Last month I was delighted and flattered to be asked to write about a day in my life for one of my favourite bloggers - Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons. As many of you know before I became a seamstress I was a radio producer. I fell in love with social media when I became the inaugural Blog Editor (known to listeners as 'Blog Mistress') of BBC Radio 4's PM blog by Eddie Mair.
Social media's been really important to me running my own small business from home - it's allowed me to connect with customers and journalists and make friends I'd never otherwise have found. I was recently asked to devise a training course for Podium Training with my lissacookPR hat on and asked Tilly if she'd write her top ten blogging tips for me.
Her style is down-to-earth and approachable. She creates a great sense of community amongst her followers. And most of all, it's always an entertaining and informative read. She also tweets as @tillyvanilly. Over to you Tilly...
|I started Tilly and the Buttons on 1st January 2010 on a hangover as a dare. I’d just taken a sewing course and wanted somewhere to document my progress and connect with other stitchers, as none of my real life friends sew. But the blog has given me so much more than that. It has kept me motivated as I learn to make my own clothes, has allowed me to share my passion and encourage other people to give it a try, and has enabled me to become part of a network of people around the world who give me a daily dose of sewing tips and inspiration.
I didn’t know anything about blogging when I started, so everything I’ve learnt has been gleaned or figured out along the way. Here are my top tips:
1) Consider your motive.
Why do you want to start a blog? If it’s just to promote something, readers will get tired of all the plugs and won’t engage with what you’re saying. But if you are doing it because you want to share with and learn from your readers – as opposed to the old media model of “broadcasting out” – then you will find blogging much more fruitful and rewarding. For a company or an organisation, having a dialogue with your readers is a great way of finding out what they really think - and ultimately developing loyalty.
2) No niche is too niche.
People read blogs as an antidote to the homogenisation of mainstream media. There are so many blogs out there – and so many potential readers – that there is space for diversity and you can afford to make your blog as niche as you like. Don’t try to be like any other blog and don’t try to appeal to everyone in what you write. People will engage because your blog is different and because it appeals to their unique set of interests. Personally if I discover a blog that features a combination of sewing, silent movies and cats, I will almost definitely become a huge fan!
3) Keep it regular.
How much or how little you blog is up to you, but whether it’s twice a month or twice a day, try to keep it regular so returning readers know roughly when to expect a new post. There’s a temptation as a blogger to spurt out a load of blog posts when you’re feeling inspired, but you have to prepare for the drought periods when you don’t have time to blog or can’t think of anything to write about. When you’re feeling inspired, by all means write the posts, but don’t publish them immediately – schedule them to go live at regular intervals. Then you can afford to relax for a bit!
4) Carry a notebook.
Related to the above point, it’s no fun knowing you’re due to publish a blog post but can’t think of anything to say. So carry a notebook so you can jot down ideas as they come to you at random times (on the train, during business meetings…!) and to flesh out ideas when you get a spare few minutes.
5) Permanent beta.
Don’t be afraid to test things out, adapt and evolve. For the first few months of blogging I was finding my voice, figuring out what worked, and defining what makes my blog unique. It may not fall into place instantly (I cringe when I look back at my earlier posts!), but it will come over time, so don’t be afraid to just get stuff out there and learn as you go along. Imperfect but published
6) Develop strands.
Writing regular types of features will make your blog look more considered and less random. Plus, it will give potential new readers an idea of what to expect if they subscribe to your feed. For example, I currently have a monthly “Day in the Life of…” fly-on-the-wall interview with someone who has turned their love of stitching into a career, plus other series which I produce in blocks of a few months at a time.
7) You don’t have to do all the work yourself.
Possibly my top tip! Invite other bloggers to write guest posts (it’s flattering to be asked and they’ll probably appreciate the opportunity to reach a new readership). Interview experts in your field. And, if you’re really stuck for a post, ask your readers a question! For example, with my blog I might ask what people’s favourite sewing pattern is and why, or what their best sewing tip is. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to be heard, you get to read lots of interesting responses… plus you can get a second post out of this by compiling the top ten answers!
8) Make it easy to subscribe.
If you want to build up a regular readership of people who keep coming back for more, give them lots of different options for how to subscribe – including by RSS, Blogger, Blog Lovin, email subscription… etc.
9) Find your tribe.
You won’t find many readers just by writing some posts and sitting back. The blogosphere is about having a conversation, so make connections with other bloggers with similar interests by commenting on their blogs. Make sure your comments are genuine though! Don’t do it shamelessly just to get people to read your blog in return - it’s so obvious when someone is doing that. Also, link to other bloggers. Think of it like good karma – treat other bloggers with respect and interest and the same will come back to you. You may also be able to make contact with bloggers through group blogs and other networks of likeminded people. I found my first blog friends by posting to Sew Retro, a group blog about handmade vintage clothing. I now manage a group blog in return, craftychristmasclub.blogspot.com, which links up people who are making their own Christmas presents.
10) Review how it’s going.
Google Analytics is a wonderful free tool which will help you keep track of all sorts of things through wizzy graphs and pie charts. The most useful information for me is which of your posts are most popular, who’s linking to the website and how many pages visitors are reading. This kind of data can help you assess what’s working, what’s not and how to make your blog even better over time. If you like this and want to take your stats geekery to the next level, check out GoSquared, which gives you real time data on who’s on your site and what they’re looking at. Be warned though – it’s addictive. I gave up after the free trial for fear of never going outdoors again…
Oh and finally – enjoy it! Blogging should be interesting, fun and inspiring – for both you and your readers. Good luck!