Tuesday, December 11, 2012

5 Things I've Learned From My First Year of Blogging


Today is Rhinestone Religion's birthday! 

Exactly one year ago today I published my first post called Winterizing a Summer Dress. I still remember making the post... I balanced my camera on my parent's picnic table because I didn't have a tripod yet and one of my dogs kept getting in the way (he's actually in the picture...) 

Since then, I've done a lot of reworking and revamping everything about my blog; from the layout to my content focus. I fully expect my blog to continue evolving in the coming years, and sometimes I can't believe the amount of growth that I've gone through as a person just by starting this personal project. 

I've learned so much just from taking initiative and beginning something all on my own, so in celebration of my first bloggiversary I'll share some of the tidbits of wisdom I've picked up on the way. 


1. Blogging Is Conversational 
Or at least it should be. You could treat it like a soapbox, or just sending words out into space. I certainly did when I first started, but eventually people will realize that you’re just talking at them rather than to them and lose interest -- if there's any interest at all. 

From my experience, blogging is more like a convention. You have your own booth where you get to display your own ideas and brand, and sure, some people will glance and it and move on. But others will stop by to chat, they’ll want to hear more of what you have to say and best of all they'll actually be interested. You’ll share your ideas with them, and together you’ll learn to build off each other’s input and resources.

You’ll wander from your booth and scope what else is out there, and eventually you’ll be the one coming by to check out something that piques your interest -- giving someone else that blissful feeling of actually reaching someone. 

The true beauty of blogging comes from sharing information and ideas with others, fellow bloggers or not. You're both the viewer and the presenter, the student and the teacher. And that's awesome.

2. The Best Followers are Interested Followers 
When I first joined IFB, I had barely any followers on my blog and it seemed like there was a huge culture of sending “follow for follow” messages. Which, I admittedly bought into because hey, finally I was starting to see the number on my GFC widget go up. It felt like all the work I was putting in was finally attracting attention.

But it wasn't; not really. Maybe a small percentage actually became interested in my content, but the majority of subscribers I had amassed in that manner passed over my posts as my traffic and comment count at the time could attest to. Even though I may have technically had more followers, I still wasn't necessarily getting any acknowledgement for my work. 

There is one thing to say for this though, and it’s that even starting off with a small amount of disinterested followers can provide a level of social proof for new readers -- getting the ball rolling, as it were. But it's really not a good way to build a meaningful readership and certainly shouldn't be a crutch for bringing in new visitors. 

The best reader relationships I've built have been with people who've found my blog organically, because we've had conversations on other sites or because I discovered their blog and took genuine interest in engaging with them.

3. Blogging Requires a Swiss Army Knife of Skill Sets
It’s amazing to think of all the things I've had to either teach myself from scratch or just plain become better at in order to improve my blogging. In fact, just thinking about it makes me a little dizzy. 

Photography, HTML and CSS, graphic design, writing and editing, new social media platforms, SEO… the list goes on and on, and all of them were skills I picked up along the way. Certainly not by plopping myself down and learning them all in one go, ain't nobody got time for that. 

And what may be even cooler is that with the nature of technology, there are constantly new tools being released every day to learn to utilize. 

Since I started blogging, I've constantly been learning new things and many of them are skills that carry over to the offline world as well.

4. Keeping an Agenda 
I only recently started using an editorial calendar to help plan my monthly posting schedule, and it’s made a huge difference in the frequency of my posts as well as the traffic I draw in.

Whenever you search for ways to improve blog productivity, editorial calenders will come up in virtually every guide you come across and for some reason I just chose to ignore that advice for the majority of my first year.

I guess I thought it wasn't really my "style," and instead I just jotted down a list of things I wanted to get around to writing eventually, maybe, some time, in the future, when I get around to it, I guess. That attitude sometimes lead to entire months without any updates, which is bad. Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad. Bad. 

Now I keep a dry-erase calender next to my desk. Being able to see the entire month, and figure out when would be a good time to post what (gift guides in December or holiday outfit ideas around Christmas and New Year's Eve, for example) allows me to plan out my day so I have time to sit and create a post, even when I have things like homework and exams on my mind.

Setting a personal deadline makes it much easier to actually follow through with your ideas. They don't do much good stuck in your head, afterall. 

5. I've Become a Better Writer 
Writing has actually always been something I've been pretty damned good at, but I never really did it for recreational purposes. It was always clinical, fact-based essays for class that generally gave little room for personal voice.

Blogging, especially in the context of a more personal topic, almost requires a more conversational tone or you'll bore your readers to death. Not to mention breaking up your ideas into very small, easily digestible chunks like I'm doing now is like pulling teeth at first.

I'm not going to lie, it's been a difficult adjustment to make when you're so used to being as objective and academic as possible and I still want to improve on finding my voice in regard to blogging quite a bit.

But, I think that's one of my favorite parts of blogging - it's an ongoing project. You're never really done, so there's always room to learn and experiment.


Thank you so much to everyone that's taken an interest in my blog! I put a lot of work and effort into making the best content that I possibly can, and your feedback and support means the world to me. 




7 comments:

  1. Happy 1st Birthday Rhinestone Religion!
    Lexi, you said things that I have noticed too :)
    x, Lara
    http://rockteraptor.blogspot.fi/

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  2. This is so true specially the IFB part. It's a great tool to find cool blogs but there's a lot of that "follow by follow" business. It's lovely when someone actually read your blog and wants to connect.
    Still it's hard to see the number of views increase and still have 0 comments (i should know as a new blogger).
    I loved this post it's very inspiring (i shall try the editorial calenders). You've done great on your first year i truly enjoy your posts :)
    Congrats xx

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  3. Clever lady! : ) And big congratulations - a year is so good! I'll be at my two year blogoversary awfully soon - I can barely believe it!

    x
    Lost in the Haze: a Fashion Photography Blog

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  4. This post was sooooooo needed. I recently started blogging and found what you said to be true. My one year birthday is in May/June, and I have just discovered the editorial calendar. Thank you for the advice. I have wondered about other successful bloggers,the process they used, and some of their trials and tribulations. I want to be a professional blogger and this post confirmed I am on the right track. Take a look and tell me your honest thoughts.

    Thanks in advance!

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  5. Congratulations on your one year!!
    Blogging is my new found passion and I am just about learning the ropes! This post help :) Thanks!

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  6. I actually found you on IFB - you commented on the article http://heartifb.com/2012/12/04/4-ways-you-can-use-google-to-find-new-blog-post-ideas/ about Dragon Age Origins. I thought, this girl knows her shit.
    My own blog's birthday is 1st of February, only a couple of days after yours. I really hate the whole follow for follow thing. The blogosphere is so corrupt ¬.¬
    This is a great post though - detailed and informative. Best of luck for the coming year of blogging!

    The Undercover Dress-Up Lover x

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    Replies
    1. Haha, awesome! I didn't think anyone would actually notice. I was just like "Pfft, I know EXACTLY what 'gift guide dragon age origins' means."

      Happy birthday to your blog tomorrow! I'm really glad you enjoyed my post.

      Lexi

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