Hello, hello, friends! This is a blog post I’ve teetered on creating many times, but I always opted to wait until I had more “experience” here in the realms of the blogging world. This is all a learning process, and sharing what I’ve learned, I think, can help new bloggers navigate the somewhat tricky landscape of blogging as well. I never want to come off as dictating what is “right” and “wrong” in terms of blogging — the beauty of this is that you have complete control over your content, your imagery, your story. Whether you use your blog as a personal journal or a resource for others, I think there are some things I’ve learned along the way that may be of value to you, no matter how long you’ve been blogging.
1. Focusing on Vanity Metrics
This is one mistake I certainly made when I first began my blog. I was obsessed with the numbers, and I felt so discouraged if I wasn’t growing. It’s taken me months to realize this, but in all honesty, the numbers are just that — numbers. What’s more important is to commit to building meaningful relationships with the people behind those numbers; what good are a million followers if none of them have an authentic relationship with you?
And let me let you in on a little secret — brands know that, too. In a time where vanity metrics are so easy to fake [through purchase], it’s more meaningful for brands to take a look at your engagement rate. What is your average engagement rate? Are you creating ‘engaging’ content?
What Brands Think About the Numbers
I’d be lying if I said that all brands don’t care about your follower count, though. In full disclosure, my brand collaborations really started kicking up after the 5500 mark on Instagram. I’m not sure if it was because of the follower count, but I’d be willing to bet it was a factor. And this makes sense, because if brands are investing in you, they want to ensure they’re maximizing their “marketing budget” and investing in strategic partnerships. However, I 100% think brands look at users engaging with my content and ensure I have authentic relationships with my followers.
Long story short, don’t focus on vanity metrics. Put time and effort and energy into building authentic connections that are rooted in genuine, intentional relationships — the numbers will follow.
2. Assuming You Can’t Create Great Content Without a Professional Camera
I talk about this a lot, because it’s a reason [or, excuse, I think] I hear a lot. Others have told me they want to wait to start their blog or content creation until they have a better camera, and in all honesty, you don’t need a professional camera to create beautiful, creative and thoughtful content. Is it nice to have later on? Of course. Will your content probably improve once you get your hands on a camera? Well, maybe. I had a Canon Rebel T6 and shot in auto for a whole year before trying out manual and actually amping up the quality of my photography.
In my opinion, I think it is 100x more important to focus on creating thoughtful content. I see so often where it feels like a creator has just “shot and posted” without genuine care for the content; this can be anything from taking mirror pics with a really messy background, not finding optimal lighting for a photo (lighting is EVERYTHING), or just bluntly… not putting a lot of thought into it. If you’re seeking collaborations, brands don’t want to work with someone who isn’t obviously putting work into their content creation. Why would they invest in that, you know?
Think Through Your Blog Content
Start by putting thought into photos. When you’re sitting down to highlight something specific, write out a plan and brainstorm. For example, I have an upcoming content campaign coming out with Honest Beauty. I really wanted something that felt raw, natural and easy, as I think that’s what the brand feels like to me. Therefore, I chose light colored pastels to wear that paired well with the packaging; chose a white background to keep with the “clean” branding; utilized rattan detailing for flatlays to preserve that “natural” feel, etc. etc. This is just an example of how thoughtful you can (and maybe should) be about content creation.
And, if it’s not for a brand, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be thoughtful. Your IG is your portfolio for not only brands, but for prospective readers/viewers. Everything I put out there is very thoughtful, and that’s one thing I take a lot of pride in. I never quite understand when people post subpar content just to post it (messy backgrounds, poor quality lighting, blurred photographs, etc.) because I think quality over quantity is so much better.
3. Skipping Over Blog Insights and Analytics
I’m a bit of an insights and analytics freak, if I’m being honest. I love Digital Audience Analytics and looking at social media insights to judge how I’m doing — and this is a step I think a lot of bloggers miss. I see some people complaining online that their content isn’t receiving the engagement they think it deserves, and in some cases, that may be true; the algorithm is a bit tricky, and you may have put a lot of time and effort and energy into beautiful content that just isn’t being seen by audience. That’s a totally fair argument; however, that’s not always the case. It’s important to realize that (more often than not) engagement is a direct measurement of how your audience is receiving your content.
For example, quote photos just don’t perform as well on my IG as, for example, pictures with me in them. There’s no rhyme or reason; that’s just how it is. When I post a quote or graphic, I just know that it won’t get as much engagement. And so, I use that information to know what performs best; I want to post the photos that people have proven to enjoy in the past during times when I know my engagement is highest, and save the less-engaged-with content for less engaging times. It’s just a strategic way to optimize your time and your content.
But, aside from using that information to gauge posting times, it’s also helpful just to know what performs best in general. Pictures of me do better than graphics or landscape shots for me, but that may be totally different for you since our audiences are inevitably different.
Don’t just write it off to the algorithm; it may be an indication that this type of content just isn’t the best for your audience.
4. Thinking Hashtags Drive Traffic to Your Blog Like They Used To
This is one thing I’ve really learned in the past few months, as I’ve done more research on hashtags and utilizing them. There was once a time when you could add hashtags to your images and you would be exposed to a large new audience; however, that’s just not the case anymore. The market [Instagram] is so oversaturated that hashtags aren’t working the way they used to, because more people are using them and thus burying your content in with everyone else’s.
Do I still use hashtags? Yeah. It’s silly not to use them just because they don’t work like they used to because utilizing that feature still drives *some* traffic. However, I don’t waste my real estate in my captions by bogging them down with hashtags. No one likes a lot of hashtags in captions, lol, let’s just be honest. It’s not visually appealing and actually turns viewers away from your content.
Pro Tip: Bury them in your comments — it works just the same. Also pro tip: use SmartHash for easy hashtag research.
5. Thinking Communication is Unilateral
One thing I see a lot is the negligence of new bloggers to get out there and make connections — this is essential for getting people to notice you in the heavily saturated blogging game. I don’t advocate the follow/unfollow technique at all, but you definitely NEED to find like-minded creators and follow/engage with their content. This will help you build a target audience. Most of my followers are other gals who do this type of work as well; I’ve built a community of like-minded creators. So, I take the time to find at least 2-3 accounts to build genuine relationships with per day.
Set aside 30 minutes at the end of your day, or perhaps on your lunch break, to engage with your in-feed contacts. This means people you already follow; maintaining your relationships is essential to maintaining community. Then, commit 10 minutes to engaging with new accounts; commenting or DM’ing new bloggers and creators, connecting with local businesses, following new hashtags, etc. In order for you to grow, you have to initiate relationships. Shouting into the void doesn’t work for blogging; you have to focus on building two-way streets.
Don’t just wait for people to come and follow you; communication is bilateral (and that’s how it should be). It’s a mistake to just wait for others to come along and discover your blog. Make the first move!
This Is a Learning Process
Lastly, I should note that this is all a learning process. I’m learning each and every day how to improve my blog and I honestly always will. What are some ‘mistakes’ you think you made in the past on your blog? I’d love to know, because maybe I’m making them now.