For this week's Friday Fives post I decided to do something a little bit different....
I started my first blog, a beauty blog, around a year and a half ago.
I don't really remember why I wanted to start one, except that I have always loved writing and wanted to do it professionally but never really properly looked into it - and I recall thinking that blogging was a good way to stay in practice.
After a while, I found out I was pregnant and - with all the many many weeks of extreme morning sickness that followed - I ended up allowing my blog to take a back seat.
By the time I felt a bit better, months had gone by and the little crowd of blogger friends I'd made had all kind of dispersed - only one was still around (Hi Lou!) and she too was now pregnant!
And so I decided to re-launch my blog as a Pregnancy and Parenting blog - and I've never looked back.
This time around I have taken blogging a lot more seriously and put some serious effort into it - I have paid for layouts, I have stayed up way into the night to get posts written, I have put hours of thought into my posts, and I basically put a lot of work into my blog.
I do this because I absolutely LOVE it - I LOVE having my own little corner of the internet where I can share my thoughts and feelings, I LOVE mingling with other bloggers and getting to know like-minded and interesting people from all over the world, and - I'm not going to lie - I LOVE the fact that there can actually be a bit of money made from a hobby that I enjoy so much and some rather nice perks such as the opportunity to enjoy free products for review purposes.
Of course, these sorts of things don't just happen overnight and it takes work and effort to build your blog up before opportunities start to present themselves - for ages I wondered to myself how on Earth other bloggers were given so many opportunities and what I might be doing wrong.
And now I notice that very few people are ever actually willing to talk much about how they acheived any success they have had with blogging - every blogger has their little secrets and tricks of the trade so to speak, and I have noticed from various groups and social networking sites that there are often standard answers given when new bloggers ask questions.
I thought for a while about whether or not I should write this post and share my tips, after all - it took a lot of time and work before I found these things out for myself, so shouldn't everybody have to work for it too?!
But then I remembered how disheartened I felt when I was left wondering what I was doing wrong and why everybody around me was having so much more success than me....
And so, I decided to just go for it and share my tips.
And here they are....
No matter how good your content is, no matter how much effort you put into your blog - until you're quite well established (Which I'm not yet....If I don't network and promote my posts, I don't get comments....) you need to MINGLE!!
You need to follow other blogs - and let them know that you're following them. I hate it when I see that I have a new follower and I don't know who they are - if they have a blog too, I'd like to follow them back but its hard to do that without knowing who they are.
If you take the time to follow a blog that you like, its worthwhile leaving them a comment too - but DO NOT leave the standard "I'm following you - follow me back" comment - that is seen, rightly so in my opinion, as lazy and rude. Show that you have read what the blogger has written - just because your conversation is over a computer doesn't make it any less of a conversation - you wouldn't listen to somebody talking to you in a face-to-face situation without acknowledging what they have said, so don't do it in the blogosphere either.
When you do leave a comment on a new blog - I personally think its worthwhile leaving your blog link in your comment. I like it when people do this as it makes it simple for me to go to their blog and return the love - I also quite often read other peoples comment on other blogs and think that they sound like nice people whose blogs I would like to look at - but I can't do that if there's no link.
But do be careful about doing this - some bloggers don't like it, and will usually specify on their blogs that they would prefer you not to leave your link. Whilst I don't agree with their stance on it, it's always best to be polite and do what they ask - its THEIR blog after all.
2. Be User Friendly
You could be the best blog writer in the world, turning out amazing quality articles every day - but if nobody can read what you're saying, people will lose interest very quickly!
I've seen so many blogs where the blogger obviously has the best intentions - they want their blog to stand out and look nice so they have chosen a particularly jazzy font or colour theme - but you need to be careful when choosing these things. Yes its nice for a blog to look attractive - but it needs to be easy to read.
Another way of being user friendly is to make it easy for people to follow you and comment on your posts. Don't just offer one way of following, as if a person isn't a fan of this particular tool or doesn't know how to use it - then you've lost the opportunity to gain a follower . There are many tools at your disposal - GFC, Bloglovin, Networked Blogs and more - my advice is to use as many of them as possible.
I personally don't enjoy using Bloglovin - but I am aware that it is most people's preferred choice - so I make sure it's there as an option for people. My own preferred choice is GFC - and when I like a blog but following by GFC is not an option, it does make it offputting for me as it makes following them require that little bit of extra effort on my part - and to be honest, I can't always be bothered!!
And finally, comments are something all bloggers love - but they can be a real pain to leave! Try to make it as simple as possible for your followers to leave comments - this is something I struggle with on my own blog as so many of my non-blogger friends struggle to be able to leave comments on my blog, but if I don't filter my comments I receive a LOT of spam so I have to weigh up the choices.
Some simple things you can do to make commenting easier is to remove the word verification option from your settings if using Blogger - the word verification tool is extremely irritating as the words are often almost impossible to read! It really puts me off commenting if the word verification pops up.
