Friday, February 4, 2011

The DOs and DON'Ts of Blogging!

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is "How do I get more readers to my blog?" or some sort of variation. While I don't believe there is a fool-proof way to go about it, I think there are certain things you can do to keep you on track of having a successful blog. (Plus, even if there were a fool-proof method, I wouldn't feel worthy enough to preach it.) I think one of the biggest hangups of the term "successful blog" is that people tend to judge success by the amount of followers one has. That's obviously not a direct measure of a blog's (or bloggers) worth! I don't believe success should be measured by followers, sponsors, or free products... instead it should be measured by the amount of happiness it brings to the person writing, the quality of the content, and the conversations between the audience.

Still, it can be hard to find the motivation to blog when you've only got 4 or 5 followers. I know this because I was definitely there. Heck, even with the amount of amazing readers I have now I still find it hard to motivate myself sometimes (like right now).

While there may be certain things you can do to ensure that you make the most of your slice of the blogosphere, things like this are always open to criticism and argument. What I'll share below is simply what works for me. The next blogger may have a totally different approach to how they do things.

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Here are some tips and tricks that I've used (and still do!) to help keep my blog running smoothly. Maybe some will work for you, too! Here are my DOs and DONTs! (Seriously... keep in mind this is purely my opinion!)

DON'T let the lack of readers hinder you from creating great content. For the first six months that I had Little Chief Honeybee I was writing to the same 10 or 15 people. 95% of my posts received 0 comments. (You can go look for yourself!) Still, I stayed consistent and I put forth that effort and eventually the readers came.

DO be consistent and sincere. These are two very different things, obviously, but they're both important. Being consistent allows readers to stay engaged to your blog. When bloggers go weeks or months without posts we tend to forget about them and we're not so likely to check back. The best way I found to keep my blogging consistent was to set a blogging schedule. Every Monday I'd blog about music, every Wednesday would be weddings, every Thursday would be a list of things that I love that week, etc. This helped me when I was feeling less than inspired and it also let my readers know what to expect on certain days. If someone loved music they could come by on Mondays and they knew they'd find some tunes. When I speak about being sincere I mean being honest, open, and, to a certain extent, vulnerable. People like to relate to other people. They like to see into the lives of other people in the world and they like to know they're not alone. By being honest and real you're sharing part of yourself that these strangers may never see. Blogging about things that make you feel vulnerable helps show that you're a human. You're not a super-blogging-robot who does everything on an auto-function. You have emotions, you break down, you celebrate, you cry and you aren't invincible. You'll be surprised at how many others can relate to you and help you in your time of need. Plus, people can smell a fake blog from a mile away.

While we're on the topic of being genuine vs. fake... DO Blog about what inspires you. Don't blog simply to appeal to the masses. If you're not a girl who loves whimsical pictures, fashion and romance, don't blog about it! If you love metal, live music or certain animals, share those! You may not be an overnight success and you may not garner the amount of attention that someone who blogs only bows and cupcakes does, but your readers will be genuine! They will be there for you and the content. If you're constantly blogging about things that don't inspire you and keep you interested then your lack of enthusiasm will show through your work. If you blog something and your readers just "don't get it" don't worry about it! Make sure your blog is FOR YOU.

DON'T get into blogging to make money, get famous, get free stuff, or get invited to places. Those who get into blogging solely for those reasons are destined to fail. Readers will see right through your persona and realize that you're just in it for the "stuff." Don't rush into accepting sponsors! I didn't even think about accepting sponsors until I had well over 500 or so followers. Even then I was so afraid! Who am I to ask people to pay me to put their button on my blog?! I still feel that way! When you start to put a price on your blog you're also turning it into a business. It's no longer a "I'll just blog when I feel like it" or "I'm just going to stop" sort of thing. It's a "I'm promoting a business and I'm getting paid to do this, so I need to do it." That's not to say you can't have a day off. I take days off all the time. If I just don't feel like doing it, I won't. But unless something big happens I never go 2 days without blogging.

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DO treat your readers and sponsors with the utmost respect. They are the ones who come back day after day and they are the ones who invest their time and money into you and your creative endeavors. Don't write them off or treat them poorly! Show your gratitude with an awesome giveaway now and then or a special treat!

DO source your pictures and content and always link back to other blogs if you get an idea or inspiration from them! Don't worry, your readers will not leave you simply because you linked to someone else! On the contrary, they'll probably love you for it and they'll think you're awesome for sharing another awesome blog with them! If you don't know the original source for your pictures, etc, be open to someone sharing it with you! Then link appropriately!

DON'T overload your blog with ads, giveaways, reviews, and unnecessary mumbo-jumbo! While they're great for treats and to help get your voice out there, they're not the best quality content.

DO network! Get your name out there in ways such as networking, saying hello or emailing your favorite bloggers, asking someone you admire for an interview, trading buttons with someone with a similar readership as you and even taking out sponsorships on larger blogs that have a following you wish to have! Don't be afraid to branch out to other "genres" of blogs... crafting, recipe/food, fashion, mom blogs, etc!

