Last summer I wrote a post entitled 10 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started a Blog. Having re-read it a little while ago, and the fact that I still receive the occasional comment on that post, it got me thinking about all the things I've learnt as my blog and I have grown. As with the post I wrote all those months ago, there are some things I've found out the hard way, some I had to ask for help on and some stuff I looked up.
I thought I'd share with you the things I thought most relevant to those who are getting a bit more serious about their blog and want to reach out to a wider audience or start to monetize their blog. As with all these I'm not claiming to be any kind of expert - I'm simply sharing the things that I found useful and could have done with knowing earlier! Please feel free to share any thoughts and extra things you think are relevant... I'm always willing to learn new things. So, in no particular order:
1. Tweet more!
Twitter. Oh, how I should have embraced you a long time ago (as written in this post last month). But I didn't, and I lost a lot of opportunities to tell more people about me and my blog and my thoughts and my outfits and... you get the idea. I try to keep the tweeting blog or fashion/style relevant, but occasionally thoughts about the weather or who I'm girl crushing on will creep in, and I don't think that's a bad thing. I autofeed my posts into Twitter using Twitterfeed, which is a no-brainer and saves me forgetting to tweet about new outfits or stuff I've written on the blog.
2. Pin my own outfits onto Pinterest
This may be totally obvious to some of you, but it took me ages to realise that I could (should) be pinning my own outfits, not just those of other bloggers. It makes total sense to feed your own style into the might of Pinterest for all your followers to see and (hopefully) repin. Most bloggers that I follow on Pinterest have separate boards for their own style/outfits.
3. Instagram my own outfit posts
Like Pinterest, Instagram can also be used to promote your blog to people who just like looking at pictures. Although I didn't have a smartphone until the end of last year, I could have Instagrammed my outfits via my iPad straight away - but didn't. It took me a few months to realise I could.
I'm sure it seems obvious to some, but if you're wondering how to do this: on your phone or tablet, go to the website that you upload your photos to on the internet; open up the photo you want to Instagram and save it to your photostream (on my iPhone I hold my finger down on the image and it comes up with a "save image" option); in Instagram you simply "choose existing" from your photos, then continue as if it were taken on your phone.
4. Use affiliate links
Like most bloggers, I like to provide links wherever possible to give others the opportunity to buy the same or similar items to what I'm wearing. Now if you think about it, you are giving the relevant retailer free advertising. Therefore, I think it makes perfect sense that if someone buys something through the link that you'd provided, you deserve a cut of the profit that the retailer makes - that's where affiliate links come in. You're providing visitors with a service, the retailer makes a sale, you earn a little money from it - everyone's happy.
Reward Style is probably the most well-known website that bloggers sign up to, and it has some brilliant tools to aid bloggers and is very user-friendly. However, it is by invitation only*: if you'd like a referral, please email me instead of leaving a comment here. Send me an email me at email@example.com, and tell me your full name, blog name, blog URL, and why you want to join... I'll then let you know when I've referred you, and fingers crossed you'll get accepted and be able to start earning from your hard work.
Update 2014: RewardStyle is no longer by referral only, you can apply directly yourself. Simply go to www.rewardstyle.com and click on "Apply".
5. Sign up to blogger networks to partner up with retailers and businesses
I'd always wanted to partner up with companies from the time I started my blog, but didn't really know where to start. It is possible to contact companies yourself and this is a good starting point, but an easier way to do it is to sign up to blogger outreach companies who put you in touch with brands and retailers, thereby saving you a lot of work and research. I signed up to E-tail Webstores and Best British Bloggers and I am regularly contacted with partnership offers: some good, some bad, but always interesting and varied. Or you can join retailers' networks directly (Next is a popular one amongst bloggers). Other good networks to join are Better Blogger Network and Bloggers.com - companies may well use these networks to find you.
Update 2015: I have since written a post entitled 12 Blogger Outreach Programmes to Sign Up to - a great resource for all the programmes that I've found so far.
6. Get a media kit sorted
It took me ages to get this sorted, and to be honest it took so long because I was unsure what a media kit was. Damn my lack of initiative at the time...! Also known as a press kit, Wikipedia describes it as a "pre-packaged set of promotional materials of a person, company, or organization distributed to members of the media for promotional use". So in other words, if you intend to partner up with businesses or organisations, you're providing a prepared information pack about everything they need to know about you as a blogger. That would be your visitor stats, followers, purpose of your blog, what you can offer, etc.
There are lots of formats - here is mine if you want to read it - but if you'd like to read more about how to write one, I'd recommend reading this post by vmac+cheese. It saves so much time as hopefully most companies will ask less questions when they do contact you as most of them are already answered in your media kit, or they won't be put off contacting you through lack of information.
7. Use larger photos
This one is easy... I should have made my photos bigger much sooner. I only did so when I gave my blog a makeover after more than a year, when I could simply have increased the width of my main body (long before any other design changes) and proportionately increased the width, and therefore the quality, of my photos. Larger photos always look more professional, as long as the quality of the photos can handle being that size.
8. Take up visitors on their suggestions for posts
I'd had a few lovely visitors to my blog ask very nicely if I could do a post on this or that, and the suggestions were often things I'd not thought of covering before, or I wondered whether anyone would actually be interested in a post on that subject. I then realised one day that duh, I've been asked to do a post on "x", so of course someone is interested in me covering that subject.
For example, last summer I was asked if I'd consider doing a post about dressing for work and coming up with outfits for the office. I thought no-one would want to see outfits I hadn't actually worn myself, as they'd be outfits styled purely for the blog (I have a very slack dress code in my office). After many weeks I finally decided I would take up the challenge, produced a "10 Ways To Wear: Office Chic On A Budget" post, and found it to be the most talked about, most visited, and most pinned post I've ever written. On the back of that, I was approached by Marks & Spencer to compete in a blogger style challenge, and the "10 Ways" is still the most-read post every month, despite it being written all of six months ago.
9. Use drafts to schedule posts in advance
I now plan my posts up to about a month in advance. Not every post is planned for that time as I need to be flexible depending on what comes up that I need to blog about, but I use a wall calendar (a real one made of paper!) with small Post-Its showing post titles that can be moved around and rearranged. It's a great visual tool that I use alongside the drafts that I have part-written in my blog. Any way of doing it is fine, whether electronic or not - I like an old-fashioned calendar as I like to see something on a board in front of me at all times.
The other thing I should have started a lot sooner was to jot down post ideas as soon as I thought of them - quite often I'd be racking my brains trying to remember a great subject I wanted to write about. Use a notebook, your phone, anything you like to write down those ideas to store for when you need some inspiration.
10. Study your stats
Whilst I'm no Google Analytics expert, it is an invaluable tool to learn how visitors are using your blog. There is so much information to use that can help bloggers learn what is working and what isn't on their blogs. There are many other similar websites than can aid bloggers this way, and some I'm still getting to grips with, like Klout for example, which measures your influence based on your ability to drive action on social networks.
Phew... it's a lot, I know, and I hope at least one or two points may be of some interest or help to you. As I said, if you have anything to add please share in the comments!
Have a great week everyone :)