I've only been blogging for about 7 months, but I've learnt a hell of a lot during that time, so I thought I'd share some of my insights for others looking to grow their followers and make their blogs a success. Because I’m nice like that.
1. The more Twitter followers you have, the faster it grows
Getting my first Twitter follower was great (it was a friend) but when I got my 2nd, 3rd and 4th, it was such a positive feeling knowing that strangers were actually interested in what I had to say.
After getting a few more followers, I looked forward to the milestones – the double digit milestone, the 50 follower mark and then into the hundreds.
A really turning point came when I hit 500 followers – and I suddenly noticed that it took less time to get the next couple of hundred followers, which makes sense as the more people who follow you, the more people there are to retweet you.
This no doubt applies to other social media platforms, but I’ve noticed it more so on Twitter.
2. There's some sneaky people out there
Still on the subject of social media platforms, but it only took me a couple of weeks on social media to realise that people will follow you just to get a follow back – and if you don't follow back, they'll then unfollow you.
I'm pretty sure most people on Twitter do this – and it's certainly not to be taken personally if you get unfollowed. There are even programmes that do this automatically for you.
However, as I manually follow people, what I don't do on social media is follow someone for the sake of it.
Instead I focus on people who share my interests (travel, interiors, blogging, lifestyle etc), or who offer advice which I think is useful or beneficial to me.
Why? Because then I might as well follow everyone on social media, and when you’re trying to create a great blog site based on select topics, some people just aren’t your target readership.
Here's a real life example of people trying to be sneaky: there's this travelling couple who have followed me then unfollowed me more times than I've posted blog posts – and it's getting a bit tedious now. Make up your minds – are you in or out?!!
I started doing the same back to them, then I got fed up of the silly games and realised that two wrongs don’t make a right.
So now whenever I see they have followed me again, I just ignore them. They don't come across as genuine, reliable people, so I'll pass on getting to know them.
When I first thought about writing a blog I thought it would be a piece of cake. After all, I’m fortunate enough to have information ‘on tap', so just how hard could it be?
Well, at first it was fairly easy; I was posting on WordPress and getting a few followers, but when I decided to take my blog to the next level and acquire my own URL, I literally had to start all over again.
The followers from my original WordPress site were lost (you can't transfer them across – they have to find your new site then sign up again). And who does that?
So the learning lesson for others is if you are serious about developing a blog from the start, perhaps look at first at hosting your own website.
The other huge piece of advice I can offer is that you absolutely need to be on social media – it's where it's at!
Sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all offer you the opportunity to promote your site – but whatever you do, know that it's really important to promote others as well, and offer plenty of advice!
That way, you'll be seen as offering something of ‘value' and people will want to follow you.
4. Other bloggers keep their cards close to their chest
This is my one big bugbear, so prepare yourself for a mini rant!
Starting out in the blogging world I've been keen to seek advice from established bloggers, assuming that they, like me, would be full of useful advice. Well, I'm sure they are full of useful advice, but the problem is, they're not sharing!
Time and time again I have come across people who either:
(1) Don't respond to my emails or
(2) Say that they'll help and then completely ignore me when I get in touch.
I think both actions are totally unprofessional. In fact, I'm not entirely sure how some of these people came to be successful bloggers in the first place – they're bloody useless at responding to emails or delivering on promises.
There have been quite a few of these people. First off, one successful luxury travel blogger just completely ignored emails I sent her, pretending I didn't exist.
We were both due to attend an exclusive travel event and even when I asked if I could talk to her for 5 minutes over lunch, she completely ignored me. What's that about?
Secondly, one or two bloggers have come back to me, but instead of offering advice they've tried to sell me their blogging workshops or courses.
I don't need to learn how to write – I've been a journalist for 15 years now!! I only wrote to them to ask about their personal experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I'm all for people making money from their blog – hell, this is what I myself am aspiring to, but know when to offer a couple of pieces of advice and when to give the full sales pitch.
And last but not least have been the bloggers who I've met face-to-face who bare faced lied to me: “Yes Lauretta, drop me an email” they'll say “I'm sure there are plenty of possibilities we could look at.”