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DON'T feel like you have to be a fashion blog to be successful! I don't think I could ever run a full-fashion blog. I like sharing too much to limit it to just that, so Little Chief Honeybee is a lifestyle blog. My lifestyle just so happens to include outfit posts a few times a week! Don't feel like you have to limit yourself to just one area to gain followers. Also- Don't feel like you have to be a size 2 to rock some outfit posts! You don't need designer outfits, skinny jeans or platinum blonde hair to get noticed! Show your personality and your personal style!

DO find something that makes you unique and run with it! Whatever it may be... maybe you live in a really cool town/state/country... maybe you have crazy colored hair on the daily... maybe you wear only the color green... Whatever it is, play it up!

DON'T feed the trolls! You will get haters.. You will. It's the simple (and sad) truth of blogging. It may take them a while to find you, but you'll tick someone off for no reason whatsoever and they'll set out on a mission to tear down everything you've worked so hard to build up. Don't let them! If you receive a negative, rude, malicious or just unnecessary comment on your blog, you have three choices: 1) delete it and go about your business. 2) leave it and let the tension build with other commenters (I've realized that this is never a good thing. While it's nice to know my followers are willing to stick up for me, it's no one's battle but my own.) or 3) You can feed right into their trap with a reply/blog entry/etc. This is something I've also learned firsthand is never a good thing. Don't let a "hater" control how you feel about yourself or your blog! They will look for any way to weasel into your confidence whether it's telling you look bad, have crap writings or that your blog sucks... don't listen to them. Anyone willing to waste their time bringing down others isn't someone you want to please with your blog anyway. Easier said than done, I know, but establish a protocol for how you handle mean comments and stick to it!

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DO get business cards with your blog link on them! Don't be ashamed of your writings or blog! It's still so hard for me to share my blog with people I know in "real life" but they find it eventually and it's fun to get emails from people I know who say they've been reading for months. Don't be afraid to share it with people you meet! It's a great way to keep in contact and yes, "blogger" is an acceptable job title!

DO be engaging with your readers! Ask questions and be sure to follow up to comments left on your posts! I wish Blogger had a better way to reply to comments (C'mon Blogger! What's the deal?! Should we start a petition?!) but since there isn't, I tend to either respond in the comments or I find the commenters blog/twitter and reply that way. Every blogger handles it differently but it's important to not leave your readers hanging! Why would you want to talk to someone who just ignores you?!

DON'T spam other blogs with your link! Nothing is more infuriating than someone leaving a 2 word comment (if anything at all!) and then 3 long lines with their blog link and why everyone should go check them out. That's just a no-no in the blogosphere! If you leave a thoughtful and sincere comment, you should absolutely link back to yourself so the blogger can check you out! But don't spam every comment with a lot of nonsense about following you. Some bloggers have a comment policy on their blog so be sure to pay attention to this if they do! (I allow links in comments on my blog, but I only approve them if the person isn't solely fishing for followers). I'll say that it's totally okay to leave a short comment... absolutely! Just knowing you're out there reading is awesome... my point is to not let your link and request for followers overpower your statement. It's totally fine to say a short something and leave your link, but I think we can all decipher the difference in a sincere short comment and a "I'm just going to say 'cool post' so I can leave a 3 page long link and plea for you to come check me out" haha!

DO have great quality pictures! While not everyone can afford a luxury DLSR camera to take outfit/blog photos, you must realize that people will judge your blog based solely on the quality of the pictures! There have been many times I had to rely on my iPhone for blog photos and it's okay in small doses, but you can't base your entire blog off of that. There are plenty of quality point-and-shoot digital cameras available and as long as you photograph them on the highest quality with good lighting then you should be good to go!

DO pay attention to the aesthetics of your blog! Just like your pictures, people will judge you based on what your layout looks like! Don't choose colors that are too bold. Don't choose patterns that are too wild. Don't choose typefaces that are too hard to read. Do choose simple and calm color palettes. Do choose to make your look consistent. Do make sure all of your photos are the same width! (This is such a big one for me! I feel like if you use your content area to it's utmost potential then you're sure to see results! Nothing annoys me like pictures that aren't the same width in a blog post! Then again, I'm a bit anal about those things! Several website applications such as Picnik can be used to make the pictures a certain width!)

ETA: DON'T have auto-play music on your blog! This tip comes courtesy of Miss JLYoungsma and she's so so right! Just don't! That's the quickest way to ensure someone will leave faster than they arrived! If you're going to have a playlist on your blog, put it conveniently on the side and make sure the auto-play function is turned off! Nothing is worse than hearing someone else's music over your own!

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While I could probably go on for days about things you should and shouldn't do, the truth is that it really all depends on who you are and what you decide is best for you and your blog! The only wrong way to blog is to not blog at all so I say dive in, get dirty and fall in love! Blogging has opened up so many doors for me and it's let me meet some of the most incredible people.. people that I call my best friends even! It's taken me all around the country and it's brought me an immeasurable amount of happiness. While it may feel like a full-time job (it really is!), I couldn't imagine my life without it!

With that being said, maybe you'd like to share some of your blogging DOs and DON'Ts in the comments below?! Even if you're not a blogger yourself, what are some things you love/hate about blogs? (You don't have to name names! In fact, you probably shouldn't, but please share!)

What tips would you give to new bloggers?

Also- leave your blog link along with your comment so I can visit! xo

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