Thursday, 20 February 2014

"Taking in the Washing" - my thoughts on Blogging

I have been Blogging for almost 5 years. It's my therapy - and I describe why I blog here . For a long time, with only sporadic publishing on Facebook and Twitter I sustained around 100-300 readers for each post, around 14000 views a year. I was pretty happy with that, I try and write good content, and I won't "sell my soul" with advertising no matter how many times Google pleads with me. I'm quite precious about it I admit, but in so many ways it's an extension of myself and not for the taking!

Over the course of last year, I was aware of Blogging Awards and friends promoting their Blogs, gaining national recognition. One day, in that poetic parallel universe where children are in school reliably, hospital appointments are rare and fleeting and life rolls along calmly I will be a writer. I love writing, and would love to write more and for different purposes. So, following this dream I decided to put myself - or rather my Blog(s) "out there".

Self publicising is not for the faint-hearted. You need a good dose of confidence, at least superficially. You need to be connected online, and I have bravely got to grips with the Social Media forms I had to date avoided. (You have NO idea how stressful claiming a presence on Google + was, too much room for error with Picasa, previous accounts etc.) You then need to consider registering with various community hubs - like Mumsnet Bloggers, The BritMums community and the Tots100 Index. They are all different, each with a unique focus. (It really pays to have a proper read of their ethos and aims.)

There are various other ways to promote yourself and in a kind of "experiment" I've tried most over the past three months. I've been a featured Blogger on Mumsnet for several weeks (which I valued HUGELY as their focus is on good content, not advertising in any way) and had some traffic via Britmums. I've been published on Parentdish and have been asked to write for Jump! magazine and it's lovely. In a toe-curlingly, embarrassed from top-to-toe kind of way I'm chuffed. Really chuffed. Because for the first time since I became a Mum I'm also achieving as ME. It's a good feeling.

Along with this increased publicity I have learned a great deal about the Blogging community.

Firstly, that there are some wonderful Bloggers out there. I've made a lot of new online friends and I've read so much more - which in turn inspires me to write. I have also learned a great deal - other people's perspectives are so valuable. You can't Blog in isolation - not if you want others to relate to what you write. Writing needs to be dynamic, reflective, interactive - otherwise you might as well make it private. So it's been a massively positive experience for me.

What has amazed me though, is the large number of people Blogging for an income. I had no idea about this before. PR companies actively seek those with high exposure/ranking and ask for reviews as sponsored posts. Given that this is a valuable income for people, everyone in the Blogging community pulls together and helps out - by linking up, following each other and commenting on each others' Blogs to increase ranking and exposure.

It's a little bit like taking in washing - hence the title. It's a community created by, driven by and sustained by the Blogging Community.

It's incredibly heart-warming, seeing this support funnelling everyone upwards in a vortex kind of way. But the cynic in me is also ever-so-slightly sceptical about the whole thing.

Apparently the Tots100 index is out of 10000. All those part of it support each other and the reciprocal back-patting creates everyone's success, creating what is actually a "closed market" for the PR companies' promotions. Bizarrely this means (apart from the hugely popular Blogs) we are both creating and fulfilling a market which has little to do with anyone outside it, content within it and it's being funded (or not in my case as I don't do PR) by companies who are under the illusion that a Blog's success is dependent on promotion outside the Blogging group - when the reality is the opposite.

You don't even need to write good content. You barely even have to write. It's all about getting connected, being "out there", visible and vocal. It's about linking up, sharing and supporting. In many ways this is wonderful, and a fabulous example of community spirit. Except it's also just a little bit farcical, at least in the context of the PR companies paying out to feed this chain of support.

Or is it? Because actually, the PR still happens, publicity still occurs. I've commented recently on sponsored posts which have informed, interested and excited me. Stimulated me to write, think and even on one occasion - buy.

So perhaps, this is a real success story, where "Big Business" are actually financing one of the biggest exercises in community spirit and action with little hard gain for themselves outside it. Makes you think of Cadbury's Bourneville village - supporting those who you rely on. And that's a GOOD thing.

Binky Linky
Part of the New Blogs Blog Hop 


41 comments:

  1. The thing is brands/PR need bloggers no matter what genre because we add a personal element to advertising and we tend to know our way several social media networks.Bloggers are trusted in their community which makes us trusted to the general public.3 months isn't anywhere near enough to quantify how far you go up the Tots100 chart, which is why I waited two years before I entered the Tots100.No one can be seen unless you make yourself visible, don't be too hard on yourself.Good luck!

