What I Learned about Blogging in 2011

by Elena on December 31, 2011 in blogging about blogging

What I learned about blogging in 2011 | Ciao MomThe 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?

 

 

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

By Word of Mouth Musings January 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Fabulous post Elena – look at how you have grown in the last year! Your blog is a wonderful corner of the blogosphere filled with comfort, support and honesty. You are fearless my dear, I love your wholehearted approach to all that you do.
I would say the biggest thing for me, is that blogging is not a race … meeting people along the way that add to my life has been a huge blessing. I realise that if I don’t post for a week, the world doesn’t end, in fact, people may not even notice ;)

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Elena January 1, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Oh sweet friend, thank you for those generous words. Truly. And you are so right about not posting. There will be many more days to tell our stories–we need not just fill the page to make sure there are no gaps. Much love you to this new years day!!

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Just Jennifer January 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I think for me it’s been about soaking it all up. I’ve been blogging for a year and a half, but it’s only been since last June that I discovered the community and opportunties within blogging. So for the past 6 months I’ve been learning all I can. Now I’m at a place where I’m trying to find my rhythm, or stride.

Great post!

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My Mercurial Nature January 1, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I dropped off the blogging scene and picked it back up seriously about 6 months ago. Now I’m building and learning and building some more. These lessons are excellent, I will certainly learn from them! Thank you!

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Elena January 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Thank you so much! It is something that I am not sure I would know what to do without on most days.

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ML@My3LittleBirds January 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm

This was a wonderful post…very informative! I’m happy to share it.

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Kate Lewis January 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm

You are so very right about all of it! For me, finding the balance you talk about is what I’ve learned this year…or, what I’ve discovered I need to keep striving for, anyway. Also, I discovered that blogging is as much for me as my audience. It’s fun! And when it’s not fun anymore, I hope it occurs to me to stop.

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Elena January 5, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Such a good point. Just like with anything, we have to be able to be honest with ourselves.

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jodi January 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Thank you for a very informative post. You’ve reminded me about many things regarding my own blogging experience that I seemed to have forgotten along the way!

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Yuliya January 1, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I can’t wait to hear more about how you find balance, that is the part I struggle with most…and then get exasperated and disappear altogether for a while.

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Krista January 1, 2012 at 8:14 pm

I have learned that blogging is fun, but harder than I ever imagined. Finding the balance between work and home has been difficult and something I am working on harder for 2012.

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Tammy January 1, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Wonderful post! I just started blogging 6 months ago. I’d learned some of the lessons on my own, but I’m hoping to take your lead to ease my way into the rest

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Elena January 5, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Welcome! It is interesting because had someone told me these things in my first year, I am not sure they would have had the same impact. To do some degree, like in life, we have to learn things when we are ready.

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Janice - The Fitness Cheerleader January 2, 2012 at 2:12 am

I’ve learned that writing about what you’re passionate about will grow your blog & bring opportunities without much effort. Do what you like & do it well. Great post Elena!

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Alison@Mama Wants This January 2, 2012 at 8:56 am

Great post, Elena. You’ve come so far, have so much to be proud of. I hope this year brings you more personal, professional and blogging successes!

I’ve learned that blogging is what YOU choose to make of it – if you want to be a professional blogger, go for it. If you want to be a writer, just do it. Never compare yourself to another blogger, you are who you are.

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Elena January 5, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Thank you Alison! I appreciate it—-and it helps to have blog peers like you that are so innovative and collaborative. There is definitely power in our cumulative knowledge.

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Melissa {adventuroo} January 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I love seeing the things you’ve learned in 2011! Balance is definitely one that I’m working on! And I totally agree– I’d rather post fewer times a week and have more time to interact!

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Tina @ Life Without Pink January 2, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Great post! Love all of your ideas! I’ve learned to just be yourself. Everyone is unique, has their own thoughts and stories to share, so own it :)

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jodifur January 2, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Has it really only been 2 years?

I have learned that just because someone else REALLY wants to do something doesn’t mean you have to really want to do it. It is okay to say no. It is okay to pick or choose opportunities. You can’t do everything, you can’t even do most things, and that is okay. Be true to you.

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Elena January 5, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Yes– two. Though ok, two years & four months. :) And yes, what a great point–staying true to you is essential.

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Sweaty January 2, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Very insightful! Thanks for sharing those with us, Elena! It’s so important to think of the big picture, and to remember that blogging goes hand in hand with networking… And of course, balance holds the key at the end. After all, we do have a life outside of blogging. It’s important to keep that in mind!

When I started my blog last year, I practically knew nothing about social media. My knowledge was limited to updating my status on Facebook. Blogging has opened my eyes and introduced me to the whole new world that is social media. It’s massive, and the possibilities are endless. I’d definitely like to take on more of an active role this year than I was last year.

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Nikki January 4, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Great post! I am a newish DC-area blogger and am looking to connect with other DC mom bloggers. I will definitely check out The DC Moms!!

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Elena January 5, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Welcome!!! Look forward to connecting with you!

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Leighann January 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm

You are a leader Elena and should be proud!!!

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