I just read Liz's wonderful reaction post to a recent BoF article with The Man Repeller herself, Leandra Medine, on "the business of blogging" and felt like I should join the party. Like Liz, I have a confession: I find the entire process of blogging exhausting of late, and I think my content is suffering because of it.
Every single day, my Reader and/or Twitter feed are bombarded with posts on "strategizing your blog brand" and the like. While I'm being honest, I have to admit that I find this especially grating having just spent two years of my life - sacrificing free time, a social life and my santity - to study the business, theory and methods of brand analysis in school. I'm here to tell you: There is no strategizing something that has no heart, and I personally feel like the heart component is fading in the blog world - or at the very least, it's being seriously mislead. ("Quit playing games with my heart!" Ahem, sorry.)
For my part, it is not and has never been my desire to be a professional blogger. If I've ever done anything to make you think otherwise, I'm sorry for that. Blogging is fun and therapeutic. It's a creative challenge that I feed off of every day. When readers enjoy and share the content, then it's a welcome and unexpected bonus. I absolutely love that there are people out there who want to share in my (immature) visual daydreaming tendencies. As for the rest (Reward Style, advertising, etc.), it's simply icing on the cake, and it's really, really throwing a rescue line to my recently depleted post-grad savings account, let me tell you. So thanks for shopping from my posts. Seriously. Keep doing it.
Anyway, with all of these conferences, workshops and referral programs, I have a strange feeling that the blog world is coming to a boiling point. There are so many of us with thousands more popping up every day. And I'll be the first to admit that the longer you're at this, the harder it seems to get. We can get caught up in the competitive element and even start imagining rivalries. One day it's euphoric and friendly and the next it's stressful and personal. Ideas are duplicated, designs are duplicated, and the angry, passive aggressive Tweets start to fly (yup, I've done that, too). This environment is not what I want for myself, my blogger friends or Note to Self. I have to wonder: where will we go from here? Will blogging continue to be an individualist push for traffic and sponsorship? Or will it (as I hope) evolve into a series of strong niche collectives, lead by groups of talented bloggers working together? I don't really know.
Here is something I do know: Whether you're new to blogging or a seasoned veteran, I hope you take notice that the most successful bloggers out there - the fashionistas, the designers, the tastemakers, the foodies, the crafters - all do something significant outside of their computer screens. With rare exception, these women (and men) either run or play a linchpin role in a business or organization. (I'm including families in this. A family is definitely an organization.) These people spend their days in meetings, at conferences, taking classes, crawling around fabric stores, reading books, interviewing people, sketching, painting, running, feeding their kids, and building mini-empires. Their blog posts, Pins, Instagrams and Tweets happen somewhere in-between all those things. We like and follow them because they have heart and grit and flaws and real-time experience.
With this in mind, I implore our industry to spread the message that truly great blogs are so much more than a header or a strategically timed Tweet. A brand is not a logo, a gimmick or a blanket social media strategy. That's marketing, and anyone can do it. A brand is a living thing, and a personal brand is a product of everything you do and who you are: your work, your quirks, your tone of voice, and even the way you tie your shoes. No one else has that. [Edit: A personal brand is not what you say it is, it's the feeling people get from engaging with the things that you do.] Likewise, great blogs are products of passion for life and a killer work ethic because this is something people feel and can engage with directly. So, the next time I read an article on building a blog brand, I want it to say: "Get off the computer and go learn something." Grow yourself first, and your blog will follow.
Well, with all that out on the table, here's my master plan Note to Self's 4th year online that has nothing and yet everything to do with blogging: Find a great job where I can be creatively challenged, and which asks me to learn more and try harder every day. Keep working with the magazine team I love and believe in. Stop being afraid to take on more freelance projects. And finally: Be much more honest with everyone (that's you) about this process. I think it's going to be a great year, I just have to put one foot (or finger) in front of the other and make it happen. Ready? Set? Go.
Thanks for reading. I mean it.
P.S. I hope you'll let any egregious grammatical errors slide this one time. Thanks, English police. ;)