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  2. Thanks Aly - wasn't particularly commenting on the Tots Index or my performance tbh, just the interesting reality of the Blogging World!

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  3. I actually disagree with you on this one, especially the closed market resmark. Links are only part of the metric for the tots, although they are all that Ebuzzing works from,

    I started writing for me as a record of what life was throwing at us at a particular time and yes I now make a living through blogging. Not just sponsored posts, but social media and outreach.

    My blog posts are read by many more people and definitely not all of them are bloggers. My review posts are some of my most read posts via google. There is a real value in being an online influencer and I believe that is not just driven or sustained by other bloggers linking to me, commenting on my posts or even reading them.

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    1. I actually only used Tots as an example of large numbers supporting each other. It is unusual for Blogs, especially those which are not written for a clear market like medical Blogs, Science Blogs etc to be read outside the Blogging community. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen though!

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  4. Ah I do think that this view is a bit of a shame. I think the type of bloggers you talk about are definitely in the minority. I am pleased to say that this month I made it to number 95 in the Tots100 charts and this is due to me consistently writing good content (every other day) promoting my blog posts and gaining readers (the majority of which are not bloggers). Yes the comments are mostly from other bloggers but I do feel that this is to encourage one another and show that someone is at least reading the stuff you slog over! I have written 3 sponsored posts in 2 years (and that was to fund my Britmums ticket) and have reviewed a handful of products which I felt were suited to our family and my readers. I am not blogging for PR or money, I do it because I love writing and reaching number 95 was recognition of that for me. Nothing else. I don't imagine it will get me any more offers and even if it did, I wouldn't want them as that is not why i do it.

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    1. That wasn't what I was trying to say tbh, and this is not a post spawned from the publication of the Tots its either, it's been in draft here for a while!

      It does seem like a community which the outside world is largely unaware of? It's a great community- which I'm very glad to be part of (and made that clear?) but it does seen to exist that way to me- and lots of others I know too hence why this was first drafted. Of course, there are always exceptions and it's always difficult generalising. It wasn't a criticism, which I was very clear about. It's an observation, and quite a complimentary one at that as far as Bloggers are concerned..

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  5. Before I somehow discovered BritMums last year, I wasn't even aware of this huge mummy blogger community - or even the huge UK blogger community. When I started blogging, I had been reading a lot of American blogs for a few years as I related to the content and enjoyed what I was reading. As time has gone by, I've realised what a good, but sometimes strange place the blogging world can be, and I will always maintain that I blog for me - because I love to write, and take photos and I love to share my ideas and skills with others.

    If I say to someone "I'm a blogger" quite often it is met with "what's that then?" and I have to try and explain what it's all about. So I class myself as a write, a photographer, a teacher, a story teller...

    I'm now rambling, which is what I often do, but I'll stick by my - I love my blog, I love to write on my blog and I'll continue to share it for as long as I love it.

    xx

    I recently posted 7 Tips For Throwing A Great BBQ

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  6. I started blogging to promote my shop and as an outlet for my thoughts. I like blogging, so now since my circumstances have changed I try to make a (small) part-time living out of it. PR companies like bloggers as we are a personal form of advertising for them, and yes we are cheap compared to an ad in a magazine. Some of us have large social media followers and promote our posts online. I think the majority of bloggers take real pride in their blog. People blog for all reasons, for catharsis, to promote their businesses and to make money, amongst other reasons. I think we should embrace the blogging community as a whole :)

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  7. It sounds like you are doing great with your writing which, as you say, is what you enjoy. I think it can be disheartening when you look at rankings and awards, however, I enjoy blogging for me and looking back at my family life which is why I started in the first place. I love the opportunities and rewards blogging brings me but would carry on even if all of that stopped tomorrow!

    I do love the community side of blogging too and if by commenting on others blogs and having them comment on mine brings me extra opportunities and a higher ranking then I am not going to argue! At the same time I am discovering some great blogs and making some great new friends at the same time.

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  8. Well I blog because I love it, but now also to make money. I do care about the TOTS100 as for me it is a measure of how my blog is being received, but I work really hard as well on my blog and am usually still working at midnight, almost every night. I love the community spirit involved in the blogging world and don't really think much past this to be honest x

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  9. I see the observation, very interesting take on blogging. For me the PR work saved me as I had to leave my job, which was reviewing services as such very brand reliant to care for a family member full time, now I review products. I embrace the strange, sometimes yes farcical wonder of it all.

