Tuesday, 28 January 2014

How to be a Successful Blogger (by breaking all the rules)

Know the 'rules' of blogging before you start, they say. There are steps to successful blogging. I know these 'rules', and I follow a lot of them, just not at the same time.

Most of the time I'm breaking the rules.

And there are very good reasons for breaking the rules of blogging, both in corporate and personal/lifestyle blogging. It really depends on your goals.

I tend not to define myself as a 'blogger' because blogging is just one part of what I do, both personally and professionally. Here I am, blogging, but this blog here is not my career, it's not my business, and it's not my entire lifestyle. And yet this blog has been hugely successful - by my own terms!

So here are some 'rules' of blogging that I know I break, and why I break them:

Broken Rule # 1: (Don't) Find a Niche and Stick to it

Personally: I'm an expat, millennial, career-changing digital native, and for a long time I couldn't decide how to narrow my niche. I love the differences between American and UK cultures but I didn't want a pure expat blog. The blogs I read on a daily basis cover a broad range of interests, and rarely overlap. So for 2014 I'm picking three themes and running with them: Building (and re-building) a career as a millennial, blogging/marketing, and my expat life. They're not as distinct as they might seem and I have several blog posts planned that fit into more than one theme.

So if you can't choose a specific niche, or don't want to be pigeonholed, don't choose a niche! Try picking a few key themes that interest you, and you'll soon work out how they can tie together into one overall brand.

Broken Rule # 2: (Don't) Share your Blog Posts all over Social Media

You've written a snappy, relevant, or thought-provoking post and you want to share it with the world. But stop: Where are you going to share it, and when?

Don't feel like you should just blast it all over every social account you have. Use your social accounts wisely and mindfully. Twitter is the place to craft an irresistible headline or two and share throughout the day. Pinterest and Facebook both drive traffic with visual content, but at opposite times of the day. And sometimes more is not always better - too much can be less effective than not enough.

For every post you craft, determine the best social accounts to share on. This works equally for personal and corporate blogging, especially when you're clear on what you want to achieve - whether it's traffic, sales, or shares.

Broken Rule # 3: (Don't) Be an Expert

Sometimes the most interesting blogs are about people learning their way. Whether it's a new mom, a new blogger, a new lawyer, a new fashionista, or someone who's in a new country, sharing first-time experiences can be more genuine and engaging than advice from thought-leaders. And that goes for pictures too - photos from 'behind the scenes' give a fascinating insight. 

Unpolished: Behind the scenes. NOT what I wear professionally!
Don't forget that blogging is allowed to be immediate and a bit unpolished! That includes, writing, photography, your outfit, your baby - whatever. Some personal blogs look professional, and some professional blogs look homespun. And that's totally ok. Life's like that, so go with it. Share what you don't know, as well as what you do.

Broken Rule # 4: (Don't) Break all the Rules

Read all the 'rules' of blogging that you can find, and read all the rulebreakers (ahem). Then decide what you need to do. Knowing how and why tricks and tactics work in social media and blogging helps you to discover what works for you.

So the one rule I recommend you do follow is to set out a goal for your blog. Even if you've been blogging for ages. And when you achieve that goal or your goal eventually changes, take a step back and re-evaluate, because your tactics will alter depending on what you want to achieve.

Some people like sharing memes and pictures, some people like essays and ideas, some like a mixture of both. Some people want to sell products, others want to build an audience, and others still just want to explore and have fun whether anyone's reading or not. Catch-all rules or rule-breaking won't work for every blog the same way.

Broken Rule # 5: (Don't) Define Success According to Others

And finally, remember that everyone does have a different goal. Me? I'm not a fashion blogger, so I don't do outfit posts, even though I tried them. I'm not into giveaways or sponsorships, even though I tried them and they absolutely work. They're 'rules' I don't want to follow

I don't blog every day, I don't have a huge readership, and I feel successful

I've met some fun people, switched careers, learned and expanded skills. I get to test ideas at 'play' in my personal blogspace, on projects with no real deadline and no real purpose, then test ideas out at work. 