And sadly it's bullshit. Shame on them that they then decide to completely ignore me.
If you don't want to help or have no plans to follow up, just tell me straight. I'd rather a bit of honesty than waste my time chasing them.
I once had a conversation about this very topic with a friend. And she wasn't surprised about the lack of response I got from one person in particular: “I'm not surprised you didn't hear from her” she told me… “She's got thousands of followers.”
Well, I'm certainly not like her and I'm proud that I'm a generous, kind soul who is willing to share my learning lessons.
So I'm putting it out there – no matter how big I get and how many followers I acquire, I'll never adopt the ‘I'm better than you' attitude, so if you need help or advice, all you have to is ask.
And if I'm really busy, I'll still come back to you – it just might take me longer than a day to do so.
5. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
Blogging and all that comes with it can be overwhelming. The more experienced you become, the more options you explore – it's a never ending process.
So it's really important to get yourself a schedule so you don't get completely lost.
I have a daily schedule and I use the app ‘Any.Do' which reminds me at certain times throughout the day what to do.
My daily tasks including posting across three social media platforms – Twitter, Instagram and Facebook; topping up my Buffer feed to send out Tweets and post on Facebook while I'm busy doing my full time job; checking WordPress; and leaving comments for people on their blog sites or on social media.
Then a few times a week I write blog posts in the evening. These are not just for my blog site – I also post on Medium and Top Topic.
I also have reminders to jump on Twitter chats a couple of times a week and reminders to take videos for my vlog.
In between all this and managing a full time job, I’m trying to spend quality time with my family – especially at the weekends.
And this is even more reason why you should have a dedicated blog schedule; we all need some downtime each week – just to switch off and spend time engaging with those we love or care about.
6. Blogging is bloody hard work
Here's my typical day: I wake up at 6am to work on my blog, catch up on emails, leave comments on other people's posts and catch up on social media.
I then wake the kids at 7am, get their clothes, make breakfast and do the school run. I sit down at my desk at 9am and work until 3pm on my full time job (travel journalist).
At 3pm I get the kids from school, do their homework with them, take them to after-school clubs, bath them and put them to bed. I then start my (full time) work again. Stop to make dinner and when the kids are in bed – start back on the blogging – usually collapsing into bed at midnight or the wee hours of the morning.
Blogging is bloody hard – and even harder when you're juggling working full time.
Why do it? Well, I've never been afraid of hard work and I actually really enjoy it. It's like my escapism – something just for me.
When you have a boss, kids and a husband to keep happy, the blogging offers precious ‘me time' – and I don't want to give that up.
7. Try to see the bigger picture
Are you blogging as a hobby or as something you can potentially grow into a business? If you're thinking of going pro – think big, think long-term and be prepared. Get yourself a logo and a tag line and start building your brand.
Think about what actually will make your blog site grow – it’s people! People who enjoy reading your blog and who look forward to seeing what you’ve been up to or what you’ve got to say. Have this at the forefront of your mind and always ask yourself what you can do to get more people to your site.
The most recent mistake I’ve made? I got so carried away writing blog posts and being on social media that for the first 6 months of doing my blog (YES – 6 WHOLE MONTHS!!) I didn’t send out 1 measly newsletter. And I wondered why my site stats were not improving! So don’t make the same mistake as I did. And if you’re finding it hard to entice newsletter subscribers, try offering a giveaway – an e-book you’ve written perhaps or something relating to your niche.
And don’t stop exploring ways in which to grow your blog – join Facebook Groups, attend Meetups or Networking events, read books…etc. A blog isn’t just about writing; you also have to market yourself. And on that note…
8. There are so many tools to make your blogging life easier
New systems, platforms, websites and apps are being developed on a weekly basis. And the more you look into this, the more you find to help you.
It can be a bit overwhelming, but the best advice I can offer is not trying to do everything at the same time – pick one or two apps, websites or systems to explore, try them out and decide if you’d like to continue using them. It’s a case of trial and error, but it’s definitely worth exploring.
Still, on a weekly basis I’m hearing of new launches that make my blogging site just that little bit easier.
