To Starting a Blog (7 Things I Wish I Knew Then)
It's been exactly four months and four days since I launched One Millennial's Guide. In this relatively short amount of time, I've learned a TON about blogging (and the blogging community.) While OMG isn't my first blog, it is the first one that I've looked at like a business from the very beginning.
If you're toying with the idea of launching a blog of your own, congratulations! I have to say, starting this blog was probably my best decision of 2016 (well, maybe top three.) It's helped me work through some issues, connected me with a bunch of new friends and bloggers and has allowed me to help those that can benefit from my message. There are a plethora of reasons that one may choose to start a blog, but before you buy the domain and get writing, I encourage you to consider these seven things:
1. Make your purpose clear
First off, welcome to the blogging community! The water may be a little cold at first, but you'll settle in just fine!
Your first step (after deciding this is something you want to do) should be to really consider your blogs purpose. Some questions I asked myself when getting started: What is this blog going to be about? Do I want to keep it light, or talk about serious issues? How much do I want to open up the door to my personal life on the blog? Who's my audience? Will I keep this a secret, or shout it from the rooftops? Am I ready for the good and the bad that comes with putting yourself out there? Is it going to be just my voice, a brand's voice or a group of people?
This was just the tip of the iceberg of the questions and considerations I toiled over when starting One Millennial's Guide. Having a background in marketing and branding, I'd stress the importance of answering a lot of these questions before getting started. Once your blog is published, it's now an extension of you — it's your brand.
2. Find a platform that compliments your vision
If you go to Google and search "website and blog builder", you'll come across nearly 12,000,000 results. Wix, Weebly, Squarespace and Wordpress are just a few of the contenders fighting for the privilege to host your site. (And your $20 a month) Real talk: unless you are a developer or are great at coding, consider the template-based builders. Personally, all the sites that I build, run on Squarespace. It's cost-effective, incredibly easy to use and allows just enough autonomy to let me feel independent.
I've heard great things about Wix, though I haven't used it or Weebly before. I've dealt with one too many Wordpress sites and have tapped out. It leaves me craving more, and as a creative-thinking person that's virtually all right-brain oriented drives me nuts. Explore all the platforms out there and find the best fit for you, though.
3. Your Brand is bae
Branding means a lot more than a name and logo. If I were talking to a client about the launch of their website, I'd cover the name and logo (obviously), but also things like signature colors, fonts, overall look and feel of the site, functionality, social channels, letterhead, email marketing campaign templates and email signatures, printed materials and any other physical items — for example trade show banners, promotional material, etc.
If you're not overwhelmed yet, it's time to consider the biggest puzzle piece of branding: the brand voice. This is how you are seen by the consumer (or in this case the reader.) Do you plan to keep the tone serious and informative, silly and quirky or a hot mess of it all? Obviously, there's a time and place for a change in message delivery or tone based on the content; but your brand voice is your go-to. For OMG, I want my brand voice to be just like me — sometimes overly-enthusiastic, usually sassy, but always welcoming-ish, with hints of sarcasm and witty banter. Like a friend you've had for years.
4. Find and use a planner that works for you
Now that the hard part is over, pour yourself a glass of your favorite budget wine — because it's time for some fun!
When creating an editorial calendar, understand that there's no such thing as set-in-stone in the blogging world. What I mean, is things change... often. Maybe you'll be approached for a collaboration and they need it out a certain day, or a world event sparks some creativity in your writing — keep your calendar fluid. Millennial Confession 485: I typically write posts the night before they go live. Not only does the pressure work for me, it allows me to include stupid pop culture references that aren't weeks old. Because I write on less than a 12 hour deadline, I keep my editorial calendar in iCal. It makes it easy to shuffle things around without ruining the aesthetic of my physical planner. The #perfectionist wouldn't like a crossed out line in that baby.
It's important to note that people get conditioned to check your blog on days that you typically post — so don't piss people off like I do sometimes and skip posts without warning. 😅
5. Growth and Outreach Analytics
Growing a blog is no easy feat. It takes time — which, if you lack patience like I do, it's agony watching the number slowly tick upward. From a business perspective, we want the analytics to look like a plane soaring into the sky, but that's not always the case. When it comes to blogs, it's all about the content and the commitment from the author. People have to see that you're committed to bringing them content that they're looking for and that you're not going to vanish in a month.
When it comes to growing your blog (and tracking that growth) this is the best advice I can give you:
- Sign up for Google Analytics and get it set up ASAP. The amount of data that you can collect with the tool is BY FAR better than any built-in analytics functionality of your website.
- Push your content on any relevant sites. If your blog is image driven, be sure to target Instagram users — or if you're writing about workplace politics and tips for career growth, aim to reach LinkedIn users. You may also want to look into third party sites like Pinterest or Bloglovin to get your message to the right audience. It goes without saying to keep your message clear and concise to the channel and audience. Your business connections don't want to read about your missed connections — but I might! 😉
- Make, and more importantly, nurture genuine connections with the community. I've met people from across the country that are hustling hard to get their message out. These people, whom I haven't known long, have shown that they're supportive of my mission and want to help share my vision. Collaborations can be HUGE for new bloggers. In business and in blogging, it's all about who you know.
- Lastly, don't obsess over the numbers. It took me a couple months and a headache or twelve to realize that my blog numbers aren't going to soar if that's all I'm focused on. I lost track of my voice because I was hyper-focused on the growth of OMG. Focus on generating quality content, being truthful and building your community and the growth will come — this I can assure you.
Evolution is essential in life. In all things, there's a beginning, a middle and an end (or a beyond — depending on how you look at the glass.) We have to learn to roll over, crawl, stand, walk and run — it doesn't happen over night. We learn lessons throughout life (and the lifetime of our blog) that we can apply to better ourselves and our output.
Evolve your content with your audience — whether it's the evolution of age, content delivery, voice or look and feel. For example, when I look at the lifetime of OMG, I know that it can span decades because it's targeted at a specific generation. Now we may be battling the terrible twenties, but in the years when it's time for families, houses, executive roles, retirement, etc. — the content will evolve with the generation. Being stagnant in your blog is the number one way to watch it die a slow and painful death — just sayin'.
7. Beware of external sources
If you skimmed the six points before this — I beg you to read this and hear me:
When you start a blog, people come out of the woodwork with their opinions. Your coworker thinks this, your Facebook friend thinks that and old Aunt Jan thinks that you should stop cussing so much.
This is your blog. This is your vision, your mission and your voice. I can't tell you how many people have to come to me since April with their opinions, critiques and ideas. Before you shred me for not wanting to take feedback... You'll see that you'll quickly be able to decipher the feedback from people that want you to succeed, from the people that can't stand to see you shine.
All I'm saying is to limit the number of people you seek counsel from about your blog. Too many cooks in the kitchen, too many viewpoints swirling in your head. It's ultimately going to stress you out and make what's supposed to be fun and exciting, draining and lackluster. Stay true to yourself and ask only your inner circle for feedback. If someone tries to offer their input, you could listen to them, smile and say "thank you for the input" and then go on your merry way. I'm working on that last bit rather then telling them where they can take their opinion. Oops. 🙊 The old saying is true, "Opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one."
Follow your heart, and as long as your heart isn't into some weird shit, your blog will do great. 💜
Is your blog up and running? I want to follow it!
Send me a shoutout on social and I'll be sure to follow.
Oh man, this is circa 2006 when I worked at PacSun. Think bleached hair, puka shell necklace and an Element tee. It was bleak.