If, like me, you're worried about spam - just turn on comment moderation so that you can view your comments before they are published to your blog and remove any that you don't want to appear.
3. Have Good Blogger Etiquette!
A lot of bloggers would disagree with me when it comes to Blogger Etiquette, but these are my own personal thoughts on the subject.
For me - if somebody takes the time to visit and follow your blog, and leave comments on your posts - and they have a blog of their own - it is common courtesy to visit their blog and leave a comment back.
A lot of people disagree with me on this and think that you only need to visit/follow/comment on a blog if you particularly like it - and yes obviously its difficult to do if you really dislike a blog or can't relate to its content - but on the whole, I just think its the polite thing to do to return the favour.
If I comment often on a bloggers posts and notice that they have rarely, if ever, bothered to comment on mine - then I start to think that actually, sod them - I won't bother commenting on theirs either. Perhaps thats childish of me but oh well - that's how I feel!
I also think its common courtesy to reply to comments left on your blog. Yes it can be difficult, particularly with Blogger, as the user isn't notified of your response and so often its wasted - but it just seems the polite thing to do. I have fallen foul of this rule myself recently purely due to time restrictions, but I do always try to catch up on replying to comments whenever I have a few free minutes.
And the final thing re: blogger etiquette - if you see a post that inspires you to write something very similar, by all means do it - but credit the blogger that had the original idea within your post and link back to them.
4. Social Media Matters!
I never really thought about using social media alongside my blog until a few months ago, but I realise now how important it is.
Aside from the fact that a lot of PR companies want to know your social media figures, it really does help to grow your follower numbers and improve your hits.
Twitter and Facebook are the main ones - make sure you blog link is in your Twitter bio and Tweet links to your blog posts regularly. Use hashtags to make sure that they're seen by the right people - if you're a parent blogger you want to be using #pbloggers, if you're a beauty blogger than its #bbloggers - fashion= #fbloggers, lifestyle = #lbloggers. You can use more than one hashtag, character permitting.
With Facebook, its worthwhile having a page dedicated to your blog - you can use it to share links to your current blog posts, and generally chat and interact with your followers. Make sure you have a widget on your blog showing your Facebook page and buttons linking to all of your social media accounts to make it easy for readers to follow you.
There are also other ways of using Facebook for blogging - such as joining groups dedicated to bloggers just like you, these are great places to interact with other bloggers, share links to your posts, find new blogs to read and get advice on blogging topics - my favourites are Mummy, Beauty & Lifestyle Bloggers and UK Bloggers.
5. Working With Brands
A lot of bloggers want to know how people are approached to work with brands and do sponsored posts.
For sponsored posts I can honestly say that I have only ever been approached by companies via e-mail and I do not know how they found my blog. That is the truth.
With brands - I wondered myself for a LONG time how so many bloggers worked with so many brands, when everybody said the same thing "They just found my blog and approached me".
That is true some of the time - and for some people maybe it happens more often. But a lot of the time, bloggers use media requests to source products for review.
Media requests can be sent through companies such as Gorkana PR and Kids4Media.
You fill in a form, state what kinds of product samples you are looking for, and PR companies and brands come back to you with offers.
Another way that people manage to get products for review is to simply ask for them - this seems quite a taboo subject and a lot of bloggers insist that they would never do this and even that they think its unethical.
That's fine if that's what they think - my opinion is that if you don't ask, you don't get. If they're not interested, they say no. It's that simple. Nobody is forcing anybody to do anything that they don't want to do.
I have personally never have a nasty reply from a company I have approached, the worst response I've had is "No thank you, we're not looking to work with any bloggers at the moment" - no big deal, right?!
Once you've started to work with brands, you tend to find that more follow - i'm not sure if perhaps PR companies pass on details of bloggers between them or what, but I certainly noticed that once I'd done a few the requests started to roll in all the time.
When corresponding with brands always be clear on what it is that you're agreeing on - if you're accepting their product for review, agree with them a timeframe and establish whether they would like you to send the review to them for approval first or whether they would like a livelink to your published post.
Another great way of connecting with brands is through Twitter. Some people use the #prrequest and #journorequest hashtags to put out requests for products - I personally don't like to do this as I find it all a bit too public, but if you want to try it why not?!
Often you will find that brands and PR companies start to follow you on Twitter, when they do - follow them back. Often they will then contact you with a view to working with you. If they don't after a week or so - it doesn't hurt to email them and introduce yourself and your blog, you may jog their memories - they probably added you for a reason after all!
I hope that these tips have been useful to some of you - in closing I would like to say that I have personally found it difficult sometimes to know what to do and how to deal with certain blogger related things, and I have to say that the Facebook groups I mentioned above have been very helpful to me - but occasionally I have contacted high profile bloggers for advice and never received any reply. I know that this can be quite disheartening. I am not a high profile blogger by any stretch of the imagination and I am still learning every day - but if there is ever anything that I can help any fellow blogger with, I am happy to do so - so don't be afraid to ask!
Do you have any blogging tips to share?! As always, I'd love to hear from you!