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  10. I started blogging to do with my daughter been 10 weeks early and wanted to help others, I am finding it hard with stuff like tots100 I am up to 554 but I think its so unfair sometimes I work and don't have time to do a blog post 24/7 so how on earth can people compete with this, it should not be like this im getting so stressed about it and I should not . I am not out to make money from blogging that's not my bag I just like to help others .x

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  11. I've been blogging for about four months and I have often wondered how many people other than other bloggers actually read my posts, I really relate to what you're saying.

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  12. I started blogging as I wanted my kids to be able to look back on their childhood when they were older. I was totally taken aback when I started earning money from it. I love blogging, I love the blogging community and I love making money from it :)

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  13. i love blogging i have since july and its been amazing for me :) great post hun its nice to relate
    Melissa | theinkedblonde

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  14. For many brands blogger outreach forms an essential part of the marketing mix. Their agencies should proactively seek out the most appropriate bloggers for a specific task taking into account the brand's target audience, core challenges and blog fit/influence. The ideal being that each of these bloggers then becomes an advocate for that brand. There are exceptions however and it can be about link building/SEO. Don't worry about rankings or opportunities, just focus on what you enjoy and anything else will follow : )

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  15. I can see your point of view completely. As a relatively novice blogger, I started by writing, hoping people will find me and read. They did not. And then I discovered this brilliant new world, the blogosphere, and all that goes with it. Am still trying to come to terms with the basic fact that it is not all about just writing. It is about being a PR person yourself, something I never was and am learning to be.

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  16. I'm a newbie (and make no money from blogging), so I'm only just starting to discover the blogging community and have felt extremely welcome. I wish I had more time to work on the social side of it and there are so many wonderful blogs out there that I can get lost reading them...
    As a mum (not a blogger), I'm often very interested in honest product, day-out and holiday reviews, as I trust the bloggers that have written them. I think they're far more influential than an advert, or PR in a newspaper or magazine...

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  17. I have 4 very different blogs and love writing them. I think you give an interesting perspective which I don't necessarily agree with but that's what I love about blogging, everyone can think and say exactly what they want!

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  18. I think we all see blogging differently from blogger to blogger and also our personal perception changes as we evolve as writers. I feel like I've found an approach and a method I am happy with and I just bimble along with that and don't worry to much about what anyone else thinks. I know that opportunities and rankings occasionally seem to swing and jump without any apparent rhyme or reason, but for the most part, in my experience, the harder you work, the better your content, the more you reach out and do all the things you already know make for a successful blog, then traffic does grow, stats do improve, people do comment more and the brand opportunities not only increase, but also improve in quality. In short, whatever you're in it for, I truly believe that hard work and perseverance pays off. And if you're thinking, no, no, I literally just blog for me and don't care about any of the other stuff then, well, you've nothing to worry about, because here you are, blogging ;D x

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    1. Excellent advice Emily :) and a good perspective.

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  19. Wow, four! How do you juggle those?! I'm impressed, I have two and that can be tricky. Can I ask, do you have multiple twitter accounts? I've avoided that so far but can see it might help.

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  20. Really interesting post - good to hear your take on things. I'm a newbie blogger myself and just taking each day/ week step by step in terms of learning the ropes, while trying not to get too bogged down by awards and rankings.

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  21. Some interesting thoughts, I too have bought as a result of PR on blogs, so I guess it does work!

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  22. Don't ask how many blogs I have, it's a double figures job, but yes, I do rather love blogging ;)

    Oddly enough I don't see myself as a writer but I am a firm believer in re-investing in your blog to make it progress xx

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  23. Really interesting post, and I've enjoyed reading the comments too. I am very thankful to the blogging community, my blog is only about 4 months old, - I must have started around the same time as Broody Me... but in that short time I've come to know so many people. Sure they may not be 'friends' yet but I know them, I recognise their online presence - their pictures, accounts etc. I definitively don't blog for charts or money or whatever, but it's still nice to get comments etc. And for those that do get money through their blog? Good for them! I would love to be able to blog more often, instead of being in a job I'm not happy in... but I'm not good enough and I'm totally fine with that - because at the end of the day my blog is for my family, and my babies... a record of their life x

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  24. I try not to get caught up in any blogging politics. It's for me to record my family life and hopefully have something nice to look back on one day

