The blogosphere has changed so much from when I first started (2010), and with social media being such a driving force with growth lately, I can’t necessarily say it’s been for the better. While more and more people are diving into blogging because of the opportunities that can come from it (it definitely changed my life), it has lost some of its authenticity. Don’t get it twisted, blogging IS a form of marketing and advertising for a lot of us, however, the selling aspect of it has caused so many people to, for a lack of a better term, go cuckoo in an effort to build their following and launch a “brand”.
Buying followers/likes/comments, participating in comment pods, and constantly participating in (annoying) loop giveaways on IG have been some of the go-to methods for a lot of bloggers so that they can grow their numbers quickly and appear to have a bigger audience vs creating amazing content, getting better with their photography and actually, you know, engaging with their current following and I gotta say, it’s been a little disheartening to watch. Competition is normal and quite healthy, but when you’re compromising so much in an effort to appear a certain way, it isn’t fair to your audience, or yourself. Sure, you might be able to attract a few brands for sponsorship and land some swag with that larger number, but once you get into that cycle of buying your audience + engagement, you have to continue to do it to maintain it. Paying people to follow you and “engage” defeats the point and IMO, shows that you really don’t have the influence that you want or think that you have.
Now, that’s not to say that you can’t do giveaways at all or even support other bloggers’ content: it just makes more sense to actually do it on content that you truly enjoy, and to host giveaways as a thank you or a real partnership with brands you actually like. Some bloggers are outliers and blow up immediately but for most, it’s a slow build and that’s totally OK. That’s part of the beauty of blogging: getting to know your audience, constantly learning and improving, and ultimately creating content that people love. I really wish that more bloggers would get back to that.
If you’re a newby blogger, or have been a little frustrated with growing your audience lately, here are 5 things to remember as you grow your blog.
Know Your Why
Why did you start your blog? What do you hope to gain from it? Why does a large number matter to you, and what will having it do for you? Knowing why you created your blog in the first place and keeping its purpose at the forefront of your mind is a must if you want to stay creative. If you got into blogging only to make money or to become a “super star”, you have a loooong road ahead of you my friend. You will get burnt out or will go broke trying to keep up appearances. It’s NEVER worth it.
Authenticity Isn’t Just A Buzzword
As you create content, are you creating it because it’s something you and your readers would enjoy, or are you doing it because everyone else is doing it? I’ve seen a lot of bloggers go into the fashion niche not because they actually like fashion and sharing style ideas, but because they think they need to do it to make money. I’ve also seen bloggers jump on the anti-curated, “this is me being real, not selling anything to you” bandwagon, not because they’re really trying to connect on a deeper level, but because they think that saying they’re different will bring readers and followers (meanwhile, they’re still pushing product like every other blogger). Look, being real but also loving and knowing how to “sell” your blog + product can coexist, and you don’t have to do something you don’t enjoy or put other bloggers down in order for people to like you and your content. Have fun, be yourself, and create the best content that you can. Your audience will find you (and stick around) when they see that you’re truly authentic.
Engagement >>> Numbers
While numbers and traffic can play a part in some of the opportunities that come your way, please don’t be fooled; if you have people following you that don’t really support or engage with your content you will NOT be able to monetize it. I follow a few bloggers that have over 20k followers that still work regular jobs, not because they want to, but because they HAVE to (how do I know? They wind up being exhausted from portraying a fake lifestyle and end up having a mini breakdown in their IG stories about it). With there being so many ways to make money blogging, based on their IG following alone they shouldn’t be struggling, but something isn’t connecting with their audience and they aren’t able to monetize how they’d like. People are following them, but they’re not invested in them beyond that. When your audience is really engaged with your content and you truly have influence, they will purchase your products, click your links, and do whatever else they need to do when you recommend it. So don’t get so caught up on what your numbers are or trying to grow really fast. Just make sure that your audience is engaging with you and supporting what you put out. If they’re not, it may be time to look over your analytics to see if there is a disconnect somewhere (or if the people following you are even real).
Always Invest In Yourself
Don’t ever be afraid to keep learning and improving. I’ve been blogging for almost 8 years and even teach workshops, but I still research digital marketing and advertising, blogging trends, etc. because I never want to become stagnant with my content. I have a nice photography clientele but I still reach out to other photographers for tips, research techniques and push myself to get better for both my blog and my clients. I’m constantly working to improve my blog, and I don’t mind investing in other tools and resources when I can afford it. I know what I know, and am confident in what I know, but I’m honest enough to admit that I don’t know everything, so I will always invest in myself. If you go through the archives of most bloggers, you can see the evolution in their content, so don’t think that you don’t have to do that as well. It’s just a part of the blogging game (and it’s fun!).
It Must Be Mutually Beneficial To Work
One of the coolest things about being a blogger is that you’re connected to a community of people that share the same interests as you, so not only can you make friends, but you can also network and make real industry connections. It has to be mutually beneficial, though. Don’t be that person always asking others for their contacts, invitations to events, or for them to help you take pictures for your blog if you’re not doing the same or something similar in return. Some people will be at the same level as you while others are higher or lower-that’s not really the point. So many of us are willing to work with and share with other bloggers if/when we know that it won’t negatively affect our standing with PR firms and businesses, compromise the integrity of our own blogs, and if we know that they would do the same if given the chance. All relationships require a little give and take, so before you reach out to someone, make sure that they won’t feel used by your request. You don’t want to burn bridges before you even get started.
The pressure to become a top-tier blogger is real, and while I believe that a certain level of success is attainable for anyone if they put their mind to it, I don’t think that you have to compromise the integrity of your content in order to have it. As someone that’s been blogging for years without having this huge explosion (and in a city where blogging is just starting to become really popular and be respected), I’ve still been able to have an authentic, engaged following and make money from my blog. Not just from my photography work, but actually via sponsored posts, ads, affiliate links, social media amplification and event hosting, etc., so I can say from personal experience that it IS possible to do it without getting lost in this weird space. Before you do something in an effort to rush your growth, step back and remember why you started in the first place. 🙂