you cooked for dinner last night, do a review of a cute restaurant or do a product review of something you use while cooking. Even though I don't read blogs like Jen Loves Kev for cooking, I am always interested in reading her Last Night's Dinner posts!
3. Vintage. Let's say you love vintage. It ties in really nice with fashion and personal style, but also opens up your blog to a whole other audience. You could post on cute vintage items you found thrifting, you could show how to clean up or repair a vintage item, you could talk about what to look for when shopping vintage, etc.! Plus, maybe someday you could open your own Etsy shop to sell vintage items? Again, endless possibilities. I'm very much inspired by Sally Jane Vintage for this style of blog.
My main themes are: personal style, love and adventures. I say personal style instead of fashion, because I don't really post much on fashion. I don't want to trap readers into saying I'm a fashion blog and they'll expect upcoming reviews of designer lines, or constant inspiration for what's on trend, because that's really not what I'm passionate about. I'm passionate about dressing for my body and showing girls what can work for more of a small-town girl that may not always be on trend. I also love to post about my husband and the things we do together, so I included love in my themes! He's a huge part of my life and I'm insanely passionate about him, so I never tire of talking about my husband! And third, a huge part of our life together is going on adventures. I like to take corny trips around the area and show readers that you can have fun in any little small town! Plus, it gives us endless opportunities for posts plus we're having a blast traveling around trying new things.
Make sure you figure out what makes you unique. You don't want to take your favorite blogger's blog and replicate it. You'll never stand out. You need to find what makes you you and work on it. Let's say you love fashion, old films and 1940's fashion. Expand on that. Take those passions and embrace them in every aspect of your blog... from content, to blog design, to features! Nobody can tell you what your theme will be, it's the biggest thing YOU have to figure out. Take what you're passionate about… and write about it. Find your niche in the blogging community!
Blogs that lack theme, purpose or thought can be boring or get lost. Readers won't know what to expect when they come to your blog and will quickly click off if they don't find what they are looking for within the first five seconds. Find your purpose and clearly state it on your blog and showcase it within every post.
1. Create a name for your blog that will encompass all of your passions you will be writing about! I chose Selective Potential because it was so universal and could grow in time with me. It can pertain to personal style, adventures and love, but doesn't limit me to those three themes… it gives me room to grow in the future if I want to expand to new topics! (like a baby in the future!)
2. Create a tagline! Say your blog is called "Flight of Fancy" and your tagline is… fashion, travel and everything fancy. You could post on fashion, what to pack while traveling, travel posts, photography, cute themed posts. You could even decorate your blog according to your theme and tagline! A tagline really helps readers know right away if they want to read your blog. Let's say one of the biggest aspects of your blog is writing reviews on films, but you don't really let readers know that you'll be doing so, they might be put off when you keep posting on film reviews and maybe they'll stop following. Be clear about your purpose!
3. The biggest thing is… how would you describe your blog to your mom, or friend, or co-worker? It should be very easy to define. "What is your blog about?" "Oh, you'd love it! It's about fashion, baking and travel!" "Oh, wow, I love fashion, baking & travel, I'll definitely check it out!". If your blog is a hundred different things, you might not have the focus and drive to keep at it, so don't overwhelm yourself with trying to cover too many topics. Keep it simple, driven and with a real purpose!
Good luck! xo, Tieka
Once you start blogging, you're probably eventually going to want to post an "About Me" page, so your readers have a place to go and find out more about you, and maybe answer questions they may have. A good way of figuring out how to write your About Me/what to include is by checking out other bloggers' about me sections.
Mini Bio Section
Since your About page is about you and your blog, it's probably a good idea to include at least a little section giving people a mini bio of yourself. You can include what you blog about, things you like, where you are in life (student, married, mother, etc), where you live (if you feel comfortable disclosing your general location), and so on.
A great thing to include in your About page is an F.A.Q. section. Oftentimes you'll get a lot of the same questions asked of you and by including the answers to those types of questions in your F.A.Q. you can avoid having to answer it over and over. You can also use formspring or a general call for questions people would like answered to find questions for your F.A.Q. You might discover some things people were wondering that you'd never thought to share before!
I like to include links to some of my favorite or most popular posts, so if people are just starting to read my blog and might have missed some of my favorite posts from the past, they can check them out! On my blog, this is actually on a separate page from my About page-- my Start Here! page, which I created as sort of a mini About for people who've just discovered my blog.
Info for sponsors
Potential sponsors will often go to a blogger's About Me page to find out more about how they can sponsor. It's good to include a link over to the page you've created with all your sponsorship info, so potential sponsors can find the information they're looking for.
Your contact infoDon't forget to let people know what your contact info is! Make sure to include your email address and if you haven't elsewhere on your blog, link to your blog's facebook page and twitter.
Because reading a huge block of text is no fun. Include some fun photos of yourself (this is, after all your about ME page. Haha!)