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  25. Interesting post! I can't really relate to some views because I'm not on tots100 but I know two blogging communities - one polish and one british (english speaking) and I can say there is a huge difference between them. It's sad when some blogs I used to like because of the content now looks like pile of reviews and sponsored posts :(

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  26. Well I'm a new blogger and I started as I found a blog when searching for ways to save money and I subscribed to the blog as I really enjoyed reading it and then after a while I thought that I would love to have a go as I have always enjoyed writing and so I started my blog. I didn't start for money or free products but since I have started and discovered all of this I have received three things so far that I feel fit well for my blog and that will interest my readers. If I could ever be good enough to make this an income then I would - why not? Making money from doing something you love is no different then an actor or a footballer. #binkylinky

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    1. I agree! That wasn't what I was actually saying.... just that it is by and large a self fulfilling market, a community existing because of and for Bloggers, support by Bloggers. None of the above is a criticism of a community I love being a part of, it's an observation. Did you read the link at the top explaining why I Blog? That explains why for me advertising or doing PR would feel like "selling my soul" :)

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  27. I have been blogging for a few years now and it wasn't until last year that i discovered this whole UK parent bloggers community. I actually didn't even know that many of us existed atall until i found tots100 and britmums and i have met the most lovely bloggers from it who continue to support me and my blog x

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  28. An interesting post. I started blogging less than a year ago to record my journey with my boy and also as a form of therapy to keep a creative side alive. Through this I have made loads of new friends and I am by nature quite sociable, and I have somehow started to get PR companies approach me. It would be great if I could make a living from this, I suppose I'll have to see how it goes x

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  29. Great post, you're doing so well you must be really proud! Thanks for linking up #BinkyLinky

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  30. An interesting read. I started blogging for me, but it has turned into more than that for me. I don't accept every opportunity though. I want to ensure the opportunities I do accept are fitting to my blog and that it's something that will interest my readers. Thanks for linking up #binkylinky

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  31. I'm a new blogger and I haven't really got to grips with it all. I can see your point of view tho and agree with certain aspects but for now until I completely figure out all these charts/rankings etc I think I will just continue writing for me. About what I want to write about as for me it's all about the writing #binkylinky

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  32. I am a newbie blogger, I started in October as I wanted something to do to stop my brain from turning to mush!! and as a place to share information. I really enjoy it and have learnt so much in the last few months. I have written a number of reviews about my own proucts as I like to pass on what I thought about something.
    I love reading other peoples blogs but I do find if I come across a blog that is all just sponsered posts and advertising I will move on.
    I do love the blogging community and the support everyone gives each other.

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  33. Great blog post and certainly food for thought. I do write reviews on my blog about our family days out but they're not sponsored or paid for in any way, just honest opinions of places we've enjoyed (or not). Most of my traffic comes from search engines, although I do join up with several linkys which I enjoy. I read quite a lot of other parent bloggers from these linkys but generally find that my kids are older than many of those in the blogs I read so reviews and sponsored posts about baby food etc aren't in the least relevant to me!

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  34. This is very interesting. I'm a freelance journalist and started my blog because it was kind of expected, like getting business cards. I now much prefer writing my blog to writing for editors because I can write the story I want to write, from the angle I choose. I see my blog as my job and I'm starting to make money from it. I do write sponsored posts, which I always disclose, but I'm always completely honest, just as I am when writing a review as a journalist for a print publication. I don't understand why there seems to be a stigma around earning money from blogging - it's a fantastic way to earn some money while bringing up children and there's no shame in that, as long as it's done with honesty and integrity.

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    1. No shame at all - it was an observation of the process more than anything :)

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  35. The reason you get bloggers reading your blog is because it's a blog. If you like the internet and you like blogs, you're likely to have one and read them. It's a closed shop to the millions of people out there who have their own Blogger/Wordpress/Tumblr/Weebly/LiveJournal etc etc....it's not actually a very elite group, and anyone can join for free :D

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  36. some interesting thoughts, I spend far too much time reading other blogs, I'm not sure why I started my first (mummy) blog but I do really enjoy writing my food & local blogs. This bit stood out to me "reciprocal back-patting creates everyone's success" and the reason I will never be high up in the rankings & rarely get offered any sponsored posts but I also have a paying business (& a little person) so finding time for it all is a challenge :)

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Many thanks for taking the time to comment.

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