The Only Blogging Tip You Need To Know
The blogging market is oversaturated, and saying so is hardly front page news. As the popularity of the industry continues to grow, so does the number of creative young entrepreneurs looking to cut themselves a slice of the cake. This is only good news (even if it means that those of us already on the scene have to get used to sharing a little more), because it means that more teens, twenty-something's and above are carving out careers of their own, completely in control of their direction and creative outlet (well, mostly).
I've been in the blogging game seriously now for nearly 4 years. Over the last year my blog has really started to gain traction with you guys and the brands that I work with, and as such the second half of 2016 was amazing. Like many of my other blogging guys and gals, I'm predicting an even better 2017, and I already have some really exciting projects in the pipeline that I can't wait to share to death on Instagram #DoItForTheGram. As my audience has grown over the past year (always sounds so cringe and "check me out" so apologies for that), I've found that I've more frequently been asked the same kind of questions. Whilst they vary slightly in politeness from the super lovely to the downright socially-inept, the central themes are the same: "How do I get as many followers as you?" "How do I grow my audience?" "How do I make people read my blog?" "How can I start making money?"
Trousers - Whistles*
Boots - Zara (Topshop alternative)
Scarf - H&M
Sunglasses - Ray Ban*
I get it. With shitty algorithms flying around, fucking up things that were never broken in the first place, it's becoming harder and harder to get yourself noticed, especially if you're a small fish in a big pond. You can be pushing out content that you love, only to log back on the next day and see that not only hasn’t your follower base grown, it’s decreased. I’ve bitched and moaned and made a thousand exasperated hand gestures thanks to Instagram’s Facebook makeover, and I understand how disheartening it is to spend hours on creating the perfect post only to see that nobody is engaging with it.
However, when I get asked these questions, I can’t deny that I feel a little bit annoyed. It’s taken me 4 years – if not more – to get to the point I’m at now, and what I do is a drop in the ocean compared to some of the other incredible creatives out there. When people drop me a random DM asking me the vaguest of all questions – “how do I grow my audience?” – I can’t answer it because I’m being asked the wrong thing. And this is something I’ve slowly realised over the past year as I took on more collaborations, only to feel like I was losing the core essence of my blog that made it was it is. There was a point where I saw that blogging tips were taking off in the blogosphere, so I tried to jump on the bandwagon and push some out there. Similarly with certain types of outfit posts, I was actively trying to create content that I thought people would like. I honestly believe this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. You shouldn’t be creating content for other people, you should be creating content for you. You should be creating content that you find interesting, content that you’re proud of, content that if you saw it on somebody else’s feed, you’d stop and want to engage.
Following that train of thought, and answering all of the questions I’ve ever been asked about blogging, this is the only blogging tip that you need to know. Be genuine. There is no substitute for posts, photography and ideas that have been fuelled by passion. Your motivation should be to share, not to grow. I understand how frustrating this is to read when you want to be recognised by brands and your peers – I have felt this way in the past – but it’s advice that comes from experience rather than an idealistic view of the industry. For a long time I cared too much about whether my content was what the blogosphere wanted. In doing so, I started to change the content I was creating, ironically steering away from the core type of content that my audience were interested in in the first place. Instead of posting the simple outfit looks and conversational think pieces which are at the heart of The Little Plum, I started trying to create guides and meaningless tip posts that I wasn’t really into myself (disclaimer: other people do this incredibly well - I did not). And that’s me being straight up – head back a year or less and you’ll see some of these posts for yourself.
About three or four months ago something clicked into place for me. I was browsing through the content I had been pushing live throughout the months before and looking at the people that really inspire me, and I suddenly realised how untrue to myself I was being. Where were the oversized jumpers that I wear every day? My lazy ‘put-a-coat-over-everything’ style? My ideas? They’d been lost in a sea of “yeah, that should perform really well” and in doing so, I’d stopped being genuine. I was sharing things because I was chasing numbers, not because I was excited to share them. The market is now so oversaturated that people see through this. That’s why engagement with ads is so much lower than engagement with genuine, off-the-cuff, taken-on-my-iPhone posts. Feeds are so full of marble backgrounds and the super whitened that fighting to align with a certain standard is actually likely to shoot you in the foot. The road to success is not following somebody else’s path, it’s documenting what excites you. That’s not to say you can’t be inspired by other creatives, because I’m inspired every day. When I see an Insta shot with a blurry foreground and perfectly placed plants I’m like “shit son, give me some of that”, but I can feel instantly if I’ve published something I don’t love. Go with your gut feeling – always trust your instincts.
Growing your audience, building your traffic, making money from blogging – all of those things will come if you stay genuine, both to yourself and to your readers. And have patience. A lot of patience. Things rarely happen quickly. When asked, a lot of established bloggers say that if you get into the blogging game to make money then you’re in it for the wrong reasons. I both agree and disagree. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make blogging your career – heck, isn’t that what we all want?! – but if you don’t have the passion and patience to back it up, you’ll fall flat on your face anyway. The blogging industry started as a platform to share interests and ideas – keep this ethos at the heart of what you do, and your platforms will grow naturally. So don’t worry about growing, be proud of sharing. It’s kind of like love – as soon as you stop looking for it and start enjoying the moment, it will come to you.