The end of a year. The beginning of a new year. I have been trying for days to write a “review of 2011″ post. I started with trying to do one by month. Then I tried doing one with images. Then I tried looking at popular posts. I kept coming up blank. Absolutely blank. Or wait, I should clarify, I could have thrown something together, but what I realized was that I was trying to make myself and my writing fit into a box. And I don’t like boxes.
Instead, I am going to create a series of What I learned in 2011 posts. Parenting, About Me, Health, Marriage, and Blogging.
Since today started off about blogging and trying to fit myself into an “everyone else in blog land is doing it” box, I am going to kick things off with What I learned about Blogging in 2011.
1. Think about the Big Picture
Two years ago when I started this adventure, I never dreamed that I would have two sites, have guest posted & been syndicated, be an ambassador for brands, and be interested in turning writing and social media into a career. Although I am not sure we can plan exactly every detail about our sites, having a big picture goal, knowing what your individual parameters are for working with a brand or campaign, and making sure that you do not unknowingly cut yourself off from future options is key to the long term. Even things like your brand name, your ad networks, and your blog design….think beyond the now and allow yourself to dream big to make sure that you have room to grow.
2. Think like a professional
Although we sometimes run campaigns and collaborate with people that have become our friends, our sites and our names are our brand. Learning how to submit a proposal or pitch is a craft that takes practice. While product reviews are fine for some, others want to be hired for their work. Think about if you were being hired for a job in the in the non virtual world. What you wear to an interview matters, the way that you carry yourself and share your opinions and qualifications matters. Blogging and freelance work is no different.
The other part of thinking like a professional is to stay up to date on trends, tools, and resources. Just like I am a lifelong learner in real life and as a teacher, being willing to try new tools, strategies, or resources online is vital to keeping current. Attending conferences is a good way to do this as is reading, getting input from experts, and taking a chance here or there. This year I learned about StumbleUpon, Pinterest, SEO, and using an editorial calendar.
3. Be Flexible and Patient
Progress in blogging is a long journey for most people. Sure, some hit it BIG with a post that goes viral and attracts huge response and maybe even gets featured nationally in other media sources. But for most, it is a long process that takes commitment and creativity. Sometimes it even means realizing that a series that you thought was amazing a year ago, needs to come to an end. Sometimes you have to be willing to switch gears or to think creatively about a topic or project to put your own unique spin on it. Even receiving or submitting pitches requires flexibility. Just because someone says no to you or sends you something that you would not want to touch with a ten foot pole does not mean the conversation has to end. Thinking about how you could revise a proposal or rework an idea to make it more relevant and meaningful can give new life to an otherwise dead in the water project.
4. Collaboration is Key
Blogging is not a competition. We are in this space because we wanted to tell a story or share an area of expertise, or interact with people through words or photos. Sure, there are people that are more successful than others. There are people who to work with big name brands and are part of highly exposed campaigns that receive national attention. But most of those people? Are where they are not just because they write or produce amazing content. They are where they are because they collaborated with others, they shared ideas and campaigns with each other. I feel fortunate to have a local network of DC Moms that shares and celebrates and tries to learn from our collective wisdom instead of feeling jilted because of someonelse’s success. Instead of feeling jealous, look around for people that are similar to you that you admire. What are they doing well? What is it about their work that draws readers or brands in? But then….don’t copy it…think about how to put your own spin on it.
5. Engage with Balance
One of the hardest things for me in this space is to find quality time to read, to comment, to really engage on twitter or pinterest AND teach AND parent AND be a decent wife. I have come to think of it as a new recipe. A pinch of this, a dash of that, three cups of something else. Being too heavy handed with one ingredient can ruin a recipe. Engaging and interacting is the key to building relationships, building audiences, and situating yourself as an influencer. Maybe it means writing fewer posts each week so that you can devote time to interacting. Maybe it means using the weekends to catch up on reading and commenting. I have not found the perfect recipe for my own life yet, but I am working on finding something that although may not be of gourmet quality, works for me.
There you have it. My five big take-aways about blogging from 2011. What about you? What have you learned this year about blogging or social media?