Earlier this week I asked on twitter if anyone would be interested in getting an insight into how I organise and run my blog etc. The resounding answer was that these sorts of posts can offer interesting insights into one way of doing things. This is by no means how you should necessarily run your blog, and this isn't a how-to guide on being a blogger, I'm just sharing some of my routines and ways of doing things.
Brainstorming and list writing
This is an important part of my blogging experience and it's something I used to do even before I set up my blog. I used to write lists of things I'd want to write about for myself, and now I write similar lists but for writing projects that I share online. A lot of these lists I write by hand but I also make lots of lists on my phone when I'm on-the-go (and, if you were wondering, my phone case - which I love - is from Coggles*). If you want to learn more about this part of my process let me know in the comments, I'm thinking of doing a whole post on how I come up with new ideas.
Taking photographs (in bulk)
I didn't start my blog with photography in mind - it's always been somewhat secondary to my creative process. That being said, successful blogs seem to rely on good photographs and I'm always trying my best to produce photos that suit my content. I try and take between 4-10 blog posts worth of photos at once (depending on how many post idea's I've brainstormed and what setups I need). I usually brainstorm what I want in each photo, how I want it to look etc. before I reach for my camera, I find this saves me time and wasted photos.
Writing up my blog posts
First of all, I upload my photos into Blogger and then I just leave it for a bit. I don't write my posts all in one go. I might write up some bullet points from my brainstorming sessions, or half of a blog post. I'll then come back and slowly flesh out each blog post until I'm happy with them all. This way I'm always working on more than one thing, I always have lots of new content to choose between and if my camera breaks or I'm ill and stuck in bed then there is still work that I'm able to do. I think I write like this because of my university experience with essays and always more than one thing on-the-go. I've come to enjoy multi-tasking, it keeps me from getting bored.
Scheduling - blog posts and tweets
Often I'll finish multiple blog posts at once - this is just how I work. What I usually do is schedule them to go live, one per day, over a couple of days (I try and post at least once a day at 8am). When I go to schedule my posts this is when I add in all my tags and I label my photos on blogger etc. I also do a last proof read at this stage. Everyday in the evening, I look at what is going to be posted the next day and use Buffer to schedule tweets promoting my new blog post. I also re-promote the blog posts that have been particularly popular that week. Try and include photos in your tweets and tag brands or bloggers you've mentioned in your posts, this all really helps with getting more engagement on twitter which can help with views but also really helps to build working relationships.
Emails and Social Media
Making the most of my time
First thing in the morning I check my twitter and my blog email account and I reply to any messages I've received since I last checked these accounts. I also scan Instagram, and I'm working to introduce Pinterest into my daily social media checklist. It doesn't take long but I try and engage and reply promptly to any and all communication because this is a courtesy I appreciate myself. It's the same with blog comments, although I don't reply to all of them I tweet responses to questions as soon as I can. I find that commenters more likely to actually read their tweets and I like interacting with my readers on social media. If I have limited time, I read all my emails and tweets at once towards the end of the day. Or if I get five minute bursts of spare time, I'll read and respond to them as and when I can throughout the day.
Participating in Twitter Chats
Twitter chats have always helped my blog to grow. Ever since I discovered them - a couple of months after I first started blogging (which was over two years ago now) - they have been a fantastic way to connect with new people, find new blogs and share my blog with a wider audience. I try and participate in a couple of chats a week, whenever I find time and I don't beat myself up if I miss one. I like to give them my all, talk to as many people as possible, reply to as many tweets as possible - I don't like participating unless I can be fully engaged. I particularly enjoy the #bbloggers chats, which are on Wednesdays and Sundays at 8pm (there is always a noticeable increase in my Google Analytics stats whenever I participate in either of these chats).
Embracing new working relationships
My blog allows me to talk to people I will never meet. Blogging is a platform into other peoples' lives, and although much of this is just social some of it can be "work" related as well. There are opportunities galore on the internet, including writing opportunities, reviewing opportunities, and networking opportunities. Since I finished my MA I've really been making me most of anything that comes my way. I don't say yes to everything but I always reply, and when I feel that I have to politely decline an opportunity I try to stress that I'd still love to hear from the person who contacted me again in the future. Don't close off working relationships by ignoring emails or direct messages - and remember that saying no isn't necessarily rude or ungrateful.
My "blog correspondence diary"
I keep word documents that act as diaries for any and all communication I have with PRs and brands. I write a summary of what we speak about, when we spoke about it, products in question, what I have to do as a result of the communication and my deadline for doing it. I keep ones of these documents for every PR or Brand that I work with. For important projects, I also include copies of email correspondence in these correspondence diaries. Since I started accepting more review samples I have had to up the organisation-stakes. It helps me keep my samples, writing projects and emails in order, and saves me time and stress because I know when I'm up to date on everything.
What I do if I really don't get on with a review sample
This is something that you might be interested in - what do I do when I really don't like something that I've accepted for review purposes. Well, first of all, I usually say when I'm accepting something for review that if I really don't like something, or if I have a skin reaction to something meaning that I can't use it, then I will always email the person who sent it to me before posting anything about it. I think it's a courtesy to let the person who's sent me the product know that I really don't like it and to discuss what the the problem might be and whether or not they'd prefer me not to post a review. So far, this hasn't happened to me. I've been lucky - and discerning - and haven't accepted anything that I found to have no redeeming value whatsoever. However, as regular readers will know, I do post negative reviews, even of review samples, but I would feel uncomfortable completely dedicating a whole post to slating something I really didn't like.
Going to events and meet-ups by myself
I've become used to attending events and meet-ups by myself. It used to make me really nervous but I've grown to enjoy it. Going solo makes me more approachable and means that I can more easily network and find an opportunity to chat to everyone. The more people you get to know - even "superficially" with a shake of the hand and exchange of names - the more people you'll start to recognise at future events and over time you get to know lots of people you might never otherwise meet. Don't be put off by going somewhere alone, if you're really nervous share a tweet that you're worried and see who else might be there to meet you, I've met some really lovely people that way.
Who I talk to and what I talk about
At events and meet-ups I don't just talk to other bloggers, I really like to chat with PRs and brand representatives. I like to ask questions about what they do, what they're looking for when they work with bloggers, why they invited me. It helps me get an idea of what I'm doing "right" from their perspective and can help give me ideas on which are the areas of my blog that I need to work on. I'm also just personally interested in using the amazing opportunities that blogging gives me to learn new things - I want to get the most out of everything and I am very interested in knowing about the other side of the blogging world and the people behind all the emails. Ask questions that you want answers to, and ask questions to get to know the people you're working with. It will only help you and it may well also help the people with whom you talk.
Recently, my (met-at-an-event, blogger) friend Candy wrote a fantastic blog post about the idea of being three-dimensional and it struck a chord with me. Something I'm always working at with my blog is being "professional" but still trying to get across a sense of "me" and who I am and what my interests are. I don't know if I do it well enough sometimes. I love beauty and I love blogging but my interests are so wide and so varied and I don't share them all on my blog. I don't even know if I'd enjoy sharing them all. I think I would, actually, but it would be tough to write so widely and keep you all interested! I'd love to know your thoughts about this - do you know "me" well enough? I'm all up for getting a little bit more personal and sharing more, it's just hard to know which bits to share.
This has been a bit of a long one… Did I say anything that struck a chord with you? Do I do things differently to you? Please feel free to ask me more questions for future posts like this, I'm really up for sharing any and all of what I've learnt over the last two years since I started blogging.