Apps such Typorama, Videorama and Buffer are the ones I use quite frequently, while I’ve recently signed up on automated social media posts with Tweet Jukebox. Then there are sites such as Canva to help you make great pictures.
You’ll also come across some great people who can offer you some really helpful advice and tips. People who I’ve found particularly informative include:
- Aussie girl Donna Moritz at Socially Sorted (sociallysorted.com.au), offers some superb tips on tricks on social media. She’s also no doubt visible on most social media platforms, but I follow her on Twitter (@sociallysorted).
- Another Aussie, Darren Rowse, offers sage advice on what it takes to build a great blog site at problogger.net. He’s also on Twitter (@problogger) and has his own podcast which I love listening to for tips and tricks.
- Madalyn Sklar is THE person to go to for Twitter tips (MadalynSklar.com) and she also runs a weekly Twitter chat (#TwitterSmarter) and a podcast. What I love about Madalyn is that she’s got nearly 53,000 followers on Twitter, yet still she manages to respond to me whenever I message her for advice. Now there’s a woman I admire. People in point 4 – take note! She probably gets countless of emails every single day and heaven knows how many messages on social media, yet still she takes time to reply. Madalyn has restored my faith in the way people use social media.
- I’ve also recently discovered Chris from ablogonblogging.com, who seems down to earth, is willing to be social and offers great advice.
9. Some people just aren't social
I love social media and I love engaging in conversation – it's fun and I've ‘e-met' and clicked with some really cool people along the way.
But I've learnt that there's no guarantee that if you try to start a conversation with someone, that they'll reciprocate. This has happened to me many times.
In one particular case (and this is a true story by the way), but one of the Dragons from the UK TV show of Dragon’s Den started following me on Twitter. I was delighted!
We both shared an interest in a certain subject and they had obviously scrolled through my tweets and thought I offered some good tips (I do!). But within minutes of them following me, I sent an email to thank them – and they then unfollowed me!
I was a bit surprised. This was social media after all, and I was simply being social. And then it dawned on me – despite this person having thousands of followers, they were trying the old ‘follow them so they get the message they have been followed, they’ll then follow me back and then I unfollow them’ trick. Unbelievable.
By the way, a way around this is to download the Crowdfire app which tells you who unfollowed you.
I also try to promote other people's tweets or posts on social media by sharing with my followers. And again, some people just don't respond, thank you or reciprocate.
Don't get me wrong here – I'm not talking about the people who’ve got thousands of followers, I’m talking about people who generally have fewer than a 1,000 followers who, like me, are trying to build up their followers. Yet no matter how many times I share their comments or posts, they'll go on ignoring mine.
So now I adopt the ‘three strike' rule. I'll promote sometime who writes posts similar to my own (talking about travel, interiors or families) and I'll do this 3 times. If they don't reciprocate and are not social, they're off the list. Come on people, it's called social media for a reason – be sociable!
10. You'll make new friends
I have to finish on a positive note – that’s the optimist in me. So, despite what I said in points 4 and 9 there are some really nice people you'll come across as you develop your blog.
I feel I need to do a shout out to 3 special people who have really taken the time to engage with me in the last few months or so.
Never have they been too busy not to respond – and they've always been keen to offer their advice and help promote me as I do them.
So a big thank you to…
- Zena (zenas-suitcase.co.uk or @zenas_suitcase on Twitter), who has a huge following, yet in my early months of blogging, she went out of her way to help me, answer my questions and offer some great tips. Forever grateful.
- Carol Cliffe from Family Makes (familymakes.com or @FamilyMakes on Twitter) who I feel I’ve really connected with just recently. It seems we’re at a similar stage with our blogs and it’s nice to engage with someone who is experiencing the same frustrations and successes. And she seems like such a genuinely nice person too.
- Tania O Donnell (@Tan_OD on Twitter), who was one of the first people to offer me some great guidelines. I've actually met Tania – and she's just as lovely in real life as she is online.
I'm hoping that I'll make many more friends along the way. Hopefully even some real friends, rather than e-friends.
If you’ve enjoyed this post or found it useful in any way, please feel free to comment or share – and I’d love to know what big lesson you’ve learnt from blogging.