Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Blogging Help ~ The Top Ten Questions Answered!

If you've been following along on Snapchat HERE you'll know that the way I do things has been evolving. That's always a good thing. For the past several weeks I've been offering up #AskCherrySue sessions where I give a Tip of the Day that I think others might find helpful. To say the response has been overwhelming is an understatement. Every platform now has messages daily to say women, real women, are implementing my tips and seeing real change. I'm ecstatic. The catalyst for this was the stupidly popular Snapchat Blogging Q&A so I thought the first actual blog post should be in honour of that: The Top Ten Blogging Questions Answered. 

I'll set out the top ten (of the hundreds of) questions that were asked for that Q&A. Basic answers that I've learned throughout my blogging career. If you know me you'll know I don't mince my words. Were we to have a coffee, this is what I'd tell you (to start with) (and with less swearing)...

1. How Do I Start a Blog? 

You just do. Choose your platform, either Blogger or Wordpress, tinker about with templates and publish a bloody post already! 

OK, maybe that was a little too eager. In terms of platform, I've always been on Blogger but were I to start again I'd go with Wordpress. There are dozens of free designs so take a little time, blogging takes time, and come up with a design that you feel speaks for you. See my header above? I had that commissioned on Etsy; it cost €56 and that included 3 rough drawings that the artist amended until I was happy. It's now the mainstay of 'brand' CherrySue and you'll notice that those colours run throughout everything I do. It's the best fifty eurobux I've ever spent. 

In terms of content, you could write about herding goats or hoarding lipsticks, if you write from the heart and write about what you know, not only will you enjoy it but others will too. Ask yourself, what are you truly passionate about? Now write it down. And again. And again. You don't have to have a backlog of posts before you hit publish but some like to. My first post HERE  will show you which category I fell into. Just do it. 

2. What Are 'Good' Stats?

First up, do you know what your stats are? How do you know? Where are you measuring and what are you measuring? As good pal, business inspiration and digital powerhouse, Ciamh McCrory always says 'Measure. Feckin'. Everything.' The simple answer is there's no such thing as 'good' stats because to answer that you'd have to be comparing yourself to another blogger; that, my friend is the most self defeating, discouraging thing you could ever do. Please stop. 

Measure yourself against yourself. Look at your Google Analytics, look at your Twitter Analytics, have you checked your Facebook Insights? You should be doing this, daily. Good stats are better stats than you had yesterday. They're the engagement that you can quantify in comments and conversations. When you speak do people listen? Do they respond? If your answer is yes then you have good stats. If the answer is no then look at your numbers again. What do you do that people like? Do more of that. 

3. How Do I Find PRs?

Do not, I repeat, do NOT mail bloggers asking for their contact lists. Yes people do this. Daily. Firstly, why do you want to contact the PR in question? What is it you have to offer that you think they might like to hear? That might sound flippant but think about it; do you have an answer? Excellent! 

Here's the thing about working digitally, everyone's online. Check the brand website, check LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I guarantee you you will find the contact you're looking for. Still nothing? Pop a polite email to the agency or brand website you'd like to work with and ask directly for their press contact. Manners don't cost a cent; please and thank you are still magic words, use them liberally. 

4. What Do I Say To PRs?

Warmest regards

Sue Jordan. 

CherrySue, Doin' the Do

: @ItsCherrySue

: ​
: +353 87 2946937 

First things first, you introduce yourself briefly, who are you and why are you taking them away from their thousand other tasks to pay attention to you? If it's an initial introductory email, get to the point quickly, everyone appreciates a couple of short succinct paragraphs (with spelling and grammar double checked). 

'Hi, my name is x and I'm dropping a line to introduce myself. Here's a LINK to what I'm doing, the engagement I'm enjoying with similar content to that of your brand and why I think we'd be a great fit to work together. The reason I'm so interested in you/your particular client is xyz. If you had a minute to check out my work and feel like we'd be a good fit I'd love to speak with you. Thanks for taking the time to get to know me a little today and I do hope to hear back from you.' Polite, professional, to the point. 

Very importantly: What does your email signature look like? That's mine above (usually aligned left). You see how I included my header? How every platform has its own username with clickable link? That's gold dust to PRs and brands when introducing yourself. Take a quick look at your email signature now, what does it say about you? 

Looking to send a mail with a little more meat? You're going to need a Media Kit. Yes you are. Don't fight me on this. You are. 

5. What is a Media Kit? 

Your Media Kit is your social media CV and if you're serious about approaching brands and PRs professionally you need one. That's the top third of mine, look familiar? I'm showing you the top third because the other two thirds change, depending on who I'm sharing it with. Yes, the stats always change because they're always increasing (praise the Lawd) but the content remains relatively the same. 

Mine is one page, professional and to the point but bright and fun, in keeping with my branding. It includes everything needed to give a client a snapshot of CherrySue. I designed it on Canva and while it took me a day or so to perfect, I now have a template to amend over and again. You'll find some great samples of Media Kits here from The Blog Maven.

What you should include in your Media Kit: 

  • Sample Work - Tailor your choice in samples to the PR or Brand you're communicating with. Make them clickable links directly back to your blog 
  • Stats. Honest Stats. 
  • Monthly Visits & Unique Visits (You'll find both in your Google Analytics)
  • Demographics, are your audience male or female? What age are they? Where are they? (Again, analytics)
  • Domain Authority & Page Authority (You'll get that HERE)
  • Social Stats - Your follower count on every platform - use clickable links
  • Other Info - Here I have my media mentions, which media I've been featured in, which I contribute to regularly and the TV work I do. Adapt this to you or chat a little about why you do what you do 

6. How Do I Get Invited to Events?

The greatest instigator of FOMO ever to grace the Irish shores, The Blogger Event. There is no denying that sipping bubbles and chatting about beauty is one of my favourite things to do, I'm not an animal. When you've been attending events for years though, you become a little more precious with your time. You see time is your most valuable asset when blogging (and ya'know, in life). It can seem like bloggers flit from one social gathering to the next but I haven't yet met a landlord that'd accept a branded cake pop as rent. 

Ask yourself realistically why you want to be there? Would you like to network? Are you and your audience genuinely interested in what's being showcased? Now, why should you be there? What have you got to offer to that brand that gets you onto their list and in that door? 

Again, it's about a mindset shift, there's not one of us that's automatically entitled to Jack Sh*t. Nine times out of ten the people in the room are there because they have something to offer in return. Identify what that is for you, frame it in a polite, professional email and get yourself on the list. 

7. Do I Have to Disclose Samples? Sponsored Work?

If you're familiar with my work or have ever heard me speak publicly, you'll know that the four words above make up a large percentage of my word count. In blogging, honesty is paramount. Your word is quite literally all you have, your audience read your word because they trust you; anything less than the truth betrays that trust. 

Regarding press samples - I'll say this until I'm blue in the face they're NOT free. 'Free' would indicate that you've gotten something for nothing in return. Giving products a place on your hard earned platforms and in front of your engaged audience is hugely valuable to brands, we're talking multi-billion dollar worldwide value. So, uh uh, Honey, that lipstick wasn't free. 

As a blogger you're under no obligation to specifically disclose press samples but my best advice is to always be crystal clear with your readers, whether in your wording (as I do) or in a specific disclaimer as these blogging maestros do; each unique: 

  • One of the funniest writers I know, Lorraine does so on top of all of her posts, see HERE 
  • Photography inspiration, Makeup Monster does after the body of her posts, see HERE.
  • One of my favourite blogging pals, Jane, the British Beauty Blogger has a different take, see HERE

Sponsored work is a whole other kettle of fish. Do you remember THIS post and the subsequent national coverage about honesty in blogging? My advice remains the same. Disclose everything, every single time. No exception. Money doesn't have to change hands to make content a #Ad - control makes it an Ad. 

Say a brand offers to send you a box of wine in return for a mention on your Instagram or an Insta giveaway where your followers must follow them to enter - that's an Ad. Maybe they've invited you into their salon in return for a blog post - that's an Ad. The 'in return for' means control. Control means #Ad. The product or service becomes your payment, so always ensure you're happy that you're being paid fairly. I mean no one can tell you how much you need that box of wine, right? Once you agree to receive something, in return for your content, you've agreed to advertise, it's not only your moral and ethical obligation to declare that, it's your legal obligation too. 

No matter your platform, no matter your payment, declare the fact that you've been paid. I change the wording of my disclosure every time to fit with the tone of the blog, see HERE.

8. How Do I Get More Likes on Facebook?

Facebook can be a fickle mare. Mr Zuckerberg of course favours blog and business pages that pay to boost their posts. While there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, I haven't given them a penny yet and still my Facebook page is one of the most engaged, rewarding platforms I have. When it comes to Facebook 'likes' mean nothing without reach. 

I could buy 100k worth of 'likes' for sheckles in the morning but not one of those bots are going to come visit the blog that I've been crafting for years. So you want to work on your reach, over your likes. 

I have an entire post dedicated to telling you step by step How to Hugely Boost your Facebook Reach for Free and you'll find that HERE. I'd love to hear if you implement changes how quickly it works for you. 

Above all, don't give up on Facebook just yet, it's the best craic and with a little work (Spoiler Alert: this all takes work) it'll be one of your most powerful weapons in your blogging arsenal. 

9. How Do I Find Writing Work?
Google Alerts is one of my favourite digital tools. If I'm looking to be kept up to date on anything, I have a Google Alert for it. Freelance writing is no different. Set up an alert this evening with key searches, such as 'Writers Wanted', 'Contributor'and 'Freelance', Once you receive that ping though you have to be ready to pitch. 

Your pitch in response to an alert, or indeed to any media outlet should include a brief introduction to you and your personalised Media Kit. As ever, be professional, be polite but put yourself forward as the expert and use your blogging skills to springboard you into freelance work. Don't hesitate. Don't second guess yourself. Just do it. 

10. How Do I Fit it All in?

You remember I told you Ciamh's motto is to 'Measure. Feckin. Everything'? Well mine is similar. It's to Schedule. Feckin. Everything. Sites like Buffer and HootSuite are your very best friends when it comes to fitting blogging into your hectic life. Facebook even allows scheduling, as mentioned in my post above. 

From the early days I would spend all evening Sunday slapping the keyboard like Kermit and scheduling the lot. Schedule to publish each post to your blog but schedule repeated links to your work throughout the week and cross platform too. I've posted here daily since the beginning and even twice daily for two of those years, using scheduling. Consistency is key when building your audience and your traffic so whether it's daily, weekly or monthly, stay on schedule. 

I keep a good old fashioned notebook about my person or more recently the app, Evernote and when inspiration strikes, I jot it down to be expanded on later, it's a life saver. The only real work you should be doing daily is measuring stats and communicating with your blogging community online (more on that later). 

And that, my dear friends is The Top Ten Blogging Questions, as asked by you. I'd love to hear your thoughts; have I answered your question here? I'll continue with my #AskCherrySue Tip of the Day Snaps but expect to see a regular Cherry Tip of the Week post 'round these parts as well. 

If you've gotten value from this post I'd hugely appreciate a share on whichever platform you favour so that it might help others in the community too. A rising tide raises all boats and you know I'm all about rising that tide. 

Add me on Insta for regular hints, tips & help HERE @ItsCherrySue

New Instagram Feature Makes It Much More Like Snapchat | Time

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