So here's how I'm defining my (personal) blogging success this year: I'm going to take my three themes, and try to create a cohesive personal brand. Even if my brand is millennial expat career-changing digital native!

What blogging rules do you follow? Which ones do you break? How do you define your blogging success?

Saturday, 25 January 2014

A Pennsylvania Blogger Meet-Up

This post is way overdue. Months and months ago I responded to a blog post by one of my favorite bloggers, Katherine from Of Corgis and Cocktails, inviting PA bloggers to lunch.

That's me on the left! Then Kate, Stephanie, Becky, Katherine, and Marisa! Photo courtesy of Katherine.
And so in October I borrowed my husband's car and drove down to Terrain in Glen Mills to eat lunch with some lovely girls I'd never met before. The journey down was an adventure. The car was literally falling apart due to some bad repairs carried out by a garage (which we later got fixed at no charge because the garage made so many mistakes). Scooting down the highway was a bit scary as I needed to avoid potholes and braking too hard. Plus it was the furthest I'd driven by myself since moving to the US, and I had no clue where I was going, or where I was meeting my fellow blogettes!

But it was a very nice afternoon, meeting some lovely local ladies, and poking around a gorgeous store.
From the buttery bread served in flower pots and fresh water in mason jars, to the beautiful displays and delicious aromas (check out their soaps…mmm), Terrain was a great place to meet up.

And as it was nearing Halloween (hence all the pumpkins), we gave each other little treats, most of which my husband and I snarfed immediately when I got home. Let me tell you, these bloggers have skills

When my husband saw the photo at the top of all of us, he asked how I managed to find the five girls in Pennsylvania with the same style as me. I told him it made complete sense - we all follow the blogs that attract us the most, and blog the things that interest us the most, or that we hope others like us will find interesting. People on social media, and bloggers especially, get knocked for image crafting, but to me that's entirely the point. I'm going to talk more about this in a future post, so watch out for it.

Of course I'll do my due diligence and link to Katherine's outfit post and Marisa's outfit post so you can find out where they got their cute dresses (and see more photos of Terrain). And my dress? It's from UK store Trollied Dolly. I wore it here too. Their dresses are so fabulous that I have several, and my husband even proposed to me while I was wearing one!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Snow in Pennsylvania

This winter we've had plenty of snow days, including yesterday and our last few days before Christmas in the UK.

Luckily I wear a number of professional hats, so it doesn't create too much turmoil for me. I currently work for a cute little country club in the ruralburbs, and I also do freelance work for a creative marketing agency. When I'm not doing one I'm doing the other, and a snow day gives me a chance to catch up with copywriting, reports, and walkies.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Max Ehrmann's Desiderata is one of those pieces of writing I often return to for a moment's meditation. And the holiday season (especially the week between Christmas and New Year) is a perfect time to collect and recollect, and plan for the year ahead.

Last year I did a series of photographs named 12 Days of Gladness, reflecting on the year when I up and left my job to move to be in the US with my husband.

I thought Desiderata would be the ideal way to reintroduce myself to blogging in 2014. All these photos are mine from the past year or so (except the first one which my husband took!)

I didn't learn much more in the way of photographic skills last year, but I did learn a lot about myself, the world I live in, and what I want to achieve for 2014. So I've spent most of January making considered and decided plans and goals for this year, and I'll share these ideas with you over the next few weeks.

I've also made some decisions about the kind of blog I want. I've always felt a little stuck between expat blogging, 'lifestyle' blogging, and blogging about more solid things relating to my career aspirations. I've decided that it's okay to mix all three!

I threw these photos together last night, and my husband found me at my desk as I was working on the last one. It's a photo from Camden in London, taken a few weeks ago. He'd never heard of Desiderata before, and he also didn't know that I'd taken that picture. The whole thing struck him much more profoundly than I expected - so I hope you enjoy it too!

Which poem or piece of writing inspires you? Or where do you take inspiration from? I'd love to hear. For now, I'm going to get back to reading my Bloglovin backlog…