Labels: blogging 101
2. Create a "wish list" of your favorite items at the moment (Polyvore is great for this!)
3. Going on vacation? Show how you packed your suitcase!
4. Show the inner workings of your closet in a fun video blog.
5. Have a fun DIY tutorial? Nail polish tricks? Share them!
6. Do a Q&A post! (Break it into different sessions!)
7. Show a tutorial! How to do your makeup, how to straighten your hair, you name it.
8. Post a weekly or monthly recap with lifestyle photos or things that make you happy.
9. Create a slideshow of your favorite outfits from other bloggers. (iMovie is the best and SO easy!)
10. Show bloopers of silly photos of you!
The topic of ethics in blogging is one that is slowly finding its balance. Since blogging is a relatively new medium with roots in both journalism and art, it's definitely had (and will continue to have) growing pains. Jennine Jacobs, founder of Independent Fashion Bloggers and The Coveted, has spent a lot of time working through the issues of ethics in blogging-- including having one of the panels of the Feb 2010 IFB Evolving Influence Conference focus exclusively on the topic. It was a very interesting discussion with many viewpoints presented from both bloggers and professional journalists, and I highly recommend watching.
I believe you should generally follow the mantra, "honesty is the best policy." As long as you are upfront with things, you should run across a lot fewer ethical and etiquette issues. Here are a few specific areas where ethics and etiquette are often involved:
For some of you, you'll have to deal with companies wanting to send you free things or writing sponsored posts. This is definitely an area that is pretty controversial when it comes to ethics. For some, they feel like accepting courtesy items will always negatively affect the content of the blog, making the blogger some sort of shill for the company, believing that the blogger will no longer be able to write non-biased content regarding the company. I personally don't believe this is always the case, though I think the reason some people feel that was is due to the fact that they've seen it happen.
I make an effort to remain honest and open about the items I receive. If an item is of sub-par quality, or isn't what I expected it to be, I'll tell my readers that. I never want to con my readers into buying something from one of my sponsors by misrepresenting it. Your readers will start to realize your dishonesty and they will start to distrust you and your blog.
Legally, you must declare the kinds of advertising you do for profit. I always note when an item in an outfit post has been sent to me by a sponsor by saying it's "courtesy of" so-and-so company. It's important to do this, not only for legal reasons, but also to remain honest and up-front with your readers. Trust me, they'll always appreciate when you trust them with the truth.
You'll have to make a personal decision as to whether or not you want to monetize or accept free items. Think about yourself and decide whether you believe you'll be able to remain unbiased and honest. It's a big decision, so don't take it lightly! Bloggers who have poor etiquette and ethics in this area give all bloggers a bad name, so make sure to really take time to consider it.
Don't do it. It's annoying.
No really, it is. When you comment on someone else's blog, do it genuinely. Don't say something like, "OMG cute shoes. Follow me? http://myblog.blogspot.com." It will always come off as insincere and self-serving. I almost never click through to their blog simply because it really bothers me that they didn't seem to even look at the post. If you really think someone would enjoy your blog or believe you two have a lot in common with your blogs, go ahead and send them an email saying how much you like their blog and that you'd really appreciate if they would check it out. I'll pretty much always check out a blog if someone takes the time to email me!
Make an effort to always source what you post. Say you do an inspiration post every week, always make sure you have an accurate link back to the creator of that image or product (don't just source ffffound.com or weheartit, etc.). It's always nice to give the people who created those things credit for their hard work. It's also a nice way to send traffic their way. Remember to treat other people the way you'd want to be treated. If someone took a photo from your site and didn't source it back to you, you'd probably be kinda bummed out, right? Plus, this is a way to share more awesome artists, bloggers, and products with your readers, which they'll always appreciate!
Read the FAQ page or About Me page before asking
This isn't a hard rule, and I would never want to discourage a reader from asking me any question, but if you have a question about someone's blog, make an effort to see if they've already answered your question in an FAQ page or something like that. FAQ pages are there specifically because people have already asked the blogger some questions. See if you have the same question as someone in the FAQ, it can save both you and the other blogger a lot of time!
Auto playing music
Another "rule" that isn't hard, but I (and I know a lot of other bloggers I've spoken to) find auto-playing music really obnoxious. For one, you're probably already listening to music, and when you open the person's page, some cacophonous noise is suddenly erupting from your computer when the two songs start playing simultaneously! Or you could be sitting in a quiet coffee shop or library when *blam!* someone's favorite song is all of a sudden blaring and everyone gives you the stink eye. If you want to share your favorite music, do it in a playlist post like Kaelah or Chelsea. It's a great way to share your music without forcing it upon everyone who opens your page.
Dealing with mean/anonymous comments/trolls/etc.
This is an area that you should expect to deal with when you start blogging. It's the internet. There are tons of crazies out there and people, for some reason or another (it's a mystery to me) looking to bring. you. down. Don't let them. My policy is always, "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." If I don't like someone's blog, there's no need to write something mean or rude to them. Just don't go to their blog! Problem solved. Unfortunately, some people feel the need to tell you that they don't like you, or your blog. Don't let them get you down. Take the comment in stride and move on. Be graceful and rise above those people who would seek to bring negativity to your little corner of the internet. If you feel like you are a bit more sensitive to those comments, feel free to disable anonymous commenting! Or go ahead and require comment moderation. There's nothing wrong with doing that! However you feel you need to deal with in a healthy way. Consider placing a clearly stated comment policy somewhere on your blog so people know what you accept and what you don't Don't allow the mean comments to take over your mind when you've got so many more amazing comments from people who love your blog!
Links on ethics and etiquette to consider: